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A Man in the Dark

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Fino, Feb 14, 2019.

  1. Fino

    Fino Alex V.I.P Member

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    A 13-almost 14-year-old student of mine has slowly opened up over the course of a year about various issues with depression, anxiety, self-loathing, rage, etc. and he has now told me that most nights, when the lights are off, he sees the dark shape of a man walking towards him. He also sees other moving shapes of various size, but a man by the door has been consistent for at least a couple years now.

    It only happens at night, with the lights off, and it's not in a state of tiredness. It's constant. During the day, he doesn't see anything, but he hears his name on a weekly basis (minimum) when it's not actually being called and hears innocuous sounds, such as crashes and bangs, that no one else seems to hear.

    He also often worries that strangers are planning to hurt him, but recognizes that it's irrational and doesn't act on it.

    His great-grandfather suffered from Schizophrenia, and he's expressed fear that he's developing it. I'm certainly not an expert on Schizophrenia or psychosis and have no direct or indirect experience with either. I hardly knew what to say, other than general points on psychology and psychiatry.

    I tend to want to chalk everything up to being a teenager, which is dumb of me because I hated when people did that to me. But still, is it possible it's just a difficult adolescence combined with an overactive imagination/intellect? He's highly intelligent, which I realize often creates unique problems.

    I'm torn between not making a big deal out of it and following up on it, perhaps to the point of discussing the possibility of him seeing a professional. I have suggested mildly that a therapist would be a good idea, but he tends to use me as his therapist.

    I eventually became conflicted and confused in my head enough to just ask people far more experienced and intelligent than I am. Thank you all for everything! :)
     
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  2. Gracey

    Gracey Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    It reads like he trusts you.
    Enough to confide in you.

    Could you be honest with him?
    Delicate but honest?

    I’m not a professional, nor experienced but I’d be inclined to agree with what your own guts/instinct have been telling you.

    If the sightings, hearing names and persecution are real and affecting this young mans day to day functioning, following it up is a way of helping him.

    Providing he’s agreeable to help, other than you.
     
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  3. Fridgemagnetman

    Fridgemagnetman I only have one V.I.P Member

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    Auditory hallucinations can be caused by stress.
    Intelligence and imagination mixed together.
    One thing about schizophrenia is usually you don't think anything is wrong with you - so the worry suggests it isn't.

    The one thing you should think of is personal liability.
    If you're in a position of authority relative to this kid,you have responsibilities.
    You don't act on them - this time - nothing happens.
    But the next kid?
    A potentially career destroying event happens.

    It's a great thing that you're the trusted guy - but you also have to consider yourself.
    Meaning are you putting yourself in a position where boundaries are crossed?

    Are your professional boundaries etc under threat.
    Failing to act causes a liability to yourself and the school.
    Maybe there is an underlying issue with you personally.

    I actually heard voices for years,(teenager) usually just calling my name.
    I finally worked it out - it was other people.

    That was my joke - but I couldn't actually tell whether people were calling my name or not, so it did happen often.
    Stress etc I figured was the main cause.

    So, you have a personal liability issue,imo. Even though it's likely the kid is under stress and likely needs treatment for depression - which may be the more likely cause of the symptoms.
     
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  4. Progster

    Progster Gone sideways to the sun V.I.P Member

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    Since he has opened up to you about it, he must value your opinion and listen to you. Encourage him to talk to his parents and seek professional help, if it doesn't resolve itself with the next few months or if it gets worse. He is a minor, so will need his parents' help for this.
     
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  5. sidd851

    sidd851 If I'm not late, I'm not needed. V.I.P Member

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    You got me to thinking, and, I had to do some digging.
    My disclaimer is that my knowledge of schizophrenia is rudimentary, and there are probably those here that could provide much more insight.

    In digging around, I found that not always is the schizophrenic completely unaware of the unreality of that which they're witnessing, seeing, hearing.

    Highly intelligent people have an...
    objectivity, that often brings mysteries to light, and it is not out of the question that @Fino 's student is able to compare data, and realize that something is amiss, possibly even recognize that which logically can't or doesn't exist.

