I love you, mom, but I can't talk to you any more
July 26, 2014 8:15 AM   Subscribe

My mom has (not formally diagnosed, but very obvious) borderline personality disorder that is getting worse as she gets older. She is unable to support herself financially and being in contact with her is awful. What now?

My 50something mom has borderline personality disorder. She has never been formally diagnosed, but she has all of the hallmarks - she is scared to death of being abandoned, everything is black and white, and she is extremely paranoid. For my entire life, I have been the golden child, and my sister has been the devil child. When I moved from our hometown 10 years ago, she followed me here.

For the 8+ years that she has lived here, she has been unable to support herself. She was a stay-at-home mom until my sister and I were teenagers and went back to school for her BA, but because of her illness, she has quit or been fired from every job she's ever had. Because of this, her lack of work-appropriate skills, and her age, I seriously doubt that she will ever have any other "career" job. She refuses to apply for any kind of service job. She spends most of her days looking for short-term data entry and other gigs on Craigslist and tweeting.

For my entire adult life, money has been an issue for her. However, in the last year, it has gotten worse. I have lent her money multiple times, as have some relatives. My grandfather was helping her financially as much as he could, but their relationship has always been fraught, and last month she announced that she was never going to talk to him again. Now, it is July 26 and she doesn't have a penny for her August rent. As she has most months for the last year+, she has asked me to either a) pay her rent in full or b) allow her to move in with me. I live with my boyfriend, who doesn't want her here - and neither do I, because I strongly believe that she would never leave.

I've tried everything with her. I've been in therapy for years to learn how to deal with her. I've read all of the books on BPD and have been in support groups. I love her dearly, and I know that she is very sick. But she refuses to get help for her illness and, as a result, is continually putting herself in situations that require my time, money, and emotional investment. I cannot do this forever. In the last several months, I have seriously considered cutting her off completely. I cannot think of any other alternatives at this point.

Can I do this? Should I do this? Are there alternatives here that I'm missing? I hate seeing her struggle like this, but I can't help her unless she agrees to help herself.
posted by anotheraccount to Human Relations (25 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You have my permission to drop her. But I'd encourage you to have an intervention:

Mother I love you, but you have a serious mental illness and your refusal to seek treatment affects me in the following ways: Foo, Bah and blah.

There are things you can do for assistance, SSI, Public Assistance, SNAP. I'll willing help you apply for these but only if you seek help for your illness. I will not give you any money, I won't let you move in with me. I am your daughter, not your caregiver and I will not sacrifice for your benefit while you choose to remain ill and untreated.

But I totally understand why you're done. That's okay. You can be done.

Take care, it's really, really hard.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:29 AM on July 26, 2014 [26 favorites]

It sounds like you are describing my mom. The only difference is that my mom, although also terrible with money, has managed to support herself all the way into retirement. I suspect she has massive credit card debt, though. I cut off contact with her in 2009, after I moved to another country. It was the best decision I've ever made. Growing up with a parent like that, you don't realize how oppressive it is until you escape. For me it was definitely an eye opener, getting out from under her and realizing much of my lack of confidence was due to her constant reinforcement that I sucked and would never do anything of value. I realize your situation is slightly different, but the key elements sound the same. Never diagnosed, won't get help, paranoid, afraid of being abandoned, etc. My mom had an extra element of mean, which is likely in line with the BPD.

Sometimes people are toxic, their effects on your life only negative, and any help you give them will just enable them to stay where they are. This sounds like an example of that. You cutting her off may spur her to find the help she needs, but even if it doesn't - you are your own person now. You need to take care of your sanity and well being first. I heartily recommend the choice to cut her off. It isn't easy, especially with her so tied into your life - it'll be harder than it was for me (I put a country and 3k miles between us). Do what is best for you.
posted by routergirl at 8:31 AM on July 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

But she refuses to get help for her illness and, as a result, is continually putting herself in situations that require my time, money, and emotional investment.

