Mom's anxiety concerns have me feeling like a prisoner, what do I do?

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Mom is afraid that if I so much as go to the store after dark (which is about the only place I go these days) that it's mortally dangerous. I really don't go out any more anyway, maybe twice a week I may leave during the day, usually to get groceries or just get out for a few minutes, but pretty much for four years my life has been here and isolated since moving here (I'm a freelancer who works from home also and that will continue for a number of reasons I won't detail here). I'm in my early fifties and feel like a prisoner. There is nothing that can be done on her end, she's resistant to any anti-anxiety, therapy, whatever, no one she knows who would come stay with her, etc, and she would bristle at that suggestion anyway. The answer to anything is always no. She's not to the point where she has to be watched all the time for safety reasons, just in general it's necessary to keep an eye on her. She's just very anxious and dependent and has gotten used to me being here. She does not go out and if she does, I drive her because she's not safe to drive on her own. I am trying to get her involved in outside activities but she is not that physically well and she is limited in energy. She's not going to do anything on her end, so the question is really how I should handle this on my end. Do I build a life, leave in the evenings sometimes, to get her used to it again? It's incredibly stressful for me to leave now because I know she's home stressing, which panics me as well because I know she doesn't fully understand that it's irrational. I feel terrible for abandoning someone to sit at home, scared. That seems cruel. She told me once she was not going to put on her nightgown until I got back (it was only about 8:30 pm) because she was scared someone might look in the windows with her here alone. (I suggested she close the living room blinds, which she refused to do). My attempts to explain rationally why going down the street to get a head of lettuce after dark isn't dangerous, and that many people leave the house after dark all the time, fall on deaf ears. (No I don't live in the inner city, rather in a small safe retirement town. You are more likely to get run over by a golf cart than anything else). This is kicking off an old anxiety disorder for me, that I thought was long gone. Tonight I went to the store at 8pm and started feeling scared to walk through the (packed) parking lot. I'm so isolated now that the outside world is starting to feel very large and imposing to me. I have forgotten what it's like to feel normal and to live a normal life. I am not interacting with normal people on a daily basis, other than the occasional client. I am one who tends more toward adventure than confinement and am really not myself anymore. I am also in the process of seeking out some counseling so hopefully that will help. I fear my mental health will only continue to go downhill in this situation, as will what's left of any life I could have. Moving is not financially an option right now. Neither is hiring additional help and she would not be open to that anyway, she would be highly insulted. The main question for the board is, what's the best way to approach this with mom? Leave her at night? Stay home so she's not scared? Thank you.

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One thing I'd consider is getting your mom an emergency alert device so that when you're out, she has access to immediate care if something happens. That takes the burden off of you worrying about her being alone. She sounds capable enough to be able to manage it and it should give you some peace of mind and allow you to go out for longer periods of time and not worry. My aunt had one and when she pushed it, she had an immediate response from a human being who would check on her by name. It was very comforting for her daughter, my cousin.

And for heaven's sakes, CLOSE THE CURTAINS when you leave, LOL. That was always my mom's big thing - close those drapes! As my mom aged into her 90s, she'd tell me not to go out in the rain to go see her (I didn't live with her). I'd just laugh and tell her it was only rain and I wouldn't melt. Her fears definitely increased as she got older, so I think for some folks, that's a natural progression, particularly if they're not going out themselves. They let their imaginations go wild with unfounded fears of what might happen.

And consider some counseling for yourself, just so you have an impartial party who can keep you centered on what's reasonable to expect as far as your activities. It sounds like you have a good handle on what is "normal", but with your mom's daily concerns, I imagine it's hard to keep that focus over time. And please keep us posted - we care!
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Does her anxiety show up mostly in the late afternoon? Google "sundowning". Just a thought.
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Thanks. In terms of the "yet" comment, I was just looking down the road to her getting more senile - some people you have to watch them or they will wander down the street or leave the food to burn. No concerns like that with her at this time. There may come a time but thankfully that time is not yet.

The house is jointly owned, and yes I am aware of agoraphobia and want to make sure it doesn't show up here.

As for introvert/extrovert, I'm smack dab in the middle according to testing. The better my mental health is the more I get out, and the inverse is also true.

As for her anxiety, I have to say that leaving during the day is much less of an issue for her, the anxiety there usually is around fear of wearing out the car. And an insistence that going five miles down the street (yes that's literal) more than a few times a week is something "nobody" does and is unnecessary and excessive driving.

I am well aware that her thinking is distorted. The main issue around that is that the more I am around it, the more normal it seems, and then I have to remind myself that other people don't give a second thought to going to the grocery store after dark and that it is NOT normal. The danger here is becoming frog-boiled, normalizing this craziness simply because there's not enough alternative input. I need to get out and make some friends (my friends are several hours away, and the rest are in another state). I was much healthier when I was a few thousand miles away and participated in the normal world.
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To an extent, your mother is right. Being introverted is not pathological! Some people need less social interaction than others do. If your mother didn't have such strong anxiety her wanting to stay home (and for you to be with her) would not be so concerning.

If you are an introvert, it is easy to fall into a comfortable pattern of staying in. It is easy to take the path of least resistant when that is basically what you want to do anyway. As an introvert with major depressive disorder I have to be aware of the difference between enjoying my own company and isolating myself. Isolation is not healthy. I try to set up situations to be with others I know. A movie date. Meeting for ice cream. Even helping a friend clean out her attic. But when that hasn't happened for a while, I go where there are at least other people. The grocery store. Target. The library. And I try to interact with some of those people. "Do you know how to tell when this fruit is ripe?" isn't exactly the same as having coffee with a friend, but at least it uses my vocal chords and reminds me I'm not really alone in the world. Sitting in the park alone is fine, too, but it isn't a substitute for at least minimal social interaction.

