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Can't cope with Mum

(15 Posts)
chasingtail Wed 17-Aug-11 17:07:02

I know I sound really selfish (can't beleive I'm actually starting this thread!) but am getting more and more worn out by my Mum and would appreciate your thoughts.

I love my Mum dearly but actually don't like her very much (there I've said it!) and am finding my relationship with her increasingly difficult.

My parents divorced over 20 years ago and she has remained single since (something I believe she resents although she would never admit it). About 5 years ago she retired and moved to be be nearer me and my family but has since made very little effort to make new friends or settle in. She made a half hearted attempt at joining the local church and book club, but has not made any real friends. Everything I suggest seems to go in one ear and out the other and as a result I am sure she is lonely.

This is not helped by a catelogue of health problems, most of which are obesity related, yet she fails to acknowledge. She even had a gastric band fitted last year which I hoped would be the catalyst in her becomong healthier and happier but she has managed to sabotage the band by various means and as such she has lost no weight at all (I don't think she realised that it would also require some effort on her part). I cannot talk to her about it as she just denies there is any problem. She is currently at a size, which coupled with osteo-arthritis means she can only walk a short distance and which then of course, becomes a vicious circle.

Additinally because she does not have much social interaction with other people she has become very dogmatic and rigid in her views - she told me she hated someone in our family the other day, although she barely knows him! REcently at a family function she was constantly interrupting conversations and making really inapproapriate comments about other peoples financial situation (I wished the ground could have swallowed me up!). There is no interest in other peoples lives as she is so self-absorbed. If I tell her something important it will go straight over head and then I'll get a phone call the next day when it has finally sunk in. She then wonders why people don't want to get too close to her.

My brother lives 200 miles away (and rarely visits as he also finds her difficult), therefore I am currently the sole focus of her life and shoulder responsibility for her well being. Don't get me wrong she is a fantastic grandma to my children and extremely generous but is stuck in the 'poor me' rut and believes that it is everyone else that should be helping her. I am exhausted by her 'passive aggressive/victim' personality and tbh now spend as little time as possible with her one to one (which of course I then feel guilty about!) She cannot see that it is only her that can turn her life around and I am at a loss as to how to help.

If anyone has any advice I owuld be grateful and just to be clear I do love my Mum very much and would be devasted if I didn't have her.

buzzsore Wed 17-Aug-11 18:43:28

I don't think you sound selfish. I think it's natural to feel frustrated by someone who sabotages herself and can't seem to move forward. It is down to her to change things round for herself.

Does she suffer depression at all? If she does and it's going untreated, then perhaps you could steer her towards some help for that, but otherwise there's not a lot else you can do. Apart from learn not to feel guilty grin - you're doing your best - but supporting someone like that does drain you, and that's wholly understandable.

chasingtail Wed 17-Aug-11 19:17:54

thanks Buzzsore. Yes she has suffered from episodes of depression for many years - I don't think she is on medication at the moment (would probably clash will the the pharmacy of drugs she's already on!). I should really summon the energy to ask about that but would need to steel myself for several hours of tears and monologues about her 'awful' childhood/marriage!

God, I sound so bitter, but really just worn out/down by it all. So evnvious of those daughters who can enjoy coffee, shopping trips, trivial girly things together with their mums!

DontGoCurly Wed 17-Aug-11 20:18:10

It sounds like she is deliberately allowing her health to decline in order that others will 'take care of her'.

Dependant Personality Disorder

FabbyChic Wed 17-Aug-11 20:44:33

It sounds like she has lost her social skills that does happen when you have no interaction with people. She needs help with her weight or it is going to kill her.

Not sure what to suggest it is a shame that you have to shoulder the burden though.

chasingtail Wed 17-Aug-11 21:02:36

DontGocurly, I think you're right. A week after she has the band fitted I spotted her eating chocolate cake at my niece's christening!! After picking myself up off the floor I nearly slapped her - to have put herself through all the risks of surgery and not even a second thought about what she was eating. When I challenged her (obviously after the event) she said it was the only thing she could keep down! I could have wept!

