Can someone please help me understand my Mother (and stop being angry with her)...?(27 Posts)
I am afraid this post is liable to be a bit garbled and ranty, also very one-sided as I can only give my side of the story obviiuosly... anyway.
I am the fed-up to the back teeth daughter of a woman who has suffered from depression most of her life. I have in the past been relatively accepting of her as she is and helped her when I could (apart from an angry phase in my teens which was pretty standard 'I hate my parents as they don't understand me' etc.), They have been several overdoses in her past and she is still prone to huge mood swings. But she is not currently on medication.
Today we had one of our regular annoying conversations which has left me wondering why I bother with her at all when she is so bizarrely self-centred - but I wonder if I am being harsh and intolerant (in my old age - 35 next week - sob!).
So yesterday she was telling me how she was missing my children (she lives hundreds of miles away) and though she is glad to be where she is she misses the day to day contact she had when she lived closer. #
She is due to visit in August but I rang today to suggest she come over for a couple of days at the end of June. To see the kids as the last time she visited was April.
She demurred and said that she wanted to wait till Aug and was sorry she had said anything and that it 'waas compplicated' she can't express what it is that is preventing her from visiting (her nobody understands me speech).
I was riled by her attitude - as if I couldn't possibly understand what was going on in her head, I have only known her 35 years ffs! During most of which she has been telling me how she feels about just about everything as she has no friends or confidentes - as a child/ teen I always knew more than I wanted too about Mum's feelings.
I am worried that my attitude towards her is hardening to such an extent that I will stop being able to see her or talk to her at all one day and I don't want that to happen. BUT I also have to work out how to tell her this without freaking her out to such an extent that it brings about a crisis - Someone as selfcentred as my mum tends to spend hours analysing a slightly off hand greeting friom an aqauintence and turns it into concrete evidence that that person hates her. So I have trouble communicating even the slightest disatisfaction to her.
It has been theraputic writing this down - a medal is deserved by anyone who actually reads it. Thank you
my typing is particularly awful today, apologies.
having a tricky relationship with my own mum I understand how difficult this is to deal with. It sounds like the roles have ben reversed-you have been a "parental child" ie. you meet her emotional needs. She looks to you to nurture her. If you are anything like me, having children of your own throws your own deficient childhod into sharp focus.
I don't have any answers. am struggling with similar issues myself! Have you thought of seeking some outside professional perspective on this?
Thank you for replying Chip - I have wondered about counselling but have never done anything about it. Partly I think ue to my counsellor relationship with my Mother - I am used to being the adviser/ listener, the thought of moaning on to someone else doesn't appeal.
Although I do offload onto my sister who lives in the same town as my mum so looks out for her in my stead (she is my half sister so mum is her step mum - but they have a good relationship - well defined without mother/ daughter baggage).
Have you considered counselling or something similar chipkid? I think you are absolutely right that being a mother myself is bringing these feelings to the fore. I am also annoyed that she isn't grabbing any opportunity to see her 'cherished' grandchildren - for me actions speak louder than words, but I perhaps shouldn't be so black and white about this.
bigmouth- sounds v similar to my relationship with my mum. she now also lives 100's of miles away 'as her family have no time for her'
Despite the fact that we are all fully functioning adults with kids & relationships who call/see her regularly she harps on constantly about how she runied our lives by getting divorced and that we all hate her. And love my dad to bits, obv.
I love her loads and call every day- not out of duty but because I want to!
Still,when she comes to stay... it always feels like I'm walking on eggshells. Any chance remark is interpreted as a criticism of her. hard work. I can only sympathise.
Yes Glitter that does sound familiar - I sympathise.
Although for Mum she doesn't moan to me so much just constantly witter on about nothing (muffins mainly) then apologise and point out how she lives alone and has no one to talk to - yet resolutely refuses to do anything that might result in friendship or constitute having 'a life'... gah
Oh and this:
During most of which she has been telling me how she feels about just about everything as she has no friends or confidentes - as a child/ teen I always knew more than I wanted too about Mum's feelings.
exactly like my mum! Err... have you nicked my mum?!
Oh... I know your pain bigmouth. I wish I could help. The best moment in my life was when mum remarried. She needs to be in a relationship to be happy and it was like a HUGE weight was lifted from my shoulders- that I didnt have to look after her anymore.
I dread them splitting up!
I am glad your mum has got a partner Glitter that must help. Mum was widowed 17 years ago and has yet to make any effort to find a new relationship - I wold like to think she would one day but I doubt it.
BMSA. I want to write a really long post back but my bath is running!
But yes, I too have a depressed selfish mother who doesn't want to see her grandchild (and her doing this has made me realise precisely how neglected I was as a child).
I second everyone who says counselling; it is moaning on, but it also helps you see the patterns in your relationship and move on from them - plus the unalloyed joy of an outsider saying, no, that is crap, isn't it. Made me feel a whole heap better just for that.
