I feel like my life is on hold while I sit around feeling guilty that I just can’t help my mother anymore. She is literally always ill, even small things are blown up to be huge & she isn’t capable of having a positive word to say. She is only 64 & has literally lost the will to fight. She is always at the Dr’s, they have no idea how to help her anymore as she has to want to help herself.
I’m an only child & if I’m honest she has been behaving like this my whole life. Obviously I don’t want her to be ill, I’m there for her ‘ALL’ the time, but lately it is just feeling too hard to cope with. She has always kind of leant on me from a young age (but as a child I didn’t really know that it wasn’t ok) She can’t seem to see that unless she admits she needs help (from professionals, not me) that she is going to crumble. If I’m not with her then I get calls everyday where I have to listen to all the awful things she thinks are wrong with her, how terrible all the doctors are & how no one is helping her.... And it is all just kind of drowning me a bit now. I never get a break. I think I have listened to so much of her nastiness (she has really said awful things to me lately) that I’m just not able to process anymore. I feel so guilty that I’m not helping her, then I get angry that my life is on hold & I’m angry at her for letting herself get to this state. It’s like she is willing herself to have some awful diagnoses so she can tell us all ‘I told you so’!
I have tried to get her help, attended Dr’s visits etc but what else can I actually do now?! Everyone is telling me to back off but they don’t seem to understand that I would if I could! She has sort of trained me that if I don’t answer my phone to her then she might be collapsed & dying on the floor (literally she will call at 3am as she feels sick!) It’s just too much pressure to be responsible for her mental & physical wellbeing every single day......
I feel like this is all a terrible dream & just want her to act like my Mum & see what she is doing to me.
I don’t really know what on earth to do now?

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You have absolutely no control over your mom and her illnesses and neediness. As long as you continue to run to her and to answer the phone at 3am your mom is getting what she needs from you which reinforces her behavior because her tactics work so well.

Don't count on her to change. She won't. Your only solution is to change your behavior. And as you find the fortitude to change she will rebel so you must stay strong and stick to your boundaries. For example, calls at 3am from your mom are not acceptable so you don't answer her call. That's a boundary. If she calls and calls and calls and you finally pick up out of frustration and desperation your mom learns that all she has to do is keep calling over and over again and you'll respond eventually. So you don't answer her first 5 calls but by her 6th call you've had it and you answer and the message she gets is that it takes 6 calls from her to get you on the phone.

You are not a victim. You are a participant. She made you a participant many years ago. So much so that you aren't able to see that her health and her mental well-being are not your responsibility.

You wrote that she keeps pulling you back even though you try to back off. She's behaving in a way that has always worked for her. Your desire to pull back must be accompanied by action, by actually not being pulled back in. Don't "try" to back off. Actually back off for real. She might kick and scream because she's not getting what she wants but let her kick and scream while you maintain your healthier boundary. You may perceive your mom as having all the power and control in your relationship and she probably has for many years but it doesn't sound like that's working for you anymore so instead of waiting around for her to change, which she won't, you have to take responsibility and change your own behavior.

Trying to explain to her how her behavior affects you is a waste of time as she has demonstrated for what sounds like years that her health is of the utmost importance as is your role (in her mind) in her health. Stop trying to explain your point of view to her, it just keeps you enmeshed in her sick world. Plus, you don't owe her an explanation.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting and pursuing your own life. It's healthy to want to do that and there's no need to apologize for or feel guilty about it. And a parent should want that for their adult child. It's healthy to want your grown child to carve out her own way in life. You are not your mom's therapist or her doctor or her friend. Research how to set boundaries and when you do set one, stick to it like glue.

My daughter just graduated college and moved back to town and in with her boyfriend who is a great guy. It's my instinct to want to call her everyday and see her all the time. I was a single parent and she was my only child. We were very close and still are but she's a grown woman now with a career and a life of her own and I have to remind myself of this everyday. I try to curtail the text messages and calls and allow her to have the room she needs to continue to build a life for herself. It's difficult on my end but it's what's healthy for both of us. I know that if I want to maintain a close relationship with her I need to give her the space she needs to build a life of her own. In my opinion this is what a parent must do when their child becomes an adult.

Your mom hasn't allowed you to do this and she has conditioned you to think that her way is normal but it isn't. It's unhealthy and selfish and it's hurting you. It's as if your mom has made a mess but expects you to clean it up. It isn't fair but clean it up you must so that you can move on. And you don't have to cut your mom out of your life altogether, you just have to create healthy boundaries for yourself.

