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Old 11-21-2020, 02:34 AM   #1
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Trig Trying to help my nephew

My brother is going through a nasty divorce. They have two kids, 15 and 12. The kids are going back and forth between the parents' homes every few days. They have very little stability. And the parenting is, well, my brother is very angry, and I can see that anger and frustrating being directed at his sons. The mother is unstable. I don't know what exactly is going on with her, but she is highly manipulative and emotionally abusive.

The eldest son, my nephew, is having severe anger issues. My brother had mentioned this to me previously. With COVID and being shipped every few days between his parents' homes, he doesn't have any time to process anything and he feels like a pawn for his parents. They also come down on him because he's feeling angry and acting out. His grades slip so they come down on him harder, take away his electronics and stuff, and he gets angrier. His girlfriend's mom made them cut off contact too because her grades were slipping too.

My brother thought maybe if they get a dog again that it might help my nephew with emotional support. So my retired service dog is working this weekend, I just got home from taking him over there, and my nephew was petting him and cuddling him and taking emotional support. It's just a weekend "loan" of a dog who is very good at emotional support.

When I got there tonight I saw the marks on my nephew's arm, and I knew what they were immediately, He'd been self-harming. I told my brother I wanted to talk alone to him because I understand what he's going through in a way he and the mom don't. He agreed, but even then he lectured my nephew to sit and talk to me while he and the younger nephew go to the store. That was frustrating for me because what I see is that every time he's feeling upset or angry about what's happening to him, he's getting punished and forced into further isolation which compounds the problem, not solves it. And with COVID the isolation is even worse.

So I spent some time talking to my nephew alone for like an hour. We talked about why he was harming himself and what he was feeling. I asked him about his therapist and what support he's getting. It's not enough. Also, his parents want to control all of it, so he doesn't feel like he can say what he needs to confidentially, to a trusted person. I don't know if it's true, but it's what he perceives is true. He's also on a medication, and the second he harmed, his mom called the pdoc and had the medication increased. I'm disgusted and shocked. First of all, I suspect that he's having a reaction to that particular medication, because it's the same one I had a reaction to, plus it's known to have these reactions. PLUS HE'S A KID going through trauma. An AD might not be the best choice versus therapy. And if the kid gets worse after you start meds...um, maybe the meds are making it worse? Also his dad, my brother, does his teletherapy at home, and even though he's in his room, my nephew hears the whole thing, and it's upsetting to him. Sigh...

So we talked about what my nephew wants out of life. We made a plan together and an agreement if he feels like harming himself all the things he can do and will do before he does that, and then he will call me before he does that. I'm going to try and get the parents to let him come stay with me for a day or two and just decompress. The whole environment is hostile. I know my brother doesn't mean it to be. They really need family therapy.

I'm trying to find a teen group for my nephew. I'm just shocked at how controlling his parents want to be, and no wonder he is getting worse. He also doesn't trust his T because his T told his dad that he wasn't participating and my brother/the dad came down on him for not doing better in therapy. WTF.

My nephew and I agreed that I would talk to his dad about him staying with me for a few days or coming to visit to get some space, and about my brother doing therapy in the house so that he can't hear him and get upset, and asking about changing the meds.

When we were finished talking, my nephew said to me "I trust you." I don't think he really trusts anyone much right now. He also seems really mature for 15, and to me, that speaks of him witnessing a lot of stuff that he probably shouldn't.

His parents are freaking out because he gets angry and gets aggressive and even violent when he's angry. But I think it's because he's not really allowed to feel his anger. So he holds it in until he bursts. They are afraid of him. He said in a dark way it's probably good. I asked him to tell me about that, and he said that if they are afraid of him they won't hurt him. And I responded, yes, but then they don't trust you if they are afraid of you and you can't be close. He admitted that he wants to at least be close to his little brother.

So my job now is to broach the subject with my brother without him feeling attacked.

My training is in patient advocacy and as a peer support specialist. I have manned crisis lines and talked people through suicidal urges and self harm urges. I don't want to overstep, but I can tell what's serving for "treatment" right now is more like "punishment" and you can't "punish" depression or ADHD out of a kid.

I'm also horrified that they are controlling his therapy the way they are. He's 15. He deserves a safe space.

He said he liked his youth group at church, but he feels like the adult leader is in cahoots with his parents. I am hoping I can find him some version of a NAMI peer support group.

i would appreciate any advice to help my nephew.
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Old 11-21-2020, 05:54 AM   #2
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Default Re: Trying to help my nephew

How long has he been on medication?
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Old 11-21-2020, 08:42 AM   #3
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Default Re: Trying to help my nephew

The things that you are doing is what I would have suggested, so I really don't have any more advice. I think you are on the right track. The whole situation sounds awful. Your nephew is very lucky to have you looking out for him.
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Old 11-21-2020, 09:02 AM   #4
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Default Re: Trying to help my nephew