But also, you need to some degree to harden to her; it's the only way you can live your own life. Otherwise you keep on carrying all her emotionl. One of the things that counselling helped me to realise was that I wasn't responsible for her and couldn't fix her. (And I've never told my mother about my feelings; there's no point, she couldn't cope).
I nagged mum go through adverts in local paper and ring them up. Through those she went on a few dates and met the man who is now her husband.
However, I know thats not an option for everyone- at that time I was living with her so could be there to nag/encourage her every second while she did it. Wouldnt be an option now I have my own family.
For years I was her person to lean on- still makes me feel slightly sick to think of it- the responsibility.
Do you think she senses (being an over-sensitive person) your feelings and so dosent want to come? Hence the refusal?
Thank you Von sud - I am about to go into a long hot bath and with wine - (now I have had my whine)... hope you enjoy yours - Thank you for all your replies It helps to feel I am not alone.
God bless you bigmouth, all I can say is that it sounds like you handle her bloody brilliantly and don't sound at all ranty to me, just willing and patient.
All i can add is a lesson that has been pretty much burned into my retina, her happiness is not your responsibility. Just take what she can give interms of visits etc and expect nothing. When my Dad gets in a sharing sort of mood I head him off at the pass with vague comforting murmery noises and veer him off to safer territory. I believe that however great you are as a child of, and however needy your parent is, there are jusr some things you shouldn't have to hear. Listening, for me, means being equally involved. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I get the impression you do enough without also acting as her therapist. She is lucky to have you.
That is so kind of you Trebuchet - thank you.
I feel nicely mellowed after my soak. Reflecting on today I think much of my irritation is due to my Fil situation. He has retired today and has the threat of cancer in his Kidney hanging over him(he has already been treated for Bladder cancer). My dh is so worried and fil is spending lots of time with the dc, my mother knows all this yet in our last two conversations has not even asked after him.
It just brings home to me how precious the time we have with our family is, and how self-centered my mother is.
bigmouth - I had many anger issues with my mum, many of them probably quite trivial in comparison with yours, but I felt she was the most self-absorbed human who couldn't relate to anything outside her sphere of experience and had a downer on anything that she didn't understand. And yet she did lots for us and for other people so I felt bad being so angry with her all the time. (she had self-esteem issues)
I did some training in NLP (neurolinguistic programming) and in there was a technique called "emptying the anger tank". It involved free-writing (i.e. don't think about grammar or proper English, just let it spill onto the page straight from your emotional brain) a letter to her, detailing the things that made me angry. Then I beat seven bells out of a pillow to release the anger that I had stirred up, and then I burnt the letter.
It was amazingly cathartic and I felt much more at ease with Mum after that - able to talk to her rationally and without instantly going off the deep end again.
You cannot change your mother, only how you react to her - and I found this was hugely beneficial in that respect.
bigmouth-yes I am considering counselling but have not done anything about it yet. I do think an outlet for my anger may be good for me and help me to put my childhood into perspective.
You have to remember that depression is a clinical illness, and nobody chooses to feel that way. But it flicks a chemical switch in your head that makes you do things like: over analyse trivial situations, internalise every little thing, fail to see the world beyond your own little bubble (often interpreted as selfishness), focus too much on the little things... etc etc.
Please don't confuse depression with selfishness. I know it is very hard to understand if you have never experienced it, but depression is something that can take over your head and you are powerless to control it, because you are at the mercy of your brain chemistry and if that goes wrong, it can really cause havoc in there.
Is your mum on medication? She might benefit from a short course to reset the balance.
For you, my advice is to try not to dwell on the 'selfishness' - just remember that it is a symptom that she can't control. Ignore it when it arises, and concentrate on the good things instead. Be the positive influence in the situation, and don't let her mood drag you down. Instead, you try to drag the balance back up. Be sunny, focus on the positive, and maybe you and your mum will both feel better, instead of spiralling down into arguements all the time. When she does visit, do what you can to lift her mood - get her out for walks in the sunshine (if we get any), fresh air and exercise will help her, and getting out and about is the best way to break through that bubble and remind her that there is a world out there that is bigger than anything she is worrying about in her own head. That is the single most helpful thing that helps me when I feel like this. Outside, fresh air, looking up at the sky and remembering that there are good things in life.
She can't help how she feels. You can't just snap out of depression any more than you can snap out of a migraine. If you retrain your own brain to see it for what it is - an illness - maybe you will find it easier to deal with instead of taking it personally.
I understand it is not easy - I have suffered my own bouts of depression and also lived with a severely depressed parent with many of the same episodes as you. But the worst thing you can do it take it personally, because no good will come of that.
GoodWitchGlinda - - you make it sound so bloody simple. I have spent the last 20 years with a depressed mother. You can't MAKE them get help. You can't MAKE them take their medication. Some people just don't want to be helped.