At the party she then proceeded to very indiscreetly criticise my sister in laws family (to my brother!!) and then moaned that she always felt exlcued at family gatherings!!


carve133 Wed 17-Aug-11 21:02:59

I could have written a post quite similar to yours a while back, and it turns out my Mum has frontotemporal dementia. I don't mean at all to be suggesting this is what is happening with your mum. It may well be that she is lonely and that her background of mental health issues is not helping with this change in her life. But your post struck a cord, especially the apathy, social withdrawal, excessive appetite and inappropriate comments, and also your feelings towards her. Peak age of onset for FTD is 55-65 - how old is your mum? People with frontotemporal dementia have absolutely no insight so are not likely to seek out an assessment of their situation.

I know how hard it is to be patient with someone who is so frustrating to be with, but could you perhaps express some concern with how she is feeling and suggest she visit her GP, perhaps going with her for moral support? Whatever may be the root of this, a GP visit could be helpful in identifying potential avenues of help, and she may let you go along if you suggest it softly softly and avoid her feeling you're nagging in any way (easier said than done though I know - take some deep breaths).

Apologies if this post is unhelpful. Diagnosis by MN is a dangerous game, but I wish I'd thought of this possibility earlier with my Mum. Whatever is going on, best of luck with supporting her. Make sure you have a supportive ear yourself.

chasingtail Wed 17-Aug-11 21:03:16

ps many thanks for the link to DPD - will have a good read!

chasingtail Wed 17-Aug-11 21:32:13

carve133 - thank you. Mum is 65 and has definately got worse over the last 5 - 10 years. I originally put it down to retiring and moving away but it could possibly be more than that.

I think that whatever is going on in the first instance I need to take the bull by the horns and try to have an honest talk with her. I need to find a way to express my concerns without making her feel victimised or resentful (not so easy) and then see where that takes us.

DontGoCurly Wed 17-Aug-11 21:33:28

No problem Op. I hope you can get some support soon!

carve133 Wed 17-Aug-11 22:05:05

Yes, I originally put things with my Mum (66) down to us leaving home, and she also had a history of depression and drank very heavily which clouded the picture a lot (I think this was the FTD more than alcoholism, although probably a bit of both). I think it could have started with my Mum up to 10 years ago, although can't be sure. The onset is very slow and insidious. If you read up perhaps here and other sites you can access by googling, you can see if it feels at all relevant for your mum. Have you asked other family members if they feel she has changed? We find our own parents so embarrassing, so if they also feel her behaviour at the family functions was inappropriate this could help your perspective. This was a clincher for me.

I think if you do talk to her, it may help you to ask her whether she has any concerns herself first, and if she does, to stick to these as a way in to see the GP with you there (even if you don't feel they are the most relevant ones). If she doesn't have any concerns, you could perhaps gently notice that she seems lonely and low in mood. I definitely wouldn't mention any issues with her behaviour, as this could lead her to be more defensive and then to refuse to allow you to help her any further. You need to focus on getting her to the GP, rather than on her getting to admit what you think is the matter. Once you have met the GP and know who they are, you can always speak to them at a later date with your concerns. It is not a breach of confidentiality for a GP to listen to you (it only is if they divulge any information about the patient).

She may well say she feels absolutely fine, and might well be resistant to any help, which will make it tricky. In this case, you may have to just wait a while, hang in there and try again after a few months.

I really hope this suggestion doesn't lead you up a blind alley or end up being unhelpful. Best of luck with speaking to her.

NanaNina Wed 17-Aug-11 23:06:45

Chasingtail - you could be describing my dil's mother to a large extent. I'll call her Barbara. She is 67 (same age as me) and has agrophobia, so will only go out if accompanied by someone else, and then makes a big production out of feeling panicky etc. When I first knew my dil (over 20 years ago) I used to think she was being very unfair to her mother and was astounded by her lack of patience, but 20 years on I see it all.

