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Elderly mum and excessive worrying/anxiety from her- LONG sorry!

(33 Posts)
ThePurpleOneisMine Sun 20-Jan-19 10:21:10

Help!
My mum is old but in good health for her age.

She's always been a 'worrier' - catastrophising about everything especially anything to do with travel but at the same time has a lopsided perspective- ie won't go on a longish journey with my brother who holds an Advanced Motorist cert, but she will go out on local trips with her 80+ yr old friends who are terrible doddery drivers.

Just giving you the picture.

She's begun to get worse with her anxiety. I live a long way from her and drove home recently. I was stopping to see a friend en route for a cuppa, and mum casually asked how long I'd be seeing her for. I gave an estimation.

Later that day mum was calling my DH to see if I'd arrived back, had he heard from me, she'd heard the weather might be getting worse etc etc and this was all down her to her 'estimation' of when I ought to be home.

I always tell her that I will call her as soon as I arrive home and I DO!

My brother is going on hols soon and she wants him to call her daily to say he's okay.

Once, a couple of years ago, I was staying with her and went into town to shop etc and said I might have a walk along the river bank (busy- tourist destination.) She was calling me on my mobile, asking if I was okay as I didn't come back when she expected. (I was sitting in a cafe having a cuppa.) I wasn't even out long, just longer than she 'thought'.

She thought I'd been murdered ( she didn't say that, but that was her train of thought- me on a riverbank, must be attacked.)

Years ago when my DCs were young and DH travelled a lot, she'd call me in the morning to check 'we were okay' joking had we been murdered overnight.

It's exhausting. The back history is that years ago when I left uni, I left home and moved 300 miles away (partly as that is where the job offer came from) but ALSO because she was suffocating then, I had no privacy, she wanted to know all my movements (with boys/men) .

Even now in my 50s I feel she is keeping tabs on me in a way that I resent.

She does things like calling my brother - who works 30 mins drive from his home- if there is bad weather, to ask if he's got home okay.

There is caring and there is obsessive behaviour like this.

If she was younger, I'd suggest CBT or something but even now me and my brother are worried that she is going to make herself ill with the stress she puts herself under with these dark thoughts she has.

Is there anything we can do? I feel if I talk to her she will just dismiss her behaviour as being 'caring' but it's more than that- it's like a MH issue.

ThePurpleOneisMine Sun 20-Jan-19 10:22:33

Oh and ps- I didn't stay with my friend for ages- about 15 mins longer than I'd suggested to mum, which over a 5hr trip is neither here nor there,

Peepingsnowdrops Sun 20-Jan-19 10:25:50

This is really tough. I wouldn't engage as much. Could you say 'mum that is kind of you but really you are worrying and that is the issue'
My mother in law is like this and I have pulled back a lot (she is lovely but lives in the gp surgery and has everyone rallying around and fussing) I just don't be as available but when it is genuine I go out of my way.
Does she need to take something for anxiety perhaps?

ThePurpleOneisMine Sun 20-Jan-19 10:35:24

It IS really hard. It annoys the hell out of me, but lately it's more about her health. She evidently went to bed last night at 6pm- 'exhausted' and some of that would be down to chewing herself to bits the night before my journey home - lack of sleep I suspect.

I don't even tell her now when I'm visiting as she gets herself so worked up. But obviously I can't hide my return trip!

I think sh'd poo-poo the idea of medication, though suggesting it her might shock her a bit to make her see how excessive it is.

It's something counselling/ CBT would perhaps deal with but any time we've mentioned her behaviour she just says 'It's her nature'.

But it's exhausting and also means I feel she's 'keeping tabs on me' if i want to stop off and see friends on my way home- she wants to know exactly who, how I know them etc and quite honestly it's none of her business- I'm late 50s FFS!

Peepingsnowdrops Sun 20-Jan-19 11:00:10

Yeah I get you. You don't really have any freedom from her. Could you be blunt and say ' mum I will call at six o clock' please wait and I will call. No fussing please.. I am 50 years old. No nonsense please

Would that work? If she calls don't answer but ring at six .. mum no fussing please ... if you don't engage could that work?

MereDintofPandiculation Sun 20-Jan-19 11:21:04

DF is a worrier - not about me, so I don't have the oppressive behaviour that you are suffering - but his worries put him at greater risk than the dangers he's trying to avoid (eg worrying about food production standards to the extent of malnutrition). No advice, sorry - the biggest hurdle is that he doesn't accept he's worrying unnecessarily (it's that I don't have the same sources of info as him so I don't understand the problem), and I think you have the same problem with your Mum - in her view, she's not "anxious" in a medical sense, she just normally concerned.

With PILs we routinely added an hour or two on to any journey time, so we could at least get home, unpack, and relax for a while before phoning to say we'd arrived.

Also, you need to cast aside any guilt you may feel about lying. Invent what you need to give yourself "out of contact" time.

