Heartbreak over my son's illness and behavior

Jackie07November 11, 2013

I am a single mother of a 38 year-old son. I was 19 when I had him and was separated when he was only 2 months old. I was raised in a Catholic family and was taught values. Unfortunately, I married a man who turned out to be abusive (mentally and physically), he was also a cheater, a stealer, and an compulsive liar. It was probably the best thing for my son to NOT have this man in his life; however, I wish that he could have had a good male role model in his life (other than my wonderful father). Many years after my divorce, I found out that my ex-husband committed suicide in his home (and was found by one of his other children -- my son's step brother). As it turns out, I realized that my ex-husband had a mental illness. I now know this because my son has the same illness. Since my son (Michael) was very young, he had the tendency to lie -- he didn't just lie to cover up for himself ... he lied about anything and everything in life. Then, he would steal money from my family members. He would either do it by forgery, or he would do it in other clever ways). I would also like to add that my son has epilepsy, as well as a brittle bone disease. He was in special ed classes most of his life and, as a result, he did not receive the proper education and has low self esteem. I did "everything" for my son, but - I'm afraid - that I might have done "too" much. Although there have been struggles since Michael was in his early teens, the worst has been the last couple of years when he and his wife separated. Not only did SHE have her own issues (drinking, drugs, etc.), together they had a very volatile relationship, which included lack of respect for each other, as well as domestic violence. His wife has a total of 3 boys (one which her father has raised since he was an infant; one from another father, and one from my son). Because of their issues and abuse, Child Protective Services stepped in and gave temporary custody of the boys to me and my boyfriend for almost a year. During this time, the mother went thru the classes, etc. that she needed to go thru, and my son pretty much gave up. He gave up on everything. Then, he started threatening suicide. I had to call "911" on several occasions, where he was admitted into a psychiatric hospital for up to 3 weeks. During this time, he threatened me, telling me that when he got out, he was going to have a "hit" put on me (he felt that "I" was the one that had the power to get him released from the hospital). He also wished me dead. Once the hospital was no longer able to keep him, he was released. He was living in his van for a period of time and things just continued to go out of control. He would (again) threaten suicide to me but, then he wouldn't answer his cel phone when I tried contacting him. I would be in hysterics, thinking that he was going to kill himself the same way his father did (shot himself in the head). My boyfriend and I would drive everywhere looking for him and would finally go to the police department for help. This went on, time and time again. He would also send me pictures of his hand holding a gun or a knife (on the occasions where he would say that he was going to do it). I spent most of our holidays either crying, thinking that he was going to end his life (even on Mother's Day). It was almost like he was angry at "me" for how his marriage turned out. No matter how much I have tried to help him, he continues to torment me. I don't even know who he is anymore. When he was growing up, we were so close. I would have never guessed that the child that I was so thrilled to have, could be telling me that he wished I were dead. I can't believe that my own flesh and blood could see me so heartbroken, yet he continues to torment me emotionally. I know that he has a mental illness (a doctor at a psychiatric hospital diagnosed him as being "borderline personality" (although it wasn't a concrete diagnosis). What is also very sad is that my son won't really admit that he has a problem. He won't admit that his behavior (when he spirals out of control) can be due to having a chemical imbalance. I have tried everything humanly possible. I can honestly say that the last 2 years have been the worst years of my life. They have been worse than the deaths of my parents, as well as me having cancer when I was 32 years old. It is almost like my son has an incurable disease and I have been grieving every single day for the last couple of years. Although I have an incredibly wonderful supportive boyfriend of over 10 years, and my grandchildren are the highlight of my life, I have never been so sad and have never cried so much. I feel that I will never get peace in my life ... that I will never feel happiness again. I want so badly to be able to have a nice life with my boyfriend, but I just don't know how to get to that place. I am trying to do everything that may help me to get healthy .... I pray, go to counseling, and have taken a course on mental illness.... I'm just looking for a way to accept that my son may never get better. I just don't know how to give up but I am so weak emotionally that I feel like I'm going to have a breakdown. Please - if anyone has any suggestions or input, I would be so grateful to hear it. Thanks so much.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I can vouch for the father passing down the lying thing. My son was only around 4 when he started telling whoppers. I am not sure it is a mental illness as much as it's just bad character traits. I think children inherit the genes of their fathers and mothers and that they are who they are when their born. My oldest son is just like my father and youngest like his father, my first husband. It shows up in so many ways.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 12:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The mental illness of a child is one of the hardest burdens a parent can carry. As you know all too well, there are few options you have now since your son is an adult.

Some of your comments do make me wonder if your son is also delusional/psychotic. Borderline personality disorder seems the least of it.

Regardless, I hope right now you can gather the strength to stand back. Standing back is not giving up. But all of your engagement and attempts to intervene continue to "feed" his illness.

You did not cause your son's illness and you can't cure it.

I would not engage with him beyond what is necessary. Do not attempt to phone. If he calls and threatens you, hang up. If he sends pictures, ignore them. I know this is hard but what you're doing isn't working and you must protect yourself.

