I’m a 41 year old man and my mother has a serious depression. It has been going on for many years. I’m a university professor, not married and my mom lives with me. She’s a recent immigrant to the US; I immigrated to the US earlier than her and we lived apart for about 9 years. In that time, she spent living back in the home country alone, her depression took a real turn to the worse. Just to clarify: she has been divorced for many decades now and I have no siblings so she was there alone most of the time.
Unfortunately, when she came here, her depression didn’t really become much better, if it all. Before coming here she’s always been financially independent. My mom is financially dependent on me now and I think that this contributes greatly to her depression. She’s extremely irritable, unstable, suffers from insomnia and other problems. Every time I travel professionally she gets so terrified that something may happen to me that I’m seriously thinking about eliminating my travel completely. It is probably not very good for me professionally; however, I feel so guilty by now that I think I will reduce it to bare minimum, if at all. She always tells me that if something happens to me, she cannot survive without me in this country and she’s done in in that case. Just imagine how I feel hearing that…tears are going down my face. She has been taking an antidepressant for many years but I don’t think it is very effective at this point. I don’t know what to do…I doubt I can convince her to visit a psychiatrist here at the US (she did it on her own back in the home country). Often, I feel that my life and hers are stuck in a terrible rut. I would appreciate any advice on what to do in this situation.
Thank you for your letter. Your mom’s isolation and dependence on you is something that you will want to start managing by creating social supports for her.
If you attend to your mother’s dependence by limiting your life you will eventually simply be in orbit around her and lose yourself. I recommend finding a physician and begin with a complete physical. The physician can then make recommendations about monitoring her medicine, changing it, or making other recommendations about her physical condition that might be contributing to her depression. It will also be important to help create a social network for her. You may want to talk to your colleagues at the university counseling center to see what resources they may have for geriatric services. Your job is to help create a support network for your mom — not to be the network. The professionals at your university are likely to have contacts in the community who can help.
Wishing you patience and peace,