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How long has he been on medication?
Hes been on adhd medication a while. The AD is newer but long enough to be having an effect.
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Primary Dx: C-PTSD and Severe Chronic Treatment Resistant Major Depressive Disorder
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Meds I've tried: Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Effexor, Remeron, Elavil, Wellbutrin, Risperidone, Abilify, Prazosin, Paxil, Trazadone, Tramadol, Topomax, Xanax, Propranolol, Valium, Visteril, Vraylar, Selinor, Clonopin, Ambien

Treatments I've done: CBT, DBT, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), Talk therapy, psychotherapy, exercise, diet, sleeping more, sleeping less...
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Old 11-21-2020, 09:02 AM   #5
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Default Re: Trying to help my nephew

He's really lucky to have you as an uncle @seesaw . This reminds me of some stuff I went through with my step son. I was lucky that I could spend lots of time with him, and help him get some strength and independence. I don't know if this is good advice, just my initial thoughts, but I would really support all his ideas about the adults he doesn't trust, and although he's very young, I would support his distancing from them, and his self care.
It is not good to have these levels of distrust, and have people scared of you. I was volatile as a teenager, and it really scared my mum, but she wasn't someone that could help me, and she was actually someone that really drained me. She thought she needed to make my life easier, and pressured me into things and out of things. It just wasn't right. My life was only better for distancing, and getting independence from her.
Of course he needs his parents at 15, but he doesn't need to like them. If they're doing things that are deeply hurting him, and giving him all this anger and despair, he needs some outlet for that. Are there things he does enjoy doing? Any things that put him in the moment, and channel his own ideas or passions? I think all the encouragement, and validation you can give will be well worth giving. It's really sad things are so messed up at home for him
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Old 11-21-2020, 09:38 AM   #6
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Default Re: Trying to help my nephew

Quote:
Originally Posted by KBMK View Post
He's really lucky to have you as an uncle @seesaw . This reminds me of some stuff I went through with my step son. I was lucky that I could spend lots of time with him, and help him get some strength and independence. I don't know if this is good advice, just my initial thoughts, but I would really support all his ideas about the adults he doesn't trust, and although he's very young, I would support his distancing from them, and his self care.

It is not good to have these levels of distrust, and have people scared of you. I was volatile as a teenager, and it really scared my mum, but she wasn't someone that could help me, and she was actually someone that really drained me. She thought she needed to make my life easier, and pressured me into things and out of things. It just wasn't right. My life was only better for distancing, and getting independence from her.

Of course he needs his parents at 15, but he doesn't need to like them. If they're doing things that are deeply hurting him, and giving him all this anger and despair, he needs some outlet for that. Are there things he does enjoy doing? Any things that put him in the moment, and channel his own ideas or passions? I think all the encouragement, and validation you can give will be well worth giving. It's really sad things are so messed up at home for him
Thanks, KMBK. Yeah, I'm trying to negotiate to get him some time away from them. That's hard because they likely see it as a reward and not as part of his "treatment." And his mom is going to be a hard sell on that because she's so controlling and manipulative.

Next week she's putting the boys on a plane, the week of Thanksgiving when we've been told not to travel and stay safe, and having them go visit her mother, who is in her 70s or 80s. My brother and I are both upset by this because there is real danger there. When they get back, I am not sure I want to visit with them until they have quarantined for 2 weeks, but I also think the concern I have for my nephew's well being may mean I have to.
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What if I fall? Oh, my dear, but what if you fly?

Primary Dx: C-PTSD and Severe Chronic Treatment Resistant Major Depressive Disorder
Secondary Dx: Generalized Anxiety Disorder with mild Agoraphobia.

Meds I've tried: Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Effexor, Remeron, Elavil, Wellbutrin, Risperidone, Abilify, Prazosin, Paxil, Trazadone, Tramadol, Topomax, Xanax, Propranolol, Valium, Visteril, Vraylar, Selinor, Clonopin, Ambien

Treatments I've done: CBT, DBT, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), Talk therapy, psychotherapy, exercise, diet, sleeping more, sleeping less...

Last edited by seesaw; 11-21-2020 at 10:25 AM..
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Old 11-21-2020, 10:06 AM   #7
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Default Re: Trying to help my nephew

That's rough. Do take care of yourself. Do you think there could be any positives to them spending some time with their grandmother? It does seem a strange thing to do under the circumstances, and could be really dangerous for her!
It sounds like a really complicated and painful situation.
It sounds like you get on fairly well with your brother too? You said the boy's mother is emotionally abusive. Do you think your brother and his kid's are being abused? It's just usually the case that family/couples therapy isn't effective when there is an abusive dynamic. If she isn't getting any help for herself, and it's affecting the rest of the family very badly, it could be the case that only distancing from her will make things better. That's not always something you can promote easily either. If this is the case, I would really take care with what you say to, and about her. It could actually be a good thing that she is scared of your nephew.
In my experience abusers do not have healthy shame. They do not respect people. They see people as objects that are either useful, problematic (solveable), or best avoided. If she is pushing her son away rather than using him or "solving" him, then that is actually the most positive option, unfortunately. This might all be way off base...I hope so, but guess not
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Old 11-21-2020, 10:24 AM   #8
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Default Re: Trying to help my nephew

