The short version: mom's morphed into a reclusive, depressive, heavily-medicated, quasi-narcoleptic shell of a woman. She's given up on life and herself. More disturbingly, she's burned holes in hundreds of household items (carpets, floors, computer keyboards) after falling asleep while smoking. It's a recipe for tragedy(s) - fires, skull fractures, etc. We want a better life for her (or hell, any life at all, given the fire hazards). What can we do?
posted by julthumbscrew to human relations (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The longer, far-more-depressing version (you might want to grab a coffee and a bottle of Paxil prior to reading):
My mom's falling apart... physically, mentally, emotionally, existentially. Her disintegration's been progressing for years. We've never attempted an intervention because we didn't know where to start. There were complications on complications (Ball of Yarn, meet Can of Worms).
We can't ignore it any more. Her life's in danger. We have to do something. But what? In order to help describe the extent of the issues, I'm going to kick it case history style. I'll describe a typical Day in the Life of Mom. Then, I'll provide some back story to help elaborate the factors which contribute(d) to the current miserable state of affairs.
She wakes up at noon, groggy and in pain. Bad pain. Where? Everywhere. Between the fuzziness and physical aches, tiny tasks take ages. By 1:00, she's managed to put on a robe, make a pot of coffee, take a pain pill and smoke the first half-dozen victims of a four pack-a-day habit. She spends some time shuffling between her heating pad and the coffee pot... flipping channels on the TV... nodding off and augmenting the carpet's array of cigarette burns. On a good day, this lasts an hour. On a bad day, it never really ends. Even on the best days, she's near-catatonic until the trifecta of coffee, cigarettes and morphine has worked its magic.
If it's a bad day, she'll go back to bed. If it's a good day, she'll putter from task to task, only sporadically finishing any of 'em. She puts on a load of laundry... then the phone rings!... she finishes her phone call, goes back to the laundry room, realizes she needs fabric softener. But the dog needs to be let out!... she lets the dog out, decides to sit down and watch some TV... but she still needs fabric softener!... but her car keys are next to the sink, and it's full of dirty dishes!... but she can't wash them, of course, until the silverware drawer is organized... oh, shoot, the dog's barking... forgot to let her in!... she lets the dog in, stops by the refrigerator to get a snack... and that nice roast is going to expire! Need to cook it! But the stove's covered in dirty dishes, too! Better organize the cupboards.
It's an unrelenting ADDeath shuffle, fueled by copious quantities of coffee, cigarettes and morphine. Not to feel good, mind you... to suppress the myriad of inexplicable aches and pains which would otherwise debilitate her.
At 5 PM, my father gets home from work. She says she's exhausted, that she's "been running all day!". She didn't even have time to shower! My father - an engineer of the "gentle robot" type - doesn't particularly care that the house is a crap hole, that dinner hasn't been made, that the carpet's a mass of charred polyester. He does the chores she requests. He fetches take-out. He calls in sick when she's too pained to get out of bed. He's supportive in all the ways she requires... and none of the ways she really needs.
Robo-Dad goes to bed at nine on the dot. Mom's day has barely begun. She can't go to bed! The house is a wreck! No one else is going to clean it! So begins the nightly suburban stations of the cross. She shuffles from room to room, chipping away at chores, trying (and failing) to fight fatigue. Falling asleep sitting in chairs (with her head pitched forward at a sickening, painful angle). Falling asleep at the kitchen table. Falling asleep on the toilet, falling off, hurting herself. Falling asleep standing up. Dropping cigarettes and burning holes in every surface imaginable. Eating sweets. Watching five-minute segments of movies ten times in a row because she keeps nodding off. Growing increasingly foggy, confused and incoherent.
Sometime before dawn, the inevitable wins and she passes out for an hour or two... sometimes in bed, sometimes on the couch, often while slumped over in a chair. She rarely sleeps for more than two or three hours before waking. When she wakes, she cannot/will not go back to sleep without taking another whack at the whole "shuffle around house, burn holes in shit" routine (she claims that sleeping for more than four hours at a time "messes up" her back). After two or three shuffle-interrupted blocks of sleep... surprise! It's noon again... rinse, repeat.
It's no way to live. Yet she has been, for years. And now her daily hours of lucidity have begun to wane. We're sad and scared.
What We Want, Ideal-World Version:
- We want her to stop endangering her life and those of her family.
- We want to help her address the sleep issues which are so detrimental to her life.
- Ditto the depression issues.
- We want a better life for her than the one she's living. She deserves it.
The Background Info:
- Let's set a few things straight. She's a wonderful woman. She's damned intelligent, hilariously funny, incredibly supportive, one of the few genuinely moral people I've ever met. My entire concept of ethics and decency comes from her. Hell, the bulk of that which is good in me comes from her. Hence my desire to sift through this clusterfuck and help her.
- She's in her early 60s. She's suffered from clinical depression for over fifty years. It's ebbed and flowed. SSRIs currently keep it from spiraling out of control (though they don't make it much better). She's also had intractable feelings of worthlessness and failure - they've always been there, and always been incredibly painful and shameful. She was bright enough to have gone to medical school... instead, she became a secretary, then a homemaker. Wasn't encouraged by her parents.. wasn't encouraged by Robo-Dad... wasn't confident in herself. As such, she never achieved... well, much of anything, by outside standards. She's lived a good and decent life... but it's done nothing for her ego.
- My siblings and I are grown. Two of us have moved out. The youngest, Former Junkie Sister (now Suboxone Sistah), lives at home, works part-time, has little direction, spends a lot of time fighting with mom. Due to Former Junkie Sister's issues (as well as those of her other children), mom believes herself to have been a huge failure as a parent.
- Per my father, mom's always had issues with insomnia/resultant narcolepsy.
- For the past 15 years, she's experienced a series of inexplicable, increasingly-severe physical complaints. She's been pegged with fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, you name it. Nothing's quite fit. Factitious? No. Psychosomatic? Quite possibly, at least in part. Her "treatment" has been limited to morphine sulfate, dispensed by a kindly but clueless local physician. The morphine suppresses enough pain for her to be mobile. Due to increasing tolerance, she's worked her way up to 8 to 12 60mg tablets per day (enough to euthanize a lesser mortal). Due to bad experiences with several specialists ("chronic nonspecific pain" = problematic patient), she's reluctant/unwilling to pursue other treatment options.
The physical ailments and their ensuing limitations were a nuisance... then a problem... then, once her kids were grown, the defining feature of her life. She has no real hobbies, few friends, no goals or ambitions. She doesn't feel she's worthy of these things. After all (in her mind), she's stupid, worthless and, above all, sick.
- Any suggestions regarding her problems are met with denial, incredulity and/or anger. Usually anger. "You kids have no idea what it's like"... "I have a pretty good life, most of the time"... "It seems like you're all turning on me"... etc.
- Aging has made her increasingly depressed/despondent about the course her life has taken. Hopelessness and helplessness are the themes of the day, "it's too late for me" a common refrain.
The Request: what do we do? We have no idea where to start. Psychiatrist? Life coach? Sleep clinic? Family doc? Any course of action has to be pursued very, very carefully; if she thinks we're betraying her, she'll be devastated. We want to help... not destroy.
Any suggestions, stories opinions and errata would be greatly appreciated. We're feeling clueless and desperate over here.