Of course if you are aware he is suicidal, then you must call 911. But otherwise I hope you can focus your efforts on your grandchildren and your boyfriend. Those children need someone in their corner who is not compromised by mental illness or addiction. (Even in recovery their mother is fragile).

It would be helpful if you could see a doctor for depression. I'm sure you must be worn out, distraught and at your wits' end.

You must learn to put yourself first and focus some attention on your own health and well-being. Otherwise you'll be no good to anyone.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 4:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you both so much for your kind words and advise. Mental illness is so incredibly hard for a parent to bear. Since my son was 14 years old, he has struggled with dishonesty and was caught stealing several hundred dollars from my ex-brother-in-law. Then, during a period of time, he was faking "grand mal seizures" in front of me. Since he was previously diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 9 years old, there was no reason for me to doubt that these seizures were not real. I was constantly calling "911" until I finally brought him to UCLA to be put on telemetry (they hook him up to something that, not only can sense his brain waves, but it records the seizures). At one point, the neurologist realized that the seizures were not real. So, he did a "test" on my son to make sure. To my absolute devastation, he was faking the seizures and that's when my true struggles began. The doctor felt that - due to my son's medical issues, as well as being raise without a father, etc. - that it might be helpful for him to be admitted into the psychiatric ward at the hospital. He ended up spending close to 3 months in the hospital during which time - they weaned him off of his epilepsy medication (thinking that he really wasn't epileptic). Even when Michael said that he was having seizures, he was no longer believed by the doctors. Once he was discharged (and continuing to have seizures, this time losing bladder control during them), I had to take him to another hospital for testing (UCLA no longer wanted to be involved with the testing). This time, it was confirmed that he not only had epilepsy, but it was a form of epilepsy that he would never outgrow. Since this time, he just continued to spiral downhill and out of control. And, sadly, I spiraled along with him. Being my only child and, being that I raised him solely by myself, I had no idea what was wrong with him. For so many years, I felt that it was "only" because of me and the way that I raised him. I was overprotective, never wanted him to "fall". I never understood "why" he lied, only that he lied about everything in his life. There seemed to be nothing that he didn't lie about. It wasn't until the last 2 years (and all the "911" phone calls from me to the police, and all the trips to the hospital), that things finally started to make sense to me. But, even though I now know that he has a mental illness, it didn't stop the heartache that I feel in my life. It's almost like I am watching him die (always wondering when he may "actually" kill himself) on on a daily basis. But, there is never any closure. I feel that - in order for ME to LIVE and experience happiness again - that HE first has to be healthy. But, then I have to realize that this day may never come for him. After so many years of me being a devoted mom to Michael, I finally met a wonderful man in my life; however, the last 2 years have been so emotionally stressful and draining on both of us. We are in constant anxiety. I spend so much of my time being so worried about my son that I forget to remember all the people that are in my life who WANT me to be part of THEIR lives again. For so long, I feel only like I am a shell of a person.

I have finally (last week after, yet one more episode from my son threatening suicide, then showing me the respect that I deserve) - decided that I need to back away. I finally said (in a text message that we were having) - that I would no longer allow him treating me like yesterday's trash. No matter how much I tried to be on his side giving him support, he treated me like I meant nothing. Deep inside, I know that he loves me. When he seems "more normal", he can be kind and caring, but these days are few and far between lately. But, I still need to focus on the reality of things. I cannot communicate with him if it means that "I" am the one that will suffer. And, as "I" suffer, my boyfriend (as well as the people who care most about me) suffers, as well. I just need to keep this feeling of "strength" up. I need to live MY life, even though my son seems to not want to live "his". If for no-one else, I need to live it for my absolutely wonderful grandsons. They are the light of my life. They give me purpose in my life and make me "want" to smile. I will not allow them to see the sadness that I feel inside. They are a huge reason for me living.

And, yes, I "need" to learn how to put myself first. I just need to tell my "heart and mind" this.....

Thank you again.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 2:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am sorry if this sounds flippant but it might be a good idea to change your phone number.

The fact that he can contact you with distressing messages causes you a lot of angst. You are only human and you can't "fix" him.

Look after yourself.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 12:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I feel for you.

It can be difficult to discern the line between mental illness and manipulation. It may be there are elements of both in your son's behavior.

It could be beneficial to consult with a therapist or mental health expert to develop a "plan" for establishing appropriate boundaries and detaching from your son. Having pre-determined strategies will help you to respond effectively instead of falling back on ingrained and detrimental patterns.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 4:46AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
How do I cope?
It's been 8 weeks since my daughter has spoken to me...
Adult daughter says actions speak louder than words
My Daughter and I have not had the best relationship...
18 year old daughter disrespectful
I am hoping to get some advice. My daughter who is...
Please help me!
I have been dating my boyfriend for about 2 years....
Coping with the Estrangement of Adult Children
Sadly, my adult children and I are estranged from each...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™