Mental health and the aging parent, part million
August 16, 2013 11:49 AM Subscribe
In short, my 60something mother who struggles with chronic depression has taken a turn for the worse, and I don't know what to do about it. I know this issue has come up a lot on the green, but would like some help and advice with our specific situation. Snowstorm inside.
posted by anonymous to human relations (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
- Mom and I have a distant relationship for good reason. Drama of the Gifted Child sums us up very well. I moved out as soon as I could and as far away as I could, and we have a very superficial relationship now.
- She is a recovered alcoholic and has struggled with depression all her life. When I was 16 she told me that she was thinking of ending it all. I flipped out and ratted her out to my dad, and ever since then she has hidden the worst of her feelings from me.
- She has been taking antidepressants for quite a while and has recently upped the dosage, but I don't think they are helping her. Many years ago she tried therapy but perhaps had a bad therapist or didn't stick with it long enough and now seems to be in the "therapy doesn't help, it's a waste of money" camp.
- My dad is a great person but kind of a needy nelly and probably not the best husband. She's been unhappy with him for a long time, so their marriage is not a source of strength for her at this point.
Now, I have kept my distance from her problems because I know her happiness is not my responsibility (thanks, years of therapy!) but recently I feel like she's taken a serious turn for the worse. I came to visit with her new grandchild, who is of that perfect cute-but-not-stressful age, and when she was interacting with the baby she would bounce from joy to this kind of scary, sudden deadness. She's very good at concealing her pain, but several times I caught expressions of naked, raw despair on her face. And she LOVES babies, so this really took me aback.
Moreover, she recently lost a job she had for 15+ years because she was unable to conduct herself professionally at the workplace anymore; she told me she "resigned" but she told the truth to another family member who she is more comfortable talking to. I also know she was doing stuff like hiding under her desk to avoid people. This is all very new and she normally is quite proud of her career.
I feel like she has gone from someone who's got that perma-discontent going to someone who is so deep into her depression that it's starting to ruin her life. Given that she has expressed suicidal ideation before, I'm somewhat concerned for her safety, but I'm not sure what, if anything, I can do.
I thought about picking up the phone and saying something like "Okay, let's put aside the past 30 years of bullshit for just this conversation. I'm going to talk to you about mental illness and the truth about therapy and how I think you can get help that will actually help, if you want it." Is that a terrible idea?
(FWIW, everyone else in the family is medicated but generally against therapy. I am the only one to have had a positive experience with it. I know firsthand how hard it is and how long it takes and how humiliating it can be. So I think if she's going to get that message from anyone it has to be me.)
Is there anything I can do from here to help her, or do I just have to accept that she had an unhappy life, maybe got dealt a shitty hand by her own parents and biology and a number of other factors, and there is nothing I can really do about it?