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Mum who revels in health issues now possibly ill - I just need to talk about this

(38 Posts)
emptywinebox Fri 07-Dec-12 21:28:27

Oh god I don't know where to start with this but I think I just need to talk about it and blurt out my mixed feelings . DP is out so can't talk to him but also think I want the anonimity here as my relationship with mum is not what it should be and I think I might be being a bitch.

Basically I've been thinking about posting about my mums revelling in health issues for ages but never got round to it - you know what its like, you get wound up and want to post but by the time you get on MN the moments passed. Also I feel bad about whinging about her despite the fact I find it increasingly difficult to spend time with her.

Anyway when we speak on the phone shes always updating me with her latest aches, pains, medical appts (mainly to do with type 2 diabetes, eye problems, medications for various aches). She is over 70 so a lot of it I guess is standard for her age. But its got to the stage where she has little else to say other than about her latest check-ups and appts or if you talk about something else she'll interject with a story about her bad nights sleep due to an aching hip or something. If its not her ailments its someone elses.

Last week she had a mammogram (wasn't called for one as they don't routinely scan women over 70 but she asked for one -no symptoms, just thought she would phone up and ask for one. Is that weird in itself? To seek out a scan when you don't have symptoms or worries?). It showed what they said was probably calcium spots but today she went for results and they now want her to go back next week for further biopsy/tests.

At first she told me that today they'd said the lumps weren't necessarily cancerous but they wanted to do further tests but then she went on to say that they would remove just the lumps if they could and if not, they would remove the breast. This would probably be before xmas "but don't worry I don't want you to not go to (my inlaws) for xmas". I kept reminding her that they'd said they weren't necessarily cancerous but she seems to have made her mind up that shes having an op.

My mixed emotions are kicking in in that obviously I don't want her to be ill but have to face she may have cancer. On the other hand I'm (not sure of emotion to use here .....cross/irritated/confused?) that shes telling me all this with almost a hint of excitement in her voice .

This is where the "am I being a bitch" bit comes in....I felt as if she was revelling in the fact that she might be ill, that it might affect everyones Xmas (as she dropped that bit in about us going to the inlaws before I'd even thought about it). It was all a bit "don't worry about me, I'll just spend xmas in hospital or at home on my own recuperating" (she didn't say these words but that was the tone and implication.

Can someone either give me a slap and tell me to stop being a bitch or give me some wise words on how to deal with this please. I don't know what anyone can say . Maybe I'm hoping for someone who can see their mum or gran or whatever in what I've said and can advise.

Oh and I'm going with her to next weeks appt. so hopefully I'll get an accurate picture of whats happening

buildingmycorestrength Mon 10-Dec-12 11:50:38

Atouch, it is really sad that your mum was like that, but not (to me) something that you need to feel responsible for. A well qualified therapist would be able to help you work through some of your feelings, I think.

OP, I agree that if your mum is using her health issues a bid for attention, which it sounds like she is, then best advice I've had is to decide what seems reasonable to you and stick with it (e.g., 10 min on phone twice a week and make sympathetic sounds, plus a visit every other week, or whatever). There isn't much else to be done.

Finally, I am dealing with some health stuff myself and am terrified of people thinking it is all for attention. If my problem is psychosomatic I would love that as I could get my head shrunk and be sorted! I'm always on the lookout for thoughts that might be feeding into a desire for attention, etc. I can see exactly how it would work.

ATouchOfStuffing Sun 09-Dec-12 12:56:21

I had some when she died but she kept saying things about mum being a snob and controlling and it hurt too much at the time so I stopped going. She was a trainee counsellor though so might explain some of the comments. I have recently decided to go to gp for more (various unrelated issues regarding ex) so maybe now is the time. I am pretty certain she knew about the cancer the last time I saw her and was testing me to see if I cared enough for her to get treatment. When I flipped and stood up for myself and distanced myself, she punished herself and me by leaving it too long to get treatment.

