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What is wrong with my mum?(22 Posts)
I have suspected for a long time that my mum has mental health problems but I feel like I need to know what's wrong with her. She would say nothing is wrong and be extremely offended. Does ANY of this sound familiar to anyone?
Most of the time she is great - we get on well and are pretty close. We can talk on the phone for up to 2 hours at a time and she is very understanding and kind. She's pretty generous both to me and my kids and she spends a lot of time looking after my niece as my sister has a complicated situation and is extremely good to her - does a lot of school runs, does homework and has lots of sleepovers and all sorts. She is a good listener, helpful, a bit overbearing with advice but just a normal mum.
But - there's another side to her. From time to time she gets these incredibly low moods that seem to last for days or even a week or two. I can tell exactly what mood she's in from the second she answers the phone. She sends me messages saying awful things or tells me them in floods of tears if I'm unlucky enough to phone during this time. She'll take things I've told her in confidence and twist them and throw them in my face (even saying the opposite to something she's said before i.e. at the time she'll have said she sympathises and then when she throws it in my face she'll say totally the opposite). She says she wishes she was dead and that she's at breaking point and is incredibly overdramatic with her tone saying things like 'Why does nobody understand that I'm a human being?' or 'Everything about my life is terrible, I'm a failure in every respect and I wish I was dead'. When I was a child she used to get really really angry at times - nothing particularly violent bar the odd push/smack here and there that was more normal for my generation. She also often used to get upset with things to the point of sobbing in a scary way for a child. I've heard her be absolutely awful to my niece when in a temper (worst was when they were having a row about niece not wanting to get in the bath and I heard her growl 'Maybe I should just drown you in the bath, you little bitch' - to a 6 year old. I also once heard her tell niece she'd call the social worker to get her taken into care (a real possibility in the past and niece knows it). I confronted her and she denied that's what she'd said and then said it was said in anger so she couldn't remember, and I've told my sis and she is just useless due to her own personal issues). I've also heard her being endlessly patient with niece in similar circumstances and talk at length about niece's anxieties about getting taken into care and what she's doing to help stabilise things for her, so I don't get it.
Even when in her normal frame of mind, she gets very hung up on drama and always seems to be fighting with someone. It'll be the contractor who did her floor and is trying to rip her off or some woman on the school run who is 'always rude to her' or the teacher at school or something. She always has a fight on the go. She is comfortably off (owns own nice home outright, has a small personal income from an investment) but will often say that she thinks she is 'the unluckiest person in the world'. She has had bad luck in the past including multiple health problems. She is single since a divorce 20 years ago. Everything in the world seems to revolve around her. She talks about how her friend's son getting married is rubbish because now her friend will have a lovely happy family time and what does she have - nothing but misery. If I tell her some news I know she'll instantly be thinking about how it reflects on her or what it means in terms of her.
I'm sorry for the long post I just don't really know what's wrong with her (if anything?) after another evening where a casual text to her (same as the ones we've been swapping for days) suddenly got a really nasty, vitriolic response. I'm tired of feeling like I'm on eggshells, not knowing if she's fine or if shes feeling suicidal, or if she's happy and cracking on with things or hating her life and all around her. I've really distanced myself from her (geographically) and I know she feels sad and hopes one day I'll move back but I know that after seeing her with my niece at times I couldn't let her look after my kids and it would cause more upset.
Sorry it's so long. Maybe I just needed to write it.
I'm sorry, I have no advice but I'm bumping, hoping that someone will be along soon who can give you advice.
When you phone her and you know that she's in that state of mind, can you cut the conversation off? "Dd/ds has just been sick/put the cat in the washing machine/washing machine has flooded/spilt juice" and make a quick exit off the phone?
Menopause? Bad finances? Breast cancer? Thyroid issues? Being in her fifties and realising she's the next generation "to go"? Bad anger management?
It could be anything, really.
Sounds like she could have borderline personality disorder. I have a close relative with that and the bad behaviour sounds very familiar. The constant "I am not well" "I might just have to set the house on fire" she can be nice for a while but too much stress and she flips out with insults and sometimes screaming and shouting.
Maybe try Understanding the Borderline Mother by Lawson Christine Ann or stop walking in eggshells by Randi kreger
Narcissistic personality disorder
Unresolved anger fuelled by a chronic depression.
She's the other side of the menopause, finances are ok, had breast cancer 20 years ago but now ok. Not sure about thyroid but she's had loads of blood tests so surely would have been picked up. She's nearly 70 but has been this way for a long time (though definitely worse now). Anger management issues for sures. I can also be hot tempered but I don't lose control or say awful things.
Thank you for the replies. I do try to cut off the miserable conversations as quickly as I can, but it gets very quickly into bad territory that it's hard to hang up on.
Me: Hi, how's things?