You can't ignore your own mother throwing things at you, telling you that you are a bad mother (!) and calling you a bitch. As much as you KNOW it's a symptom, you can't live with it or just ignore it.
I have not seen my mum for weeks, I was having regular contact for a year but I couldn't carry on. I have a child to care for. I may be selfish but I have to live.
Fiar enough, LPP - agree that there are some things you obviously can't ignore. What I meant was for you to try to distance yourself from it, emotionally. Of course it isn't simple, I know that, but it is the best I personally can offer. I'm sorry if it is not helpful to you.
All I was trying to say was, when those things happen, and you walk (or run!) out of there, after you have left the building, try to remember that it is not personal, it is chemical. I know it is hard. I had one of my parents calling me the most disgusting, hurtful things, throwing me out, then denying it was ever said 10 minutes later, telling me i was worthless, stealing money from me, putting my whole family at risk... And I tried everything from begging to screaming, but nothing worked.
After a long time, I realised the only thing I could do was distance myself from it emotionally, and now we get on a lot better.
I'm not saying it will happen over night, and while my advice might seem simplistic, it is really the best I can offer on an internet forum! But I just wanted to offer something that has - over the years - helped me to at least stay sane in the first few years, and then to forge a better relationship in the latter few years.
The thing is, what you said was very logical, and probably right, but I can't seem to detatch myself, emotionally, enough for it to be possible. So, I don't see her at all. When she chooses to get help, I will be there. It's very hard. This is the first time I've talked to anyone, other than my brother, who has had a similar experience.
bigmouthstrikesagain and Littlepurpleprincess - my mother has been depressed for decades too, sometimes coping, sometimes breaking down completely. She's just recovering from another bout and will probably be out of hospital soon. I do know that GoodWitchGlinda has a point - I've been hearing the same sort of thing for 30 years. However it seems to me that if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, you might as well treat it as a duck. No, an ill person can't help her selfishness, but I don't think it helps to say she isn't selfish! During the early stages of her most recent illness my mum complained bitterly about a friend who wasn't sympathetic enough, who didn't understand what mum was going through. The friend's husband had died unexpectedly at work, from a heart attack, not long before, but mum was too selfcentred to think that that was any reason not to put mum first!
I have a lot of resentment of my mum's illnesses. It doesn't stop me caring about her and trying to do my best to help, but I'm not going to be ashamed of it either.
Thank you glinda, I do need to hear what you are saying though it made me laugh as I have spent so long trying to excentuate the positive with my mother, other the years. It is exhausting being relentlessly cheerful and detached!
But I do end up sounding like a joyce grenfell on acid sometimes and mum starts complaining about being patronized! You know what you should do but sometimes I really just want to vent my spleen at her.
I totally get the duck arguement! I really do. Maybe that is the first step in detatching yourself.
But in the long run, I suppose you have to decide what sort of relationship you would like to aim at having with them: do you want to completely separate from them for the rest of their days, or do you want to try to forge something of a relationship that you can work with?
Neither are easy to do, and I do understand people who take the first road. But if you want to take the second one, I think one way to try is to inject a bit of compassion into the relationship yes, I said compassion and I know that might be a hard concept when it is so raw for you at the moment.
I will make an analogy - it might not work for everyone, and I may get backlash, but I promise you it is intended to help: if your mother had another illness that affected her brain, her relationships, her ability to control her anger and her mouth - for example dementia, where people lose all tact and get very angry and aggressive - would you treat her like the duck then? Or would you find it somewhere within you to remember that the plant pot flying past your head is a symptom and not her fault/nothing personal?
I know it is a hard concept and not for everyone, but they are essentially the same thing - neither the depressive or the person with dementia chooses to feel the way they do, and both probably feel horrible remorse afterwards on some level, which doesn't help becuase then they will think you hate them for it, and add that to a hefty dose of paranoia that comes with these brain conditions, and you will get an even more angry and frustrated person to deal with.
I think in a way it is a (little) bit like giving up smoking (bear with me on this one): you can have everyone in the world tell you what you should be doing, why you should be doing it, reason with you about how stupid it is, show you diseased lungs, the whole 9 yards, but unless you find within yourself the state of mind that you need to mentally and emotionally deal with it and make the decision and committment to do it, none of those things will work.
So I hope you won't take offence at anything I've said, and maybe it will help or maybe it won't, but I know what you're all going through and I hope you manage to find a solution that works for you
Glinda everything you day is probably true - I often tell dh the same sort of thing whenever he criticises mum.
I think the problem for those around a depressive personality is that much of the time you feel that your efforts are not only unappreciated but also pointless as, in my mothers case she has not taken thesteps to heal herself. And I am left wondering whether toughlove is the answer afterall. She has been on mess for a short period but did not like living in a chemical haze - she needs lots of support and councelling that is expensive and difficult to get.
She has to want to change and I think she has found her comfort zone and is stuck in her little rut, without the will to get better.
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