Did Charles show signs of mental illness earlier in his life?

“I’m the last piece in a broken puzzle
 To a broken puzzle
 Never fittin’
 I’m just sittin’ near the trouble
 It’s difficult findin’ air to breathe concealed within a bubble
 Can’t sleep
 Death is the only way to keep peace from the struggle”
Charles Aubrey Rogers

Charles never slept well, even as a toddler. He was “always on, never off”. If that is an official indicator of something to come, I am not aware of it but lack of sleep definitely contributed to all of his issues and his creativity peaked at night.

Sleep is so precious and it broke my heart that he’d be in bed at 11:30pm at age 9 asking us to come back into his room and read him a story. Was it the sleep disorder he was diagnosed with? Or anxiety? I don’t know.

He’d go on sleepovers and keep the other kids up all night. I think now this was the result of not wanting to be all alone at night while everyone slept. He marveled at how others could just go to bed and sleep. And believe me we tried everything known to man from biofeedback to establishing good sleep habits and beyond for decades.

His impulsiveness was frightening. He just didn’t think before he acted. I didn’t see ways of curbing this although I tried and I brought it up with every therapist and doctor we met with.

It was fifth grade when red flags started to show up other than ADHD. A few incidences stand out in my mind.

Addiction

He loved candy. Everyone who knew him knew he was addicted to sugar. I do remember one time looking in his room for something and running across a wagon load of candy wrappers hidden under his bed. He’d hoarded candy and I assume he ate it late at night because he slept so poorly.

Charles didn’t stay in his room much so that’s the only time I think he would have eaten it. I sat on the bed and cried. It just hit me that he had likely inherited the genetic tendency for addictive disorder and I thought I could change that course. He was young at the time, probably 8 or 9. To be fair, he was not addicted to one thing in particular in the literal sense until the heroin about 4-6 months prior to his death.

I do believe based on Charles’ tendency to “never get enough fun” was the result of a broken reward system.

Anxiety

Yes he did show signs of this early. It was hard to figure out if it was anxiety or ADHD. But by 15, it was obvious.

He showed definite signs in middle school. Being too overwhelmed to be prepared for class, he’d often get called on it which would trigger some form of panic. He’d blow up my phone with calls and texts when he was anxious. He just hated the feeling and it scared him to paranoia at times. It took us a while to identify that it was anxiety he was suffering from. No doctor or screening uncovered it. I did.

Depression

This one is trickier. I had no idea it ran in my family but I found out after he died that it does. That’s why we need to talk more about it.

Charles was so funny and so happy as a youngster. He was always outside the box and clearly thought like a creative person. You tend to pigeonhole your children as having a certain personality. And so it was hard to then shift gears and realize that Charles suffered from depression.

He’d admit to anxiety and all else, but vehemently denied depression to us. But he’d tell me stories about it. He told me about friends’ dads who’d tried to die by suicide and about those that lost a parent or sibling this way. As he got older, I heard more of these stories like they were on his radar more.

He was a very deep feeler. That’s why so many loved him. He really carried your pain inside himself. That’s why he gave the world’s best hugs. Hugs so good you felt like you’d won the emotional lottery. I’d give anything for one of those now. Anything.

Signs would include his getting sick all the time. He caught EVERYTHING. There were times when I caught his depression on camera. He’d smile in one of the pictures but I often caught a glimpse of his pain in ones right before the one I kept. (See below)

To this day, I am at a loss as to why he was so stubborn about admitting to depression. Was it that he thought we’d force him on antidepressants? The stigma of antidepressants? The social stigma of depression? Or did he just wish to self medicate and maintain what he thought was control? I think it’s a little bit of all of the above.

One thing is for sure, teenagers are masters at masking their pain and their depression.

If I brought it up, he was a master at making me second guess myself and I never got any support for the diagnosis locally. We did get an official diagnosis when he went to wilderness since he was guaranteed drug free but even then he would not admit to it even to a therapist. That I know of.

If I had one piece of advice, get a good psychological assessment by 5th grade. One that looks for mental health related disorders. And choose that first doctor well.

A lot of valuable time was wasted by not accessing the best care right out of the gate although I did act on a recommendation.

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Did Charles show warning signs for teen suicide?

