I am done! The refueling comment

Every once in a while I had to make this declaration.

It meant, “I’m done for today.”

It meant, “Time out!”

I needed to give my brain a break from the emotional mayhem of caring for a stubborn child that suffered from anxiety, depression and addiction. I needed that break so I could refuel and come back fighting.

As parents, we get to that point.

The system is so frustrating, support so lacking, it often feels like no one is on your side. And let’s face it. We can’t always get cooperation from our loved ones either. Watching someone self destruct is no picnic.

In mental health, parents have to be air traffic controllers

If your kid has cancer, you have a medical team behind you giving you direction. You have a community that supports you. While that journey is heartbreaking and by no means easy, the support that comes with it helps you refuel.

With mental health, you are the one trying to connect the dots in a system that has all sorts of road blocks for connecting them. The phrase “continuity of care” has no relation to mental illness. At least in Virginia, they’ve never met.

We can’t really “give up” on our babies.  As a spouse, you can divorce someone although that is a gut wrenching experience. But you can’t divorce your child. You know you have to be there when no one else in the world is. You know you carry the message of hope and sometimes have to fake it to believe it yourself.

Sometimes we falter and say that “I’m done!” phrase in our heads or to our spouse because we’re emotionally spent and exhausted. I know Charles felt it in that last phone call. He read my confusion and mind exhaustion as having given up on him. My brain went unresponsive at the very moment I needed it most. I even remember thinking, I need time to think, I need time to think. What am I hearing?

The fear that I would make the wrong decision at the wrong time was always hovering over me. I couldn’t research fast enough. I couldn’t secure phantom resources. I couldn’t find enough money, having sold as many things as I could get my hands on. Even worse, I couldn’t figure out what was truth and what was manipulation.

There are many parents besides myself who’ve lost a child at that moment when they felt wrung out, burned out, used and confused.

You are human. You have to refuel because this journey with your child is so hard and there is little direction and a lot of frustration. You have to get sleep, eat and take care of you.

“I am done” can mean you are setting boundaries. It can mean you are going to take time off from chaos. And sometimes it means there is nothing more you can do.

In the media

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked TEDx speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my youngest son, Charles to substance use disorder and suicide June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, and grief. 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. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

17 thoughts on “I am done! The refueling comment”

  1. I don’t see it as insensitive at all. My life is full of grief but at least I have some peace. It’s not the trade off I would have chosen but it is something. It’s really hard to manage your life with a child who suffers from addiction.

    And while no one ever said to my face it was “better” he was dead, it was implied. I made it quite clear and made up a scenario for this person with her child who had once struggled and then she got it. She understands now.

    1. Again, no offense intended. I am reminded of Ms. Togerson’s post, when she prayed to God and not long after, he died falling out of the truck. So I get it. Am hypersensitive to that only because my father (died when I was a baby), who died at just 21, was the posthumous recipient of many comments like that. Why? Because he was immature, drove too fast and was lazy. So well-meaning “friends”, neighbors and family helpfully pointed out what a blessing it was when he was killed in a car accident. Pity they couldn’t grasp that his young brain wasn’t even fully formed yet. He may have grown into a fine man. I will never know. Thanks for letting me get it out. 50 years is a long time to hold these burdens without sharing with someone who understands.

  2. The blog post and narrative resonate with me. Our son was difficult since toddlerhood. Nothing hurts more than the smirks of other parents, the look of disgust and pity from people you know and, worst of all, when your child comes home crying because another kid said, “Nobody likes you.” There were numerous days that I felt frustrated and resentful, but I knew I had to accept him for who he is and not give up on him, like so many others had. Years later, when the addiction component entered the puzzle, I wasn’t exactly surprised, as it ran on both sides of the family. As tempting as it was at times to throw in the towel, I’d tell myself, “If he doesn’t have his parents, he has nobody.” So we keep fighting, one day at a time. Shame on others for judging; you haven’t a clue how HARD all of this is, year after year after year.

    1. Oh my gosh this statement is so true. Brought me to tears. “As tempting as it was at times to throw in the towel, I’d tell myself, ‘If he doesn’t have his parents, he has nobody.'”

      It shouldn’t be that way. We as parents need support and so do those who suffer from addiction.

