I’ve posted here before, mostly asking for advice on how to balance graduate school and caring for my mother. This Monday, I had a very important graduate exam. In 1.5 hours, I went from a promising PhD student to being asked to leave with a masters in the next month.

My advisor knew I wasn’t prepared for this exam, because I was spending so much time taking care of my mother. The department forced me to take the exam. I failed.

I thought the benefit of grad school was that I could work from home while taking care of my bedridden mother. An 80 hour week, but I could survive.

Now, I have either get a 9-5 job or give up vital years on my resume to take care of mom.

Tonight, I started crying about how unfair it was that I was kicked out of my PhD program, (I have two months to fill out masters paperwork). Three minutes in to the first time I expressed how ashamed I was about what happened, mom started crying. It became all about “how hard it is to hear how much pain my daughter is in. I can’t handle it.” How do I deal with taking care of a narcissistic woman and get a job?

I hope this shall become a forum for emotionally abused higher education pursuers, or anyone near that. I’d appreciate any stories or advice anyone is willing to share.

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Your advisor has seen that your priority is your mother. IMO you or anyone else will never be successful in a PhD program unless it is the priority. I think you need to accept that and accept the responsibility for and consequences of your choice.

You would be wise to do what you have to to get your masters, so all your work is not for nothing. You would also be wise to get some counselling as I suspect you will have the same lack of success in any job you find. At your age, your efforts should be on developing your own life and looking to your future. This may seem harsh but no caregiver is superwoman or superman. Your mother is mentally ill and you are being seriously affected by that. Look after yourself first.

That sucks. How is your relationship with your PI? In my experience, that's what is key. If the PI stands with you, you are golden. If they turn against you, you are doomed. Really, the university only does what the PI wants. Since it's the PI that's paying your way.

Silverbird22, you were given advice 13 months ago regarding your situation.
Was any of it heeded?

You posted at one point that your mother has 8 doctors.
Do YOU have any doctors, and have you told any of them about your life?

You are in your early 20's; you have a LOT of life ahead of you. This life you've accepted could go on for a long time. Is that okay with you? You've had your educational plan derailed, at least for now.

When will you decide that enough is enough?

Silver, you posted THIS 13 months ago.

Can you not walk away from the abuse and the narcissism?

"My mother is critically ill with an undiagnosed neurological disease, which means she's completely bedridden but has her full mental capacity. I am in graduate school and caring for her, both full time.

She recently told me and her physcologist that the only reason she hasn't given up and the only thing she's living for is my excellent cooking. She has many allergies, so I make all her meals absolutely from scratch.

The problem is, I have no time to cook for her, but she demands and manipulates for about five full meals a day. She's obese. I recently failed a qualifying exam partially because she was demanding food during my study times.

She has a feeding tube and boxes full of liquid food from when her nausea got bad. She guilts me and gaslights me when I need to study for exams and beg that she does feeding tube for a day.

I'm struggling in school because of the care she demands (not needs.) My father, who lives with us, fully supports her demands for food, that only I can make.

Does anyone have suggestions for dealing with a narcissitic overeater that I have no power to confront?"

Silver bird, appeal. Please. Have you spoken to your supervisor? How far in to the program are you?

Perhaps forcing your exam was unfair. Or perhaps the university decided that it was not worth putting resources into someone whose choices meant that they couldn't last the distance. With an 80 hour week, you aren't concentrating on a PhD.

Perhaps it would have been fair enough for your mother to say 'I'm so upset that you are in this position'. Or perhaps she was only interested in the way she felt, and you are being emotionally abused - which is what you think, as you said.

What are you going to do about it? Talking may help you to feel that you are not alone. But unless you walk away from the abuse, nothing is going to get better.

Best wishes for hard choices.

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