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I don't know how to help my DM(39 Posts)
She is severely depressed and with her anxiety through the roof. I'm having to guess at this, though, as she hasn't spoken to me since October after a small dispute and will only communicate by text. In my opinion, she's attributing all her 'pain and agony' to our disagreement, whereas I believe it was just the catalyst for this bout of depression. But I really don't know for sure and I can't talk to her to find out. I just don't know what the next step is. She is seeing noone and is in complete hibernation, and I imagine she's living on lots of processed foods and possibly putting on a lot of weight too. I want to do more to help, but she has given sarcastic replies to texts asking how she is. She is SO angry with me. She hasn't seen the DC (her only GC) for 4 months now - normally she would see them every 4-6 weeks. To be honest, I want to text and ask "Are you suicidal?" but I'm guessing this would not be a good idea? She has been hospitalised with depression in the past.
The second thing I want to ask here is, further down the line when (hopefully) she does recover, how much 'slack' I should give her in terms of talking about her problems? She has always brushed everything under the carpet and put on a cheerful appearance, trying not to burden others with her problems but, for example, there have been many occasions in the past when I have genuinely wondered if she was still alive, if I was unable to get hold of her for days. She's not the type of person you can just 'drop in on' - she didn't allow me in her last flat for 11 years ... but sometimes when I'm feeling exasperated with her (for which I then feel guilty! ), I think 'why shouldn't I tell her this? Or mention all the things that she wants to do in her life that she's called off at the last moment - things I could easily help her with but she refuses to let me.
There's a lot more background to this but I'd be really grateful for any opinions. I've never been depressed myself and just don't know what to do for the best.
I am not sure that you should currently ask whether she is suicidal. But that is only my opinion.
Does she talk to anyone else, relatives, friends or neighbours?
Thanks - she has sisters but has not seen them either and refuses to discuss the situation with them. She has no friends or anyone else.
I sort of guessed that from your post tbh.
Would she read a letter if you sent it?
From my limited experience, people like this do read letters. Over and over in fact.
Thanks again, Honey. Yes, I have sent a letter, about 3 weeks ago now, and have heard nothing. Am wondering how long I should leave it. Everything takes her so long to do that it could be many weeks more. I can honestly see it turning into a year before she sees the DC again. There maybe is truly nothing I can do about this. I am worried though, that by seeing absolutely noone she's just working herself into a blacker and blacker hole every day ... I just know that if anything did happen to her, I would wish I had done more.
I think that I would write her another letter. Perhaps try making it light hearted and chatty? I dont think that it would do any harm.
I could do, Honey, thanks. It's just that her communications with me have been sarcastic and veering towards the venomous over the last few months - there's stuff she's said that's outrageous and unjust towards me - and I feel it would seem a bit patronising and glossing-over-stuff if I suddenly just wrote to her about what the kids were doing in school ... I do know it's all part of her illness though (and I did send her a bunch of new photos of the DC with the letter I wrote her).
I'm sorry, I know that most other people won't really have any answers either, it's a difficult situation, and I'm not meaning to dismiss your suggestion at all - I'm really grateful to you for replying.
I think it depends on what you want from her as to how you proceed.
Yes ... well firstly of course I just want her to get well. After that, there are so many things I want to ask her, but that I don't really think I'm entitled to know the answer to (but that I'm pretty sure most mothers would discuss with their daughters!). Such as:
why have you and so many of your sisters (she has loads!) struggled most of your lives with various different types of mental health problems? What went on in your childhood to cause all this?
Why won't you ever let me help you with things that would improve your life, such as getting internet access (she's had a computer for 2 years but it's never been opened as she can't face getting someone in to get her online. I could sort it all out for her in a couple of hours).
Why do you pretend so much? One of the things I find galling is, if she occasionally came to my house to look after the DC if I had to go out, she would see me out of my house by saying (rolling her eyes in mock exasperation) "Oh, one of these days/months we'll maybe actually get to have a proper chat!" as if our lives were just oh-so-busy that we couldn't possibly sit down for one ... when I know that if I said "Ok, that would be great, how about we go for coffee this Saturday morning at 10.30?" she would panic, backtrack, make excuses, tell me that my weekends were for me to spend with my family only, pretty much ... and probably seethe internally at me for even bringing it up!
I'm sorry, I'm rambling now. I know she's ill but there's so much I still feel resentful for, I'm sorry.
But I know she's not obliged to answer any of these, is she?