HoleyGhost Sun 09-Dec-12 11:03:29

Atouchofstuffing - have you had counselling at all? You were not responsible for your DM's choices

Admitedly my brother and I don't see her as often as a lot of people see their parents when they live within 30mins drive but I think we both find her hard work TBH (and we have our own DC, and busy lives).

And that's we're I think this really comes from. It won't matter how many friends and activities she does if she doesn't feel she gets enough from you then like a toddler will try for any attention.

ATouchOfStuffing Sun 09-Dec-12 10:43:55

FWIW I do still get a bit angry thinking about how manipulative she was and sometimes feel she is saying "I told you so" about actually being ill and the fact I would miss her. It is all ery complicated, but I would rather not feel the guilt as much as I do.

ATouchOfStuffing Sun 09-Dec-12 10:38:50

This is tough. My mum did the same for years (was quite an overbearing woman at times and drank heavily, so you never knew what you were going to get when you answered the phone). However I put her constant moaning down to depression that she refused to admit she had and eventually we had a big fall out when I was at hers and she locked me in the kitchen...anyway I decided at the time that was enough and she needed to apologise properly before I spoke to her again. It went 6 months with neither of us backing down. One day I had a call from her neighbour asking me to call my mum as she was very ill. This was unfortunately not the first time this had happened and I explained I didn't want to be fooled into coming down again if this was another ploy for attention...but it wasn't. When I called my mum she explained she was riddled with cancer and was too far gone for any treatment. In hindsight the last time I had been to see her, when we fell out, she had said about a lump on her breast and pain in her armpit which I had told her to get seen (she refused as had had painful mammogram before which annoyed me at the time). It turns out she had pancreatic cancer and it had spread throughout her body. I didn't realise I only had 3 months with her and only saw her once before she was in a hospice and unable to talk. I feel terrible about being so negative to her in the last year of her life. She wasn't an easy person to get along with, but the regrets of not being generous with my patience and believing (although hard when they have used health issues before to turn emotional thumbscrews). Therefore my advice would be to just calm everything down, pander to her a bit and try to ignore any annoying attitudes etc. You really never know what is around the corner and you don't want to speculate on what you should have done when it is too late. I miss my mum every day, despite how very frustrating she was. You can never replace a mother. Good luck.

bradyismyfavouritewiseman Sun 09-Dec-12 10:25:50

nanny I am sorry for your loss. But it is irrelevant to this thread.

Unless you have lived with this you have no idea how exhausting and mentally draining it is. It can be soul destroying.

While i understand why you think the way you do. Maybe you should have some sympathy for others in a different situation to yourself.

HoleyGhost Sun 09-Dec-12 10:22:12

Nannyof3 - what a mean spirited post. Do you also post on threads in parenting that those with problems are lucky and moaning?

My DM has been a hypochondriac for as long as I can remember. It has got much worse in recent years, as she has retired and developed some genuine ailments.

There is something about responsibility - if any treatment involves exercise, she won't do it. It is all passive self pity and attention seeking.

If I could find a way to handle it better, spending time with her would be less of a drain.

empty you are certainly not being a bitch - your mum sounds like my aunt who seems to enjoy her visits to the docs/hospital and regales everyone with all the details- it's like a game of medical trumps grin She wanted my dad to see how many different pills my mum takes (rather a lot as she has Parkinson's and arthritis) - naturally Auntie had more ! My parents are hugely stoic and never fuss or go on about their ailments but Auntie does as I think she is bored/has not much else to do- also wonderful and lovely cousin does everything for her (she is a genuinely lovely saint)
If your mum has anything worrying it's likely to be calcium deposits which can be benign or can be DCIS which is a non- invasive cancer - it may or may not lead to invasive breast cancer. It is very treatable if it comes to it, so try not to worry too much.

HenriettaTurkey Sat 08-Dec-12 17:46:57

Yup- my mum too. She almost seems to enjoy having type 2 diabetes and goes through the pills in her poll box: this ones for my kidneys , this is to thin my blood, this is my antidepressant. Mum - we're at a bloody restaurant!

Also, if any of us get ill, give her 24 hours and she'll have something worse. Like clockwork.

