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Is there anything that can be done to help my mum?

(12 Posts)
ScarlettCrossbones Thu 01-Sep-11 14:51:17

My mum has suffered from depression for decades - at least 40 years or so. She's been on and off various antidepressants, had brief hospitalisations when I was little, CBT, etc, and there just seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. I am fairly sure now that she'll never be well, which really hurts. She's been trying to live without the drugs for a good few years now, as even the newer more advanced ones (SSRIs, is it? - Citalopram and that lot) leave her feeling numb, dead and stupid.

She has two degrees, is ridiculously brainy and scholarly, but has been living on benefits/disability etc for almost 30 years, since the last time she worked. Sorry if that sounds snobbish, but it's just not the way you'd expect her life to have turned out, and I feel so, so sorry for her, but I just don't know what to do. She's intensely private (I wasn't allowed into her last flat for roughly 12 years) and brushes most "difficult" subjects under the carpet, though she'll occasionally write me letters about it. She hates talking on the phone. Although she's told me she would never commit suicide, I sometimes feel that she's just going to waste away and die with the horror and stress of it all, and that I'm lucky to have had her for as long as I have. Sorry if that sounds melodramatic! She's always seemed "old" to me - I can remember her at my age, when I was 11, and she's always seemed like an old woman. She comes from a large family, and there's a huge incidence of depression among the women - I'm amazed and hugely grateful that I seem to have escaped it so far.

My dad has told me that throughout their marriage (they were divorced about 20 years ago), there would sometimes appear to be "false dawns" when a treatment, or exercise, or a change in diet or whatever, would temporarily appear to have brought huge improvements in her condition - but it never lasted for long. When I was a child, weeks would go by sometimes without me seeing her - she was just shut up in her room - and noone told me why.

She is brilliant with my DC, in fact children are the only people she really feels comfortable with, and she's amazing with them. In fact, she's so socially anxious, even with me, that her ideal scenario is for her to come to the house and I disappear to do some work, so she can have all the time with the kids and only interact minimally with me. The idea of the two of us just going out for a coffee and a chat would strike absolute terror into her, and the whole thing would be so awkward that it would just be an ordeal for her.

Despite it all, she fights relentlessly to remain optimistic, at least to me - she believes in not burdening your children with your own problems etc, though I have encouraged her to open up a bit more to me in recent years. The only thing I can think of now is to get her on a waiting list for more CBT - she recently moved city and it will take her months, and a gargantuan effort, to arrange this with a GP, and it'll be bloody ages before she gets to the top of the list - 2 years or something, I think.

Thanks for reading, sorry for the length, and I just wondered if anyone could see a way out of this?

Was going to namechange as I know one or two of you IRL, but ah, feck it.

madmouse Thu 01-Sep-11 16:39:10

I'm curious as to what happens in your mum's family to make the women suffer like this. Because to me your post screams 'something happened in her childhood'. But that is just me and I am no expert. Maybe this is the time for psychotherapy rather than more CBT.

DorothyGherkins Thu 01-Sep-11 16:40:36

Ah this sounds just like my mum. The depression just seemed to be a part of who she was, and she would never take steps to change things. All three of us children would try and help her in ways that we thought might assist, but she just wanted to carry on in her own sweet way. I think if she doesnt want to change things, or she feels she cant change them - she wont! Just go on loving her - thats all you can do! My mum died five years ago, I still miss her, but was never felt I was able to help her as much as I wanted to.

ScarlettCrossbones Thu 01-Sep-11 16:57:55

Dorothy, it's good to know I'm not alone. Sorry your mum's not with you any more. Your last sentence rings so true - I feel that she keeps me at arm's length when it comes to her depression, and frustrates any attempts I make to help her by playing it all down and glossing over things. Do you mind me asking, did her death have anything to do with her condition? I sometimes wish I had siblings like you do - am an only child - as I feel so completely responsible for her happiness sometimes. I know that's a stupid way to think, of course.

madmouse, their childhood wasn't especially lovely, no. A lot is kept under wraps so I still don't know the whole story, but while I don't think there was physical abuse, I believe there it was verbal, with a lot of pressure to excel academically etc.

madmouse Thu 01-Sep-11 17:11:20

I wonder (speaking from my own experience) whether your mother is afraid that if she lets you close she does not measure up to your expectations and isn't good enough.