I caught his pain here before he "wore the mask of a clown"
I caught his pain here before he “wore the mask of a clown”
Once Charles put his smile on for the camera
Once Charles put his smile on for the camera

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Anne Moss Rogers

I am the mother of two boys and the owner of emotionally naked, a site that reached a quarter million people in its first 18 months. I am a writer and professional public speaker on the topics of suicide, addiction, mental illness, and grief and my book, Diary of a Broken Mind, will be published in the fall. I lost my youngest son, Charles, 20, to suicide June 5, 2015. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Professional Speaker Website

6 thoughts on “Did Charles show signs of mental illness earlier in his life?”

  1. Anne Moss, I cannot get over what a ministry your life has become. Your transparency, devotion to helping others through your pain, allowing Charles’ struggles to be seen, your determination to erase the stigma is just beautiful to see. This particular blog entry is so very important. I pray it will be used in the lives of many… Amy

  2. Anne, Did you know that having trouble sleeping could have been a symptom of mania? You also mentioned in your article that certain medications brought on mania. It is possible that he could have suffered from bipolar disorder, which is a mix of depression and mania and the doctors missed it. Unfortunately, many doctors miss this diagnosis. For people with Bipolar Disorder, anti-depressants and stimulants can make them more manic. People with Bipolar Disorder are more likely to commit suicide, as they have the mania which gives them a burst of energy, to carry out their plan. I know of adolescents that actually experience both in a one day. Bipolar in a younger person looks much different than in an older person. Mania also helps them be creative, by the way. I can get you more info if you want it. Nancy Votta

    1. Stimulants actually worked for him. But it bothered his sleep. However, anti-depressants made him paranoid and delusional so there was no way we were going to make him go 30 days with that. Both assessments, including the one in wilderness, came back as depression/anxiety, ADHD (combined type) and cannabis dependence. I thought the same thing about bipolar. He just didn’t quite make that mania profile definition. But who knows? It definitely was not a classic case if he did have that.

      1. Anne,
        I am a Teen Suicide Surviver, life long Depression Surviver, Adult Diagnosis ADHD that was a relief to
        give my “defect” a well know Name (Educated to help my son, I now know it’s my Super Power to control & help 2 sons accept ), Panic Attacks/Anxiety intensely continues today, PTSD has taken over my life thoughts from Emotional Trauma of the past that won’t stay safely sorted in my brain’s locked files since I developed physical Disabilities following a surgery to not be paralyzed that has devistated all hopes of
        Financial Independence. I am Suicidal every day currently, I am under constant brain attack I would be delighted if fit your fleeting definition. I am abandoned by my 4 Children influenced by the Stigmas of a Narcissist father to judge me and 3 suffering Addiction that has stifiled their successful Indepence into adulthood. Age 30, 24, 21. My youngest nicknamed “wild man” by his judgemental Boy Scout leader, unknowingly I named him “Warrior” by definition for strength that is something he needs for Self Survival I intended to be a gift of Strength to the World he could share in battling for others to serve God’s humanity on his Life path.
        Warrior is a mirror of your son’s Diagnosis of ADHD, Anxiety, Addiction to Marijuana to self medicate ( I believe it gave him enough relief to express Suicidal feelings), Depression, and overwhelming physical illnesses that he refused to function with. In addition, the late Teen Destructive Mania symptoms that did show development of Bipolar symptoms, and the Emotional Psychological Trauma from his father, divorce with changing schools and stable homes, loss of his mother’s strength from health problems, reputation as a drug dealer at school even when no longer one in Recovery on Probation. He had the biggest smile, infectious jolly genuine laugh and the biggest best hugs he shared with everyone ! I get valgar confrontation now and 5 minutes later he will kiss me on the lips and tell me he Loves me before he leaves. The ability to turn on a smile even if trying does not appear as you were able to get. His ability to experience true joy and laugh even in Celebratory times is gone. He has a reality he sees that others don’t, not even I can see it through trying to be in his shoes, a Therapist helped me with seeing and explained it, he was unreachable and angry but wanted me to show up so I did until he refused to control his anger. I took control to not show up so he could at least get self help.