She may well not know the answer to any of these, iyswim. Her pretending may be for her own benefit as much as for yours. She may not realise that the root of her current problems is in her childhood - she's holding you responsible for them, so clearly she's not ready to face up to the real causes.
Have you had any therapy or support? She sounds very difficult. Has she always been this way?
I've not had therapy, no. I did once see a counsellor about her, again to try and ask what I could do to help, and she just basically said to tell her that i love her. Maybe she was right and that's all I can do.
You're right, I think the pretending is very much for her own benefit, to make everything seem totally fine and normal. As when she backs out of things at the last minute (e.g., we were going to take her on a day out last summer to visit her sister, and I got a text at 8.30 that morning saying she had something like 'a sicky tummy' - this happens so often and I know the physical ailments, if they exist, are merely a reflection of her mental anxiety, and that she was actually too scared to come on the day out with us). I just don't know if it's helpful to her condition to delude herself like that, or if I should try and get her to be more honest with herself.
She's always been like this, yes. When I lived at home she would withdraw into her room for literally weeks at a time, and I wouldn't see her - she would get up super-early (4am or something, so there was no danger of encountering me or my DF) to get food, or just do it when I was at school. I don't think she ever went out.
I don't think there's a straight-forward way to get people to be more honest with themselves. Getting people to be more honest with themselves is a lot of the point of therapy, and, to achieve that, the therapist does a lot of listening and going 'hmm' and only rarely saying anything. And then, of course, the therapist is dealing with someone who actually wants to change.
It doesn't sound as if your mother wants to change.
I don't think you can help her. Her problems are caused by things that happened a very long time ago, and that have nothing to do with you.
Oh, actually, if you have reason to fear she may be suicidal, it might make sense to talk to her GP or whatever other mental health support she has.
It sounds as if you are quite together about all this, and thinking about it clearly - so presumably she hasn't carried on the cycle of whatever happened to her, in her childhood.
I too happen to think, sadly, that you will maybe never get all the answers that you are looking for and wanting.
I do think however that it is a good idea to keep the lines of communication open with another chatty letter.
You may hear from her, you may not.
Thanks both, your input's really appreciated.
Cockney, I have no idea who her GP is, unfortunately, or whether she's under the care of a mental health team. She would think it impertinent/nosey of me to ask her that kind of stuff. Though I do wonder what's going to happen when she is much older, say in her 80s ... things just can't go on like this, it just won't be safe for her to be out of contact if she's frail or physically unwell. (i'm an only child, if I didn't mention that before)
I can't see her baring her soul to a therapist across the room from her, but I could envisage her doing something like that anonymously, over the internet (I know there are sites with, say CBT professionals at the other end of emails who will guide you through treatment, anonymously if you like). Which is part of the reason I think it would be so great for her to get internet access. But we're just stuck at an impasse.
Another eg is, (sorry to ramble on but it seems to be all coming out!!) when my DC were really small, she used to bring round a disposable camera and take pics of them, which were invariably really crappy quality/half the prints had to be discarded. So I bought her a digital camera for Xmas maybe 5 or 6 years ago. (Iasked her first and she was thrilled at the idea). Then my aunt suggested the two of them go on a digital camera basics course, which was free and at a community centre literally 30 seconds walk from her house. It couldn't have been made much easier for her, and in the leadup she was thrilled, but of course the day of the first class she pulled out with some sudden ailment, saying she would join in with the one the following week. But of course she never did. My aunt still went and was sending me lovely arty camera pics after a few weeks; that camera of my mum's, as far as I know, has NEVER seen the light of day. My guess is that she feels she can't start using it 'properly' until she's done the damn course, though I'm sure she knows realistically that you just point and press a button. It's so frustrating, but at the same time, she's the one who's ill and I don't feel I can be angry at her, really. I know she would love me to supply her with pics of the kids, but tbh choosing some to go on a usb stick, taking it to Asda, getting prints, paying for them, finding the right size envelope, taking it to the PO for the correct postage - all of which I have occasionally done - is really pretty galling when with all the other members of the family I can just whack some pics in an email/on FB/share my Flickr page. Maybe it sounds as though I'm lacking in empathy, though ...
You're right, Cockney, she was a good mother when she was around - never used threats, bribes, punishments, and I don't live up to that with my own DC, I get irritable and impatient at times .
Surely she didn't get irritable and impatient because she was hiding in her room? Please don't feel bad, it sounds like you're doing your level best.