ScarlettCrossbones Thu 01-Sep-11 21:46:07

Thanks, madmouse. I don't think she thinks that - I think she does have insight into her condition and is very aware that depression is a physical ailment, hence her constant quest for possible vitamins/supplements that might help. I genuinely think that apart from the fact she was often not there for me because she was ill, she was a very good mother, one of the best i.e. her philosophy/methods of parenting were spot on. And I think she knows that I appreciate that because I have told her how great she is with my kids - that she has patience where I would be irritable etc - and that I consider my children to be her "property" (for want of a better word) as well as mine. But we've never really discussed it, of course, nor would she want to sad.

DorothyGherkins Sat 03-Sep-11 13:37:14

Sorry, been busy for a day or two...........Her death anything to do with her condition?....yes and no! She was taken into hospital in the June, and they never diagnosed what had happened, mini stroke maybe - but her heart was strong, and nothing else drastically wrong. She seemed to have every medical test under the sun, but all came back negative. She went into a nursing home, where she just seemed to give up on everything, she took to her bed, and refused to get up, walk anywhere (although she was capable) ate hardly anything, and died in the November, cause of death pneumonia. Aged 82. I just felt she had no interest in life. Over the years I invited her to come and stay with us (lived 200 miles away) she always declined, tried to get her to take part in local social events, not interested, tried to get people to call to her house, reflexologists, manicurists, gardners -anything so she could have a bit of human contact on a regular basis. Social workers were always sent away with a flea in their ear for interfering, nobody could help in anyway. You can offer the help, but you cant make anyone accept it. My Mum too would sweep things under the carpet rather than talk about them, - she always referred to my fathers death as "my spot of trouble" - you d never guess she was talking about the death of her life partner, if you didnt know what she was talking about! I think all you can do, is offer the love and support, but if its not accepted, then there is nothing else you can do. Oh - there is one thing you can do! Learn from it and for your family's sake, dont repeat the pattern! I m not a naturally outgoing person, I m quite happy to be a loner, but I force myself to go out and do things with other people, connect with them, and have a laugh, and hope I never become a burden on my children in the same way my mother was. We all were willing to do so much for her, yet it was all refused. It just seemed an awful waste of a life.

kizzie Mon 05-Sep-11 16:21:35

Hi - sorry I dont have anything particularly useful to say but just wanted to add that your love and care for your mum really shines through. Also her own bravery. to still really fight to be optimistic after so many years of illness shows real strength.

I am someone who developed depression as an adult (initially as PND) and had it confirmed via various drs, psychiatrists and counsellors as being 'simply' biochemical/hormonal. There is nothing in my life past or present to have triggered it. However this doesnt mean that it cant be helped with the right medication and / or therapies like CBT if this is the case with your mum too.

Her relationship with your kids sounds lovely.

ScarlettCrossbones Tue 06-Sep-11 14:54:02

Oh, Dorothy, that is so sad. As you say, you just can't make people accept the help if they don't want it. I think my mother does want the help, but everything just takes her such a painfully long time to get around to that I always feel I'm trying to restart heavy wheels that have ground to a stop. And she won't let me intervene and get things moving a bit faster. She's never rude, but always cheerfully dismisses any offers of help and insists she can do things herself.

Just now, for example, she has come into a little bit of money which she plans to use to buy a computer - I think being online could help her immensely in quite a few ways, and she's actually thrilled at the prospect - but although I've offered to help her buy one and she's accepted, she keeps postponing coming round to do this as she's not feeling well enough. And if the kids are around, then the computer search will have to be put on hold, as she will just concentrate on them. And she won't come round when it's only me at home - so it's a vicious circle, really! This has been going on for months now. It's the same with just about everything she does, and it's very frustrating - she moved house not long ago and it took her almost a year to clear out her old flat and actually move - and she refused all offers of help, of course. But I do know that it's all down to her illness, and how ridiculously complicated she finds every little thing. I feel awful for her.