Barbara is a victim - and plays a game called "poor me" almost all of the time. She also has dozens of so called health problems, but never actually seems to be ill. Victims look for rescuers, and if the person they want to rescue them fails to do so, then the victim turns persecutor. Barbara has 2 daughters and a son and she drives them all round the bend, but I know that if anything was really wrong, they would be there for her.

Barbara is so emotionally needy that the hole she has can never be filled, and she refuses to believe that anyone thinks well of her. I can see why though because most people cannot cope for very long in her company because she is utterly self absorbed and complaining of how dreadful life is for her etc etc. I try hard to befriend her because I think her quality of life is so poor and do feel for her, but she drives me round the bend too!

Very recently she phoned me and asked if I would be honest and tell her why her family don't like her, because she is a very caring person, and would do anything for them (which isn't true). I was stuck for words and burbled about the fact that her daughter (my dil) and Barbara had always had a troubled relationship, but dil did care about her (which I'm not sure is true). Mind she wasn't really interested in my response as she was too busy talking about herself and how she doesn't sleep, and her bad foot etc etc etc.

I think that we are all responsible for ourselves and A cannot change B's behaviour, but A can change their behaviour towards B. if that makes any se sense. Sorry if I sound hard hearted and I hope you and your mum can reach a better understanding of each other, but if your mum wants to stay in the victim position (and this may not be conscious) then that's where she will stay. But I wish you both well.

chasingtail Thu 18-Aug-11 09:07:18

Thank you all so much for sharing your experiences and advice. I've have kept all this to myself for so long that it feels like a weight has been lifted just doing this. Ironically all the while I've been biting my tongue I have been having awful dreams where I am confronting her and shouting at her...... Freud would have had a field day!!!!

Nana Nina, you hit the nail on the head with 'most people cannot cope for very long in her company because she is utterly self absorbed and complaining of how dreadful life is for her etc etc.'
Watching my Mum at the party last weekend, all she wanted to do was talk about herself/illnesses; when other people talked about their lives she just glazed over, ignored what they said and then changed the subject either back to herself or to a completely random topic! Within an hour everyone had given up and drifted away (and this is her own brothers and sisters!!) so she was sat on her own - at which point I then went at sat with her, feeling desperately sad for her.

My husband has no time or respect for her now and coupled with my brother remaining so distant, I have just lived with the situation. However I now realise that action is needed (if nothing else just to distance myself from the situation).

Carve133 - thank you so much. I will get the children back to school and then set by a day where I gently start the process to get her to the GP. Fortunately we share the same GP, so hopefully that might make things a little easier. I never before considered there might be a true mental health issue, I just thought she was becoming more and more self absorbed and anti-social. I feel encouraged that it may possibly be more fundamental and at the very least I will try and engage the support of my brother and husband.

tb Thu 18-Aug-11 09:49:02

Hi chasing,

I was just wondering how much follow-up you mum has had after her gastric band operation. When I've read about it, it seems to be the case that full pyschological assessment before is needed, as is apparently follow-up afterwards.

Has this happened? Perhaps that might be another avenue to follow up - if she's not had the professional support that is required, then she will have had difficulty in losing the weight. From what I've read, it's needed as there is such a social/emotional element to eating especially regarding family occasions such as parties/weddings etc.

FWIW, my late Mil had loads of health problems - agoraphobia, claustrophobia etc etc, and I can remembering my df saying, not nastily, that she appeared to 'enjoy ill-health'. He didn't mean it unkindly, and all her health problems were what kept her going as long as she did.

As you share the same GP, why not ring your GP and voice your concerns about her health in general? Then they could write and 'invite' her in for a check-up, ostensibly to do with her gastric band. I'm only suggesting this as an alternative strategy if you don't manage to persuade her to go.

Good Luck

carve133 Fri 19-Aug-11 22:59:17

That's good that you share the same GP chasing, and also that your Mum is quite health/illness focused, as you should be able to get her there. If there is something more fundamental it could take a while to uncover, but getting her through the door and getting your concerns heard by a professional is the first step. Sounds like good advice from tb re: the gastric band follow up. Also glad to hear you have a brother. I value my sibling more than ever these days!

Best of luck.

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