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Bastard fucking depression is robbing my mum of her life

(16 Posts)
itssuchaperfectday Thu 07-Apr-16 10:39:24

I am at a loss as to what to do. Her life is utterly paralysed - she has only seen the DC (her only grandchildren) 4 times in two and a half years. And she only lives 5 miles from me. I know she is desperate to see them. I can't bring them to see her as nobody is allowed in her house. She will only communicate by text and now, it seems, she is reduced to telling me by text that 'she will text later'.

I don't know her precise diagnosis as she is very closed and private and won't talk about depression or any ADs she might be on, only 'treatment' and 'medicine'. I think there is definitely anxiety/social anxiety in there as well, and maybe agoraphobia, I don't know. She seems constantly to be starting a 'new treatment' and changing doctors all the time, but says she won't go into detail as it's 'too embarrassing'. I have stressed that she shouldn't be embarrassed by mental illness and she claims not to be, but says that.

I don't think she interacts with anyone, ever, I'm guessing not even cashiers in supermarkets now that she can buy her food at self-service checkouts. She has no life, her world is getting smaller and smaller and I really doubt she has been past her immediate few streets (other than the couple of times by taxi to my house) for several years now. I really don't think there is much I can do and I'm just getting this off my chest, but if anyone does have any thoughts, I'd be very happy to hear them.

NanaNina Thu 07-Apr-16 17:10:38

That sounds astounding - your mother is a recluse isn't she. If she was well and happy that would be a choice that she made, but from what you say it sounds incredibly emotionally unhealthy. I suffer from depression and anxiety and do sometimes just want to stay under the duvet on bad days. I used to be a very outgoing person with a wide circle of friends but my life has shrunk, but nothing like to the extent of your poor mother.

When you say "no one is allowed in her house" - does that mean anyone. What if you turned up without the children. Is she a hoarder maybe and is ashamed of the state of her house. Can you not insist that she lets you in - surely it would be difficult for her to close the door on you. What age is your mother?

When did all this start - and how long is it since she was able to function. Sorry I'm asking Qs I'm just trying to get a picture. Have you considered that she isn't suffering from any specific mental illness - but agrophobia as you've mentioned. I say this because of her refusal to discuss anything and changing doctors, which isn't that easy to do.

It doesn't seem safe to me for someone to be so cut off and I know you agree. I'm really sorry I don't have any bright ideas. Maybe others will.

itssuchaperfectday Thu 07-Apr-16 17:56:52

Thanks so much, NanaNina.

It doesn't seem safe to me for someone to be so cut off

Yes, this is exactly how I feel, as she gets older, though I've not quite been able to express this to her properly yet - not sure how to word it. She's almost 70 and I just don't know what is going to happen, going forward. Yes, she certainly was a hoarder in her old house (mainly newspapers, I think) and it's probable that she is again - she moved to this house 6 years ago and at first things were better, she kept it tidy and had visitors (well, me, DC, and her sisters), but things have been slipping back downhill for years. I think she thought moving house (+ city) to where we are would be the solution to all her problems, and finding herself here, with just the same old mental illness as always, is probably just adding insult to injury for her. She's always been ill, really, with bright spots here and there - but for pretty much all of my childhood she stayed in her room for weeks at a time.

I couldn't 'insist' to be allowed into her house, I'm afraid - on what grounds? She'd feel intruded upon and inspected - see it as a violation. If I turned up at the door, what I think would happen is that she would talk to me perfectly politely, assuring me things were fine but the place was just a bit untidy just now, perhaps – either through the letterbox or through a 3-inch crack in the door. Or she could get angry. I'm not going to risk it, it would just make things worse.

Thanks for your reply - I also don't have any bright ideas but it's still good just to write it all down sad

NanaNina Fri 08-Apr-16 21:35:24

Hmm - it doesn't sound like there's any way you are going to get into the house, and I reckon that's because of the hoarding. I've seen those programs on TV (you might have done too) and often there is just no room for 2 people to walk through a hall - it beggars belief but I think it's part of OCD, with one side of the illness being fixated on cleanliness/tidiness and the other side living in squalor.

Your poor mother has suffered for much of her life from what you say and you must have been affected as a child - is your dad alive and if so are you in contact. You mention your mom's sisters - do you have any sisters/brothers - can anyone else help as you seem to be so alone with this worry.

When I mentioned "insisting" about going in, I didn't mean in a confrontational way, more sort of edging your way in, a hug and chatting so that she was distracted from the fact that you were actually in the house. Not sure if that makes sense.

At the end of it all, there is nothing you can do, your mother is an adult and can make her own decisions. Could you write (rather than text) telling her you miss her and worry about her etc and would love to see her, even if it was a very short visit, or you could pick her up so she could see the children and go to a coffee shop. I dunno maybe that's not helpful, but I can't think of anything else. Sorry.

itssuchaperfectday Sat 09-Apr-16 15:21:40

Thank you again, NanaNina. My parents divorced 20-odd years ago, dad remarried, and I'm an only child so there's not really anyone else to offload to, hence coming on here! My DP's sympathy is limited, unfortunately, and I try and avoid talking about her to him these days.