DuffBeer Sun 20-Jan-19 11:50:52

Mine is exactly the same. She is exhausting.

She also takes on the burden of everyone else's problems too "because I worry you know"

She also doesn't sleep properly, because she's up all night fretting and worrying.

It's incredibly frustrating but in recent times I've just tried to be more empathic and not let it get to me because it must be utterly horrendous to live like that.

ThePurpleOneisMine Sun 20-Jan-19 11:53:00

Thank you.
That's exactly it- no freedom- having to account for my every move.
My mum doesn't accept she has an issue- for her it's all about 'caring' but it was that very same 'caring' that sent me leaving home decades ago as it was oppressive and intrusive. I feel I can't see who I want to without telling her who it is and TBH it's none of her business.

But now, although it's highly annoying, I worry about the impact on her own health- her exhaustion from over-worrying!

She face looks as if it's contorted into an anxious expression ALL of the time.

You know what it's like- you do a long drive in traffic and all you want is to get in, unpack the car and have a drink- and give yourself an hour to unwind- before phoning your mum and chatting.

I suppose I could just text her- that's what we do with my DD when she's travelling- just 'Back'.

Or, the idea of saying I'd call at X time is also a good one.

The thing is, if 'anything happened' she'd be notified. It's terrible to think she's sitting there wringing her hands till I call.

ThePurpleOneisMine Sun 20-Jan-19 11:55:44

Thanks @DuffBeer- sorry x-d posts.

It IS exhausting and takes the shine off any contact.

She doesn't have a clue- when she says how sad she is that I moved away, I feel like telling her it was her behaviour that pushed me away and it's still the same now- 40 yrs on.

Being nosy, judgemental, approving or not of what I'm doing,...

I do love her, but she's hard work.

SeaToSki Sun 20-Jan-19 12:06:48

Im pretty sure at her age, you are not going to change her, can you manage to accept that? Then you need to put in place boundaries and strategies to manage her impact on you.
Mum I will call you at 6pm
Mum I wont enter into this discussion
Mum if you call I will not answer until 6pm
Mum Im going for a walk and I dont know when I will be back as I might stop off to do xyz

And then remember that you worrying about her worrying is pretty much the same as her worrying about you.... iyswim. So you need to find a place of acceptance that she will worry, and that is OK because it is who she is.

Littlebighorn Sun 20-Jan-19 12:14:48

OP I could have written your post, even moving a long way from ‘home’ 40 years ago, and the endless worrying.
I too always have to call as soon as I get back from visiting
As she’s got older and as I’ve got older I now remind myself that in a few years time she won’t be there to call anymore, and I’ll feel sad about that rather than relieved.

DuffBeer Sun 20-Jan-19 12:42:23

I've found the best way to mitigate it, is to not give too many details about anything, thus reducing the number of things she could potentially worry about.

This is hard, because I would love to just be able to talk openly, rant about things and moan to her. But I have come to realise that she just can't handle it.

I had to laugh at your 'contorted anxious face' comment though. It all sounds so familiar!

DuffBeer Sun 20-Jan-19 12:44:57

Oh and I've also noticed that recently she has become VERY worried about food (use by dates, preservatives etc) and general hygiene.

She reads a lot on the internet and believes 99.9% of what she reads.

Grace212 Sun 20-Jan-19 14:08:01

this sounds awful but re the "contorted anxious face"

I have raging anxiety but have become much more rational after taking medication. My mother refuses to try medication and that bugs me, because I'm walking evidence that there's a possibility for change.

I asked her the other day if she remembered how it was trying to deal with me when I was anxious about nothing and interestingly she said she can't remember at all.

MereDintofPandiculation Tue 22-Jan-19 14:16:31

It's terrible to think she's sitting there wringing her hands till I call. It is, but it's her choice to do that. Harden your heart, and drive away any guilty thoughts. You've done all you can, so she has to be responsible for the consequences of her behaviour. You are not responsible for how she feels.

paulfoel Wed 23-Jan-19 16:00:35

OMG this is my Dad....

If I go on holidays he expects me to ring him the minute the plane lands. He hates me going anywhere because "its dangerous". Outside the uk is a no no - "thieving foreigners". God forbid I go anywhere where there are non-white people too (bit of a racist my dad). London too is a no-go area in his head (2-3 hours away) because the people there are not right (he says).

I take him away every year for the weekend to watch cricket. We stay in hotel. I drive. Hes now said he doesnt like me driving home too far in the dark (i.e. more than 30 mins) because its not safe because I'll be tired. (Even though I point out my car has got headlights!)

Nuts really. I'm 50 years old. Travelled all over europe with work. USA many times. Yet he thinks I'm not safe to drive 50 miles.

