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Cannot bear to be around my depressed mother


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My mother was diagnosed with post-natal depression when I was born (over 30 years ago) and has been taking medication off and on ever since. She has always been irrational and difficult to manage. As a very young child I lost respect for her and learned that my mother was often an obstacle that had to be ‘negotiated’ rather than taken very seriously.

I have always found her very difficult, enormously over emotional and self-centred. I moved away from home when I was 20 and although our relationship was relatively stable and free from arguments, she was one of the reasons I had to move away as I found her suffocating and unable to respect anybodies’ emotional space (although my siblings seem more able to tolerate this).

Since I moved away, her mental state deteriorated dramatically. She was admitted into hospital for her mental state many times, received ECT, increased her medication and became unbearably selfish and often painfully spiteful.

My difficulty now is that I cannot bear to be around her. The rest of my family (I was the only one to move away) seem to have adopted a ‘well that’s just Mum, you have to make allowances’ approach to her, but I find her absolutely poisonous.

I struggle to move on from the things she did and said to us as children, largely because she has never offered a convincing apology. She either cannot remember it (largely owing to the medication she has taken over the last 30+ years) or is so self-centred that the only apology you get is: ‘I was going through a bad patch. We all make mistakes’.

I am not even at the point where ‘forgiveness’ is something I am aiming for. I think ‘forgiveness’ is such a value laden term. I just need to be able to move on from it and put the past behind me. I can normally cope with her by keeping my distance and not talking to her about anything that means anything to me (self-preservation, if you will). I recently got married abroad and although I understand her disappointment, she seemed hell bent on ruining my wedding.

I need to find a way of moving on and not letting her eat away at me anymore. I can never actually tell her how I feel about her and how despicable I think her behaviour was as it would be too cruel, would not achieve anything and would make the rest of my families lives miserable.

Everybody else seems to be able to make allowances for her, but surely if you have depression, you are still responsible for your behaviour? She has done and said some truly horrible things but never holds herself accountable for any of it.

I think I either need to emotionally distance myself from her further in the interests of self-preservation, or find a way of keeping my head together when she is around me. One of the thing that always irritated me about her was her emotional weakness, and I am so angry at myself for not being able to shake this.

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi grotfairy,

Welcome to our community.

I am guessing from my reading of your posting but I got the feeling or impression that the person you need to forgive is yourself. The impression I was left with is that you blame yourself for your mother's deteriorating condition, and of course, this is not true. She has always been depressed.

I also get the impression that you blame yourself for not forgiving your mother...everyone else has.

Well, we are all different and each one of you had a different relationship with her and you need to know that. Whatever your siblings experienced with her was not the same as what you experienced.

In my opinion, you need to forgive yourself for feeling angry at her. You are not the only person who experienced a mother or father as being suffocating and needed to move away and move on. My recommendation is that you do both: move away (which you have done) and move on.

Perhaps you need to enter psychotherapy to help you with the work of emotionally freeing yourself from her so that you can move on.

What do others think???


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Hi Grotfairy,

Maybe you just need to accept that your Mum is truly mentally ill. I'm sure it was hell to be raised by someone who is mentally ill. She was, is and probably will always be mentally ill. She did not and can never give you the nurturing that you needed and deserved then and now.

I may be wrong, but I have the feeling that you want her to be "normal" and somehow believe that she can accomplish this---no matter how many times she is not "normal". It seems that it is your hope that she be "normal" that keeps you tied to her and hurt by her.

It is truly sad when someone in your life is so ill and cannot give what is so needed to their children. She wants to be loved by you, but cannot maintain such a relationship. You would like to love her, but she is so difficult that it is just not possible.

Perhaps you have never considered grieving for all that both of you have lost as a result of her illness. Maybe you could look at having to be married far away as very sad. Let the sad, hurt child in you cry for all she did not receive and reassure her that you will protect and love her. Now that you are grown up, you can protect your inner child and love her as she deserves.

If she doesn't want to be around "that woman who hurt her" then don't make her go there. Keep her safe with you and out of harm's reach.


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Thanks for the advice.

I think you're both right in that I am annoyed with myself for not being able to forgive her when others have.

Suzie, I think your comment about my reluctance to accept that she is not normal is a large part of the problem. Everyone else has come to terms with it. My siblings and father were very close to her whilst she deteriorated, which I think made the shift in her behaviour seem more gradual (although I'm not for a moment suggesting it was easy for them). I only saw her once or twice a year, so for me it was as though she changed practically overnight. I think this had led to me refusing to accept that that is just the way things are now. I'm still expecting the 'old' mother to re-emerge (although the 'old' mother was always emotionally VERY fragile, she wasn't nearly as bad as this 'new' one!)

Thanks again for the advice.

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Hi Grot fairy

I went through the same thing as I cared for my mom as she slowly lost her mental abilities due to dementia caused by mini strokes. You might look at my posts in the aging/caretaking section.

It is more a matter of understanding and accepting than a matter of forgiveness. We all want a rational parent. She probably would like to be a rational parent, but that is beyond her ability. No matter how old we get, it is very hard not to revert to the parent-child role when we are around our parents. If it has been a difficult relationship, we keep trying to work it out and some never work it out. I think mental illness is much harder to deal with than physical illness. They look the same, act the same, then, suddenly for no apparent reason, become someone else. I, as an adult, finally came to love her, but my inner child never reached that point. I simply kept her out of the way when I dealt with mom.

I do hope this helps you reach some resolution within yourself about your mom. It's ok to be angry. I sure was at times.


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