No, she is putting herself in these situations and you are bailing her out by investing financially and emotionally.

These situations don't require you to save her.

She has other options. She could get a formal diagnosis, which, combined with the job loss, might actually qualify her for disability. She could get treatment so that she could hold a job. She could move into a shelter. She made the decision to cut off her father; she can unmake that decision.

Only you can decide whether you want to continue any sort of relationship with her (and it is completely fine to decide to cut her off), but it will be helpful moving forward if you start putting the responsibility back on her to fix situations that she's created, and to realize (even if she doesn't) that she has plenty of options that aren't you, and that you don't have to write those options off just because she has. It can get really easy for family and friends to get caught up in the black-and-white world, too; resisting that will likely help your state of mind.
posted by jaguar at 8:31 AM on July 26, 2014 [20 favorites]

You have permission to cut her off. I cut off my BPD mother when I was 17. It was a bit easier for me since she wasn't dependant specifically on me. If I were in your position, here's what I would do.

Make a packet of financial assistance programs, job search help, temp agencies, senior assistance, meal assistance, federal programs, doctors, therapy, etc.

Write a letter describing how you feel, your boundaries, and what happens if she breaks those boundaries. Keep a copy of this for yourself.

Deliver these materials. I personally would audio-record this conversation because people with BPD tend to "forget" these types of conversations. Explain to her the boundaries in the letter and what will happen if she breaks those boundaries. Then tell her about all the resources in the packet. Wish her well and be on your way.

(Again, personally) My boundaries would be to completely cut off financial support, you won't take phone calls or visits asking for support. If she calls asking for support you will not answer or hang up. If she shows up unannounced asking for support you will ask her to leave. If she does not leave you will call the police and have her removed (or you will leave). You can include something in there about regaining contact if she seeks help, but that wasn't what I wanted to do.

My view may be harsh, but I wouldn't stall for a second on calling the cops if my biological mom showed up anywhere. I too wrote her a letter when I was 17 telling her I didn't want any contact, I didn't want any phone calls, I didn't want any presents, I didn't want her showing up anywhere.

Guess what happened? Two weeks later she found out where I worked and refused to leave until she saw me. I had a panic attack and we almost had to call the police. She continued to send gifts for the next 2 years. She found me on Facebook and contacted me. The list goes on.

You need to think very thoroughly about who you want in your life, and you have permission to remove someone who is not conducive to your own mental health. Feel free to MeMail me.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:44 AM on July 26, 2014 [13 favorites]

How does seeing a professional help her in an immediate sense? How does it help if it turns out that her mental health problems are really not going to improve? Disability. That's how it helps. She doesn't need to agree with the diagnosis, she just needs to get a doctor to document that she's unable to hold a job and get that process started sooner than later. Giving her more cash is just giving her money that's going down the drain. If you want to help, help her get on disability. You have seen firsthand that what she has is disabling. This is why these assistance programs exist.

It doesn't matter if they call it BPD or bipolar or depression or whatever, if she's lost every job she's ever had, hasn't been able to get new work in ages, and is dependent on support from relatives, it is long, long, long past time that someone brought this up. If she's still unwilling to see anyone about it even for this purpose, then you certainly can just wash your hands of it, she has to take some responsibility here. But don't phrase it as "you need to see a doctor who will fix you". She just needs to see a doctor who will give her some kind of label, even if it's not an accurate one according to you or according to her, even if she's not medication-compliant, whatever, that will get her into this process of getting the social services she's entitled to as a person who is not presently able to work in the sorts of jobs she presently has access to. This is something that I think a lot of people get hung up on, the idea that they need to help someone in their life Get Better, but--that comes later. Stable living situation first, healing later.
posted by Sequence at 8:51 AM on July 26, 2014 [20 favorites]

Please do not, under any circumstances, let her move in with you: you're right, she'd never move out, and you'd only end up supporting her completely from now on. Plus it'd add immeasurable stress to your relationship with your boyfriend. (Maybe move her into a smaller apartment with a smaller rent she could actually pay?)

