Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Son is far away and I don't know what to do


#1

My son is far away at college. He was supposed to be a rising senior. Since the lease on his new place started in June, he wanted to stay there over the summer and was supposedly getting a job.

However during the spring, he became very withdrawn, and by June he was not responding to my calls at all. I finally texted him that if he didn’t answer, I was coming to see him. He didn’t, so I did.

I showed up at his house, and he was shocked and angry. He immediately told me I had to get out, and that he couldn’t have me there. He said he felt worse when I was around. I was there for maybe 15 minutes and then he physically pushed me out the door and locked it. I should mention that I’m paying his rent and all of his living expenses. I told him that if he wouldn’t see me, I was stopping the credit card. He still refused, and so I did.

I called the Dean’s office of his school, and they called him in for counseling. While in counseling, he said “I reserve the right to kill intruders (xxx)” - where my name was the xxx. He expressly gave permission for them to share this with me. I think he was extremely pissed about my intervention and the credit card.

As a result of this threat, his university told him he had to meet certain conditions before he could come back, most of important of which was a psychiatric exam. I made an appointment for him, but he did not show up. As classes are starting soon, there’s really no hope that he will be able to go this fall, but I’m really doubting whether he will be well enough in the spring either. Meanwhile I’m paying his rent so that he can sit in his house and do nothing,.

I’ve been checking his phone logs, really just to get reassurance that he’s alive. He rarely contacts anyone, but does occasionally. On July 23, I checked and saw that he had called 911. That freaked me out a little, so I called the police department where he lives to see if they could tell me what it was about. They sent a unit to do a welfare check, and ended up taking him to the hospital. It turns out he was hearing voices and barely sleeping. He was also living on (in his words) “protein bars and rice” because I’d cut off the card (I had put money in his bank account, but it turns out he’s afraid to use his debit card).

The hospital told me that they would be OK letting him go in the morning, but that he voluntarily agreed to stay a few days and try some meds. He was released the morning of the 26th. That evening he did go to a follow-up appointment with the doctor he saw in the hospital. Since that time, though, he hasn’t apparently left his house, and he certainly didn’t fill the Rx they gave him. The hospital also said he had marijuana in his bloodstream - no big surprise, but he’d told me he stopped doing it back in the spring. Evidently he has relapsed.

Most of this time I have not been able to communicate with him at all. He talked to me from the hospital a few times, seeming flat and angry that I had called the police on him. Since then he’s been slightly more open to answering just a few of my emails.

He blames a lot on his lack of a credit card, says he doesn’t feel like a normal person with one. I went and applied for a new one, with a lower limit. I now have it in hand. I told him that having the card was contingent on getting treatment, but he has never responded or agreed to that.

I texted him to let him know I had it, and asked if he would see me. No response as of yet. I’ve made an appointment with a psychologist near him for Friday. No idea how to make him go.

I’ve been reading this forum for a few days now, and I don’t see anybody trying to help a loved one from so far away. It’s terrifying. He has been living alone all summer, but he will soon have roommates moving in, and he doesn’t even know them. I’m very afraid of what will happen. I think he needs to be at home, but he doesn’t want to be, and I’m not sure how to make it happen.

I’ve threatened not to pay September rent if he doesn’t get help, but I’m so scared of taking that step, and worried about what will happen to him.


#2

This is an awful situation. It so reminds me of the one we went through when our son was hit with this horrible illness while he was in college.

Be clear, the credit card is the least of his/your issues. Don’t give him another credit card. Don’t pay the September rent. Don’t pay the fall tuition. Don’t introduce him to those roommates.

You all have some serious work to do. If your situation is like ours, it sounds like your son is about to have a major psychotic break, if he hasn’t already. He needs to get home. Quickly.

Please call the campus police and let them know your son is showing signs of experiencing a psychiatric emergency and that you are concerned about safety. I’m sorry for sounding pessimistic, and I’m so sorry this is happening to you all.


#3

Is there any way to MAKE him come home, though - short of having him evicted - if he doesn’t want to come? He has a car down there. Would he even be able to drive it home (13 hours)? Would he get on a plane? I don’t know how to reach him. I’m planning to go down there in the next day or two, but I’m not sure what to do when I arrive.

I did call the police and it ended up with him in the hospital. I would do it again, but not sure what it will accomplish, if they just let him go again.


#4

You’re going to need to involve campus administration and his landlord, as well as local police and local hospital staff.

While our son was in the hospital (campus police took him there), we formally withdrew him from the university. We emptied his dorm room of his belongings. He was not going back there, even if he thought he would once he was discharged.

