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How to Handle My Mother's Mental Health?

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EnglishAccent

New member
Joined
Aug 2, 2019
Messages
2
Location
California
Hi All,

I hope I am posting to the right forum. If not, I apologize in advance - I did not see any forums that really aligned well with this post. I also appreciate anyone who has any thoughts or advice. I've struggled with this for years, and it just keeps getting more difficult. But I also accept that probably there is no advice - and I just thank you for taking the time to read it.

My mother suffers from severe depression and I believe bipolar disorder. The latter is not an official diagnoses, just my belief - I’ve asked her many times to talk to someone she refuses to get help. Things got worse 7 years ago as a result of alcoholism, and MUCH worse over the past 4 when my father was put into a home and her cat of 16 years passed away a few months apart. She is also physically disabled and on a low fixed income.

In 2014, when things first reached a boiling point, she moved in with me and my then-wife. It wasn't a workable situation - within a year it had irreparably harmed my marriage and made us all miserable. So I emptied my savings towards buying an RV for my parents (together at the time) to move into and travel.

Over the ensuing years she pushed away all family and most friends. None will talk to her anymore. As a result, she consistently tells me I am all she has left, and the only reason she has to live.

She also cannot handle being alone, and needs constant attention. She calls at least 3 times on a good day, maybe 10 on a bad one. The calls usually average 30 to 90 minutes each. During them, it's rare that I am able to speak for more than a minute or two. The calls are generally extremely negative, almost entirely covering her physical ailments, loneliness and questions of what she has to live for.

While I try hard to understand her struggles, having the same conversation multiple times per day, 7 days a week for years has taken its toll on me. On only two occasions did I avoid the calls: on both occasions, she took falls that led to multiple surgeries. I do not believe the falls were intentional - but the repercussions of not being attentive were made clear nonetheless.

As a result, I've felt like I need to always be available. But of course, it's not really possible to do things like have friends, date, or even go out alone knowing that you could be pulled away at any time, and not really be able to explain why. So in the end, I've isolated myself from my own friends, and withdrew from all social activities, staying home as much as possible.

Also, in the beginning, her emotions would overwhelm me. It led to lengthy bouts of anxiety, stress, depression and made me a very negative person. As part of the withdrawal process, I worked to numb my own emotions as much as I could. I got to where I mostly felt nothing, good or bad. Even so, when the stray emotion did get through, it would usually be negative or anxious.

But recently, some things changed. While traveling for work, I went out with a new group of people and had fun. It was unexpected or honestly I may have avoided it. But it happened - and it was the first time I could remember really smiling in months, or maybe much longer than that. I hadn’t felt depressed in the intervening time - just numb. Though I often do wonder if there is a difference.

Since that trip, it's been a losing battle with getting myself numb enough again to be able to handle things. I've felt this powerful urge to start seeing old friends and making new ones, dating, traveling, just generally getting out. Without the numbness, it's so much harder to just be at home waiting.

And to be fully honest, it wasn't all about "that trip" per se - I’d been feeling overwhelmed for months, probably much longer, like I couldn't hold things together, and I knew they were crumbling, but I was fighting it. That trip just broke the dam.

The real problem is I don't know how to do both, support her and also be around people. Besides the time component, the calls affect me too deeply - I'm not able to be good company for at least several hours after receiving one. Yet I tried, when I came back, to just take fewer calls. And within days of that, she had hurt herself again.

I still feel like my duty is to support her. There is nobody else, and her problems are real - both the mental and the physical. And I'm not so sure that even if she acquiesced, she could get or I could afford the level of help she needs.

But I also feel like trying to carry it alone is crushing me, and it's hard to imagine so many more years the way the past 5 have been. Like I cannot be her "only reason to live" - but no matter what I try, I cannot give her one that she'll accept as "another reason to live."
 
G

gam9147

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 18, 2019
Messages
369
Location
Delaware, USA
I imagine you've already thought of it this and there is some issue with it, but just to state the obvious, you should try to get help for your mom. Is she on any medications? Does she have a therapist? Your health and mental well being is important too. I can't imagine being in a situation like you are in, that is so very difficult and I feel for you!!

At very least perhaps you can work on some small solutions, like arranging times where you will call her, or she will call you instead of it just being purely at random when she thinks she needs you. This maybe good for her and you, and force her to wait for your attention (not days just specific periods during the day at first).
 
H

HauntedWitch

Guest
Hi All,
As a result, I've felt like I need to always be available.
I still feel like my duty is to support her. There is nobody else, and her problems are real - both the mental and the physical. And I'm not so sure that even if she acquiesced, she could get or I could afford the level of help she needs.

But I also feel like trying to carry it alone is crushing me, and it's hard to imagine so many more years the way the past 5 have been./QUOTE]

Is it possible to get someone to check in on her for you? Sometimes there are community services (check town and state listings online) which are available to older and disabled people. Volunteers do things like picking up prescriptions, driving people to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and just talking. It sounds as if your mom (and you!) could use that kind of help.
 
E

EnglishAccent

New member
Joined
Aug 2, 2019
Messages
2
Location
California
I want to thank each of you for taking the time to read my posting, and for providing suggestions. I think the simple act of writing that post has helped me quite a bit - it is a story I cannot tell to anyone I know.

To @gam9147: she is prescribed antidepressents, but their effectiveness is limited and she often fails to take them. I have spoken with her many times about seeing a therapist, but she isn't willing to do so, so the prescription is through her GP.

I have tried "setting acceptable times to call." When she is doing well, she usually respects it for a week or two. It is a hard conversation to have, restarting the process of "acceptable times" and I haven't felt up to that one for a while. But it's a very good reminder you've provided, that I need to continue to have that conversation. Thinking on it, it is probably those breaks that have helped me keep it together through the past few years, and perhaps it's the fact that I haven't had a break in a while that is making the current time so difficult. So I thank you for the advice!

To @HauntedWitch I also appreciate the advice! I have looked in the past for caretakers, after her falls, and not found any in our smallish city. But it never occurred to me to look into volunteer services, and I definitely plan to do so.

Thank you all again for taking the time to read and reply - that act alone has made a difference for me!
 
midnightphoenix

midnightphoenix

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 9, 2012
Messages
11,306
Location
Tigger and Willow's house UK
She does need to get therapy :hug: you can only do so much for her, your mental health is important as well :hug:

have you tried not answering the phone to her every time? so she learns that you cannot always be available? :hug:
 
H

HauntedWitch

Guest
To @HauntedWitch I also appreciate the advice! I have looked in the past for caretakers, after her falls, and not found any in our smallish city. But it never occurred to me to look into volunteer services, and I definitely plan to do so.
It is something I think about also, as my parents are elderly and have recently had serious health problems. A couple of weeks ago, I received a postcard in the mail from a volunteer organization called Seniors Helping Seniors. I believe you can look them up online and see if they are available in your area. They do everything from yard work to overnight stays.
 
midnightphoenix

midnightphoenix

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 9, 2012
Messages
11,306
Location
Tigger and Willow's house UK
And maybe if she phones at night, take the phone off the hook so she cannot get through? Or switch the phone off overnight? :hug: As well as her hopefully getting help during the day? :hug:
 
G

gam9147

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 18, 2019
Messages
369
Location
Delaware, USA
I'd agree with midnight here, if she isn't respecting the certain times conversation, take a few times and simply don't answer.. maybe call her back in 30 minutes or an hour or two later, to kind of push back a bit that you are not immediately available.

You really do need to push her to see a therapist because right now she is just simply using you as a therapist and as you noted, its making your life miserable. You deserve good mental health as much as she does and your needs should not be imbalanced.
 
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