First thing to remember is the Oxygen Mask Rule: you absolutely have to save yourself first. You have to put on your own oxygen mask first, then you help someone else with theirs: you can't help them put their mask on if you've passed out. You can't give your mother so much time and money that you don't have any left for yourself: you have to pay your own bills and have a financial cushion for your own emergencies before you give her one penny; you have to take care of yourself and your relationship with your SO, and not let her drive a wedge between you.

You're going to have to tell her you can't afford to keep giving her as much as you have in the past: cut her off entirely if you can, but at least cut down on how much you give her. Set a maximum limit and never ever hand over one penny more --- and don't tell her about your monthly limit, because once she knows what it is I can guarantee she'll make sure to get every bit of it out of you. But hold firm: the phrase to keep repeating over and over is "I'm sorry, but that won't be possible." Don't let her force you into giving her detailed explanations as to why it won't be possible for you to pay her bills, just keep saying No.

Tell her you'll gladly help her sign up for any of the various kinds of assistance: with rent, with food or SSI or medical or whatever. Just make sure she knows you can't and won't keep bailing her out. If being cut off offends her, oh well: too bad. If she is embarrassed or considers it demeaning to sign up for any of the various forms of social support (being 'on welfare' has a negative connotation to a lot of people), again, oh well: too bad.

(Please note, you are giving her money, you certainly aren't lending it to her: paying her bills because she can't says she'll never be paying any of it back. Realize now that anything you've given her is gone, and you'll never see it again.)
posted by easily confused at 9:05 AM on July 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Everyone else here has covered this wonderfully, so the only things I have to add are these:

First, you should absolutely not let her move in with you. Not temporarily, not overnight, not if she loses her apartment, not for any reason. There will always be a reason that she can't move out.

Second, you have tried everything with her... except cutting her off and forcing her into a position where she has to confront her illness instead of depending on you to take care of her. As long as you keep stepping in to handle things for her, she will continue to rely on you. No matter what you say about her needing to do things for herself, your actions are what comes through: "you need to get this together, but I'll fix it right now" is you fixing it, not an impetus for her to get her shit together.

If you're ready to cut her off, that's fine. If you're not ready to do that, make a plan to only respond to her requests for help by referring her to assistance programs. It's fine to tell her that you're broke, but it's also fine to try to have an intervention and explain what's up with her as long as you follow your plan and don't give in to her.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:08 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree that it is fine at this point to cut her off, if in your gut you feel you just can't do anything else for her. If you're not ready to do it, that's fine too -- but then I think your only remaining healthy option is to refer her to assistance programs, as outlined above. Beyond that: you have done virtually everything else you can do, and if any of it was going to help, it would have helped by now.

Remember: boundaries are a positive, compassionate thing -- and this fact is not changed even when the person with whom you are drawing boundaries doesn't like them. Adam Yauch once said something about this from a Buddhist perspective, in a way that's helped me a lot with my boundaries:
A lot of people just mess themselves up by feeling like they have to "do" stuff for other people, all of the time, even when that's not working for them personally. They have to include themselves in that overall picture of benefiting everyone. They have to include themselves as "beings", and know that by being in their strongest place, that that is how they can most benefit the universe, most of the time. Being a bodhisattva is about strengthening yourself, so you can go on. Benefit where the benefit is needed. Come from a strong place in yourself and you really help people.
I wish you the very best.
posted by scody at 9:26 AM on July 26, 2014 [23 favorites]

I have been in a situation almost identical to yours. I made the mistake of letting my mother move in with me.

It was a disaster. It damaged my marriage. It didn't help my mother in any meaningful way. In fact, it set her back because it delayed her moment of clarity when she absolutely had to get real help.

