need help!

I need help. I'm a 57 year old mother of a son who is 27 and suffering from panic attacks that started 3 years ago. I have always been a very anxious person with symptoms of pounding heart beats, lightheadedness and chest pains. My son relies heavily on me for emotional support and it is really wearing me down. He gets very negative with me which causes me more anxiety and gets critical of me when I tell him I have to remove myself when I recognize my own symptoms. He gets upset that I am abandoning him during his time of need. I tell him I am not able to help him with his anxiety when I am experiencing symptoms of my own anxiety. I've brought him to counselors and support groups but he only has attended a few times and says they don't help and actually make him feel worse by reinforcing in his mind that there is something wrong with him. He just wants to go back to being what he refers to as his old self prior to his first panic attack. I would appreciated any suggestions on how to help him without increasing my own anxiety to a very bad level.

6 Replies

  • Thank you so much for your reply. It is very true about setting boundaries and I know I am not very good at it. I always feel mean when setting a boundary that involves me to stop helping someone that needs help. I know I shouldn't be doing things for my son that he can do for himself. Its just difficult for me to determine what exactly he can do for himself because he is severely depressed due to his panic attacks that have totally altered his life. He has even told me he feels like taking his own life. Do you know of any resources on how to set boundaries with a person who is severely depressed? Thanks for your help.

  • Oh thank you so much for your reply! You put into words so many things that I suspect but have not really wanted to think about. My son is very sensitive and also very smart. I feel his pain for how the anxiety is affecting him but when I confront him about how he needs to take action he manages to talk me around in circles and find a way to rationalize why he cant do as much as my husband (his father) and I want him to do. He accuses me of not really listening to him and understanding how hard it is to be a 27 year old male with a future ahead of some day hopefully having his own family and the big responsibility to support them. At times I suspect my son is manipulating me but then I feel terrible for thinking that about him. I have never been very good at reading people because I don't trust my instincts very well. Its so tormenting to think my own son might be taking advantage of my kindness. I really appreciate your support and know I will need help to gain confidence on how to handle this situation.

  • Thank you so much for your replies! I need to share more information about our family situation to help you see the whole picture. My husband and I have been married for 29 years. We have four children. Our son is 27, and three daughters age 24, 16 and 15. My husband and I were very immature during the first 20 years of our marriage and argued and fought alot in front of our kids. It got so bad that when my husband hit me in 2003 I called 911. My husband was taken to jail and when he got out after 4 months was not allowed home due to a restraining order. Many other very troubling events happened that I dont really want to go into right now. Our son has alot of resentment towards both his father and myself. He has a deep lack of respect for both of us because of how we behaved. Both my husband and I have told our four children that we are truly sorry for what we exposed them to and for the effects it caused to their lives. Our son especially expresses his anger at me for how stupid he thinks I am for having stayed with my husband after all that happened. Due to all the counseling both my husband and I went through our relationship is much, much better and healthier now. There was a time about 10 years ago during our family prayers at dinner that our son would express his gratitude in prayer that our family is still together in our home. Now 10 years later he expresses there is no God because if there was why would he have a panic disorder which he feels was probably caused by all the stress he endured during the years of domestic violence he was exposed to. This is just a condensed version of what has happened over the past 29 years. As you can imagine alot happened during those years. Because of all that happened I feel a sense of responsibility to help our children heal from the damage I caused which has effected our son more deeply than our daughters. It is very difficult for me to see the boundary line of when to help and when not to. I hope what I've written makes sense. It is very difficult for me to look back at that time in life because of the shame and guilt I feel. Thank you for helping me.

  • Again...thank you for your reply. I know whats done is done and the best thing I can do for myself and my family is to be the healthiest me I can be. To be healthy I must break the unhealthy patterns in me that have developed over the years. In my case I grew up with two high functioning alcoholic parents. By high functioning I mean they both were able to handle responsibilities of working, providing a home and food and family vacations for myself and my three brothers. They medicated their stress with alcohol so much so that my mom died at age 61 of liver failure and my dad died at age 71 from heart failure brought on by alcoholism. From the outside our family life looked ok and normal. On the inside it was very stressful. Right now I know counseling would be helpful and Im trying to find free or low cost help because we have no health insurance. I know al-anon meetings are a great help because of how other peoples drinking affected my life. Luckily there is no problem with alcohol with myself, my husband or any of our children. My son does have an addiction to computer gaming which he said developed because he would use the computer as a distraction from the overthinking that happens when he sits alone in his room. So now that you know the more detailed situation you probably can see how I feel torn between trying to help my son heal and make amends for the damage Ive done and also not wanting to do for him what he can do for himself. I just dont know where that line is. After just re-reading your reply something caught my attention. You said your mom would do nothing when her husband would physically abuse you. In my situation when my husband would physically abuse our kids I would step in right when it was happening to stop him and defend our kids. I really thought that I was protecting them but I should have found a way to prevent those moments from continuing to happen instead of just thinking it wouldnt happen again cause my husband said he was sorry only to see it happen again and again. I did finally call 911 but so much damage had already happened before that. You wrote that you still struggle with forgiveness to your mom and I would like to know what do you think I could do now to earn my sons forgiveness?

  • I really appreciate the time and effort you've put into answering my posts. I will keep in touch. I was just wondering how you are such a strong person after coming from such a harsh childhood. I admire your strength and really need to know the path to take to become stronger for myself and my family.

  • After all you've been through how are you dealing with anxiety in your life? Do you suffer with panic attacks and ptsd? I don't mean to cause any stress or upset by asking you these questions. I just want to gain more understanding by reading how you ( as a victim of domestic abuse ) see things. Hopefully your answers will help me gain insight into how to respond with more knowledge and understanding when my son is struggling with his anxiety.

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