She's also often convinced we all have illnesses we don't. No mum - there's nothing wrong with my thyroid or gall bladder!

I love her to bits, but this is not her most endearing quality.

nannyof3 Sat 08-Dec-12 17:39:03

Shes old.. Try and enjoy her while u can... My mum died at 53. Ur lucky and ur moaning confusedhmm

AlmostAChristmasHipster Sat 08-Dec-12 17:36:49

This is my mum too. She's always in 'terrible agony' with something or other which makes me inwardly seethe. I cannot maintain a genuinely high level of sympathy for exaggerated ailments so I have to umm and ahh and say 'oh dear' a lot.

It drives me scatty!!!

When my kids ask how I'm feeling, I really try hard to minimise my own aches and pains as I never want them to feel about me the way I feel about my mother even though I'm in TERRIBLE AGONY smile

HoleyGhost Sat 08-Dec-12 17:27:49

Isla, I thought hypochondria meant that kind of attention seeking behaviour and what you are talking about is 'health anxiety'? Happy to be told I'm wrong.

I don't know where one ends and the other begins. For my DM, I don't think she has health anxiety. She just has an unhealthy fascination with the subject of her own health, and uses it in a passive aggressive bid for attention.

It is tedious and I am dreading Christmas because of it. My mother is on a self imposed restricted diet and there is endless scope for fussing, moaning and sighing.

DoIgetastickerforthat Sat 08-Dec-12 16:21:17

I empathise totally with you. Both my parents are fixated on their health and their constant moaning/need to discuss symptoms has massively escalated since my mum retired last year.

I too, am really struggling to be in their company for any length of time. The day always starts with a blow by blow dissection of how each of them has slept (never good), the day is then punctuated by a series of dramatic 'Oh's' and 'Argh's' which are normally the conduit to a prolonged discussion about their relative conditions, what the doctor has said, what google has said, what treatment they need, when their next appointment is, how debilitating it is, blah, blah, blah... all of which i will have heard the previous day/week/month. The day ends with a debate about whether to take pain killers or not, which both of them will resist because, heaven forbid they should feel ok and have nothing to grumble about.

The awful thing is that they do actually have some health problems, not severe or in anyway life threatening but do have some debilitating features, so I feel like a total bitch when I'm screaming 'Just shut-up, shut-up, shut-up' in my head. I often think, 'well you don't know how it is to live with certain conditions so perhaps you are being unreasonably unsympathetic'. However, I do think there is a massive attention seeking element to the griping. They a) don't get out and see many people so the conversation between them must be very stale and b) they are then become very competitive for my attention and so are constantly one upping each other on who's in the most pain/most tired stakes, it is incredibly wearing and like having two further children to emotionally look after.

Since my mum's retirement, their world has become incredibly small and I am trying to encourage them to broaden, their horizons - they don't want to though, I feel a 'conversation' may have to occur, for the sake of my sanity but it's very difficult to work out how to word it without being offensive. Sigh.

IslaValargeone Sat 08-Dec-12 15:56:31

Not that I'm remotely qualified to diagnose, but I do question the comment above re hypochondria?
I feel that this kind of thing is more from an attention seeking point of view, whereas I thought that hypochondriacs really believe that they have something.
My dh gets episodes of hypochondria when stressed, he gets a small symptom and then googles for hours. By the end of the day he is convinced he has West Nile fever or some such thing.
At times it has been an utter nightmare, whereas I think some of the experiences mentioned largely on this thread are 'pay me attention' types of behaviour?

I think you have my mum.

I empathise entirely, it's a bind and very very wearing. You aren't being a bitch.

My mum actually told me, a few years ago now, she had breast cancer and that she wont have her breast removed so I had to accept that she would die of it-she actually told me "I have breast cancer".
It turned out that she hadn't even been to the docs about her lump in her breast and it was nothing-not even a lump just a grainy bit like we all get from time to time due to hormones. I was utterly utterly furious with her but she denies ever saying it in those words.

MiniTheMinx Sat 08-Dec-12 15:44:29

You are not a bitch and I really empathise with the feeling of irritation you feel. I think with me it's partly because of a sense that I lack control over the situation. You can't even steer the conversation away from the aches and pains and general moaning.

