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My son came to live with me three years ago after his relationship breakdown . He has not worked since before then and I currently support him totally financially . He had a very checquered job history concentrated in sales jobs, and the last two jobs he secured were well paid and relatively high status , but they only lasted a few months before 'redundancy'. He is articulate and personable. He has a five year old daughter who I support financially and have ensured his regular contact with . He has only recently accepted that the head injury he sustained may have had a lasting impact on him and was persuaded to seek support from Headway. For me this was like seeing a light at the end of a tunnel, meeting someone who recognised his problems and helped him to access long overdue neuropsychological and rehab support. He visited the neuropsychologist who did some basic cognitive functioning tests , that demonstrated above average functioning and encouraged mindfulness to help with his anxiety but then stopped, I think because he didn't feel he had a problem that couldn't be solved by returning to work. I feel I'm stuck in Groundhog Day as he's back to 'I'm fine' ...'I just need a job'. But the jobs he pursues are unrealistic , he won't / can't seem to

take any job and is resistant to volunteering despite advice from Headway . He depends on me emotionally and is prone to anxiety . He visits his Gp regularly and takes pregablin , seroxat, tegretol and injects growth hormone daily. My life is compromised greatly by his needs as I don't feel able to leave him for any length of time without him becoming acutely distressed and self medicating usually with alcohol. I am so frustrated at his lack of drive, his 'idleness' , his self obsession, his inability to just do anything to change the situation despite endless suggestions BUT I love him and for the most part stay patient and don't let it show ...... but nothing changes and I am getting more financially and emotionally drained. I also worry about what he would do without me .

Is tough love my only option?

14 Replies

Oh mummily, how very sad for you all. It is awful that his bi was only recently recognised and it probably explains a lot of his behaviour. But not all of it - you are, to some extent, enabling him to live like this. You are not only keeping him, but his daughter too. You say he will self medicate with alcohol, you are buying it for him by financially supporting him. I think you need some help with this, have you had counselling? Talking it over with a professional stranger may help you to see how to get out of this circle of dependency. You cannot let it destroy your life and your finances, yes he is your son and you love him but there are limits and it appears that he has the intelligence to support himself if he can understand what he must change to get work and keep it. It will be good for his confidence if he can get back into the workplace, voluntary or not.

Also, this is not good for his daughter. You are wonderful in keeping them in contact but she doesn't need a father like this.

You cannot desert him, but you need to be a bit tougher. Maybe you can gradually withdraw some of the financial support. Have YOU talked to Headway to understand more about his BI and how to deal with it?

Having someone in the family with a BI is not easy, but if you read the posts on here from those with a bi, most of them try hard to deal with the problems it causes and understand the effect on their families. Your son is only thinking of himself.

Can he get housing benefit for a little flat? He would then have to be more independent, shopping, cooking, etc rather than having you do everything for him. He would have to learn to live on his benefit money.

I sound quite hard and I think some people might think I am wrong, but you have a right to a life too. Of course you need to support him, but mentally and physically, not necessarily financially.

Wishing you all the very best.



I think it's unfair to claim that the son is only thinking of himself. We don't know what's going on with him, how his TBI is affecting him. That's a harsh judgment to make on someone you don't know. We all know that TBIs can make people self-centred, it's a symptom, not behaviour.

This guy went 20 years with an undiagnosed TBI so didn't get help from the start and has obviously struggled through life with his many issues.

With regards to money- it's hard to know what you are entitled to when you haven't been properly diagnosed or in a system somewhere. It's easy to fall through the net.

We also don't know what secondary mental health issues he is dealing with, could be depression, paranoia, agoraphobia etc, from living with an undiagnosed TBI, that's contributing to his behaviour. He's obviously not OK.

You can't just force someone with a TBI to live on their own to force them to 'be more independent'! That would be a disaster. He could be entitled to supported housing or some help to get him more independent. Which would of course, need a diagnosis for to get the right help- which he never has until this point in time.

And how could her son try hard to understand how his issues affect those around him and understand how his BI affects him, if he wasn't even diagnosed until recently?? Who are you to judge him?

You can't say 'he seems to have the intelligence to support himself' when you don't even know him. Intelligence doesn't translate into cognitive function or ability to keep a job or finish education or live independently! Who are you to assume what his abilities are or what he can do? Intelligence also doesn't translate into good mental health, either. I think that's a terrible thing to say on a brain injury forum!

I also think it's so unfair that you are comparing people with brain injuries to each other- as someone with a BI I find that offensive. It's not your place to do that. All of us are different, we had our BIs at different ages, some had no help at all, some have co-morbid conditions such a mental illness or PTSD or other neurological conditions. Really not your place to judge how people respond.