I'm just adding to the chorus here, but it's time for your mother to hit bottom so that she can begin the trip back up. You can't fix her and you can't save her.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:36 AM on July 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Part of the reason why she's refusing service jobs as "beneath her" and not otherwise hustling on making rent is that you, my dear, have been her retirement plan in her mind from before you were even old enough to work. I'd even wager that the fact that she isn't making rent is a feature, rather than a bug, of her current lifestyle, in her mind: she's accelerating the time table for when of course her golden child daughter will finally take her in and take complete care of her needs.

You need to start letting her know you'll help her research low income housing for seniors and the disabled if she genuinely can't meet her needs. That's it. That's her wake up call. It won't be pretty but the alternative is far worse (kicking out your poor elderly mother who sacrificed everything for you, once you let her move in and can't get her to leave). And yes, either way, you'll look like a monster to people who don't understand this degree of pathology vs just having "a difficult mother." That's what she's counting on at this point, which is why she had no real plan b.

Feel free to message me.
posted by blue suede stockings at 9:48 AM on July 26, 2014 [28 favorites]

Hey, mom, since you insist that you are not mentally ill then I must conclude that you are just an ass. Please leave me alone. If you decide in the future that you are mentally ill and begin to seek treatment then you may contact me again. I have no more money or energy for you. I love you better when you are not near.

Drop that bomb and run. It may be the harsh wake up that she needs. Stop enabling her. You owe her nothing.
posted by myselfasme at 10:41 AM on July 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

From what you and everyone else here says, cutting her off as soon as possible will not only be the best for you, but for her as well: she needs to be pushed out of the nest you've so generously made for her while her health and faculties are at their best.

I've got someone at the "difficult parent" level, and I always tell myself it could be far worse, but this thread is really opening my eyes to how much worse it could be.
posted by XMLicious at 10:53 AM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't believe a childs love for their parent should be unconditional. I don't believe because someone bought us into the world (and CHOSE to do this) we deserve a life sentence because they didn't or couldn't sort their shit out. I know this is a minority viewpoint. I stand by it.

Family dynamics can suck big and all that happens is the wounds one way or another get passed down the next undeserving generation. Nuts.

In my mid 20's I estranged from my narcissistic mother for 10 years. I did not have the same level of warmth towards her as you do to yours (I'm a sociologist by background and cast a questioning eye over the family as an institution many years ago).. and I got presumptious, scathing shit about it from nearly everyone in my life. Like I was the problem. I was not. I was saving my own life and never regretted the decision.

We now have low contact.. 'LC' on the forums.. which can work for some. I saw her recently and sat thinking about how disconnectd to her I felt. Sad eh? But it's my truth and I am entitled to my truth, as are you.

She probably did the best she did with what she had (there is scant evidence that BPD can change). Think about the parts of you that are richer for having had all this crap to ease a bit of the pain, if not now.. when you can. Then walk away consciously if you so chose to build a different kind of life, away from someone who couldn't turn up for you or herself.

Please think about reading Alice Miller and look up Daniel Mackler (a genius) on youtube.. who dares to talk about estranging publicly (a major social taboo - he is a former therapist too). He also has a book on breaking from the family of origin and what for too many of us are it's chains.
posted by tanktop at 11:02 AM on July 26, 2014 [19 favorites]

For my entire life, I have been the golden child...When I moved from our hometown 10 years ago, she followed me here.

So, she managed to get her act together enough to basically stalk you. Because she is sure you are her property and she has some right to ...something. But can't manage to do anything at all that gets her off your back.

It looks to me like she is perfectly capable of doing something if it matters to her and she wants it. Stop believing her sob story and agreeing to be her victim.

And 50's is not too late to get your act together and still have a real career. Google the phrase "late bloomers." There are plenty of success stories that start after the age of 50. I am 49. I expect my best years to be ahead of me, not behind me. If she wants to give up and go to rot, well, not your problem.
posted by Michele in California at 11:39 AM on July 26, 2014 [16 favorites]

I agree with everyone here about moving on. My mother has similar issues.

HOWEVER, since it's July 26 and she is broke and needs to pay rent in a few days...