What frustrates me is the way she plays it all down as if there's not really that much wrong. Maybe she thinks that herself, I don't know. The other week, after she'd tried and failed yet again to come and see the kids, citing a cold or a temperature or something, I said that I was worried she was ill so often and for so long. She replied that it was 'nothing serious, just a nuisance', which really galled me tbh, and I texted back (all this by text! I end up with thumb strain!) that I couldn't describe something which prevents her from seeing the kids month after month as 'nothing serious'. I said it kindly and gently - wasn't sarcastic or anything, was just trying to make her see what a deep hole she is in. But she replied asking me not to make things worse by saying things like that, and she feels guilty enough as it is without me 'rubbing it in'. What the hell am I supposed to say to something like that?!?

Thanks for trying to help, I think there really isn't much I can do but get it all out here! I might write a letter as you suggest,, but when I did that a couple of years ago I found out from one of her sisters that it took her something like 6 weeks to get up the courage to actually open my letter - fearing (with absolutely no foundation!) that I was going to say something like 'I've had enough of you, I can't cope with this any more, don't contact me again!'. sad Which I would never even come close to doing - I never communicate like that.

itssuchaperfectday Sat 09-Apr-16 16:56:07

Oh also, just wanted to add, you said:

your mother is a recluse isn't she and
your mother is an adult and can make her own decisions

You and I would see it like that, but I'm pretty sure she would say absolutely everything is down to her illness, and she has no 'choice' in anything. Personally I think it's partly illness and partly personality, but she wouldn't see it like that. Don't think it would help in any way to point it out, really. sad

itssuchaperfectday Mon 18-Apr-16 11:22:02

She's saying again that she's 'hoping' to come and see us soon. She always uses the word 'hope', which makes it seem that she has absolutely no control over anything at all. But she does get out of the house to buy food, though ... I honestly don't want to sound unsympathetic but I'm wondering if if might be a self-fulfilling prophecy for her to always speak like this, to give herself a get-out clause? I wonder what would happen if she started saying 'I'm going to come over next Thursday at 1pm.'

Do you think I should gently suggest that it might be worth trying this? I'm worried she will dig her heels in and get worse if I do. But we're at a complete impasse. I have no idea how/when we might see her again sad

sadie9 Mon 18-Apr-16 13:55:25

It seems like any communication seems like 'pressure' to her now. Staying away from everything and everyone seems to be the strategy.
Does she send you and your kids cards or presents through the post? Just wondering if she chooses to do certain things and has she maintained those things over the years?

itssuchaperfectday Mon 18-Apr-16 14:40:09

She sends cards at birthdays, Easter etc. She wouldn't post presents as she likes to hand them over personally (which I totally understand) - but of course, she hasn't done this for a long time as she never comes. The Christmas before last she said she was getting the kids gift vouchers this time so they could get what they want ... later she texted 'I'll text you later about the kids' gift tokens', putting things off, and off again, and nothing ever came of it, or appeared through the letterbox. This Christmas past she asked which books the kids would like (which I thought sounded hopeful in terms of a visit!) - she took a couple of recommendations from me and later told me she'd got 'Stick Man' for DS2 ... but again, she hasn't been to see us so they don't have any of them. It's not the presents themselves I'm bothered about, of course - we'd rather see her - and the kids don't know. But she can't even bring herself to come out with that kind of motivation (to drop off their Christmas presents). sad

sadie9 Mon 18-Apr-16 15:43:14

What can look like a choice to someone outside, often doesn't feel like a choice to the person experiencing it. It feels like 'I can't'.
We all have 'a choice' to get up in the morning. Our arms and legs work and we could make them work. But to a very depressed person for example it would feel like 'I can't' get up. Similarly anxiety makes stuff feel like that too.
I am only hazarding a guess at this. Think the way it works is, the more she thinks about you guys - the feelings of love are too much for her. So managing those feelings result in the avoidant behaviour. For people like your mother, its a feelings management problem. So good feelings as well as bad feelings have to be managed...before...she can do anything. What they don't notice is, their behaviour in trying to manage their feelings actually takes them further and further from the people they care about. And that actually makes things worst rather than better.
She probably spends nearly all day thinking about her family and those she loves, yet this churning of the thoughts results in her being paralysed by feelings. The more she feels she loves you the more, she is afraid you'll reject her. And then those those of rejection bring another blast of emotions, and then suddenly it's evening time and another day without making contact.
Could it be sort of acute anxiety she has rather than depression. So talking therapies would help that as well as anti anxiety medications can dampen it down. She may have other issues that she has hidden from people, like paranoid thoughts or some forms of OCD.
I guess its about trying to maintain a relationship with her, while accepting her just as she is, and not needing her to be any other way other than how she is right now. Not wanting to 'fix' her. It's tough for family members to do that - I know.
All you can do is reassure her that you (and your DC) love and accept her no matter if she comes and visits or not. And that you realise she struggles. And that you struggle too sometimes. And that no one can help they way the feel. And that seeing her with your own eyes once in a while is very reassuring for you, because sometimes you worry about her being ok. And that you don't need anything from her other than to know that she is somewhat content and happy at the moment. ...She possibly is thinking all the time -'what they need from me, I cannot give them because I am not good enough or I am just too damn frightened they will discover I am not up to the job of being a good mother and grandmother'.
That type of thing if you get the gist- only not all in the one text!
You could try agreeing to meet her at the shop ( " I could meet you at 5pm but I have to go at ten past 5" ...that might work...maybe not.), and put a time limit on it so she knows she can escape. Because being overwhelmed by feelings and having no escape is undoable for her I would imagine...it's a tricky one.

