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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5110
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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My son who is 20 years old is lost. He is not college/school

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My son who is 20 years old is lost. He is not "college/school" material. Has 141 IQ. Has anxiety and he believes OCD-possible. Feels no hope, has low self esteem and feels I am always the problem. How do I help him? He always does the drama-negative attention. He is smart, caring and has many good qualities. After 20 years of giving everything I have I am lost. What do we do? Tried it all from life coaches, therapy, homeopathic, you name it.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.

Hi! You know, to give you the best answer, I think I should ask you a few questions first that will help define the problem and the situation.


Before we discuss how to BEHAVE with him, I feel we need to rule out developmental problems. You haven't mentioned any but the combination of difficult from conception, OCD tendencies, high IQ and hopelessness make it important to rule out any possibility. Okay?

How was he throughout his childhood and adolescence and now socially? Easy to make friends? Awkward?

Did he and does he tend to have certain "rituals" he likes to do? Or repetitive movements?

Does he tend to make some unusual facial gestures, scrunch up his face when he talks about unpleasant things or put his fingers to his mouth when he talks about unpleasant things?

Does he tend to have to have things exactly in their right place, like if a small piece of furniture or decoration is moved?

What is he like emotionally? Does he have a hard time relating to other people's feelings? Does he have a hard time understanding what other people need emotionally?

Any extra information that will help, feel free to share.

Let's go forward from the answers to these questions.

I see you are offline at this time and I'm going to be going into session soon, so if I can't answer before that, would later in the evening be okay for me to respond?

Dr. Mark

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Jesse was and is very popular. Always social. extremely emphathetic, in fact too much compassion. Will worry about others problems more than his. I think sometimes to avoid dealing with his own. Habitual liar, always. Even about issues no need to like Did the dog make when you took him out! He says he has rituals but honestly as a very observant mother saw the opposite-chaos around him not having anything in one spot. Always losing things. He does always put his fingers in his mouth since birth-chews on them, nails etc. He says the lying is habitual-he has to lie a certain amount etc. I don't know if I believe this part. He also states he does not like to be touched etc that it is all part of his 'OCD". Again during his entire childhood this was not the case. His ex-girlfriend of 2-4 years was extremely obsessed about her health issues. Had so many could not count. Many were made worse in her mind than actually were to the eye. Jesse was extremely and always was and is impressionable and feels everyone's pain. Since late adolescent his low self esteem took him to say he does not like people .... But he never could and still cannot be alone. Always had to have people around and still does. Smokes pot and experiemented with others. Right now supposedly cutting way back if not all the way but again cannot believe what he says. He is extremely lonely he says as he broke up with his long time girlfriend and dropped out of college for the third time. Has part time job. Feels no hope and that he has no game plan. He takes all his anger and self dislike out on me, not his father. I have been there maybe too much? I am so drained as this is a high maintenance child to raise. No facial tiks, no typical OCD behaviour what so ever. Again what he says and what he does is nowhere close. He actually ;loves being with people and desperately wants love and acceptance contrary to what he claims. Has so much anger, sees things half empty, drama drama drama. Again very suggestable. You or anyone can convince him eventually that he does have .... but he is strong willed. Argumentative, thinks he knows it all impossible to talk with as you(especially me) is always wrong. He gets to heated/passionate about every discussion and takes a level 1 conversation to a 20! 9 out of 10 times. Exhausting to all. He just got a fine and 6 months parole because a car hit him from behind and his car was so filthy I mean filled up to half way with garbage that the cops searched his car and found a roach the size of your thumb and arrested him for it. He is so embarrased and ashamed and keeps blaming it on the kid who hit him instead of knowing it was himself who brought it on. We kept telling him as did his friends and brother that if you don't clean it out the cops will search you as it is a pigsty. Well it happened! I am not sure if that is a from of OCD-he gets so overwhelmed with anything that has to do with work like homework, organizaing, cleaning etc. that he shuts down and lets it get to a point that is not normal. He is filled with alot of anxiety. Always was. We love him. Always there for him. But no matter how much we do he hates me-says he loves me but does not like me. It seems i am the reason for everything that is bad. Have no idea why as I made normal mistakes but it is not about me unless I can help me. I always acknowledge whatever he claims I did again what he sees and what happened has never matched up. Would say he has X homework but it was never what teacher said. Takes everything too seriously now. Big heart, extremely compassionate, very intelligent. So lost.
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for the added information. It helps a lot. I believe I can now be of help with this issue.

