Parents of young people with complex problems share their stories, hopes and frustrations.
My son, Justin, was going downhill. He was 18. He hardly went to school last year, and didn't pass his year 12. He'd been smoking marijuana for the past year or two, I don't know how long really. Instead of going to school, he slept in really late all the time. He hardly did anything with the family anymore. He'd get up when we were all gone for the day, and then go to friends' houses when we came home.
My wife and I divorced three years ago, and I share a house with my eldest son Peter. Peter has been a heavy marijuana smoker for about ten years. He's really very self-absorbed to the point where every action in his life revolves around his own desires and there is little or no consideration for others. He is also extremely sensitive. You could even describe him as paranoid.
My daughter, Simone, has an intellectual disability, as well as some mental health symptoms, and substance use problems. Not to mention the behavioural challenges which go with all that. Due to Simone's difficulties, the State Trustees pay me some of her Disability Support Pension, which is supposed to cover her rent, bills and food expenses. She receives the rest of her payment for her own use. We have regular battles about money and other things. I find her impossible at times; she can harass me for hours, or even days when she gets really worked up.
I live with my twenty-one year old daughter, Marita. There's just the two of us. Marita has a problem with heroin and prescription drugs. She did a rapid detox one time. Even in the first week after the detox, I knew it hadn't completely fixed things because she was using a bit, but then she seemed to get better. I started to hope again, mainly because she didn't ask me for any money for awhile and she got a part time job in a café in the city. So I wasn't seeing much of her, which was a bit of relief really.
The night was moving on, the last bus to our estate had come and gone. Would it be another night that we would not know where our grandson was, whom he was with and what condition he was in? My wife and I had often spent sleepless nights in bed wondering how we had ended up in this situation, how we'd ended up looking after him and how much stress
it had placed on our lives. Sometimes we would blame each other, or ourselves.
My husband and I separated when our son, Craig, was fourteen. We tried to hang in there for the kids but then his father started an affair and the whole thing fell apart. Around the same time, Craig became really paranoid and refused to leave the house. More and more, he spent most of the day sitting in his room with the blinds drawn; he wouldn't talk to his sister or me and seemed to just lie still for most of the day.
Families can benefit greatly from support to understand and to cope with the effects of living with a child who has complex needs. Visit our service guide to find an organisation offering practical help in your area.