itssuchaperfectday Mon 18-Apr-16 17:51:00

Sadie thank you for your wise insight, it's really spot on, and I know I need to try and remember that what might seem like a choice to me might not be to her. I'm pretty sure you're absolutely right that she spends all day thinking about us sad. She has said sometimes that she 'imagined' us doing something or other at some point, or where we might be on a trip, or whatever. It has felt in the past that she lives vicariously through me and it's suffocating at times - when she is in my house I feel like every little move I make is constantly observed.

I once met her during a quick 30-min lunch from my work, so I think I will try that again, and see if she will meet just me - with an escape route, you're right.

Quook Mon 18-Apr-16 18:38:17

What a sad situation. I think trying to meet for a very quick coffee sounds like avoid plan. It might be the hubbub of your family house might be too much for her. Do you know that she is unhappy? Her life may be very restricted and 'boring' but maybe she gets some happiness here and there. Does she have a pet or enjoy the TV or crosswords or reading or whatever? I know it doesn't help with you not seeing her but it might make you feel a little better if you think she isn't desperately unhappy.
She is only 70 and could be around for a long time. How is her health otherwise?
You sound very caring given the difficult circumstances. thanks

Quook Mon 18-Apr-16 19:12:49

Oops typo, sounds like a plan. NOT avoid plan hmmconfusedblush

itssuchaperfectday Tue 19-Apr-16 07:22:14

Thanks, Quook. Yes, she is very unhappy not being able to see us. And she will often say, if I mention a place we've been/are going 'I hope to go there one day'. But she's never been anywhere. A few years ago she planned, with a little bit of money she got after my grandma died, to go to Greece to see ancient stuff (what she's really interested in!) on a Guardian holiday or a guided tour like that. I was thrilled for her at the prospect and I think she got as far as getting her passport, but then it all went quiet and I'm not allowed to mention it now.

Her health is generally ok otherwise, though as I think she goes long periods not getting out of the house other than for food, she's very un-exercised. She has always seemed older than she is and now moves about like an old woman, as though she just expects to be one. sad

itssuchaperfectday Mon 23-May-16 12:58:05

Well, I wanted to update as my mum finally managed to come and see us the other day. She seemed in good spirits, which was great, and it was a lovely surprise for the kids. And she brought their Christmas presents!

However, for the first time I've noticed, she smelled pretty strongly of urine. I know that people with depression find it hard to look after themselves at times, but she has always been meticulous with hygiene (despite being a chronic hoarder, kitchen and bathroom stuff has always been disinfected with Zoflora to the nth degree) so this really worries me. I am quite sure that the first day she has seen us in months and months, she would have showered and washed her hair. So why the smell? I remember a couple of years ago she was telling me her washing machine had broken down, and was talking about getting a new one from Argos ... I am actually starting to think, knowing my mother, that she might STILL be without one and has been washing her clothes by hand for the last couple of years ... sad How to broach the subject, though?? She is not even 70 yet and I really didn't think anything like this would be an issue for a long time yet sad

NanaNina Mon 23-May-16 13:35:21

Ah so glad your mom finally got around to visiting you. Apart from the smell of urine, how did she seem? It sounds like the urines is maybe stress incontinence and she isn't wearing pads. I had it quite badly but had a minor op that sorted it but I still wear a thin pad. Could you broach the subject with your mom (tricky I know) and suggest she gets some pads - you can get them from the supermarket. There is usually an incontinence service but I had to have god knows how many appointment before I could have the op.

I'm 72 but I had stress incontinence in my mid 60s so it's quite possible that's what your mom has. In terms of the "I hope" - I always say that too because I never know how I am going to be from day to day. It's a sort of let out if I'm having a crap day and can't cope with going out because the depression is bad.

Sorry I've just noticed you said she seemed in good spirits which is great. Maybe she will visit again now she's done it once.

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