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Mum going downhill

Posted: Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:16 am
by Tarantula

As the title says. My mum, who has always been very emotionally unstable, is now increasingly mentally ill, in my view, and I don't know what to do.

I only see her about twice a year now, in order to protect myself. She never leaves the house. She lives alone and shops all day on the shopping channel or amazon. She doesn't wash or take care of herself. The only friends she has are some weird people who she says steal things from her house. They've been 'friends of the family' for as long as I've been alive, but I've never liked them and all I know is that their son committed suicide by setting himself on fire. I don't like or trust them at all.

Anyway my mum's house is piled with unopened boxes and junk. She forgets things all the time and talks to herself more and more often. She repeats things and she won't see her doctor even though she has a benign brain tumour. She had radiotherapy about ten years ago which shrunk it but it's still there, getting bigger, pressing on her brain. :cry: She's deaf in one ear because of it.

Her background is a sad story. She's Indian, and grew up being 'beaten black and blue' on the regular by her father, not being fed etc. Then she was arrange marriage to her school teacher who also beat her up and did horrendous things like set her hair on fire and pull a knife on her... whilst their child son, my half-brother, watched. He's now 42 and living in a homeless unit somewhere, after struggling with alcoholism and being somewhat violent himself. She was kicked down the stairs a few times too. I believe it all, even though she does like to exaggerate, because of how she turned out and because other family members say the same things.

She came to the UK, I think, to get away from her violent husband and ended up meeting my father, 20 years her senior, who was (and remains) married with his own teenage son, my other half-brother. They had an affair which resulted in my brother and I. I disclosed to her that my father was sexually abusing me, when I was 15. I'm 27 end of this month. He was an absolute bully and psychopath who tortured us all in different ways.

My mum was addicted to heroin in the 80's. It was in the paper that she got suspended from work (I've seen the paper. My step mum kept it and delighted in showing me when I was like ten, to prove some sort of point - another story..) and I have no idea how she was allowed to keep working when she got out of prison. Since then, she seems to have replaced it with shopping. But despite all the horror she has suffered (the worst of it, she says we don't even know), she excelled academically and worked here as a GP, and I think her career was the one thing that gave her a sense of confidence in her life. But she retired a few years ago and since then hasn't really left her house. Her income is now far lower (though still a decent NHS pension) and all she talks about is how she's got no money, even as amazon deliveries arrive every day.

Everything I've said so far is a very brief outline. She used to drink too much but to her credit, doesn't seem to drink much anymore. If she does though, then things get very nasty very quickly. I've never lived with her, as she chose to live away whilst I was growing up (leaving me with my father, a reality that must have hit her very hard when I disclosed) so I would only see her on the weekends and during school holidays. As a child I would beg and scream for her not to leave me every weekend, but she always did, insisting she had to work.

As a teenager I resented her a lot, for leaving me and also for not supporting me regarding my father's abuse; but as I've gotten older I am able to see how she is just the product of her horrific life experiences. It doesn't let her off, but.. there's this balancing act I have to do. It's a miracle she was able to keep her career together and provide for us financially at least. I try to be compassionate, but unfortunately there has of course been an impact. The desire not to turn out like her is a strong driving force in my life. I can't let that be my future.

I've just survived another bleak Xmas visit. She was on her best behaviour but still doing all the irritating, boundary-busting things... after one night, my brother and I wanted to get out of there so we tried to do so politely, but she kicked off and immediately hit us with the guilt 'don't you care about your mother at all, none of my kids care for me' etc. She went from calm to freaking out in moments, but past experience has taught me there is no reasoning with her. I felt totally sorry for her, as she frantically pressed binliners full of unwanted gifts into our hands, but at the same time knew it was time to go before things could get worse as they have done SO many times before. When the 'why does anybody bother to have kids' hits, I know that I will become less sane for every second I stay in that environment. I'm much better at managing these situations than I used to be.

I feel totally powerless and I don't know what I can do. I want her to get help for her many and complex mental health needs, but she won't cooperate. She'll just say 'oh I'm fine, let me die in peace.' She talks about going back to India but she never does it, even if we look up flights for her and try to encourage her, because we know it would be good for her. She won't see her doctor, she won't do anything for herself at all. When I was a kid she used to threaten to commit suicide a lot 'because none of you love me' when drunk (another grievance), but doesn't do that so much anymore.

I'm not interested in having a good relationship with her because I know we never will - it's too late in the day, too much has happened - the best I can hope for is to be in peace with her. But I want her to be happier. I feel so sad thinking of all the things she might have been if those things didn't happen to her - she's genius-level intelligent, and in her cogent moments, she can be so witty and on-point. But then it slips away again and she's like this sad little girl. She used to be into painting and singing and reading. She was talented at so many things.. now she's just a lonely old woman in a big house in her night gown all day (she doesn't get dressed).

I feel so heartbroken about it, and that's why I don't see her very often. I dread the day that I find out she's passed away, and probably no one would even know until days later. It's important to me that our last contact was at least somewhat positive and so that's why I went there.. plus all the Xmas pressure etc. But I feel it is truly a stale mate situation.

Re: Mum going downhill

Posted: Wed Dec 27, 2017 3:07 pm
by reckoner

How truly awful. I'm so sorry.

My mum is also from India and also had a bleak and abusive bringing-up (her parents took her took her to religious types when she was a child for being "possessed by The Devil"), though nowhere near your mum's level. But she has also been left scarred, and easily boards depressive and suicidal trains of thought. Her side of the family are prone to the wailing, hand-wringing "this may be the last time I see you" style of guilt-tripping. I consider it a cultural observation, rather than a stereotype (!), that melodrama is one of India's specialisms. But the extent to which she has been less damaged (and damaging) shows in the significantly better relationship I have with her than you do with your mum.

As far as her illness goes, I'm afraid I can't offer anything positive. When my mum's mum started to deteriorate, it was like being forced to watch a car crash in intensely slow motion. When her eyesight went (diabetes), she just gave up. It took two years. Basically, if the will has gone, it's gone. Now my mum's eyesight has gone in one eye (also diabetes), but she still has the will (if not will power) to try to help herself so I'm praying her mum's fate has a big enough impact on her to keep up her good work so far. I think the most you can do - and I don't know how possible or realistic it is for you - is hold her hand through it.

Even if it sounds impossible, the reason to try is that when she's gone, you'll be left with a lot of memories and I think anger and frustration often turn to guilt. They do for me (and my mum) anyway. When you described the binliner of unwanted presents, I'm telling you straight, I choked. I understand exactly how you feel but I think that 'going through the motions' gets a bad rap. In situations like family, I consider it nothing short of heroic.

You say it's too late in the day for you to have a good relationship with her at 27, but just to let you know that my mid-twenties was when I did actually manage to achieve a good (working) relationship with my parents. Until then, it had always been... fractious. Your challenge is obviously significantly harder, but perhaps it's a question of having manageable goals. You can't change her, you can't reason with her (I know that feeling), and, as she is a LOT worse off than my mum, I don't disagree that a good relationship is out of reach. So perhaps you can just aim to avoid the lows of your relationship. The most successful strategy I've discovered so far is to just not say anything at all when the inevitable irritants occur. Bite your hand, scream into a pillow when no-ones looking - just don't engage. You'll only feed the fire.

So that's my advice: go through the motions and do what you can to hold her hand, and consider yourself heroic for doing so.

Very best wishes.

Re: Mum going downhill

Posted: Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:52 pm
by Tarantula
Thank you reckoner, for such an empathic and reasoned response. I really do feel understood!