Curtail your phone conversations with her. If you talk with her 3 times a day cut it down to once a day and then once every other day and so on. She behaves this way because she gets some kind of payoff for her behavior. Your attention, probably. There's no guilt in making healthy choices for ourselves and taking care of ourselves emotionally and mentally.
Helpful Answer (8)

Mthr was very much this way with me for a time. I want you to think about something: When you have a little kid who does not want to do something (go to school, take a test), they often come up with symptoms that get them out of doing what they want. Your mom is avoiding life by using fake symptoms - you know they are fake because she's been checked out repeatedly. A responsible parent has the symptoms checked, and when they turn out to be nothing, forces the child to face his demons at school and get through it. Your mother has manipulated you to keep from facing her demons.

It's not she who needs help today, it is you. At one point, I told mthr, "over my dead body" and I meant it- but I was not sure if that would be her stopping or me dying. I went to a talk therapist the next day who saved my life. I strongly advise you to do the same. The first book she had me read was Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud. You will need professional help to get through this. If your mom calls you with an emergency in the middle of the night, you will need to find the strength to call 911 for her and stay at home, and a therapist/psychoanalyst will be the helper you need to see her through.
Helpful Answer (7)

Confused2222 - my mom was a master manipulator like your mom - the never ending guilt trip - and she is using your guilt to keep you enmeshed.

We are telling you to set boundaries which is something you control - but neither you nor we can control your mom - who is likely to increase the level of emotion and drama in order to get you back in line when you start placing boundaries.

Counseling save my life - i learned to say "i'm sorry you feel that way. I love you. bye" when she started. Then hung up. Or left if i was visiting her. I would not answer the phone except for once per week and if she went off "I'm sorry you are upset, why don't we speak when you are calmer. I love you. Bye"

She screamed, cried, wrote 10 page vitriol filled letters, but i held firm. Eventually, she learned - if she started manipulating - i would exit. Calmly.

My counselor helped me see what mess we were in, and helped me identify what a possible positive relationship might look like. Mom would never be the "MOM" i wanted, but we could have a positive relationship. My counselor also helped me prepare for WHEN (not IF) my mom would resort to manipulative tactics and she also helped me role play so i could learn how not to cave.

It was really hard but it made me feel so much better to take back my life. My mom and i are able to visit pleasantly and she has come to accept that i am no longer her bank (when she spends all her SSI and needs rent money), or her driver or her grocery shopper or her house cleaner, etc. We have a positive relationship.

It has taken years. Counseling. Lots of anger and tears. But it is so worth it!!!

Good luck to you.
Helpful Answer (7)

It sounds cold and heartless, but many on this forum (and in my own extended family) have had to make the decision to step away completely. Stop taking her calls, or at least limit them to a reasonable time and number - once a day? once a week? That is something you will have to decide. Your mother isn't dying, she is just acting as though she is and in the end her reward is getting you to dance like a puppet. Stop. Just stop. If she calls you "dying" from the floor call EMS and send them over, she will either get help or she will learn this particular form of manipulation is no longer bearing fruit.

Have you considered therapy for yourself to help you identify reasonable boundaries?
Helpful Answer (6)

You can also start reading about the FOG (Fear, Obligation, Guilt) you've been raised in. You've been taught from a young age that your role is to serve your mom. That's not right and that's not true. Your mom is not being fair to you. She's using you to fill her every emotional need and that's NOT your role as an adult child. She needs friends or professionals to fill that role. Offer her information on what resources she has for psychological support (counseling) and then back away. It's up to her to use them or not. My guess is that she doesn't have friends or family willing to help out - she's probably burned all of those bridges over the years with her self-centered behavior.

What I've found in my experience is that narcissists like your mom (and I believe with your mom's totally self-centered behaviors she's a narcissist) will immediately turn to someone else when they discover that their go-to emotional outlet is no longer responding. So in my opinion, your mom won't collapse. She'll just be very angry at you because you're changing her comfortable (yet miserable) world. And then work to find someone else to dump her misery on. Because she doesn't really want to change. Good luck and please keep us posted!
Helpful Answer (6)

You can't change her, you can only change you.

If you have access to psychotherapy please take advantage of it. A good therapist can help you navigate your way to mental wellness and straighten out your thoughts.