        I was intuitive and sensitive to the mood of my son and have committed him for help to keep him alive.
        Now that is who I am.
        What I am Educated on research and Treatment journeys I would like to share and hope you can put out there to share as a tool is the http://www.Additudemag.com connection to be able to support ADD/ADHD at all stages of Life, Diagnosed and Support person benefits. Being different than others and cognitive of always being aware of that fact is a life long challenge and this Educational site continues to grow. All symptom topics, Treatment, Education, Webinars live and in a library, blogs, chat questions and it has various age groups and Newsletters. Unlimited Resources to help cope, vent, learn new skills or apps review etc… Print outs and downloaded to share with Professionals. Majority of the Professional prescribers are fairly ignorant and most fearful than ever.
        That being said my ADHD brain has got me to a FALSE statement expressed here.
        ADHD does NOT cause insomnia from it being a Stimulant but exactly the opposite ! It’s ADHD 101 that Stimulants are taken to change the brain chemicals to organize and focus thoughts by slowing them down from running each other over. Reference Dr.Dobson on the website to speak the Educated Evidenced Truth and not Stigmatize a misconception of the ignorant or abuser. He states it very simply for even a child to comprehend.
        The evaluation test for determining if a Medication should be increased is actually taking a nap an hour after your medication dose. It’s also how you help your frustrated sleepless exhausted Teen want to accept the medications are helping them and to be able to get up in the morning.
        Thinking your children are kept awake from their med is hurting them and the family coping to have peaceful nights.
        ADHD brains can not slow down and shut off to go to sleep. Dr.Amen has the MRI proof to even separate 7 symptoms subcategories to focus on that doesn’t require the MRI cost but has freely shared and development of the Treatment planning.
        Your teen napping in the day is not because they didn’t sleep at night it’s because the meds help them to be able to sleep.
        I am currently at 54 trying to explain this to my doctor for relief to stop sleeping in the day. I have been fired 2 x trying to Advocate for approximately evidence Treatment. They offer nothing to support their Medicine management with no Professional Fidelity. I play the med game now that everyone is judged an Addict and am harmed more than helped by lists of ineffective and harming meds not category or labeled but a Big Pharma benefit along with the fear doctors have lacking ability to defend the Profession and actually monitor their Treatment know to be effective.
        I have been out of Recovery and told my Psychiatrist who is irrational in prescribing that she makes me want to jump off a bridge !
        They fear what helps me most and is not routine but as needed. They control me being in control and thriving but don’t see the harm in abandoned treatment because they are selfish to just CYA . I remove myself from meds if not needed and take the smallest dose available yet I am injured over and over again like a lab rat into Hopelessness and asking God for today to be the day we meet. I pay doctors to abuse me ? That is rational reality real world delema in Mental Health Quality Care. No inquiry about symptoms and if med effective at any visits. Same as not asking if you want to die because I know you do but I am not going to be doing what it takes to keep you alive.

        1. Wow Mary. What a journey. I will check out the website you mentioned. Charles took meds but didn’t like them. The loss of appetite was an issue but he took it on and off and by high school said he no longer wanted it for fear it worsened his anxiety. I couldn’t force a child at that point. It was a battle internally. I armed myself with research but in the end, I was not going to force my child to take it and we did try alternative therapies. Thank you for your wisdom and knowledge. That is helpful. I’m so sorry you have suffered and continue to suffer but you are indeed, a warrior yourself. Narcissists are so difficult to deal with and I am sorry you have one in your life. Thank you for commenting and I hope you will join our mailing list. Together our voices are strong.

  3. Such a familiar journey. We had early signs—but, I over worry, so I didn’t listen to my gut. We didn’t get the full psych evaluation until wilderness—although we had already gone the route of antidepressants and add meds which brought on what we know as mania. Psych hospitals just load them up with meds and release…not much help there, but at least a new Dx. The sorrow was easy to see in pics—and the chewed fingers—anxiety. Yes, self-medication is still happening, and my boy won’t take his meds. I live in hyper-vigilance and it is exhausting. Thank you for sharing. I can’t thank you enough. My boy is alive, and I am grateful. I see so much of my story in yours. My heart breaks that you lost Charles. I am grateful to have met him. He was a true artist, and his smile was beautiful.

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