    Couple with that, the obvious similarity of described experience to those with schizophrenia, and that schizophrenia is hereditary and runs in familial lines,
    I tend to think it very likely that, through Fino's sensitive observation and conversation, that this kid has worked out that he is experiencing symptoms, at times, rather than reality.

    It is stated that often, with therapy, schizophrenics can become aware of the manifestations, and... ignore them, in a way.

    Given the level of trust and understanding and candor in their interaction, I tend to lean toward some degree of schizophrenia being present. Fino has very much filled the role of counselor, therapist.

    That being said, it really changes nothing in the way Fino handles the situation.

    I would continue to be the amazing support and confidante and sounding board that you have been.
    I think that I would lean toward recommending assessment, as gently as possible, or, barring that, I may eventually say something like: "You know, I have a friend that describes the same things to me.
    How would you feel if I asked him some questions, and maybe described your experiences to him?"
    This would not breach trust, and it would open up the door to speaking with a MH Care professional about the boy.
    You may even ask, "Say, he's interested in meeting you. What do you think?"

    That way, you're not in such a precarious position, responsibility-wise.

    I would add, that if it is some degree of schizophrenia, and if he makes contact, there are medications that can help, and reduce his suffering and confusion.

    If it is something else, or nothing at all, an assessment can't hurt, and can only help.

    You're an amazing, compassionate dude, Fino, and I count myself blessed to know you.

    I hope this helped.
     
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  6. NecroCurator

    NecroCurator Active Member

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    Speaking from experience, lack of sleep can cause hallucinations even at times that you are not tired. A general period of life when you lack sleep, is enough.

    EDIT: Not saying that this can't be something else entirely. Someone already pointed out though, that outright schizophrenics generally don't see any problem with their senses, so this is probably not it. I have heard though, that schizophrenia has milder forms, much like autism. Then there are even other possibilities. Maybe talk to a psych?

    EDIT EDIT: Oh yeah! Then my girlfriend has sleep paralysis from time to time, and tells me that sleep is such a complicated thing that brain can go absolutely nuts with dream-related problems. Dark figures walking in your room is so classical sleep paralysis, that this could be related. Although this would have to be extreme if he/she isn't asleep at all. It would mean a completely broken dream-part of your brain that evokes dreams even when awake. Although if they only come at night, this would certainly fit.

    I am still not a doctor though. Just throwing ideas.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
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  7. Oldlady

    Oldlady Well-Known Member

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    Do something now. If it isn't schizophrenia, then no harm no foul, but if it is ... better to catch it early.
     
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  8. Ken S.

    Ken S. Well-Known Member

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    My stepson has Schizo-Affective Disorder and what you described sound incredibly close to the things he has said. Schizophrenia is spectral just like Autism and they have overlapping symptoms. I agree with the general consensus that you should pursue getting him some help.
     
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  9. Loren

    Loren Well-Known Member

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    I concur with Progster's suggestion.

    He is most fortunate to have you as his teacher.
     
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  10. Tom

    Tom Well-Known Member

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    It does sound like Skiz (too hard to spell) enough (especially the voices and paranoia) I think to warrant suggesting he get it checked out professionally. I am not sure of the situation with him being a student, but perhaps there is a school or district shrink you could consult with. You may not wish to force the issue but I see no harm suggesting professional evaluation. If it is Skiz, best caught early as has already been said. Unlike Autism there are medications for it.
     
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  11. Fino

    Fino Alex V.I.P Member

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    By liability, you mean that if I were to do nothing and he ended up hurting himself or others?
    By professional boundaries, do you mean some issue with me allowing the discussions to have happened in the first place, or do you mean something else?

    Sorry, I read your post several times, but still feel unsure of the meaning.

    It's interesting that you say that, because we looked at the symptoms for Schizophrenia and Schizo-affective was mentioned. He went to that, read about it, said he identified more with that and brought it back up several times later, unprompted, that Schizoaffective sounded right.

