Hi. My mum is 58 and has lived a very unhealthy life. She had my brother at 16 and my father used to beat her — they would fight almost every day but he didn’t hit her every time. I’ve witnessed him burn her clothes etc. Later in life, she spiraled into a bad gambling addiction and as long as I’ve known her, she has had severe anxiety. We’ve never been able to get on due to her manipulating me into thinking she was always the innocent victim and would have me lie for her to cover up her gambling (I was young and didn’t understand the consequences). As I grew older, my dad also matured and he no longer hits her. But, she is excessively anxious and moody. An example is, if I am at a lecture and she can’t reach my phone for 2 hours, she gets relatives to call up the uni and report me as “missing”. Or if I am at work and she cannot reach me I will have 10 missed called and each with a voicemail of her telling me off for “doing this to her”. She is a loving mother; she’ll do anything for her family. But she is also manipulative and the slightest criticism makes her accuse me of being her enemy. She now lives overseas, which has made matters worse. I recently moved interstate for work and she hysterically started crying over the phone asking why I’m doing this to her (as I moved to a country town with my partner and have no family here).
I know you can’t give a diagnosis. But we can’t get her to see someone either and I wish I knew what it might be that she could be suffering from. I can’t take much any more. It’s come to a point where I avoid speaking to her but it kills me knowing if something happens to her, I’m going to be filled with regret and guilt. Yet, we cannot speak to one another without it ending in a fight. With all this, my tolerance for her has decreased which means I am no longer easy for her to talk to either. What do you think this might be? Any suggestions may help me understand where to look for help. Thanks for your time. (From Australia)
There may be many reasons for your mother’s behavior. A term that is often used to describe it is “enmeshment.” Your mother’s need to be in touch with you is outside the norm, which puts an excessive burden on you. This kind of over-dependency is emotional suffocation and too much pressure.
You’re not in a position to help your mom without losing yourself. I would encourage you to set a limit, not respond to the excessive emails and calls, and not be apologetic for setting these limits.
This is not easy. I recommend you get individual therapy as support during this time.
Wishing you patience and peace,