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my mother is negative and sad

(13 Posts)
iloveeverykindofcat Fri 01-Jan-16 09:54:23

First post in this topic - just a vent/hoping someone can relate really, and if anyone has any advice on being supportive without letting her drag me down, that would be fabulous.

I'm 28. Last year I moved across the country for a fabulous job offer, really living my dream, with the caveat that it's only secure for two years. My mother, whom I used to live near and see all the time, is now 200+ miles away. She has always been difficult, and to be fair she does have her challenges. My father died when I was a small child, and in a nutshell, she is not a people person. Nor is my brother whom she sees occasionally. She has 4 dogs (used to be 5) and 2 rabbits, and lives in a large semi-rural property which is all too much for her to maintain really, though she would never hear of surrendering any of her pets, several of which have suffered expensive health problems and needed management this past year. She also just got out of a bad 'relationship' (I put that in inverted commas because she doesn't go into detail with me, but the gist is she feels betrayed but also admits she treated him badly. She does not like men).

Every time I hear from her (which is a lot), she tells me how hard her life is, how she has no-one to help her, how 'shit' this year has been, how her health is declining, how she'll probably have heart problems soon...she recently took up smoking again, for the 'stress', which isn't helping. And I am sympathetic. I try to be. But she tells me she misses me, and I cheer her up (not sure how, she never sounds it!) and subtly makes me feel I need to visit her more (though she wouldn't see it as guilting me. She doesn't do it on purpose). I do try. I went for Christmas, and did some domestic/technological stuff for her - she's trying to wrap up a letting business which she's losing money on and I did some emails and organizational stuff. But the thing is...I'm 200 miles away. I have a very responsible, very time consuming job, which I adore, but it comes with it's stresses. And she is just. So. Negative. About people, mostly. It must be terribly hard to go through life with as negative view of people as she has. I suspect both she and my brother have some form of undiagnosed Aspergers/ASD, but I'm reaching here, they just don't do well in social situations and seem to have trouble reading people. She tells me I am 'like my father', and sounds pleased about it but also perhaps a bit jealous - I like people and socializing, I have no trouble making friends, and I try to see the good in things and make the best of situations. Perhaps I am lucky, maybe I was just born differently to her. What frustrates me is that she has effectively chosen her situation (to live alone, to have all these animals, to smoke, and she also drives people away with her attitude) and yet complains all the time that everything is terrible and she has nobody to 'help' her. I'm starting to dread talking with her and that's a shame, because I do love her very much and I know she's found life difficult. She loves me very much, but I also suspect she has always been rather jealous of me. I've tried subtly hinting that she does have options (to sell up, to downsize her animal collection, to move somewhere less isolated) and that we really have to make our own happiness, but she just gets angry. Except once, when she sort of hinted that one day she would like to move North and live near me or....gulp....with me. (Nope. Nope nope nope. I couldn't wait to leave home at 18 and my mental health and indeed my relationship with her is x1000 better since I have).

Any advice? Anyone can sympathize? I do love her and feel sympathetic for her, but she's starting to frustrate me no end with her 'no-one helps me, my life is so hard, I'll probably die soon' shtick. (She's in her late 60s).

CMOTDibbler Fri 01-Jan-16 19:15:35

I can really sympathise - my dad is very negative. DH refers to him as the dementor sometimes as his phone calls suck the joy out of life. I love him, and know he's in a very hard place, but boy it can be hard.

I've found just listening and going 'mmm' 'oh that must be hard' 'oh dear' etc while MNetting lets him say the things he needs to while it skims over my head. Mostly, offering solutions or help isn't what he needs/wants tbh

iloveeverykindofcat Fri 01-Jan-16 19:29:25

I'm so glad I'm not the only person who browses the web whilst 'listening'! XD

You're right, she doesn't want solutions really. I do hate to hear her unhappy though.

thesandwich Fri 01-Jan-16 22:53:50

You are not the only one! A friend reckons two crosswords during a phone call home....
It is hard to watch but you are not responsible for her happiness. And you cannot fix her. It is do hard to accept but it is true. And the whole issue of jealousy is very real.
Think about what you can / chose to do. And research support near her for when it is needed. Much sympathy and advice on this board!!

iloveeverykindofcat Sat 02-Jan-16 07:06:55

I'll stick around and read smile. Like a lot of older women, she's terrible about accepting support from 'outside' - nobody else will do it right, won't understand the dogs, etc....I'm sure it's not true but she's very fixed in her mind about it, and the longer she goes 'managing' by herself, the more convinced she is she's the only one who can. She did have to accept some last year as she has broken both wrists at different times (osteoporosis) but that relationship is over now. I suppose what I'm really worried about is the future. If I do get a permanent job up here will she a) deteriorate or b) want to move in.....