Her: Pretty hellish, but then my life is one long round of fucking misery so what else should I expect?
Me: Oh no... what's happened/what's wrong etc
Would be hard to then say 'Oh dear the cat's been sick, let me call you back in a few days!'
But I'm so grateful to you both for replying, I really am. I feel crap tonight.
Does she drink?
Is she depressed?
Your poor niece. It can't be much fun for her living with this.
Maybe try Understanding the Borderline Mother by Lawson Christine Ann or stop walking in eggshells by Randi kreger
Oh my god, you know it literally never occurred to me that there might be books I could read. I'm genuinely excited about the idea of reading something that might help me make sense of it all. Thank you!
She never drinks. I wonder about depression but if so she is very high functioning as she is always dressed, out and about, jobs get done, house looks great, dogs walked and so on. I also am not sure about the depression thing because I actually think she has a certain measure of control over it. I've noticed that she can be crying, screaming etc and then a friend pops round and suddenly Mrs Perfect Neighbour will come out, so she can turn it on and off.
I do feel bad for my niece - even though like I say a lot of the time my mum is a fantastic and massively admirable surrogate to her. A lot of the time she is a very caring and incredibly supportive person in my niece's life. I can't have my niece myself as I live far and although her time with her mum is sporadic she has court ordered contact with her father and a number of other relatives.
Sorry. Just realised your niece doesn't actually live with her but it sounds like DN is cared for by 2 women with a lot of issues between them.
Could you perhaps suggest when she is telling you how miserable her life is, that she visit her GP with a view to getting something to lift her mood? E.g.. antidepressants, referral to someone for some talking therapy etc.
You do realise as well OP, that after you have had a gloomy phone conversation with her, she puts the phone down and feels much better while you hang up and feel rubbish!
She's dumping all her mental anguish on to you.
You can't change her but you can change how you respond to her and how you let it affect you with the aid of reading materials.
This is my mother you are talking about!
Exactly the same, one minute fine, the next irrational. Self centered. Argumentative. My mother has no friends. My DC and sisters DC have a love/hate relationship with her because she is unpredictable. Also has what I would describe as manic episodes.
I feel your pain OP. Feel free to PM me
At first I thought she might be bipolar but that would just account for the high and low moods.
Narcissists make everything about them and twist things. What was she like when you were kids? Why did your parents split up? Is she ok with you seeing your father?
Bpd is classic for high and low moods. The crux of it is a lack of emotional regulation so extreme and inappropriate anger one minute, depression the next. They flip about like that rather than longer cycle like manic depressives do. They are usually extremely self centred.
Bpdfamily.com has a lot of free info and a message board for family of bpd. I think you'll find some eerily similar descriptions of other people's mothers on there.
I remember my bpd relative telling me bitterly how a family friend was so lucky as they were getting certain benefits because she had cancer and her husband had died. "What do I have?" "Nothing". This was when she was in her 40s and both her and her husband worked.
Also I have a friend with bi polar and its quite distinct from bpd although there are similarities. My relative flies into rages I would say rather than the days long manic episodes that my bi polar friend has.
I don't mean to demonise bpd but it is a very hard thing to deal with as a family member. As that is my experience that's where my sympathies lie but it must be hard to be the person with bpd too. My relative is 70 and although she has mellowed a bit she still has rages and can be really nasty and is pretty self centred. E.g I told her I was getting divorced (she thought we were getting on great) and she said. "Right, well I don't know if your sister said, but I've not been well" and started talking about herself again".
I also think BPD sounds like the closest fit.
What’s her insight like? Is she aware there’s a problem with her behaviour or just blame others?
I have a friend exactly like this OP. It's VERY hard. My friend suffers from depression, so might be worth considering that your mum might be depressed and if it's been the case for a long time, without treatment, then it's getting harder for her to manage her emotions.
*You do realise as well OP, that after you have had a gloomy phone conversation with her, she puts the phone down and feels much better while you hang up and feel rubbish!
She's dumping all her mental anguish on to you*
THIS - please be aware of this.
I SO understand the need to distance yourself. It does become unbearable. But I also know it's hard because she's your mum and you love her
The website Out of the Fog has a lot of information about borderline personality disorder OutOfTheFogBPD
Also the switching thing you mention sounds uncannily like my bpd relative. One minute she will be screaming abuse at her children or grandchildren then the phone will ring and she will become a completely different person all polite and calm. I can't believe she doesn't have some control over it but I do accept that unstable emotions cause people to act like this. They can control their response in some situations though so why not others.
Main therapy for bpd is dialectical behaviour therapy - a lot of this is working on controlling emotions and response to them. Most bpd sufferers don't get any treatment though as they often tend to lack insight. My relative thinks there's nothing wrong with her and everyone else had the problem. They made her do whatever it was she did and she couldn't be expected to do anything else.
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