      1. Most surprisingly for me (and sorrowfully), his grandmother and grandfather, (both chikdren of alcoholics) have been the LEAST supportive. Their gestures and negativity have cut like a salty blade. Judge nobody until you have walked a mile in their shoes. In so many ways and for countless reasons, I want him to be healthy, happy and independent, not only because I love him, but just to show them all that WE MADE IT WITHOUT YOU.

        1. I find that a lot. The older addicts in recovery are the harshest of all. At my son’s therapeutic boarding school those in recovery were the worst. I don’t see it as much in the younger generation of those in recovery.

          1. I apologize for sounding bitter. I must remember to be thankful that I still have my son, though at least once, we almost lost him. The thing I find utterly fascinating is the fact that a lot of these people, upon hearing of the death of the child, will say, “oh, it’s just as well; he never would have amounted to anything.” How insensitive and cruel to say that to someone who sufferscdaily. Another example of man’s inhumanity to man.

  3. I don’t have kids so I can’t say I have walked the path of a parent of a child who, at times, tests every ounce of patience and pushes every boundary to the limit until they have worn out everyone to the point of exhaustion.
    I do have some experience in this area that I can share from a different perspective. I was the kid who pushed everyone away. Who made it next to impossible for anyone to get close to me. Who covered every emotion with anger and rage. My parents were still grieving the loss of my 10 month old sister when I was born a mere 13 months after her death. They were not emotionally prepared to have another baby and they certainly weren’t prepared for one who would need so much more than ten sets of parents could offer.
    Eventually I ended up in a long term residential treatment center run by the state. This was in 1980 so the system was very different from now. It was a good place that offered good treatment and I am grateful for that now. As a 12 year old I was not exactly excited about my new lodgings. I must have told the staff a thousand times my parents were coming to get me soon so I didn’t care about earning “stupid” levels.
    Then THAT day came. The day I was told my parents weren’t coming to get me. They decided they didn’t want to be my parents anymore. I was officially a ward of the state. I can’t begin to describe how I felt. How could my parents give me away?
    I know the answer to that question now. I get it. I didn’t come with instructions. There were no classes on how to parent a kid like me. Even if there had been they would have always been several updates behind me as I came up with more complex ways to outrun my demons and in turn push them away.
    I know my parents did the best they could with the tools they had. They didn’t choose the cards they were dealt or the timing of life’s changing landscape or the temperament of the baby born to soon after losing their baby girl. They made decisions that they thought were what I needed to get better. In the past I didn’t see it that way. As an adult I know all the way through me that I am where I am because they did the best they could. And for that, I am grateful.
    I know that every story doesn’t end like mine. And I believe that every parent I have listened to does their very best.

  4. Wow. I remember telling Whitten, “I can’t listen anymore. You have to give me a little break tonight.” Having depression and anxiety myself, he was taking me down the rabbit hole with him…

  5. Thank you for articulating the struggle, the pain, the lack of understanding our world has for people with mental illness. Thank you for making me feel I’m not alone in saying, “I’m done” and in the constant battle over determining what is the truth, what is manipulation, am I enabling or am I helping! To all of us in this struggle I firmly believe God has a plan and we are fighting the battle to have that plan be seen, felt, heard and understood! ❤️

    1. You said that so well. Teasing apart truth from manipulation, enabling or helping. Those definitions are moving targets. Hard for any human to interpret them perfectly in emotional chaos

  6. Anne, I can so appreciate the feelings of despair when a child whom we love is so difficult and exhausting to parent. I have eight siblings and I rarely felt true support from them. Often I felt they were judging my husband and me. Their children seemed so content and easy, compared to the constant strife we felt in our parenting of our son. Our daughter was fine and “easy”, but that didn’t matter. I felt that they were believing that their children were not difficult because they knew how to parent and we did not. Mental illness in a child is so frustrating because it is invisible unlike many other ailments. Support is rare and parents are left with little resources for help and understanding. My son is now 37 and struggles everyday with severe anxiety, depression and a mood disorder. As a parent, I struggle with worrying and trying not to be an enabler.

  7. Well said, Anne Moss. Oh how I remember feeling this way for so many years! Our mental health system is so lacking in resources and support systems! It is truly exhausting to navigate–especially when you’re already drained.

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