Yesterday morning, I had one child sick and the other was due to go in for a learning report day which I had to attend with him. I couldn't miss the appointment with the teacher but I couldn't take the sick child in to school. I dash into my father's thinking I will leave the sick one with him for an hour. I open the door and find him sitting on the stairs " I can't walk, I'm stuck, my legs have finally gone now, that's it,"

I felt like crying. The irritation for me is because I can't actually do enough to help my father, I can't make him better, he is really very annoying anyway and I would prefer to see less of him, plus his need for company and consolation grows by the day. Grrrrrrr

emptywinebox Sat 08-Dec-12 15:32:11

I am really astounded at the feedback here and the amount of you that are dealing with similar mums/MILs etc. Thank you for your support.

A few mentioned that she might not have enough to occupy herself but she does have WI, another older womens 'club', she knits/sews/bakes etc for herself and others, goes off on day bus trips so she is generally quite busy. I don't think thats the issue.

She has a few close friends she sees every week and lots of other friend and acquaintances.

Admitedly my brother and I don't see her as often as a lot of people see their parents when they live within 30mins drive but I think we both find her hard work TBH (and we have our own DC, and busy lives).

nochipsthanks Sat 08-Dec-12 13:03:16

My DAunt has inherited her mother's trait too (and actually so has my mother a little bit).

DAunt's husband has just (last month) been diagnosed with colon cancer, and her way of telling us was to ring and begin the conversation not with 'hello' but with 'Peace. Peace to you all' before telling us that she was likely to be a widow before Christmas. (As it happens, thankfully DUncle has had a colon biopsy and is doing very well. )

GlaikitFizzogTheChristmasElf Sat 08-Dec-12 12:22:28

My mil is a bit like this. Especially when fil was diagnosed with bowel cancer, she upped her illness setting and was really put out by all the attention fil was getting from Macmillan nurses and the like. She was back and forth to the docs with this and that all of which turned put to be nothing.

What actually happened was she missed her actual diagnosis, and only now 3 years later, we have found out she has ms. She had either ignored the letter or not understood the doctor when she was told. We only found out because SIL went with her to an appointment about her varicose veins and the GP casually said, "well it's probably just a symptom of your ms" cue shock and confused faces all round!

So she is back revelling in illness, now that fil is no longer with us. She is a poor soul, but i find it hard to feel any sympathy for her, I pity her actually.

Can you call your mums bluff and offer to go with her to the hospital, so you are there when she is to,d it is nothing? Mil always refused anyone to go with her, so we only had her word for what was said.

HoleyGhost Sat 08-Dec-12 11:50:06

It is hypochondria and utterly miserable.

It is also passive-aggressive. I wish I knee how to handle it assertively.

gingeroots Sat 08-Dec-12 11:39:39

Yes ^salivate* is exactly the word .

I know someone who has plenty of existing health problems but who does the salivating thing .

For instance over the poo sample you get to send free for checking once you're 60 .
It was another potential illness to worry about .

nochipsthanks Sat 08-Dec-12 09:52:02

I know where you are coming from OP. My grandmother was like that. My DFather used to say that 'she enjoys illness'. I am rather ashamed to admit that when she eventually became ill (with something pretty nasty) the first reaction of both my DParents and I was 'Finally she has got something REAL!'.
It is the crying wolf thing that is exhausting, so you just never take it too seriously. But also the thought that they are secretly attention seeking.
My grandmother used to salivate over other people's illnesses too. It is a bit disconcerting.

IslaValargeone Sat 08-Dec-12 09:44:32

I sympathise OP.
My mil is very similar, in her case it was a situation of be careful what you wish for.
She was obsessed with illness and eventually was given a colonoscopy to try and get to the root of some stomach issues she claimed she had.
There was no problem, but during the procedure they nicked the bowel and she ended up with a colostomy bag.

FlyOverTheMistletoe Sat 08-Dec-12 09:34:49

yy to hopeforever buy more wine grin winewinewine

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