And how can you say 'But not all of it'? Are you qualified to make that assessment? Do you know him personally? Are you a doctor? A psychologist? Are you a brain injury specialist? Do you know which parts of his brain that were damaged? Do you even understand how a BI during childhood/ teenage years stunts development because the brain isn't fully formed yet?

And yeah, great(!) get tougher with someone who's lived most of their life with an undiagnosed brain injury who doesn't yet understand their own deficits and hasn't had all the help they should have had, and probably has terrible self-esteem. That's cruel.

And accusing her of 'enabling him to live like this'- so you're basically insinuating that her son's behaviour could just change if he was pushed, and that it's not a result of his BI or mental health issue. And this is your professional opinion, is it?

Do you have any idea what it's like to live 20 years with an undiagnosed TBI? The loss of normal development, lost skills, the huge psychological toll it takes on you, the fear and anxiety and confusion, poor mental health. You've completely minimised and dismissed what this guy has gone through.

He could also be dealing with a completely unrelated undiagnosed mental illness for all we know.

Who are you to speak for the experience of someone with a TBI?

Really not appreciating your response and attitude towards someone struggling with a complex disability, and you'r judging him without even knowing him!

And yes, I think you're being very harsh. This should be a safe space for people with brain injuries to come for support without judgement- it's not OK for you to speak about someone else with a TBI in this way and be so judgmental.

I think it's totally messed up and disgusting that certain people are judging a guy who's not even here to defend himself or explain how he's feeling and what he's going through- that he may not even be aware of himself!


There's only one person who can make these decisions and that is you I'm afraid.

We can all advise til we are blue in the face but it comes down to what action you are prepared to take.

I think you already know what that action is, but taking it is a different matter.

Like your son, you will only do what has to be done when you are ready. It is seldom easy to force the issue. But, may I say, you will not be around to pick up the pieces for ever, you could end up seriousiy I'll or incapacitated at any time what happens then?

I don't envy you your decisions but pease know we are here to support, we listen and don't judge.

Take care

Janet x

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Jan and Janet have said everything I would have Mummily. But I'm wondering whether you've ever been in the situation where you've been incapacitated and needed someone to 'nursemaid' you for a couple of days. It might be a revealing test of your son's empathy and proof (or not) of his abilities to cope alone in a domestic setting.

I feel for you m'dear ! Sons have a way of messing with our heartstrings and it's painful having to be cruel to be kind. I hope you find the strength to do what's needed. xxx


Is he not eligible for benefits and housing? When was his BI?

Isn't his current behaviour down to the BI? What was he like before?

Do you think the neuropsychologist misdiagnosed his difficulties?


Have you thought about perhaps seeing the CAB and seeing which benefits he is entitled to. He could try applying for pip with the assistance of citizens advice.

He also sounds like he may need further psychiatric assessment to help him deal with his binge drinking.

A potential option might be finding him social housing that is not too far away from you. You need to set up boundaries within your relationship. Make it known to him that you require money to pay for his keep while he is under your roof. Tell him in no uncertain terms that you're no longer gonna be the bank of mum, and that he has to be a responsibly parent who has a child of his own.

Try talking things over with your gp and see what they suggest?


I think people are being harsh towards him and that his 'co-dependency' and other issues are a direct result of his BI. He's probably not self-centred or idle or self-obsessed or lacking in drive. Those terms suggest that it's just his conscious behaviour, and not actual symptoms of his BI. He probably can't help it.

I saw your posting history and saw that you son sustained his BI aged 18, over 20 years ago. He sustained his BI as a late teen, when the brain is still developing and people can get like 'stunted' at that age, mentally. 18 is still very young.

He may actually just be scared to be without you, it is scary living with a BI and can make people very insecure and clingy. You can cling to people who are familiar because the world is a confusing place.

His inability to see his own limitations and how he is affecting others is probably a symptom of his BI too.

He's obviously missed out on years of rehab and social help he may be entitled to. He's probably not even aware of what he's entitled to benefits-wise or housing or how to go about it. It's very easy to slip through the net if you're not even properly diagnosed with something!

Living 20 years with an undiagnosed BI is not easy and maybe he's just had a breakdown and is totally lacking in confidence. He probably struggled a lot not knowing why he was unable to do so many things an blames himself. He could probably do with some regular counselling to help with what he's been through.

It's also not uncommon for those with TBIs to develop drinking problems, it helps with the anxiety and fear and can make you feel 'normal' when you feel so confused and scared inside.