First, let me say the clarity with which you describe Jesse is remarkable. You are not only a loving and caring parent, you are also a highly intelligent and astute observer. And so I sense that what I'm going to be telling you is what you have known within yourself for a while but have not yet brought out into full awareness. And I think it's important to that now.

I've had some similar problems presented to me brought up by the 20 year old himself. Imagine the difference here if these observations were self-observations brought to me by Jesse himself. That would be very different wouldn't it! It would mean that not only is there a good level of self-insight (he probably wouldn't tell me half of the symptoms you were able to list off cogently), but it would mean there was a motivation for hope. Not yet a commitment and certainly not confidence, but motivation for hope.

The catalog of possible disorders is impressively large and wide: OCD and anxiety for sure. But depression, ADHD, and even perhaps Bipolar Disorder though that one is a long shot. But if Jesse were writing to me, I would be talking to him about motivation. Because he would be showing me that he had hope for something better. That's a precursor of motivation. I wouldn't be worrying about commitment or confidence yet. Motivation. I would surprise him and tell him that the standard motivation books and tapes by the big motivation stars is what I want him to spend a lot of time reading and listening to when he's lying around. Anthony Robbins, Stephen Covey, etc. I'd have him going to You Tube and watching every motivational speaker he can find. Every day. Because that's how commitment happens. Through motivation. And confidence follows the commitment.

But he didn't write. It was you. And so you know the truth I'm getting to. You are enabling him to stay a kid. You even write so yourself in the most revealing sentence: "I am so drained as this is a high maintenance child to raise"

Notice you didn't use the past tense: he WAS a high maintenance child, but the present tense: he IS a high maintenance child. This is what enabling is about. If he were drinking, I would send you to Al Anon (the family part of AA) meetings to get support and skills in how to stop the enabling. That he would be given a deadline to find his own living quarters or pay rent, food, etc. Would he swim or sink? We don't know. That's why Al Anon is everywhere. Because you as a parent can't know in advance. You have to take a chance that he will find his bottom and then climb up and out into adulthood. You can't do it for him. That's the harm in enabling. The family keeps regenerating the dependency.

So, this is more than tough love. This is a crash course in growing up. He's 20 and not a child. Were he 17 maybe I would have said a wilderness survival trip. But now he's 20 and he's got to do a REAL LIFE survival trip into adulthood. The goal here is to get him to take the responsibility for getting better. For him to write someday. So, maybe there IS an Al Anon meeting that will accept you or maybe you can do some reading on enabling behavior. But he is not going to get better from whatever problem(s) he has because YOU are worried about it...

I know this has been tough and I am asking you to be brave. But Jesse needs to be the one who recognizes he needs help, and that has been my goal in answering you. I wish you the very best!

Please remember to click the green accept button. Feel free to continue the discussion; my goal is to get you the best answers possible. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
sorry but this did not help at all. Already know this. I have stopped enabling my son three years ago and he almost flunked out of high school. It is my husband who will not stop enabling him. I cannot get my husband to get on board with the tough love. I brought all the self help books 12 years ago and every year since. The only one who reads them is me. Jesse will NOT read anything you suggested, especially if I suggest it. My husband sees what he can handle and then will agree with me finally but then does a flip back to enabling him. Sorry but everything you said been there done that. Don't pay his bills if he is not in school. He has worked since he is 14. Paid for his own car. I have stepped back years ago. There is a difference between enabling and supporting a loved one emotionally and trying to help them with motivation. I will not enable him and have not but my husband does. Can bring a horse to water....again Jesse will not do any of the above. I am staying back but everyone when they are depressed and down needs someone who loves them sometimes to just help 'nudge' them in a good direction. Jesse is a hard case. Again don't mean to sound...but I research everything and was well aware of enabling a decade ago. We (I) have literally done everything there is I can do. Unless my husband get's on board . I will see if Jesse will write you but I doubt it. He wants to do it his way only. Thanks but this was of no help as I have done all you suggested. I did life coaching and therapy etc. to see how to back off when he was 15. Jesse knows he needs help and goes but again does it half-assed. Sometimes when one really needs help they need help in getting help. There is really nothing out there left. I need to know how to get through the next few years while "he" finds himself as his behaviour is unacceptable. No answers here that will work
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.
I think you need to read your reply above to me again and see the situation you have painted and either agree with it or decide where it isn't accurate. Here's what I mean. You write:

1. You do not enable him.
2. Others (your husband) do.
3. You cannot influence your husband: he backs down every time.
4. You cannot help Jesse unless he is willing to get help.
5. You want an answer for how to help Jesse solve his problems.

But you already answered the question, haven't you? Clearly someone is enabling him. You didn't specify at first and so I addressed that to you. You have now clarified it and said it is your husband who you cannot influence to change. So you already know there is no way for YOU to help Jesse because you have no opportunity.

So maybe that isn't your real question. Perhaps your real question is how can you MAKE PEACE with the fact that Jesse is "losing" years of his life? How can you stay hopeful and positive for his future?

Because when you don't have the power to change a situation, you have to then make peace with that fact. And you have to now hope and pray for the person you know Jesse can be to emerge. I wish I could somehow bestow the ability to make your husband see how damaging his behavior is. I wish I could bestow the ability to make Jesse see how much potential he has that is being evaporated. But no human being has that power. And as strong as you are, you don't either. You can only stay hopeful and pray if you are religious. Stay hopeful.

I wish you the very best!

Please remember to click the green accept button. Feel free to continue the discussion; my goal is to get you the best answers possible. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Dr. Mark, So how do you(I and my husband) move Jesse from child to adult. Since he decided after three attempts college is not for him (he does work and will work as many hours as they will give him-Game Stop retail gaming store)how much of making him start paying ALL his bills is fair? He already knows he has to pay rent. We agreed that starts now. Trouble is he is in debt from car and other issues and makes $9.00 an hour. What is acceptable time span to add on car insurance, gas, phone bill? Have only bought him a winter coat in last two years. stopped doing his laudry two years ago but he doesn't do it until literally it is all worn! His room, unthinkable! How tough can we be because it will be non stop as it is every area that he now needs to address. He is lonely too. Honestly I am too exhausted to help him anymore. I truly want to and actually have moved in the background and don't get involved but he is not moving in a good direction. So what does a parent do? How much how fast do you throw all the responsibiites at them when they don't yet have the money. He never expects us to pay for things but just doesn't seem to care anymore.
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 3 years ago.
I can imagine! He seems very frustrating. Really, the best solution is to suggest he ask for a transfer to a Game Stop in Tucson or Phoenix, AZ so that he can camp out if he doesn't want to pay rent. But from what I understand, it's not your decision: your husband is not ready to do less than what he's doing.

So if that is the case, why not try a different strategy? After all, being frustrated and disappointed in him hasn't made any dent. Since you can't change the situation, since you can't change your husband's enabling, why not just not be involved at all. Don't do Jesse's laundry, don't give him any help, but just treat him as if he's doing whatever he wants and there is not a problem with you.

He clearly has found a lifestyle he likes. He just needs roommates. If your husband would cut off the rent, Jesse would have to find some, that's all. So why not just accept him as he is and relax?

What I mean is that if he had diabetes, you wouldn't be upset that he can't eat a regular diet. So he has a disability: a motivational disability. Okay. You have a kid with a disability. You don't have to encourage it, but he's not special olympics material. So you can't try to get him to try to be motivated in spite of his disability. So you accept him.

Sounds strange doesn't it? But the other way hasn't helped. And until your husband is ready to stop the rent, you're stuck with him at home. So why suffer?

I wish you the very best!

Please remember to click the green accept button. Feel free to continue the discussion; my goal is to get you the best answers possible. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5110
Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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