Posted: Friday, December 12, 2008 9:47 pm
Dear Annie: Yesterday, my wife and I were called to our son’s school to talk to the crisis prevention officer. We were told our 16-year-old son had attempted suicide. You can imagine our shock. Where were the signs, the clues?
We have a high-honors achieving son, an athlete with friends, a Boy Scout and a member of the National Honor Society. He’s all a parent could hope for. There have been no arguments, no rebellion, no drugs or alcohol, no staying out or running away, no complaints about school or home. I’m involved in his life, attend his athletic events and am his scoutmaster. While he’s not exactly verbose, we do talk.
There was a recent breakup with his first girlfriend, and that apparently was the trigger. When I talked to him about the breakup, he said, “I’m OK. We’re still friends.” But the continued contact between them was more than he could handle. He needs to learn how to cope with emotional loss because it’s bound to happen in some form again.
Many parents sit in judgment, saying, “How could they not know?” All I can tell them is that some kids hide it very well. My son is now in secure treatment. We’ll have consultations and together find a way to rebuild trust and communication.
What I would ask of anyone, but especially teens, is this: If you hear, read or know about someone who is talking about suicide, tell someone responsible. You’re not ratting out a friend. You’re answering their cries for help and you might just save a life. To parents out there: There can never be too much communication. — Dad
Dear Dad: You are absolutely right. Parents need to be especially alert if their children suffer a relationship breakup, no matter how inconsequential it seems. Teenagers are very good at giving the impression that they are OK.
This must be an excruciating time for you, and we appreciate your concern for other children who may be hiding emotional agony. With an involved and caring family like yours, we have every confidence that your son will come through this emotionally healthy and whole. We’ll be thinking of you.
Dear Annie: I am 22 and best friends with my mother. Recently, she became very ill and I feared she might die. My first thought was, “How will I live without her?” Then I felt ashamed because I wasn’t thinking of her pain, but rather how it might affect me. Why was this my first thought? I think it indicates that I’m selfish, and I honestly don’t know how to correct it. What can I do? — Ashamed in Kansas
Dear Kansas: You are not being selfish. It is perfectly natural for your first thought to be how painful it would be if your mother died. It means you are so close that the idea of her being gone is more than you can bear. Stop feeling guilty and instead look for ways to show her how much she means to you.
Dear Annie: “Bipolar and Bountiful” took issue with your supportive response to “Choosing Happiness,” whose abusive husband is bipolar. Your response was absolutely correct.
I live with my bipolar wife and bipolar 8-year-old son, and they are the center of my universe. But it is not easy. The bipolar “beast” is a third presence in our lives that I resent but tolerate for their sake.
It’s hard to deal with the impulsive behaviors, expensive medications, unpredictable mood swings, suicidal tendencies and out-of-control lives that often accompany this disorder. Spouses must be respected for doing everything possible to take care of themselves. Support groups help, but they are not the complete answer. Thank you for standing firm and offering compassion to “Choosing Happiness.” — Still Here
Dear Still: Support groups, doctors, family members and friends can make a world of difference — but the bipolar person must be willing to be helped.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger 12.12.08