I suggested to her that she might be mildly depressed and could see her GP about getting some anti-depressants, but as far as she's concerned, she couldn't possibly be depressed, depression happens to other (read: weaker) people. It doesn't make any sense because I've been on Seroxat since I was 14, not for depression but ocd tendencies, and she doesn't seem to see that as a mark in my disfavour!

iloveeverykindofcat Sat 02-Jan-16 09:19:39

Well I just rang her. She was upset because I didn't call on New Year's Day, which neither of us celebrate or have ever celebrated. I was actually working/saying goodbye to my friend from the States who was visiting. She told me about her chest pains again. I said she should go to the doctor. She said she can't go to the doctor because they're too busy with 'the old people' after Christmas, and that there was a hole in her life which she can't fill because of her 'situation'.

Bloody hell, what do you say to that lot?!?

whataboutbob Sat 02-Jan-16 11:19:31

ilove, reading this what jumps out is she is constantly trying to pull you back into her sphere, while not talking responsibility for her own mood or health. This is unfair on you to say the least. You have the right to make something of your own life. You are still very young. I was utterly drained by the responsibility of a father with dementia and a brother with lifelong, undiagnosed (Dad wouldn't allow any talk of psychiatrists) and untreated mental illness. I had 2 years of counselling which slowly and painfully allowed me to build some boundaries. Please do not allow your mother's unhappiness and manipulative behaviour to sabotage you. She feels you are slipping away and is deploying all her tools: guilt tripping, causing fear that something very bad will happen to her if you don't drop everything, etc etc. Maybe she was propped up by your Dad and now wants to rope you into that role?
Please, if you can, lay down some boundaries with her, and maybe consider professional counselling to help you achieve some distance. You don't have to accept her behaviour. Be firm, advise her to go to the GP, if she refuses then I'm afraid it's her lookout. Tell her you are very busy, will ring her (set a date) and maybe visit (set a date that really suits you).

iloveeverykindofcat Sat 02-Jan-16 12:07:37

whataboutbob, thank you for that, you are very kind and absolutely right that she is manipulating me, though I don't think she means to manipulate me, if that makes any sense. I don't think she sees what she's doing. My grandmother had dementia so that's pretty much what I'm fearing in the future. You must be very strong after dealing with that.

I do love her very much and she has many good qualities, but it seems like I'm starting to see a side of her that I don't much like, and it's coming out more and more as she feels less powerful. That's hard to come to terms with. I also feel very sorry for her, however. I probably do need to see a counsellor and will try to make an appointment with the one attached to my workplace. Thanks again x

MoreElderlyParentWoes Sat 02-Jan-16 14:33:13

I too can relate to much of what you say here. (In fact, I just started a thread in Chat to talk about the issues I'm currently facing with my mum). I'm much older than you and my mum is no doubt much older than yours, and our situation is different, but at heart it's that same issue of offering support while maintaining healthy boundaries.

MoreElderlyParentWoes Sat 02-Jan-16 14:34:20

Sorry, meant to second what's been said about the value of counselling. It really helps to get perspective.

iloveeverykindofcat Sat 02-Jan-16 16:02:30

Thank you More, I've just had a read of that....I just calculated and I realized my mother isn't actually in her late sixties at all! She's 64!! But she's been saying she's older than she is for years. Yes we are basically in similar situations - you can vent to me here and I'll do likewise smile

IMustEatMoreVeg Sat 02-Jan-16 16:21:00

OP I just wanted to say that lots of what you describe I recognise in my own mum and it is very hard. I have some okay times with her and some awful draining times. I try to keep above the mood sucking by 'hmm' ing along to phone calls but encouraging any positive bits by asking interested questions.

I agree with what PP have said about you cannot be responsible for your mother's happiness. I too have a mother who seems to hold me responsible for her mood. She doesn't enjoy doing much and doesn't take interest in any thing. But I don't live near her and I am busy with work and DC. I cannot be her sole interest. And even when I do ring ring up with new about what a DC has achieved she doesn't seem particularly bothered!

She too won't go to the doctors because it is somehow beneath her. Lots of things are sneered at like that. She is a very negative person.

I try to be aware of this and make sure that I do not grow into that personality. I make sure I show enthusiasm and positivity about things. I hate to think I could end up being like that.

iloveeverykindofcat Sat 02-Jan-16 16:35:38

Yep, that's exactly it - help from a doctor is somehow beneath her. It seems like a lot of people have experienced similar with their ageing parents...perhaps some of it is natural and people become more selfish as they age, but the thing is, she's not objectively ill (physically) or even particularly old! I strongly suspect undiagnosed mental health problems, but then again, I'm not a psychologist. I do recognise what you say about being her sole interest too. She is too invested in my life. I wish she would start reading again. She used to be a big reader, as am I, but it all seems like too much of an effort for her these days.

I too try hard to work against any traits like that in myself. I don't think I'll grow into that state of mind (I hope not!) because I think deep down she has a negative view of humanity and I have a positive one. Perhaps that's just a matter of brain chemistry/experience/good luck, but she doesn't help herself - she always assumes the worst intention behind things.

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