Metaintervention: My Mom tries to control everything at the cost of her health and personal relationships. Resistant to therapy. How can I persuade her to see things in a different, more reasonable light?
posted by aca.int to human relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Impending financial meltdown, terrible job market, back to school, etc., I recently moved back home. My Mom has always appreciated being in control, namely of a clean house, but I didn't realize the extent until I moved back home. Far worse.
For the sake of simplicity, I’ll stick to the issue of cleanliness. Take me at my word, her standards are thoroughly unattainable. If guests come over and offer to do the dishes, she’ll let them. They wash them and leave them to dry. When they leave, she re-washes the spotless dishes as well as the rack they dried on. She wipes down the immaculate chairs. She often wakes up in the night to pee and wipes down the pristine counters if she thinks someone might have used them.
Nearly 60, she’s still a beloved social butterfly outside the house. She goes out with friends, plans vacations, organizes events for work. She planned a flash mob the other day! (I shit you not, she met with a choreographer Monday.) But when she’s home, she barks orders at everyone. Berates them, insults them – this woman has never picked a battle in her life. The rest of the family literally does not believe anything we (myself, my father and my aunt) say because it really is such a stark contrast to her gregarious public nature.
She has rheumatoid arthritis and works on her feet. She can get by all but a few days, although she really should rest when she has the opportunity. Instead, she chooses to clean. More often than not, she chooses to scream about things until someone else cleans them. My father left her fifteen years ago, arguably due to these control issues. Of course the control extends beyond the cleanliness of her house but this is a big point of contention for her. She's been living with my aunt - her sister - who is ready to dissolve their arrangement to spare her mental health. That leaves me.
I’ve tried talking to her – figuring out why she feels things need to be so clean. Or why someone needs to wash her car a certain way when they’re doing her a favor. Always a bullshit answer, (eg. ‘that’s the way I want it done.’) even after an hour of relentless albeit respectful and nonjudgmental digging.
Also, diagnosed with anxiety/depression. I assume they didn't press the anxiety portion or they would have uncovered highly evident OCD, right? This is inconsequential if there are no other forms of pharmaceutical treatment as she’s already found an antidepressant that ‘works’ for her.
I’ve tried letting her have her way, beyond moderation. It is never enough. She wastes a lot of time/energy cleaning and all it does is make her less unhappy – it never has a positive effect. Similarly with other areas of control. This isn’t an acceptable option anyway.
I’ve tried to get her to stay in therapy. She’s reluctant to go, even before they present conflicting views. As soon as they do, she stops going. (Of course, with confidentiality, they don’t give me the whole story but in an effort to help, they’ve hinted at even gentle confrontation becoming a deal breaker.)
The only treatment she will stick with is the pill form. An SSRI and PRN benzodiazepines. The benzos work great for her average days but they’re not a daily, long-term option. She also tries to avoid taking them on all but the worst days. In those scenarios, 1mg of lorazepam (Ativan) functions as gauze to a hemorrhaging wound. The arthritis is treated with a host of medications including steroids, which we know have various, related side effects. Discontinuing those is a nonoption.
I think a lot of her agitation at home stems from the discomfort she experiences outside. She knows it’s socially unacceptable to treat people the way she treats her family, so she reserves that behavior for when she gets home. Akin to taking your anger out on the dog. Maybe I’ll get her a dog. (Kidding.) Ultimately I won’t endure this for the rest of her life. I’ll be poor and stay with friends before I get used to this. As her last lifeline, I feel obligated to call upon the hive.
I worry about this growing obsession. Then I step back and realize she orchestrates all of this very well. She still has her job, her friends.. she’s cognizant. Growing up, I tried babying her. In retrospect, that only made things worse. How can I help, without giving in?