Home General My mom’s suicide attempts have left me at a loss

My mom’s suicide attempts have left me at a loss

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Well, as far as I know my mom is in the hospital. Last night she “drank a bottle of brandy” and called the ambulance on herself, but knowing her recent behavior and unhealthy substance abuse I’m willing to bet she also overdosed on sleeping pills. Heck, she took too many sleeping pills the night before that, too. When she got to the hospital she had a seizure. That’s really all my sister and I know about it. My sister told the doctors everything and strongly encouraged them to give her a psych evaluation but it seems my mom will just be released either today or tomorrow.

When we spoke at around 1pm yesterday she was not at work, but was slurring her speech and confused. She told me that a skinny african man had broken into her apartment and stolen a bunch of her sleeping pills. I clarified that this was a delusion, to which she replied “Oh yes, I know, it’s just a figment of my imagination. But still, the fact remains that he took my pills!” Anyway, I can’t talk to her when she’s like that. She forgets things we’re talking about, and she sometimes says rude or inconsiderate things about my sister. My family is almost entirely fractured, and I don’t want to push anyone away so I keep the secrets.

The weight of all this built up crap is pulling me down. I’m naturally a very productive, energetic, focused person. My drive goes right out of the window when I deal with my mom. Usually I find myself in the bathroom messing with any imperfections on my face in the mirror. I recognize that it’s an unhealthy desire for control that makes me do such things. I’ve been trying to cut back, but I have to admit it’s hard.

My sister has no patience for my mom. She is 12 years older than I am, and married with two children. All of us live in the same town, but we rarely all get together. Recently my mom will call me at 1 or 2 in the afternoon, drunk. She’s usually supposed to be at work. It’s also worth noting that she decided to quit her job and move to a new state. She has demonized our city until there is literally nothing redeeming about it. She’s got a ton of debt from the medical bills she accrued during a particularly rough patch a few years ago, and there’s no telling how she will do as an unemployed depressive. A few years ago she abused substances, had some memory loss, had a “stroke”, woke up in ditches on the side of the road (yes, and with a bottle of vodka in the trunk). For about two years my sister and I completely had to pull back to protect ourselves from her depressive reign that resulted in a dui and involuntary admittance to a rehab center.

It’s worth noting that she’s not married, and blames many of her current problems on my dad who left when I was 8. She has no friends, no boyfriends, and has alienated nearly everyone in her family. She has had bouts of stress that led to stomach ulcers, and after a concussion in 2001 she asked me to kill her, claiming she was empty inside. I was 12, and for weeks I played parent. I was the only one living with her then, and until we moved in with my dying grandparents in my senior year of highschool it was just her and I. She was mostly jobless, though she wrote a couple of books. Despite our poverty, my mom continued to use my dad’s child support and my allowance to afford new hairdos every few weeks and plastic surgery. I ended up having to get a job working at a restaurant during my junior year to pay the bills.

When we lived with my grandparents she started to take their very heavy medications, mainly morphine, ativan and ambien. Those were the drugs which landed her in rehab before, and recently her supposedly devastating insomnia has led her to not only taking ambien (and lots of it) but also drinking during the night and sometimes during the day.

So, what the heck? She is clearly crying out for help, but I’m not sure what I or anyone can do in this situation. I want to be there for her and love her, but she’s doing this to herself. She’s hurting herself. In a way I’m mad at her, because she’s threatening my mother’s life, and how dare she. I feel disillusioned at this point, when I found out about the attempt I was calm and detached. I don’t know what to do anymore. She hasn’t contacted me, and I know she would deny it was a suicide attempt (“No, honey, oh no it wasn’t like that. I just wanted to sleep. I know it was bad, I’ll do better” it’s a familiar refrain) but I don’t know what to do.

I’m just tired of the yo-yo. I want the best for her, but I realize it’s in her control, and she’s out of control. I’m not sure what to think or do or say, so I stay silent.

Any suggestions?

Actually, yes, I do have a suggestion. I don’t think your mother is necessarily “crying for help.” I think she is in the grip of addiction and mental illness. Your mother is a bottomless pit of neediness. Nonetheless, you and your sister have done your best, in spite of all her problems, to love her, love her, and love her some more in your efforts to help her. But as you’ve found, love and effort isn’t enough. You are physically drained and emotionally exhausted because the situation is enough to wipe anyone out. You need support, information, and resources so that you can be more effective with your mom and, just as important, so that you can take care of yourself.

I suggest you contact the local chapter of NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness) at 770-234-0855. Local chapters offer training for family members of people with mental illness or addictions as well as peer-to-peer support groups. There’s an active chapter in your city. A free 12-week course for families is starting soon.

Please follow through and make contact with NAMI. You deserve to have support.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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