    I had forgotten about that. I have a friend diagnosed with Schizo-Affective that I could could possibly use as part of Sidd's idea of asking his permission for me to talk to someone about it.


    I discussed with him everything I knew of which could possibly result in his symptoms, such as stress, lack of sleep, sleep paralysis, drugs and any other non-mental illness cause, and, assuming he's accurate and honest, none of them could possibly apply.

    We did discuss his diet and how to gradually make changes to that, but I can't imagine just that would be a major influence on these sorts of issues.

    He's not particularly trustful, and his parents don't seem bad, necessarily, they're just somewhat absent. They both work in medicine and aren't around much, which is part of how I've spent far more time with him than other student, even driving him home once, which was the day he told me these things. It's not unthinkable that he would talk to them about this, but he would definitely be reluctant.

    He's reluctant to talk to people at all. He's angry most of the time and very insulting. When I first started with him, he would throw things, such as my pencils and pens especially when someone would sing next-door, he'd threaten to hurt me, he insulted me a lot, he'd complain about all the things he hates in the world, and he'd make jokes about dark things like suicide which I always take seriously.

    I basically have military training in all of the above so none if it had any effect and I'd just hand him another pencil to throw which meant it got boring quickly, and I always casually mention my own experiences of this nature in order to normalize the issues, and he was surprised when I pointed out his intelligence. He knows more of my life story than anyone else, because he gradually became more and more curious. I would never volunteer information not relevant, but I also don't reject questions of any kind.

    All of which is to say, I wonder how likely it is that he'd express himself honestly to anyone else since all that seems to be what it has taken. But perhaps if I make it clear I think it's a good idea, that would help. I've made it clear that I think therapy is a good idea for everyone, but I haven't said as much in reference specifically to him.

    He's doing significantly better than when he started, though. His mom and other teachers have told me that he never used to smile, that he once performed (piano) and instead of stating his name and what he'll play, he said, "Hello... whatever," then sat down and played, and now he grins on stage. His mom keeps thanking me and giving me things (yay, chocolate), but I wonder what she believes I've done or what I had to do with it at all. He doesn't tell her anything, as far as I know.

    The optimistic, hopeful, perhaps delusional side of me is thinking that maybe he'll just continue in that upward trajectory and nothing really needs to be done.

    But anyway, my brain's filled up again. Thank you so much everyone! You've given me a lot to think about.

    A lot. Thank you.
     
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  12. BraidedPony

    BraidedPony Just Enjoying Survival V.I.P Member

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    Since he has mentioned he fears having schizophrenia, I would use that as a way to have him see a professional... just to rule out schizophrenia and put his mind at ease.
    I would document that you did this too. For example, with his permission, make an appointment for him.
    None of what this kid says or does is normal in my million year experience on earth. He needs help in addition to your kindness.
     
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  13. Loren

    Loren Well-Known Member

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    I don't care for the 'winner' rating, as it feels as though I'm making a judgement, but, truly, what you have to offer/ have given this student is so much more than a child/parent/person could ever hope for in a teacher (and friend). He is extremely fortunate to have a teacher with so much insight, intuition, personal experience and compassion.

    If you haven't done so, already, I would mention your concern to his parents, if you see them as being safe to do so, with, and would take appropriate action. Based on what you've mentioned, his parents certainly seem to be aware of his progress, in more ways than one, since you've come into his life.

    edit
    : If you proceed, perhaps, mention that you don't want to jeopardize the trust that has developed between you and your student, should they take action/ speak about your concern, and hope they will be sensitive to this.

    ❤️
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
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  14. sidd851

    sidd851 If I'm not late, I'm not needed. V.I.P Member

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    There is still the issue of his age.
    His parents would of course have to know about, and agree with, any such contact, but you couldn't be faulted for consulting a professional to see if such a recommendation should be made, especially if his name wasn't used---
    You want to know the proper course of action, so that you can take it.

    Further, the complexity of the situation, and parental involvement, may daunt him and he could shut down, or clam up.
    The system can be... scary?, for me too.

    I wish I had more definite info.

    Unless that's way off the mark?
    Anyone else chime in?
     