Twilightzone, you sound like a very perceptive and insightful person. I'm sure you'll get this in hand and protect your own mental health. Keep us informed on your journey!
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Twilightzone,
I found your posts quite intriguing. It sounds like you have a great deal of insight into your problems. I hope you can work them out. I was curious about something in your initial post above where you say that your mom isn't to the point that she has to be watched all the time for safety reasons....yet. Is there something about her that is unsafe? Is she immobile? Physically sick? Just curious.

Is this your house or hers?

As Midkid58, said above, anxiety is contagious. If you are predisposed to anxiety and obsessions, living in the house with someone else who does is a very challenging thing. I tend to have a little anxiety as well, but, fought to overcome it some years ago. I was successful, but, I have to watch it. I can't allow others to rub off on me. My mom is also VERY anxious about family members driving in cars, driving in rain, driving at night, driving in heavy traffic, etc. She can get very out of control. IT's disconcerting, but, what I have had to do is to tell her point blank that my life will not be disrupted by avoiding driving. You do it when you need to and that's that. She may not like it, but, she has no other choice. IT's the truth. My feeling has been that if my mom feels anxious enough about her fears of others driving, she will accept treatment.  She's been diagnosed and prescribed medication for anxiety, but, refuses to take it.  So, I don't nag her, but, I also will not tolerate her anxious behavior. 

I think that your plans to see a counselor are excellent. They can help provide you with information and tools to help cope.

Have you ever read about agoraphobia? Your story reminded me of that and some stories I have seen on tv. It's a complex issue, but, can be treated, if that turns out to be the case.

I do wish you much success in your endeavors to be happy and at peace.
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Great suggestions, thank you.
I would love nothing more than to find a med that would return her to normalcy - problem is that she wasn't there to start with. These issues are as old as I can remember, along with some newer, serious health issues that drain her energy. She refuses all such suggestions that she get an updated evaluation for anxiety, saying the very small antidepressant she has taken for 30 years is just fine. She rarely goes out and refuses specifically to go to movies, activities, and so on. She says she is just fine being an "introvert" and all suggestions of any kind are met with flat refusal.

So this really comes down to my mental health and management of the situation. It's easy to get comfortable when you don't have to go out. So I've gotten used to it because it's the most convenient for my routine to just set up here. Problem is that the price of being comfortable and convenient it's creating an unhealthy situation in my mental health, and her dependence. That's clearer now after reading the replies on this thread. This area is just small and there really aren't many places to go like there might be in a larger city.

I will come up with a plan to get up and out initially a few days a week so that she gets more used to that. That was the original plan, but I just got used to a stay-at-home routine because it's where I'd rather be. (As long as I'm in the other room most of the time). I want to work from home, or spend time in the garden, or organize the shed - not force myself to sit in a noisy coffee shop being that person who orders a cup of tea and sits for hours at the table using the wifi, having to listen to loud people on their cellphones in the background. (No power to plug the laptop in at the park). The downside of that is that she gets used to having someone here 24-7. And I get quietly insane and out of touch with the outside world, without realizing it's happening. So it's clear what has to be done.

Well thanks for the feedback. I cannot emphasize how critical this board has been in finding tools to deal with these types of issues.
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My Dad died 5 1/2 years ago. Our family has a retail store that's been here since 1881 in our family. My Mom has dementia. She had a fall and after that they put her on med's. I bring her to the store with me in the mornings. So after being on this sight, I have learned that I was actually taking the place of my Dad for her. She always wants to be with me. I have a great deal of respect for her anti-depressant meds and for depakote. They help! I learned to back off from her some and to not spend the night and to let her learn she can cope without me. This took a few months but has been well worth it. It was all her anxiety that was the problem. I just kept leaving her a little bit longer at different times of the day and night. I would say we are on the right track but she just called me lol! Why is she up at 6:30 a.m.?! Keep trying to carve out a little time for you and get out of the house. It will do You Both good.
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You cannot live a healthy life being held hostage to your mother's anxieties. I feel very sympathetic toward your mother and I highly doubt she is doing this just to mess you up. But sympathy or no, I urge you to get some counseling and extricate yourself from this emotional prison.

I don't know about where you live, but here in Minnesota, the hours of daylight are getting fewer and fewer. If I didn't go out after dark I'd be stuck at home by late afternoon. Talk about isolation!

Maybe you could try being a little more proactive about your mother's anxieties. "I've checked that the back door is locked, all the windows are shut and locked, I've drawn the drapes. I'll lock the front door as I leave. I'll be home in a couple of hours." You would be showing respect for her worries but not being restricted by them.

Would your mother ever go out with you after dark? If you went to a late-afternoon movie and it was dark when the movie was over, could that help her see that it is No Big Deal? Or would she go into a panic attack? I wish your mother could get some help. She must be miserable.

But you are the one we're concentrating on now. Please get some counseling. Keep in touch here. We'd love to hear about your progress and cheer you through setbacks.
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Why won't she consider meds?
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Thanks for all your advice on the board. IT's been invaluable in helping to find new solutions and handle all of this just a little bit better.
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