You can also develop secondary mental health issues on top of that, from dealing with the stress of an undiagnosed TBI.

Do you think he would get on here and talk to us? Quite a few of us went through years of being undiagnosed so we could relate to him without judgement

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Thank you lily82 for your sensitive and empathic response. I struggle with identifying what behaviour is as a result of his BI . When we visited Headway the wonderful nurse there made the same points that you do about how his neediness related to the age he had his accident. The rehab consultant who finally saw him 20 years on told him he was typical of people who had not had their BI recognised , had no rehab and struggled to live a normal life until a life crisis brought about a breakdown .

I was disappointed that his neuropsychologist didn't identify some of the more subtle ways his executive functions have been affected. I think he still clings to the thought that he is just like everyone else and so couldnt identify and didn't articulate his problems to her. The door was left open and perhaps I should encourage him to return .

It is very hard to be tough with someone who has very low self esteem and is plagued with anxiety . Thank you for all your comments , they have given me food for thought.


Btw, have you gone on the Headway website and seen the list of BI symptoms? They may help you understand your son's behaviour.

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Did you go with him to the appointment? Because I think you should just 'take over' and speak for him, tbh. Sounds like they missed a lot of his difficulties. I'm really skeptical about how a few hours of tests can identify a lifetime of issues.


I think you've hit the nail on the head there- he is clinging to the fact he thinks he's OK. Also, if he has very low self-esteem, then that is something he needs help with and he could do with someone to talk to. And you said in another post that he's been suicidal the last thing he needs is judgment and 'pushing'. He needs proper therapy to work through his issues.

Also, if Headway have told you that his 'neediness' is as a result of his BI and the age that it happened, that it causes a delay and stunts emotional growth. Being co-dependent is a behaviour and emotional problem. What you son has is delayed neurological development, and he actually just seems scared and overwhelmed. I also think it's unfair to allow people to then judge your son's behaviour when we haven't got the full picture of when his BI happened and how it affected him.

I've gone through your posts to get more of an idea of what your son's been through and you say he's not been able to hold down a job and didn't finish university, and that's when he began drinking to help his panic attacks. That's significant. People here seem to think he's just not trying now, when he's been able to in the past. That gives a different picture.

I would also recommend getting him referred to a Community Mental Health Team. I am dual diagnosis- meaning I have a BI and other mental health issues and so I get more support. He could get access to therapy through them.

You mentioned in your other posts on here that he's been suffering with new seizures and worse memory loss- he definitely needs to get that checked out. His memory loss may be causing more fear and confusion and that's why his behavour is changing and becoming more 'clingy' and anxious. That is also significant and wasn't mentioned in this post- so that gives us more of an idea of your sons behaviour.

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Thank you for your comments - i have felt concerned that by discussing him on this site he has been judged and people don't have the full picture. I don't accuse him of codependency as I see that as something I might be responsible for. Your comments have been most helpful , though . Thanks again

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No worries. I do feel your son has been unfairly judged, additionally they were unnecessarily harsh and making assumptions about him that they are not qualified to make. But I felt there was more to it.

I would be concerned about his seizures and worsening memory loss- the same thing happened to me years later, and it's not connected to my BI. I'd encourage him to get it checked out asap.

Nah, I don't see you as being co-dependent. Just worried, I guess. You're stuck in a very difficult situation, as is he. I doubt he feels good about living back home with his Mum!

I think sometimes you can get trapped in a cycle of shame, which will worsen his drinking and anxiety.

Do you think he's got agoraphobia? Does he go out much?

I would absolutely get him checked for benefits. Only until I'd been diagnosed did I get all the benefits and help I was entitled to.

I can understand his shame- also not to be sexist, I think maybe men have more problems with admitting their issues?

I think it would really really help him if he posted on here. Many of us have been in the same boat as him and would be understanding and supportive.

Also, do you know about Headway social groups?


There are two people that have needs you and your son. I think that we naturally want to sort out problems for our children or partner but we can't. We can only guide and support and help them get on his feet. Does his BI mean he can't live on his own and you visit him and help him in his home. Can he get benefit. Can he do a educational course that helps him into work. Maybe you could target the financial help you give rather than pay for everything. You must continue with your own life he as major challenge but he is not a child. Think about how to promote his independence. This way he can cope without a total dependency. Regarding lack of motivation. Start with structure ie you must get up and dressed and participate in home life, cook tea and help you then build from there. If he wants to try for jobs just help him to apply for the ones he wants and support him even if you think their not suitable he will feel supported and motivated.


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