My depressed son has lost his mojo

Our agony aunt, Mary Fenwick, offers a new perspective on whatever is troubling you

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My depressed son has lost his mojo

Q. My son has come home from university having finished his degree, and starting and then flunking out of a master’s. This was disappointing, but not the end of the world. Since his return, he seems to be lacking in motivation and ambition. I hoped he would want to make his mark on the world, but instead he seems content to laze around and earn nothing. He has also gained a lot of weight.

I know he is depressed and he has seen a doctor and is taking medication. I want to shake some sense into him and demand that he make something of himself after all the sacrifices I have had to make as a single mother. Name supplied

A. Author JK Rowling says that for all her success, the thing she’s proudest of is her time as a single mother. It’s rare to get a pat on the back – in fact, I’m aware of a tendency to blame myself for whatever happens. Maybe we get so used to taking responsibility that it edges over into believing that it’s all down to us, all the time.

However, I’m concerned that what’s going on inside your son’s head is harsh enough at the moment, without feeling that it’s his job to make things better for you as well. I know directly how hard it is to watch your child struggle with mental health. For all the current talk about these issues, there is still a huge gap around how parents get support. I want an equivalent organisation to Al-Anon, for anyone whose life is affected by someone else’s depression or anxiety.

All of this adds up to a lot of pressure on you. I say that, not to make you feel worse, but to acknowledge the reality – your son needs nurture and recovery time, but so do you.

What makes you feel good? It’s a simple question, but maybe one that you haven’t had much chance to ask yourself. Where are the parts of you that went unexplored while you raised your son? Who are the people who lifyour spirits? Are there any local walking or gardening or community groups, to help you get outside, get moving and connect with others? The mental health charity Mind also supports carers.

I want to suggest that you ask your son whether he has suicidal thoughts. It’s a myth that you will give him ideas – the opposite is true. One of the most helpful things you can do is bring up the subject of suicide and talk about it openly. If you haven’t, please do read author Marian Keyes on her experience of depression to help you understand the fear and paralysis, and how hard he might be fighting on the inside.

Your son needs you to act in a way that shows your belief in him, when he’s lost part of that in himself. But put on your own oxygen mask first.

Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email mary@psychologies.co.uk, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.

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