Just another thought...if your brother is very stressed/angry/upset, and not abusive, it could be a good thing to approach this situation in terms of easing his burden, as divorcing an abusive spouse is a total nightmare, and he probably needs all the encouragement and validation he can get too. Also very lucky to have you as a brother, if that is the case
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Old 11-21-2020, 12:06 PM   #9
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Default Re: Trying to help my nephew

Quote:
Originally Posted by KBMK View Post
That's rough. Do take care of yourself. Do you think there could be any positives to them spending some time with their grandmother? It does seem a strange thing to do under the circumstances, and could be really dangerous for her!
It sounds like a really complicated and painful situation.
It sounds like you get on fairly well with your brother too? You said the boy's mother is emotionally abusive. Do you think your brother and his kid's are being abused? It's just usually the case that family/couples therapy isn't effective when there is an abusive dynamic. If she isn't getting any help for herself, and it's affecting the rest of the family very badly, it could be the case that only distancing from her will make things better. That's not always something you can promote easily either. If this is the case, I would really take care with what you say to, and about her. It could actually be a good thing that she is scared of your nephew.
In my experience abusers do not have healthy shame. They do not respect people. They see people as objects that are either useful, problematic (solveable), or best avoided. If she is pushing her son away rather than using him or "solving" him, then that is actually the most positive option, unfortunately. This might all be way off base...I hope so, but guess not
My brother has been diagnosed with PTSD from the abuse, although on the spectrum I think it's mild PTSD (as compared to mine which is debilitating and severe), but I can still see how my brother's processing of his PTSD is somewhat abusive to the kids. He's very angry too, and acts very angry. He's also being somewhat controlling as well.

I don't think there is any physical abuse going on, but there is loads of emotional abuse and childhood emotional neglect. My brother is in therapy, I believe the ex-wife/mom is too, but I don't think it's useful when there is this abuse dynamic. I think the ex-wife/mom has a personality disorder (it wouldn't surprise me that my brother married her because our mom has BPD, although it's much milder in her older age now), and our bio-father has NPD.

What I witnessed last night was literally like a scene out of my own very screwed up childhood. I actually managed to stay okay throughout all of it, but when I left the emotional toll definitely took over for a bit.

I agree with you about being careful what I say about the mom. I don't want to be seen as festering some kind of alienation from her (although he's already alienated). My goal is to help my nephew be as healthy as possible and for them to have healthy relationships. But the communication is just so damn dysfunctional over there. It's actually incredible to me - I feel like, you know, I had a full mental break, and now disabled with cPTSD and other disorders, but my communication and self care is so much healthier than theirs. But they are also in the middle of it, and they aren't having enough awareness to be mindful of how they are being in the middle of it.

What I'm most concerned about is that she hops on the phone and gets the pdoc to increase the anti-depressant dose at the drop of a hat, without the pdoc seeing my nephew. Frankly, as a patient advocate and a family/peer support specialist, I'm concerned I might be in the realm of needing to report this per mandatory reporting laws. I need to talk to a colleague who has done more social work with kids (I don't typically work a lot with kids/teens) and get some perspective. I've conferred with someone else on the medication issue (someone knowledgeable) and they are also concerned.
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Primary Dx: C-PTSD and Severe Chronic Treatment Resistant Major Depressive Disorder
Secondary Dx: Generalized Anxiety Disorder with mild Agoraphobia.

Meds I've tried: Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Effexor, Remeron, Elavil, Wellbutrin, Risperidone, Abilify, Prazosin, Paxil, Trazadone, Tramadol, Topomax, Xanax, Propranolol, Valium, Visteril, Vraylar, Selinor, Clonopin, Ambien

Treatments I've done: CBT, DBT, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), Talk therapy, psychotherapy, exercise, diet, sleeping more, sleeping less...
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Old 11-21-2020, 12:17 PM   #10
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Default Re: Trying to help my nephew

Quote:
Originally Posted by KBMK View Post
Just another thought...if your brother is very stressed/angry/upset, and not abusive, it could be a good thing to approach this situation in terms of easing his burden, as divorcing an abusive spouse is a total nightmare, and he probably needs all the encouragement and validation he can get too. Also very lucky to have you as a brother, if that is the case
Yeah, I am taking a day or two to consider my words, because I want to approach him in a way that's also kind to him, but he's also being kind of an arse to his kids right now. And I know I don't see what it is 24/7 - but if everything is a grudge and based on every thing from before, my nephew doesn't have any opportunity for the relationships to be anything different. And that's sad and terrible for all of them.
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What if I fall? Oh, my dear, but what if you fly?

Primary Dx: C-PTSD and Severe Chronic Treatment Resistant Major Depressive Disorder
Secondary Dx: Generalized Anxiety Disorder with mild Agoraphobia.

Meds I've tried: Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Effexor, Remeron, Elavil, Wellbutrin, Risperidone, Abilify, Prazosin, Paxil, Trazadone, Tramadol, Topomax, Xanax, Propranolol, Valium, Visteril, Vraylar, Selinor, Clonopin, Ambien

Treatments I've done: CBT, DBT, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), Talk therapy, psychotherapy, exercise, diet, sleeping more, sleeping less...
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