If you can afford another month's rent, you should pay it. I think it's cruel to anyone (mentally ill, borderline, or whatever) to cut them off abruptly when they are broke and have had no time to think about their next steps.

If you have the money, I'd send it to her with a note that this will be the last time you ever pay rent for her, and the names of some social workers and low income housing developments.
posted by 3491again at 11:40 AM on July 26, 2014 [13 favorites]

If you can afford another month's rent, you should pay it. I think it's cruel to anyone (mentally ill, borderline, or whatever) to cut them off abruptly when they are broke and have had no time to think about their next steps.

I understand this impulse/sentiment, but the OP indicates that this is nowhere near the first time her mother has found herself at the end of the month without having rent for the next month. Each time, someone has bailed her out and paid her rent for her. Each time, she could have thought about next steps to prevent it from happening again (she certainly could have thought about her next steps last month, when she cut off the OP's grandfather, who had been helping support her). Each time, she has failed to do so. There is nothing to suggest that if the OP pays mom's August rent, mom will finally take the steps to avoid being in the exact same position come September or October or November or December.

At some point, the OP has to draw the line, because mom never will.
posted by scody at 12:10 PM on July 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

I agree with 3491. The OP may have paid rent many times before, but without making it clear that this was the last time. If it were me, I would feel better about the situation if I did what 3491 suggests.

I know that won't stop her mother from asking for it again at the end of the next month, but it would create a clear sense in my own mind that I had acted in a way that I was comfortable with and set a boundary.

This is a really hard thing to do as it is. She has every right to cut her mother off without a second thought this very instant, no doubt about it. However, if it were me, sending the rent one last time with a note indicating it was the last time would make the difference in having a blight on my conscience and not.

You're not messing up if you can't bring yourself to do that for August rent, and you draw the line at that point, refuse to give her money from that point forward, and follow the other suggestions here. Not drawing the line in the sand in the next four days doesn't mean that you are incapable of doing it, that you won't do it for the following month, or that this situation is your fault.

If the OP is totally comfortable with cutting her off right now, I think that's fine too.
posted by tiger tiger at 12:27 PM on July 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would pay her rent this month, for my own piece of mind , and make it clear it was the last time and she was cut off. I think you'll be amazed at what she can scheme up to support herself given a month, once it's clear you're done.

Paying her rent this month and giving her written notice it's the last time is saving your good reputation.
posted by fshgrl at 12:32 PM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

[I'm one of the hardasses above, and I actually agree with the, "pay this last time with the explicit announcement that this is the Official Last Time This Will Ever Happen--IN WRITING--not just to make the boundary clear and give her time to put action behind reality if she's capable of it, but also because otherwise the narrative will be "She Threw Me Out on the Street with No Warning" and that shit will get eaten up with a spoon like a chocolate fudge sundae for years to come, which could waste a lot of time in therapy or with anyone else wiling to dish out tough love about the situation she's made for herself.

I also want to qualify--because no one with BPD has popped in yet, but it does happen in some other threads about bad situations with people with BPD--that if anyone with treated/managed BPD is reading this, I'm not condemning everyone with BPD in general any more than I wouldn't make a distinction between an active or sober alcoholic.]
posted by blue suede stockings at 1:12 PM on July 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Part of the reason why she's refusing service jobs as "beneath her" and not otherwise hustling on making rent is that you, my dear, have been her retirement plan in her mind from before you were even old enough to work. I'd even wager that the fact that she isn't making rent is a feature, rather than a bug, of her current lifestyle, in her mind: she's accelerating the time table for when of course her golden child daughter will finally take her in and take complete care of her needs.

Not sure about this. I mean she's taking the support for granted, yes, but if she does have borderline PD, that is very likely informing her expectations, goals and plans.