It sounds like you have been an enabler to your mom. You are hog tied by guilt.
FOG, as the they call it, (fear, obligation and guilt) can wreak your life. (Proved by your post).

You need to learn HOW she manipulates you and then how you need to respond. You have lived with her control all your life. It will take awhile to learn other ways of responding. You will need to practice these new responses.

I think YOU getting well should be your focus. She is stuck in her way of acting.

You'll feel so much better and more in control of your life after therapy. There are also many good books out of there about setting boundaries and life with controlling parents and how to break the cycle.

I did it with both my parents at different times. I'm glad I can make my own decisions and not be motivated by guilt anymore.

Good luck.
Helpful Answer (6)

Doesn't sound as if your mother ever did have much of a fighting spirit. Was she a single parent, and you her only child?

I'd like you to re-read your last but one sentence. You want her to act like your mum and see what she is doing to you.

Why would that suddenly happen if it never has yet?

You need help establishing healthier boundaries. You are terrified that without your support your mother will literally die, in agony, because of your desertion. You know, rationally, that she won't. So what you need to change is the serious disconnect between what you know, and what you feel.

Where are you living (what country, I mean)? It might make a difference to what resources you can access both for yourself and for your mother.
Helpful Answer (5)

I feel for you. When you have been trained early on to take care of your parent emotionally, it's not an easy chain to break. I too have been in this situation with my mother and now that I'm going to lose my father, I'll be in the midst of it. I think making sure that you take care of yourself, in whatever is the best way possible.

I have stopped trying to make my mother happy. When she calls to vent, I just leave the phone on, lower the voice, and let her rant. Then I use a lot of reflective language, about her feelings, like I do when working with three year olds. It seems to help. Things Like, you are really unhappy here, you don't feel good, I hear you don't like it. It's hard for you etc. I don't try to fix, I just reflect how unhappy she is and remind myself that this is her disorganized child mind. I don't know if that's much help, but know you are not alone.
Helpful Answer (5)

I'm so glad you are addressing this now, in your early thirties and with a supportive husband than continuing in the unhealthy pattern for the next thirty years!

You want a normal, loving mom. Who can blame you? Many people want that and for various reasons can't have it. Many of them have learned to overcome this handicap, and you can, too. You are obviously strong and resourceful. You are seeking help and you will come to terms with the hand you've been dealt.

Look up the mental health issues called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and also Borderline Personality Disorder. Does anything look familiar? Obviously none of us can diagnose your mother! But it does sound like there is a mental health issue of some kind involved. I am very sorry for your mother. I'll bet she did not sit down in her late twenties/early thirties and decide she'd like to have a mental illness, and that she should have a child to burden with it. If she is mentally ill, this is not her fault. Poor Mom.

If there were anything you could do to "fix" mom, I'd encourage you to do it. But allowing the boundaries to be broken over and over is not helping -- it is enabling. If someone you loved broke out in a hideous, painful rash from roses, would you keep sending her bouquets with roses just because she really wanted them?

To help overcome the guilt, switch its target. "Oh, I really shouldn't be taking a bus to see her. That has never helped her and it makes things worse in the long run. Darn! I have to stop enabling her." The guilt you are feeling now is unearned. You did nothing to cause your mother's behavior and you can do nothing to fix it. If you are going to waste energy on feeling guilty, I suggest you figure out (with a therapist's help) what you are doing wrong that you could change, and then change it!

Also, I think your guilt feelings are based on a very unrealistic view of your own power. You think you SHOULD be able to fix your mother. You think that if you just find the right responses your mother will get well and be the loving parent you want. You are not SuperGirl. As one example, if you don't get up in the middle of the night and ride a bus two hours, you worry that Mother might be lying on the floor dying. If she can dial your number, she could dial the emergency number (999) and she would get help much, much faster. Letting her remain dependent on you is actually detrimental to her health.

Confused, stay in touch here. We all will love to see your progress. And don't worry if this doesn't go entirely smoothly. We are rooting for you, through successes and setbacks!
Helpful Answer (5)

Yes I am in the process of getting therapy started myself (in the uk it is a long wait) & not something I can afford privately.
But I am making sure I talk about it (hence reaching out on here in the mean time) & I literally have the most wonderful husband. I most definitely want to learn how to deal with all of this & I refuse to repeat the same patterns.
I just want us to be able to get on with our lives.
Like I said I have been standing firm for the last few weeks but I feel it will likely end up with her in hospital. But for my own mental heath I just have to have some distance.
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