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  15. Peter Morrison

    Peter Morrison Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    This is an awkward situation, but not impossible to handle appropriately. Kids don't necessarily understand laws and moral obligations (also included in laws) that compel an adult to act on signs of trouble. You definitely need to involve the guardians (custody issues, etc.) to include them in the dialogue. Kids seeking help want the help. Getting the kid to a medical professional is the best goal, but the parents need to take over and deal with the kid's issues and eventually leave you out of it. I don't suspect that the kid is going to get in trouble with his family. This is not a crime confession. The kid simply doesn't understand his weird dreams, and they are unusual enough to cause him concern. This kid came to you, not his parents. Maybe he doesn't want to worry them, or maybe he is afraid of what they will say or do. Your role is to open the box and get the kid the help he needs. You are now involved. Discretion is always important.

    This kid needs to understand what you are doing so that you can convince him of the proper course being taken. The kid is already aware that his weird dreams and noises are the reason for seeking help. It isn't a big deal unless people create a lot of drama around it. Think of it as a simple process or procedure, similar to anyone having a problem that needs investigation. You are doing a good deed by helping the kid get the attention he needs. Any kid at his age goes through emotional and psychological readjustment. It's part of our growth. You are experienced with ASD, so I can easily assume you are sensitive and experienced with issues related to coping, understanding, and seeking professional guidance. I have complete faith that you will help this kid. And as someone said already, the kid must have faith in you by choosing to tell you. This makes you a real humanitarian.
     
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  16. Fino

    Fino Alex V.I.P Member

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    This is a lot of what I was thinking, so I hope you're not off the mark.

    I wonder if it'd be at all useful/appropriate for me to ask my own psychiatrist for his advice. Would it be a matter of courtesy for me to get permission from the student to do something like this? I imagine he'd never know I did, unless I were to say something like, "I asked my doctor's opinion and..."

    I could do the same asking my friend diagnosed with Schizoaffective and see if the symptoms sound familiar to him. That would also be something I ask permission for? I'm inclined to just do it, but if people think it'd be safer/better to ask first then I have no aversion to that either.


    I could perhaps start by talking to him about talking to his parents himself and see if he's open to that idea. If that's rejected entirely, I can move to getting permission to talk to his parents on his behalf. I happen to have his parent's contact information, which is also unusual, but potentially useful.

    I could possibly suggest he talk to the school counselor, if he feels comfortable. That was what I did when I was in high-school, and they were helpful, sensitive, fast, and discrete.

    I completely agree that he should see some professional. Even if he's not suffering from any mental illness of any kind to any degree, the jumble of thoughts tumbling around in his head could be sorted out so much more easily with the help of a therapist. But he's extraordinarily self-conscious and self-critical, so getting him to that point would be a tremendous step.

    And thank you to anyone who had any kind words! I feel a little odd when I don't respond to each one individually, as if I'm ignoring them, but they are just as helpful as the advice. I rarely discuss things like this with people, the isolation of thought which leads to erroneous perceptions. It's easier to see things for the way they are when they're reflected back at me by you magical folks!

    Thank you!
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
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  17. Loren

    Loren Well-Known Member

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    Rest assured, that your likes and hearts, etcetera, reflect your appreciation, and you don't come across as ignoring.

    PS. I would have rated your post, like and love, in addition to agree, if I could have.

    Forgive me, and, onward...
     
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  18. Fridgemagnetman

    Fridgemagnetman I only have one V.I.P Member

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    Yes - you could be held responsible. If the worst was to happen. Parents would blame you,school would blame you.

    Professional boundaries - is the difficult balance between helping him and making sure the rights things are done.
    Making sure you don't end up the fall guy. Down the line with him or someone else.
    Sort of what others have been saying.

    You are a little odd...
     
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  19. Fino

    Fino Alex V.I.P Member

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    OMG I even get called weird on an Autism forum! :(

    Do I win a prize? :D
     
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  20. tducey

    tducey Well-Known Member

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    I would suggest he see a professional about this. It's good you are listening to him though.
     
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