Because of the distance, your son might need a more lengthy hospitalization again before he leaves his college town. That’s going to be a real challenge for family.

I think you’ll need to come up with a separate plan to get the car home.


#5

There is no way to make him come home, but I agree about not having a roommate since he has reserved the right to kill intruders and is experiencing hallucinations and delusions which could turn a roommate into an intruder in his mind if the symptoms become more and more severe.

I’m sorry you are going through this. Honestly, I don’t know what to do.

Best to you and your son.


#6

Also, PS get him food somehow without giving him any access to money or anything he can turn into money. Marijuana makes psychosis much much worse. He needs zero illicit drugs in his system and you can tell him that’s why there’s no money, but you want to help him with food.


#7

I have been sending him food via home delivery. It’s almost the only time he’ll answer my texts or emails is when he tells me what food he’d like. Unfortunately, he had some money in his account, and I can see that some of it went to Venmo, which I can only assume is pot.


#8

I’m heading down there tomorrow, and a friend of mine has offered to go with me. She’s a psychologist who’s worked in prisons and ERs so she’s certainly seen it all. She’s willing to talk to him if he will allow it, or with a crisis team if he won’t. I feel relieved that she can help me through this without being emotional about it, and also with getting him committed if it comes to that. Thank you all for your help and advice, I really do appreciate it.


#9

Thank God for your friend who is going with you. This is a very difficult situation and I agree he needs a longer hospitalization to stabilize him on some meds. Praying for a good outcome for all of you.

I know it’s easy to say, but try not to lose hope. I was very hopeless for the past few years and my son has had some real recovery since we had him committed in December and got him back on meds.


#10

Good luck and keep us posted!


#11

I hope things are working out today. I hope you can get him back in the hospital and try to get him on meds even if court ordered. Try for Invega shot (it’s monthly) if you can. And court ordered can keep him on it for a while. It may take a longer stay in the hospital (good). Don’t let him drive. If you can, get those keys away.Good luck we are rooting for you!


#12

I won’t recommend any particular medication, since it is quite variable what will work for an individual. I hope your son is able to respond well to a medication and become stable, gains insight into his illness and becomes engaged in his own treatment.


#13

My son is in st. Louis and I am in Louisiana. I make many road trips believe me. He needs you. He also needs to be on meds. My son gets 4x a year injection Invega Trinza. If you can’t go to him, bring him home and closer to you. Right now school is not an option. My fear is my son will wind up homeless and lost to me forever. Get in his business and get into his life. My son came to visit for a month. We go back over Labor Day and he will get his next injection.

Val


#14

Hi valegregg58. I’d like more info about the Invega Trinza, if you don’t mind.

How well has Invega Trinza been working for your son? How long was he on Invega Sustenna monthly before making the switch? Does the Trinza last the full 3 months? Were there any new side affects with the Trinza? Is your son functioning in society?

My son has been on Sustenna at highest dosage for just under a year. It hasn’t been perfect, as his symptoms come in waves (schizoaffective), but the bad periods are usually manageable. Our son still has limited functioning in society, but he’s in a much better place as compared to last year at this time. Our son lives with us.

Like @soworried, our son is college-age. He would’ve been starting his senior year this fall, but he was hit with this illness at the end of his freshman year.


#15

Hi all, I really appreciate your postings. I wanted to give you an update. My friend and I arrived at our hotel and started to wonder how to approach my son - should I text first, show up, should she go too? Before we could even think about it much, my son called me - out of the blue. It wasn’t totally weird, because I had been telling him that I was thinking of coming, but he didn’t even know yet that I was here.

We talked for an hour, and it was a really good conversation. He told me about the voices, about what they were like, and what they were saying. It’s about what you’d expect (negative, judgy). I asked if I could come over, and he suggested meeting me out instead. I was kind of shocked, as I haven’t seen any evidence of him leaving his house for days, but he followed through and met me for dinner. We had a really good night out and I left with him pretty much agreeing to come home.

Of course, as I feared, the next day he backtracked and wanted to put it off. He grudgingly met me for lunch, much more detached and angry than he’d been the day before. He did sign papers that needed to be signed though - release forms to have hometown doctors get his medical info from his school and the hospital, and a request to go on inactive status for this semester.