Presumably other people (your father?) were doing the bulk of the parenting?
Actually, I've thought of a service that might be v useful for you - I know Saneline is available for relatives who are concerned about someone's mental health. They have trained people who can talk to you about the situation and talk you through your options. (look here) I think Mind also have a similar service. I know they are very busy and it may take a few calls to get an answer, but either might help.
You could, conceivably, call Social Services on her. I don't know that you would want to, but if suicide is likely, it might be a good idea.
Oh, and Saneline could also be an option for her. Does she recognise that she has a mental health issue? Or does she just see it as how she is?
Oh, thank you, Cockney, that link is great! I will definitely get in touch with them! And I'll keep social services in mind - clearly it would be a last resort, but I feel I need to be armed with stuff. She does recognise that she has anxiety, yes, and I have urged her to see her GP but have no idea if she actually has.
You're right, it was just me and my dad a lot of the time when I was younger. Can't fault him at all, he was great, took me loads of places and educated me. He's remarried to my fab stepmum.
You and Honey have both been great on this thread - thank you again.
No problem - it sounds like a really tricky problem. I think it's easy to fall into thinking of our parents are our responsibility, but I'm not sure it's as simple as that. I hope you find a solution that works for you.
I have heard the saneline is massively over-busy so you may need to ring a lot of times. A friend who volunteered there was a lovely person, though, so I do hope they are pleasant and useful, when you get through to them.
I really do feel that her happiness is my responsibility, Cockney, though I know intellectually that that thinking is wrong. I feel I can never move away from the city we both live in, for example, as it would be 'taking' her GC away from her (she has v little money and doesn't drive). She would be utterly bereft if me and her DGC lived even, say, 30 miles away. She once fled my house in despair when I told her of the possibility that we might be moving to a new estate 15 miles outside the city (so it would have involved more bus trips, etc for her). It really does feel like quite a burden sometimes. She failed her driving test a couple of times in the 70s and I often wonder if that was her "Sliding Doors" moment IYKWIM ... how differently her life might have turned out if she'd had the independence and confidence of being a driver. But I might be barking up the wrong tree. Something else would undoubtedly have dragged her down. My DF told me that during my childhood there were 'false dawns' every so often, when it seemed like some new treatment or therapy was helping her enormously (e.g. transcendental meditation), but things would always slip back to the way they were.
Her happiness is not your responsibilty. Admittedly, moving away may not be the way to go.
But she has made, and is making choices in her life.
I learnt a while ago, that there is a limit to what we can do for other people. To a certain extent, no matter what the outcome.
You are not a badly behaved daughter btw. Just fed up, which is perfectly understandable.
Is she likely to be with the local GP?
How often does she contact you by text?
For god sake, I have just heard from my aunt that she has been too scared to open my letter yet! I sent it on the 20th January. What the hell am I supposed to do now??
I suppose she could be with a GP close to her, yes, Honey, that would be the most likely. What could they do, though? They couldn't 'summon' her in for an appt, could they?
She hasn't contacted me by text since I sent the letter (I warned her it was on the way as it contained a small photobook of the DC and I could just see her not opening the door to the postman, if it didn't fit through the letter box, then having to trudge miles to the sorting office to pick it up.). The last series of texts she sent me was 4 really long ones, going into minute detail about the original incident that caused our dispute. At the end of it she said "No replies for several days at least.", telling me I was not allowed to contact her.
Was the 20 Jan letter nice?
If it was, you could send the next one and put on the envelope in small writing at the back, that it is nice, no judgements, and the last one is nice too and nothing to worry about.
Her long detailed texts do probably help her. So you could look at it that you are helping her. [Though they dont do much for you].
A gp could send a letter and try and get her for some trumped up reason.
They do do that sometimes.
She had asked me to clarify a few things about the original incident, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to do this by letter, rather than text. So it was a calm, detailed, polite and reasonable explanation of why I felt the way I felt about what happened (which to cut a long story short was about a meetup that didn't happen as she texted 10 mins before she was due to be picked up, saying she was at a different location. We didn't get the text, the meetup went pear-shaped, and I said I felt it wasn't helpful that she'd changed the details at such late notice, assumed a text would be received, and that it was better to call. I only brought it up the next day, after being pressed slightly - I was debating whether to bring it up with her at all. Me telling her that (in polite, measured terms) she interpreted as "attacks".)
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