Tara336 Wed 23-Jan-19 16:13:12

Both of my DP are like this, both have anxiety one diagnosed the other not. My DM catastophises everything!! drives me absolutely mad, ie I found some errors in our business accounts, the person who does our accounts is on holiday, from that she has decided they paid for the holiday by siphoning off money from our business 🙄. DF is an anxious control freak and gets quite nasty if he cannot manage every detail of your life he is absolutely obsessed with fire and will switch every frigging electrical item off that we own causing untold chaos every time he stays with us.

My DM will also obsess over journeys if you say 11am and get stuck behind a tractor on the way the drama is ridiculous! I now don’t tell her until I’m 5 minutes away.

They have both been like it a s long as I can remember and at times I can get anxious (had CBT and tons better) my therapist advised it’s a learnt behaviour

paulfoel Wed 23-Jan-19 17:09:33

Tara - yeh my Dad used to turn off (and pull the plug out) of every single electrical appliance in the house (even the fridge). Eventyually when he had to set the clock all the time on his VCR (remember them?) he stopped.

One time we were walking back to his house and a fire truck went past. He ran full speed towards his house assuming his house was on fire. Nuts. It could have been any one of like 40 houses in the street (it wasnt even in the street who knows)

Yep do that too with arrival times. Hes in all day. What time are you coming? 4-5pm ish. If Im not there by 401pm and walk in at 402pm I get the "I've been worried sick about you, thought you'd had an accident".

Katyy Wed 23-Jan-19 20:23:22

Oh Purple I could have written this myself.I know exactly how you feel, my mum is in her late 80s and I'm an only one. It's very frustrating, because like you, my mum is quite well and everybody comments on how lucky I am to have a mum so fit and well, and I could scream at them because the anxiety she has is overwhelming, and it causing me to feel physically unwell now I have several stress related illnesses myself now I'm in my sixties.We actually moved house some years ago, to give us some space, which does feel better, it's only a few miles, but it prevented her from dropping in on us all the time.The biggest problem is the phoning all the time,asking how everyone is, if I don't answer, she'll move on to my ac.They don't always answer now, but she won't stop until she gets someone. The easiest way I deal with it is to always let the calls go to answerphone, then you can pick it up when your ready, and as ashamadely tell as many white lies as you can get away with I just tell myself it's for her own good it does seem to calm her down.I could never tell her anything bad, mine and her life wouldn't be worth living.Good luck with your mum, hope you find a way.Good job we love them.

Tara336 Fri 25-Jan-19 07:45:37

@paulofel DD unplugs things even if he’s not going out, just to the next room. I stayed with them while I renovated my flat, internet gets turned off the minute he leaves the living room. DP stayed at our house while we went on holiday to care for our dogs, by time we got home sky was buggered, internet buggered because he kept turning boxes off. DM seemed to be able to cope with me traveling round Far East but can’t handle me popping in car to Sainsbury’s 🤪

paulfoel Fri 25-Jan-19 08:26:19

@Tara336 Ha ha I can see my Dad doing that.

Another thing he used to do. Bought him a mobile phone. Won't use. Tried to tell him to take it out with him then we could contact him. Nope - wont do it. No benefit to him, no skin off his nose if we need to contact him so he doesnt bother.

When hes in hospital its different. Hes got no way to badger us to visit him so he takes it with him. One time he phoned me and said "tell your brother I can;t get hold of him and want to speak to him. Im not happy with him".

Turns out Dad was turning phone on. Phoning me. Then phoning brother, leaving message, then turning phone off and putting it back in the box until next time he wanted to use it.

Thats Dad for you. Expects people to jump when he wants and wont consider that maybe someone is busy and will call him back.

Tara336 Fri 25-Jan-19 15:13:16

@paulfoel I feel your pain! DF could not believe that I would actually not switch off the immersion heater at the flat when I was not going to be there for a few days. He said there could be a fire! I said yes and there are planes flying over us on could crash on us, neighbours could have a flood, there could be a gas explosion.... how many times have any of those things actually happened in your vicinity? He now leaves that subject alone but merrily carries on switching everything off in his own home 😃

paulfoel Sat 26-Jan-19 07:54:35

@Tara336 ha ha I like the planes argument. I'll try that one.

WofflingOn Sat 26-Jan-19 08:08:29

I’m sorry OP, but this is a wonderful thread.
So very familiar in so many ways, my parents are chronically ill and in their 80s, I live round the corner and work ft. The point about being phoned up, barked at and summoned rings so true, then the anxiety if I don’t respond with Pavlovian swiftness.
Not being able to just chat, I have to run every word through a filter in case it’s triggering. And the bloody unplugging!
So I lie a lot, hide the truth a lot, smile and nod a lot instead of justifying or explaining and I don’t worry about them worrying.

tumpymummy Sat 26-Jan-19 08:19:07

I've found this anxiety gets worse as parents get old. My grandad used to worry about all sorts of necessary things now MIL is doing the same the older she gets. I think a lot of it is to do with the fact that they're at home a lot on their own not really doing much.

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