Son with suspected anxiety won't leave his bedroom
I am a single parent with a son who completed year 12 in 2019. Since then he has barely left the house. He has caught up with his school friends only few times. He keeps to himself in his room and watches Youtube all day/night. He only comes out for meals or to help with chores. He doesn't work/study and when I try to talk to him, he shuts down the conversation. I've asked him several times if he was feeling depressed or suicidal and he's always answered with a strong no.
My son and I lived with my parents. My dad suffers from a chronic illness, and my mum hasnt been well either. I tried caring for my parents whilst raising my son and working fulltime. But I'm afraid I may have given my parents more attention than my own son and admit this may have caused/contributed to my son's current state.
During school my son had friends and was active in sport. He struggled in school academically. Every teacher spoke of how respectful/polite he was, but found him quiet in class, he would never ask for help. I tried to assist with homework and assessments but he'd quickly shut me down, as I would in his words "stress him out". During high school, he often complained of stomach pains and would either arrive to school late or where I was concerned, I'd keep him home for the day. I always thought he was just sensitive to dairy (How stupid I was).
Fast forward to today, our conversations don't last longer than a few minutes. He refuses to talk about work, study or future, he gets angry with me when I try to talk to him - he says he cant talk to me because I stress him out too much. Until now I believed I was dealing with a teen who was "maybe" lazy but definitely lacking in confidence. But then we had a conversation a few months back that finally opened my eyes. While in the car, I asked him if he had stomach issues like he did in school. He said no and I asked why that would be, he said "well I was always anxious about school". I asked him if he thinks he may have been and still suffering from anxiety and he said yes.
Since then, he agreed for me to email him info from beyond blue, but no to seeing a GP, psychologist etc. I'm finding that he is increasingly frustrated with me and/or my approach or just my general way of talking! Anyone been in this situation? Where should I start? Maybe I start with me first i.e. how to communicate better? I've messed up terribly by not recognising the "signs" but am focused on helping him as he deserves a great life...
hi sunnydaysahead and welcome to the forums.
the easy bit first... I do not think you have messed up by not recognising the "signs" ... we all have different responses or actions and how one person responds can be different to another. There is also no sticker that says we are depressed or anxious. You did the best you could based on the information available at the time. There are also plenty of people who say they don't need help until they hit some bottom.
so you have now found out your son had issues through a conversation with him which is a good start. So what can you do? Here are some ideas based on conversations with my psychologist ...
1. use "I" communications vs "you". Rather than saying something like "you need help" you could say "I get very concerned when
3. is he open to reading about anxiety? ie self education?
4. is he open to using some apps on his phone?
I do not know how often you bring up the matter with him, except that it took me and mum about a year to convince my dad get help. I don't say this to scare you, it is just that it can take some time.
finally, what sort of things excite him? There are more possibilities for study or work wise than the standard go to Uni direction. Basically it comes down to just talking and listening and sometime without agenda.
Hope that helps.
Welcome to the bb forum.
I’m really sorry that your son is unwell and that you’re struggling to engage with him right now about seeking help or moving forward in his life.
I’m also a mum and I’ve been in your shoes. I understand the guilt you are experiencing and I want to encourage you to let it go.
You have done your best to care for your son and parents with a heart full of love in difficult circumstances. You are still doing your best and even though it’s hard, I know you will plough on—because that’s what we do as parents. You don’t need to beat yourself up, you need to give yourself a hug.
I also understand your frustration when he puts the wall up. I want to suggest that you consider taking a break from trying to talk to him about his mental health and/or future.
Talk to him about any other things; he might like to talk about the games he’s playing. See if you can get him to do things with you—watch a movie, get a coffee, go for a walk, etc.
Then find ways to praise him —great idea, good job with the chores, interesting perspective, like you in that t-shirt, etc.
Then see what he does.
My experience is that if he feels you’re not “at him”, if he feels you’re on his side, if he doesn’t feel on the back foot, he will open up to you. (I know you’re on his side etc but it’s about how he might perceive the situation.) It might take a bit of time but that’s okay.
In the meantime, do some research. The bb website has some great materials to help you start the conversation you want to have. I can help you brainstorm if you think it would help. You will know when the time is right to gently raise the issue and you’ll be prepared.
Remember that your son likely is unwell. He used to have a fuller life and I’m sure he wants that back. I suspect he’s scared, stuck and angry with life right now. Right now your bearing the brunt of his pain but you can this.
I want you to know that it can get better for him. Your love and support is the key. Lucky for him that he’s got you.
Kind thoughts to you
Thank you so much for all your advice. Guilt can certainly be a crippling feeling and agree that the only way forward is to let it go (not with difficulty though).
Something you said has resonated with me i.e. "Basically it comes down to just talking and listening and sometime without agenda". I only just realised that each time I have approached him, it has always been around work or study, socialising with friends again etc. I need to get back to basics and just reconnect with him, and allow him to talk about anything and for me to listen.
I also agree it will take some time for him to get to a better place, something I have lost sight of, as I have been so focused on the amount of time that has passed.
Thank you so much again for your advice and it has definitely made a difference to how I view the situation and how I should be moving forward.
Hi Summer Rose,
Thank you so much for your advice. It seems you are on the same wavelength as smallwolf. I can definitely see now that I need to take a break from talking about his future i.e. work/study etc. and just basically get to know him again.
I realise now that I can't possibly help him with any of that, unless I just reconnect with him at a basic level. I am so glad I posted on BB. The similar advice you and smallwolf have given seems so obvious now, but its hard to see it when you are lost in the situation.
Will definitely take on board all you have suggested.
Thank you again Summer Rose!