February 16, 2010 11:41 PM   Subscribe

Stressed out only grown up child of an on again/off again ill Mom. Is my extended family helping or hurting me? Lots

I am the only child (33 yo) of my 55 year old Mom. For as long as I can remember she's had some pretty serious health issues, which she came through better than I can have imagined. In short, Mom, has had Pancreatitis, LOTS of organs removed, issues with arteries in her legs due to the complications of diabetes, getting MRSA, losing a kidney and having a few heart valves replaced with mechanical ones.

I feel so incredibly selfish to say -- this has worn me thin. So much that it has driven me to panic attacks, depression, etc. It didn't help that I had a marriage fall apart during the most stressful part of her illness (being the heart valve replacement and all that comes with it).

When I was sure she was recovered (she lives alone), I ended up moving 1600 miles away from her. I think she has a strong support system of great friends and some family in the area, I would never have left if she hadn't.

She gets infections sometimes that require her to stay in the hospital for a few days, but two days ago, she went to the emergency room with severe stomach pain where she was put on Dilaudid, which I understand is an extremely potent pain killer.

I know my Mom, she does not like to be fussed over, and we communicate every day via text, IM, phone etc.

Well, this last few days my Mom has been sick, her sister, my aunt, has been sending me messages so passive aggressive (which she always does when these (major for most people) minor for my mom), occurrences happen.

Most recently she sends things that make me feel like absolute shit -- "How are we supposed to get a hold of you when we need you when Mom is sick?" "She cannot be alone, you need to go home" and she tries to entice me to move home, and it makes me NOT want to talk to her at all. She says "we" in the message like I haven't talked to my OWN mother in weeks and haven't been up to par with her current illness, when I most certainly am. She calls the doctors constantly insisting information which makes mom very uncomfortable. She tells me that my mother lies to me about how she feels and she really wants me home, when my Mom knows and is excited for where I am in my life right now. She brings up the added guilt trip of saying that she came home when her mom was sick, when I was there and she was never around.

At this point I am so upset that at the next text message she sends me, I am ready to respond a huge "F*CK YOU!" to her. The thing is, I don't know if she is right, and I should go home and tend to my mom for the rest of her life. I don't know how to confront her with these feelings, because the angst is so built up now, I don't think it would end in a positive note.

I would appreciate any insight on the situation, thanks for reading.
posted by phox to Human Relations (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked to your mum about this? I'd be saying to my mother, 'look, Aunty Wicked Witch is sending me these vicious texts, implying that I've deserted you and I don't care enough about you, and it's making me feel awful... is that how you truly feel, or is she just being a manipulative nasty cow?'.

Then send your aunt a text saying 'F*CK YOU! You are a manipulative nasty cow, and as I can't provide the allegedly high standard of round-the-clock care you claim to have demonstrated when your mother was sick, perhaps you should spend a little more time looking after her, rather than hounding me'. Feel free to insert that new sarcasm emoticon thingy. Over and over and over.

(But then again, I'm a bitch, and blood is not thicker than water as far as I'm concerned. I don't accept bad behaviour from family members purely because they're family, I expect them to act in a civilised fashion, and I have blocked those who can't be civilised out of my life and never regretted it. YMMV.)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 1:08 AM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: phox: "She calls the doctors constantly insisting information which makes mom very uncomfortable."

It's time for your mom to talk to the doctors and make it very clear that they do not have her permission to talk to her sister about her condition. If the doctors don't comply, file a HIPAA violation report.

Do talk to your mom... perhaps she is feeling overwhelmed by her sister's intrusion into her life as well.

You are the only one who can decide if you move home or not. You only get one mom and she's not going to be here forever. Then again, you need to do what is right for you and take care of yourself so you can continue to have a healthy relationship with your mother.

malibustacey9999: "(But then again, I'm a bitch, and blood is not thicker than water as far as I'm concerned. I don't accept bad behaviour from family members purely because they're family, I expect them to act in a civilised fashion, and I have blocked those who can't be civilised out of my life and never regretted it. YMMV.)"

This sounds exactly right and no, it does not make you a bitch.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:53 AM on February 17, 2010

"I know you don't mean to do this, but I find your accusing my mother of being a liar to be very disturbing. I am also very upset by your statements regarding where I live to be passive-agressive and very difficult to take. Therefore, I will only communicate with you when you do not include such statements."

"Furthermore, I have spoken to my mother, and she is very upset that you continue to ask questions of the doctors about her condition. I am asking you directly to stop engaging in this behavior." If she mumbles around any of that, say that you need a positive declaration from her that she will not do this anymore.

If she tries any shit with you on the phone, hang up on her.*

*This entire method taught to me by my mom's sister, who is a professor of psychology at a major US university and used to great effect on my mother, who before I did it, would usually call me up and threaten to kill herself if she was upset. After doing it 1200 times to me in the course of my lifetime, she tried only once more to do it. After I hung up on her again, she has never once threatened to kill herself to me again. That was 18 years ago.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:41 AM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is your aunt one of those people who feeds on other's misery and loves illness? Some people really love it when other people are sick and will exaggerate it any chance they get.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:52 AM on February 17, 2010

I've been in this situation before. I advise against texting your aunt a "F*ck you" or talking to your mother about it. Your aunt is likely to use that as ammunition: "I've been at the hospital for six hours, and you're off living your happy life. Then you curse at me, your poor sacrificing aunt? Plus you told lies about me to your mother when she already has enough on her mind. Now she is worried and crying over what you said. You don't know it because she puts on a happy face to you...."

What ended up working (accidentally) in my situation was asking the pestering relative for a big favor. I needed help transporting my mother to a hospital in another country, and I asked my relative in desperation. It would've been a huge pain for him, and he came up with an excuse to get out of it. After that, he never pestered me again, because we both knew he couldn't put his money where his mouth was.
posted by cheesecake at 12:22 PM on February 17, 2010

Sorry to hear that your mom has been so ill over the years, but you know, all that is not your fault. You are not responsible for it. Since the family drama has affected your mental health and life, I suggest you detach from your family (especially that Wicked Aunt, who seems to have some issues of her own) and try to regain your own mental health. See a good therapist, who can help you with all this as well as your panic attacks and depression. And congratulations on living 1600 miles away. Excellent choice, one that many of us have made for the same reason. Now concentrate on helping yourself.
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:34 PM on February 17, 2010

Oh, I know this feeling.

Point out to your aunt that jobs are very hard to come by these days, so even if you desperately wanted to move back home (don't say that you don't), you need the money to be able to eat. Beyond that, there's nothing much you can do about crazy and getting her to stop/see reason. She's clearly trying to make you move home so you can be the permanent caregiver instead of her. Don't.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:59 PM on February 17, 2010

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