How can I manage my life with my mum who has Depression and OCD?

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Hi! Hoping I can get some advice. This is my first post and it's actually just come off the back of an argument I just had with my mum, argh!

I'm 18 and my mum is 56. She has never been formally diagnosed, but it's clear that she's suffering from depression and anxiety. She also has, to some degree, OCD and hoarding. About 9 years or so ago, her relationship with my dad turned sour and he's been living in the garage with no access to the house for about that long (basically if their bank accounts weren't linked, they would never talk). In about 2009, my brother left for boarding school during his HSC and hasn't come home since. My brother has ADHD and when he was home, it'd be arguments non-stop with mum. So pretty much over this time, she's progressively gotten worse. Now, the only time she steps outside is to do some gardening, laundry, check the mailbox etc. She also can't help but have things clean i.e. everything that comes in the house from outside MUST be cleaned/wiped with a damp cloth and disinfectant. As you can imagine, this was a problem for everyday of high school as my backpack, books, laptop etc had to be cleaned before I could use them inside the house. Also, seeing as she never leaves the house, I've had to do the weekly shopping after a day at high school/uni or when i'm out. This usually takes quite long as my mum picks items from the special catalogs of multiple stores i.e. i'll have to go to multiple supermarkets to do the one shop and then catch the bus home.

Coming from an asian background especially, family is always first and sometimes when I point things out to her that I'm annoyed with (usually something to do with her cleaning and me not being able to finish some uni/schoolwork), we'll end up in an argument. And from there, it all goes off. I know that I should just stop and walk away but when I'm angry it just doesn't happen and then I just end up feeling terrible. I feel I should just listen and obey to everything she asks and not say a word but it's hard. The worst thing is that my relationship with her is such a paradox! We literally share everything, I'll tell her about all the things that happened at school/uni, about people I met and things I saw while I was out and she'll tell me things she heard on the news and tv and what she did that day. But then once or twice a month, we'll have an explosive argument and it all seems like hell for about a day or two. Does anyone else have this experience?

I've never posted anything online like this and I thought it might help me a bit.

But yeah, I'm just looking for some advice on how I should think about the whole thing and whether I should try to help mum get better and how?? Anything would be appreciated.

Thanks.

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Jessie,
Thank you so much for your comments. It feels very refreshing to be offered advice.

Yes, it definitely makes me feel powerless to change the situation being the child. The complication with my dad is that he has become very bitter with the whole situation as he has tried and has been unsuccessful at changing her. He was in fact involved with helping my brother's school counselor get my brother from boarding to other living arrangements. This in turn had a negative effect on my mum as she perceived it as a "they're teaming up against me" situation. Consequently, when I even mention anything about moving out possibly in the future, she will label me as being "with them". The relationship I have with my dad involves him mainly coming to help me with the shopping after he finishes work as he has his car and can drive me and the shopping home. Sometimes we'll go for a meal or something but it seems that we mostly talk about superficial things, joke around and such. We never talk about the whole situation at home really. And all this is done without mum's knowledge as she absolutely despises him and hates when I spend any time with him.

In regards to getting my mum to seek help from counselling services, I have tried presenting the idea to her however due to her past experience with my brother's school counsellor whom she believes to have pulled her son away from her, it is virtually impossible. I've always thought she'd make that decision on her own at one time and take herself to one...And then she also dislikes medications, which I think is pretty fair due to possible side effects i guess.

As for considering the option of moving out, as mentioned above, it seems like if I do, she'll come to believe that I am also against her. I kind of came to the conclusion that I'm probably the only one that can help in her process of getting better as I'm the only one she doesn't believe is against her (like my brother and father). So I always thought it was better if I stayed. Also, when I've been away on school camps and such, she's said that she doesn't go out even when there's no food in the fridge and she just eats canned food or other non-perishable food. And that's another reason why I haven't wanted to leave.

Yes I will try to get in touch with my school's counselor. But I just never thought they could help much because I did see my high school counselor and it just felt like I was telling him things and he was understanding but essentially, nothing could really change.

Thanks again for your advice, I really appreciate it.
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Rita, I feel so bad for you. I've known many women from Korea who absolutely ruled their homes. Sometimes it was funny to see their large anglo husbands (military families) come home and meekly remove their shoes before walking in the door. I thought about how much more difficult it would be if there was depression and agoraphobia mixed with it.

Since you are the child, you don't have the power needed to convince your mother to change. I wish your father would come out of the garage and help you. Are you still close to your father? Or is the relationship distant?

What you can do is talk to your mother about getting some counseling so that she can enjoy life more fully. She sounds like she has several phobias and a need for absolute control of her surroundings. It sounds like she needs some professional behavioral therapy to help her let go of these fears.

You are 18 and I know you feel very responsible. This is a situation that a condition called co-depedence can flourish. She does not have to get help because she has you doing everything for her. It feels like the best thing at the moment, like you are helping your mother and avoiding her wrath. However, it is not the best thing, because it keeps her from having to face her own life.

You may not be able to change your mother, but you can go on with your own life by breaking away. It may help for you to go away to college if you can. Maybe it can be close enough so you can come home every couple of weeks. I know you don't want to abandon your mother, but you do need your own life. And without you, she may get the help that she needs to get out of the house.

Good thoughts are with you. If you have a trustworthy counselor at the school, maybe you can speak with him/her. (Have to be careful here, because some school counselors are terrible.)
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