Thanks, kizzie. She does know that I love her, but we're also both a bit emotionally repressed, I suppose - no gushy big gestures of love or anything. Yes, she's great with the kids. She could spend an hour with one of them talking about a snail in the garden or something(!) grin I hope you've managed to live with your depression/overcome it? What did you find helped you the most?

kizzie Thu 08-Sep-11 14:59:08

Hi Scarlett - I definately wouldnt say that Ive 'overcome' it - more learnt to live with (sort of smile)

I suppose the most important thing for me has been actually accepting it. On the face of it I'm not your obvious depression candidate (which is rubbish of course because it can affect anyone.) Quite confident, successful career, chatty, nice life etc etc.

So i just denied it to myself and everyone else for years, and fought against it.

Now I try to accept it like any other illness.

Other things:

- i take a low dose AD - doesnt reduce blips completely but for the time being seem to be managaing ok (altho accept that i might need to review this)

- get PLENTY of rest. Tiredness definately has a negative impact on me. I work long hours during the week so try and rest at the weekend.

- I take a fish oil supplement

- I keep a journal when things difficult - seems to help to write it down. And I also do CBT type exercises in there to reduce anxiety.

- Try and eat a decent diet.

So nothing major... but added together they seem to help.

Hope your mum gets her computer!

NanaNina Sat 10-Sep-11 17:50:36

Another sufferer of anx/dep here Scarlett (Hi Kizzie!) Not feeling too good at the moment so hope I haven't got things mixed up. Does your mom live near you? Are you an only child and if not are your siblings able to make a connection with your mom. Feel so so sorry for you and your mum, but after so many years I honestly think you have to accept that this is how your mum is coping with her mental health difficulties.

It sounds from what you say that this dep/anxiety is chronic and somehow your mum has carved out a way of living (which does seem that she is unhappy and unfulfilled) but on the other hand it is a way of getting through and it may be right for her. It sounds like her anxiety is sky high as she can't talk to you on the phone or see you when she comes round. Can you just accept this and let her have time with the children on her own which is what she can cope with - and she knows herself better than anyone else.

Hope she gets the computer because that could open up a whole new world to her - you say she is sometimes able to write things down, so she could e mail you, FB or whatever (even MN!) She is a sensitive woman, as she doesn't want to burden you with how she is feeling. I am 67 years old and the last thing I want is to burden my grown up kids either, and I panic at the thought of them seeing me when I am in bad state. I am fortunate enough to have a DP who is caring and supportive and some good women friends.

Does you mum have any friends/neighbours/relatives with whom she can interact if she is feeling up to it. To be honest I can't see that CBT is going to help - you said that she had already tried it. If you feel it worthwhile, there are lots of books on CBT and dep/anx on Amazon.

I think it is you that is going to have to accept that this is the way your mum copes with her life - it might not sound like "coping" but we all cope in different ways, and as this way of life has been going on for so long I think it is unrealistic to think she will change - I think we get more like we are as we get older. Please don't think I'm being unsympathetic but just trying to be a realist.

ScarlettCrossbones Sun 11-Sep-11 23:46:10

Nana and kizzie, thanks so much for your replies. Nana, I don't feel you're being unsympathetic at all - I feared/suspected that this was the case with my mum and she's just never going to be well and happy like other people. What a waste of a life, being blighted by depression like this. sad Though maybe she doesn't see it like that? I hope not. She has still been very influential to me in a number of ways (mainly parenting). In answer to your questions, I'm an only child, so noone else to sound off to (!), and she doesn't have any friends sad. She does live in the same city as me, but doesn't drive so it's a bit of a hike (waiting for two buses etc) for her to get over. As for me/the DC going to her house - well, we do occasionally, but she tends to close off many options from that point of view - she doesn't "do" evenings - goes to bed and gets up ridiculously early, and it's been that way for years; she won't even entertain the thought of weekends, as she insists this must be family time for me, DP and the DC ... all ways of avoiding contact, I'm sure. And with DC at school and nursery it's virtually impossible to find a midweek option, so I need to wait for her to psych herself up to come to me - which can take weeks and weeks.

But yes, I'm happy to just let her have lots of time with the children as I know that's what she wants. Adults are just too scary for her, even me.

"Open up a whole new world" - those were my words exactly on the computer front! It's just getting her to get round to getting one ... I can honestly see it being into next year now, before the purchase is finally made.

Thanks again - I know I'm not the one with the problem but it is a bit of a relief to me to write this all down.

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