No matter what, it's not going to be easy. But I think if you pay the August bill and hook her up with resources, things might be marginally (like marginally) easier on the both of you. Otherwise, you'll have the drama of mom being abruptly homeless. (She'll likely blame you in any case, but the additional, high-amp guilt of mom being on the street with her suitcase might be hard for you to take.) I'd pay the bill, and then talk about financial limitations -- you can't afford to help her in this way indefinitely, and she needs a plan to deal with monthlies that does not rely on you.

on preview what blue stocking says
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:20 PM on July 26, 2014

I've tried everything with her. ...In the last several months, I have seriously considered cutting her off completely. I cannot think of any other alternatives at this point.

Can I do this? Should I do this? Are there alternatives here that I'm missing?

I considered talking about trying to find a way to ease out of the situation, and that is generally my preferred method of handling things, but the above is why I didn't address how to handle it. The problem here is that if you have tried everything and this has gone on for years and years, it may make zero difference to communicate "This is the last time." It may not be one iota easier next month when she again cannot pay her rent and all that.

Are there alternatives you are missing? Probably. But I have doubts that you can learn them from a single Ask.

You could try using the fact that she is currently in a world of hurt as a bargaining chip. In other words, instead of saying "Mom, I love you. I hate seeing you suffer. I don't want you out in the street. Here is the dough." (which is apparently the message you have been giving her), you could say "Mom, I cannot do this forever. You have refused to get help. I have zero reason to believe you will change. If I give you the rent money this time, you have to first do X thing. I won't give it to you until X thing is done." X thing can be: enroll in counseling or submit a written plan for how she will come up with the rent money herself next month or whatever else you think will be a constructive step forward that can be realistically accomplished in the short time left before the rent is due.

But with it so close to the end of the month, there is probably not anything you can realistically get her to do before giving her the money this time that will make any real change. A compromise position might be "I will give it to you this time. But this is the last time I am giving it you no strings attached. In order to get any more assistance from me, you need to meet x, y, and z conditions. No, I will not give it to you next month on a promise that you plan to meet those conditions in the future. So, since the odds seem poor that you will come up with September's rent on your own, here are the things you need to do before August is up in order to get my on-going assistance."

So, that might be something like 1) admit in writing that you have a problem 2) get into counseling before August is up and 3) do something that will address the financial piece directly somehow. I don't know what to suggest for that last. (Maybe get her to enroll in textbroker or elance or some other freelance service instead of surfing craig's list for gigs?)

If you want to try to stand by your mother and have compassion for how hard it is to change and resolve very big problems, you can only do that if you can learn to play hard-ball. As things stand now, she is not cooperating and you have a history of having no idea whatsoever how to force her to do anything. Since she is dependent upon you for money, it is possible to bitchily use that as leverage to make her do other things -- but that only actually works if you say "Do x first, THEN I will hand over money". But given that she recently stopped talking with her father who was also helping her out, that may not work at all. The result may still be that she absolutely refuses to make any attempt to change and you will still need to figure out how to get out of the mess and take care of yourself, only after having sunk yet more time, money and effort into her sinking ship.

So I don't know what the best thing is to do here. I don't like abandoning people. I tend to stand by people. But I also am no doormat. I absolutely can and will play hardball with people I care about (but I come armed with negotiating skillz and other assets that the OP seems to lack). And the problem I see here is that the OP is a softy and mom is a manipulator, so even talking to the woman risks a scenario of mom turning on the big sad eyes and OP's resolve that "THIS TIME, it will be DIFFERENT" crumbling and we are back at square one. Because of the history of manipulation here, it may not actually work for the OP to do anything other than just cut mom off as abruptly and completely as possible.

In a perfect world, that would never happen. But, in a perfect world, the OP wouldn't be asking this question to begin with.

Best of luck, whatever you decide.
posted by Michele in California at 1:35 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Re-read Stop Walking on Eggshells.

It's a rotten situation. She's miserable, unable to control her personality disorder, terrified, etc. But you can't fix it. She's probably ill enough to get disability income, which is tiny, rental assistance, food stamps and whatever assistance is available locally. Tell her you'll go with her to apply for them, if she'd like the help. Even if she doesn't pay rent, it'll be a while before she's evicted.

