Troubled Daughter

28 Jan

Dear LetterBalm: Our 19-year-old daughter is a handful. Last year, she dropped out of college in her freshman year, gave up a scholarship and moved home. She confines herself to her room, she doesn’t go out, and she refuses to eat meals with us. So she sleeps all day and wanders the house at night, picking food from the refrigerator. She won’t let me in to clean, so I don’t know what condition her room’s in. She’s broken off contact with her friends – we’ve invited them over, but she yells at us and won’t emerge from her room. We love our daughter, but my husband and I about to order her out of the house. She has to take responsibility for her life. She’s refused all our efforts – and gets over-the-top angry and defensive when we broach the subject of her getting a job. Things can’t go on like this. Please tell us how to reach her.

–End of Our Rope

If all your efforts have come to naught, it’s time for professional involvement. Your daughter’s troubles are far beyond your ability to alleviate, and a job isn’t in her intermediate future. At this stage, she’s incapable of making a life for herself. Ms. L.B. isn’t an expert, but it looks very much like your daughter is mentally ill. This is a scary possibility, and you should begin with your family doctor who knows your daughter’s medical history. Then you need to consult one or two professionals who can advise you as to your next steps, including removing your daughter safely from your home to a facility for evaluation, confinement and treatment (and she will perhaps react violently to this). You must be strong. Meanwhile, you and your husband might write her a reassuring note and slip it under her bedroom door:

Dear Sybil,

We know you’re going through some difficult times, and it hurts us to see you in pain. If you want to talk, we’re here to listen and not judge. We want you to know that we love you very much and always want what’s best for you. You are – and always will be – our beloved daughter.

Love,

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