He’s very motivated to try to come back to school in the spring. I have no idea if this is realistic, but I’ve agreed he can leave his stuff behind and I’ll keep paying rent for awhile. I think he needs this hope to cling onto. He wants to put off leaving for a day and drive in a separate car from me. I’m working on that right now. May have to stay another day, but we’ll see. I’m trying flat-out bribery at this point - doing it his way will cost me more money - how 'bout we do it my way and I’ll give him some money instead?

Thanks again for all your support and info. I’m thinking if he does come back here, the injection idea is one we really need to explore.


#16

Soworried, it sounds like your son still has some reasoning ability, so that is very good. I agree that making the exit from college seem just “temporary” is a great approach, especially because this will help him stay more calm and less angry. Any kind of stress can trigger an increase in psychosis.

Regarding driving home, when’s the last time he drove the car a long distance? Driving is stressful, but maybe your son is still well enough to do it. Interestingly, before my son became ill, during his anger-filled prodromal phase, he was a horrible and reckless driver. After he experienced his first psychotic break, but before his illness advanced, he became the most careful driver ever. It was remarkable. Now, our son just doesn’t want to drive at all. It’s too stressful for him. He’s too paranoid of crashing. We drive slowly when he’s in the car with us.

Regarding the bribery, yes do it. Whatever works. We “dangle carrots” all the time. Some people even pay their ill loved ones to take meds. We do what we have to do to protect our kids brains from further damage.

Maybe this isn’t true, but since your son is in an “early psychosis” phase, you may have a challenge getting an early psychosis program psychiatrist to prescribe a long-acting injection. Often, I think a patient has to show a period non-compliance with oral meds before injections are tried.

Hopefully, you can find a doctor who is aggressive in his/her treatment and will do the smart thing, and not necessarily the warm and fuzzy, politically correct thing. Maybe it works for some with this illness, but warm and fuzzy didn’t work for our son. He had anosgnosia, or “lack of insight” into his illness. That’s a game-changer.

The fact that your son is telling you about the voices could be a sign that he does not have anosognosia . That would be lucky, as it will increase his chances of being compliant with meds.


#17

@soworried - Isn’t that funny that he called you! I’m so glad to hear that he spoke with you and is in agreement to come home!


#18

and insight can fluctuate just like psychosis


#19

Hi all! It took over 3 hours to convince my son to pack up some stuff and come home with me (which meant that we left in the middle of rush hour), but he did it. It was fairly tortuous. He cycled wildly between telling me calmly he’d decided to stay put and figure out treatment on his own, accusing me of sabotaging him (“I would have gotten treatment before if I’d had a credit card”), joking around a little, or telling me his latest theories on day trading. He’s been studying the stock market over the summer because he says “Numbers are soothing”. ('m not worried because he doesn’t have access to large sums of money and his current interest is “Hey, I’m up 20 cents - oh no, down 50 cents”, etc) It’s a little bizarre how he can be really angry one minute and then talking with complete calm about the market the next. At one point he got out a bottle of gin and took a long swig from it. I know this is not a good thing, but honestly in this case, I didn’t care. It calmed him down and he was able to say “Hah! Now you have to do all the driving!” (Fine with me, since he had previously been saying he wasn’t going at all).

I did drive the whole 14 hours (longer because of the traffic) and we arrived early this morning! I’m hoping to get him into a First Episode of Psychosis program run by our hometown university. I’ve already faxed them release forms, so if he is a candidate, I hope to get him started soon. If not, I need to find out ASAP so that we can set up something else.

As to the injection, my friend explained that they’ll always want to try the oral meds first to see if they work and don’t cause bad reactions, which makes perfect sense. I was just thinking that if we can find a med that works for him, an injection form of it may be the answer if he manages to go back to school far away again.


#20

So glad you’re both home, safe and sound.

Does your son still have the prescription he got at the hospital? The sooner he gets on any med, the better. I’m a huge advocate for injectable meds, but your son’s brain needs protectIng right now, to prevent the psychosis from causing more damage.

From what I’ve heard, the Zyprexa injectable is the one to avoid. It has some dangers. The rest are good. Invega, Risperal, Abilify, and Haldol all come in injectable. My son has been on Invega monthly injections for almost a year.

If he’s still smoking pot, there’s still a chance your son is experiencing drug-induced psychosis, not the beginnings of schizophrenia. He needs to stop all drugs, to see if he gets well again. Fully clearing out the THC could take months.

Also, unless the hospital did all kinds of other tests, like an MRI, thyroid panel, EEG, etc., there’s still a chance your son’s symptoms are due to something other than mental illness. Lots of things, including a siezure disorder, can cause psychosis.

I hope the first episode psychosis program says yes to your son. Early intervention is so important.