Can you afford to pay rent for her? It's not a loan, as she can't pay you back. Talk to your grandfather and any other family members, and come up with a plan, even if the plan is that Grandpa will pledge 25/month, Uncle Joe 10, and you 50. She has options - service jobs - that she is not choosing, but she probably needs a little extra help. She is genuinely ill and disabled, as well as making others miserable. If you can't afford to pay her rent, don't. Help her in whatever way you choose, but don't do things you can't afford, financially and personally. If your grandfather has money, talk to him about putting any inheritance for her in the form of a trust. Her behavior will only change when she stops having success with it.

Learn to love her and be kind to her while you say No. Don't argue, overexplain or negotiate. She's almost certainly a master manipulator. Your boundaries are good for you and good for her, don't let her trample them. It took years of hanging up the phone, walking out of the room, rejecting meanness when my Mom behaved badly for her to learn that I would not tolerate it. Well, it also took moving 1,000 miles away, and not having a phone for a year, in the beginning. We were never really close, but we developed an okay relationship. I'll bet you've told her before that loans were the last time, but she comes back for more. Help as much as you choose, but no more. Mom, I can give you 100, but that's all I can spare this month. I'm so sorry you're going through this. and No, Mom, you can't live with us. No, you just can't. Maybe visit with a meal, if that works for you.

Treat yourself with kindness. It sucks to have a parent with untreated mental illness, it sucks a lot. Take time to cook good meals for yourself, and do whatever you need to, to deal with the stress.
posted by theora55 at 1:40 PM on July 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

People are speaking here as if you can afford to pay her rent, possibly indefinitely. I agree with the poster above who said you can afford it only if your own regular living expenses, debts, AND savings are already covered. Please don't bankrupt yourself to pour money down a bottomless well of neediness.
posted by jaguar at 7:05 PM on July 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I find it amusing, though only in a bittersweet way, that your description of your mother's problems would describe perfectly my best friend's 44-year-old son. She's in her mid 70s and on a very low fixed income but she still gives him at least $200 a month because she knows - and she's right - that he's absolutely unable to help himself - his mental illness (undiagnosed) is as restricting as a major physical lillness would be. He drives her crazy but he's her son and she knows that cutting him off would serve no purpose - if he were out in the street with no place to go he still wouldn't be capable of going through the hoops to get assistance and he still wouldn't accept or understand that the problem is with HIM, that he has a mental illness.

It's like beating your head against a wall, but I just don't think there's any real workable answer. I'm sorry for you and for my friend - and I'm sorry for your mom and for her son.
posted by aryma at 7:32 PM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

This situation is made 1000 times worse because you are dealing with a parent. When my borderline personality disorder first reared its ugly head, I was a teenager who weighed 82 lbs. (anorexia nervosa) and whose parents had the money and resources to essentially force me to seek treatment. As a result, I entered adult life knowing that my personality disorder inflicts burdens on those around me and I consequently made a concerted effort to avoid harming others. So I'm almost 40, single, no kids. It's just easier this way.

Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to deal with someone who has not acknowledged their illness. I'm not a fan of cutting people off just because they have a mental illness, but I do draw a line when they're unwilling to seek treatment. I did dialectical behavioral therapy and it helped me immensely. I'm not perfect at practicing it, though, and my family (the only people with whom I have regular contact) give me a break when I screw up because they know that I'm trying. The trying and the awareness is what makes the difference for them.

I like Michele in California's answer a lot. It's basically the same thing people do with interventions. If you cut her off, your mother will go through everyone else in her life until she's finally without resources and is forced to address her problems. If she does choose to seek treatment, I think that the kind thing to do would be to support her in that. Having borderline personality disorder is just as bad as loving someone who has it, and I commend you for recognizing that she's sick, not evil.
posted by xyzzy at 11:45 AM on July 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

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