September 1, 2016 4:02 PM   Subscribe

My borderline mom has become increasingly paranoid. How do I deal with this?

I posted about my mom two years ago. Very little has changed. I moved back to my hometown several months ago, so she's now alone in her city. She can't make rent and she still isn't speaking to her father. She started taking payday loans about a year ago and is now dealing with wage garnishments.

Over the last year or so, she's become significantly more paranoid than she's ever been. She's in an ongoing battle with her property management company because they've tried to (legally) evict her twice because she didn't pay her rent. But she rants about them constantly, how "what they're doing" is "illegal," how they're spying on her. She found a blog written by some wacko online about how he thinks that this management company is somehow responsible for his ex-wife's death and that only added fuel to her fire.

This has bled into her job, which is obviously bad because it's a miracle that she even has a job. The job is commission-only, which she claims is - you guessed it - "illegal." She gets no paid time off, which is, according to her, "illegal." She spends a significant amount of time calling different legal aid services and state employment departments to go through her whole spiel about what they're doing and asking if what they're doing is illegal so that she can (with what time and money I don't know) sue them.

Last winter, she borrowed money from her shady employer (against my very strong advice not to), and they agreed that they would take a small amount out of her regular paycheck to pay it back. When they took the first amount out, she called me hysterical and told me that they were stealing her money. And then last week, she borrowed more money from them!! and continues to call them lying dirty thieves. She told me that the reason she's trying to find out if she can sue them is so that when she gets a new job she can make sure she doesn't have to pay them back because this is money that's owed to her for all of the stuff they've done. Yeah, right.

Anyway. Paranoid. Obsessed with suing everyone. I've read all the books about BPD but I find myself wanting to either laugh or get furious when she goes off on tangents about this stuff, but that obviously makes her upset. Everything I've found about paranoia and BPD is about being the person that has it, not the loved one. What's the best way to respond to this without outright condoning it?
posted by anotheraccount to Human Relations (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. I don't have any practical advice, but I wanted to point out this book in case you hadn't heard of it: Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship
posted by phatkitten at 4:18 PM on September 1, 2016

"That sounds really stressful" might get you surprisingly far.
posted by lazuli at 4:34 PM on September 1, 2016 [12 favorites]

Can you encourage her to see a psychiatrist? While borderline can include symptoms of paranoia, paranoia is not really the "classic" presentation. The fact that the paranoia has recently worsened could mean that there's a little more than just a personality disorder going on, and she could potentially benefit from further treatment.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 4:50 PM on September 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

Call NAMI and tell them the situation.

Here is their phone number: 1-800-950-NAMI

I can't tell you how valuable their wise and experienced advice was when someone I knew started having delusions. They will guide you.
posted by jbenben at 4:58 PM on September 1, 2016 [20 favorites]

Have you ever seen a therapist, or could you convincingly lie and say you have? "Wow, mom, that sounds REALLY stressful, it's obviously stressing you out. Holy crap, you're going through SO MUCH. What a terrible thing to have to deal with! Hey, you know what really helps me when I'm super stressed? Talking to my therapist. It's seriously awesome. You should try it!"

Google psychiatrists beforehand to recommend some.
posted by erst at 6:51 PM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing jbenben. I am sorry this is happening to you because it's hard, even though your mom is going through a tough time, you clearly are too. It's okay to put up some pretty serious boundaries with someone who is mentally ill and not seeking treatment. Limiting phone calls, choosing other communication paths, slightly disaffected listening. The book that I've seen recommended (often for parents and not children) is "I’m not sick, I don’t need help!" when dealing with a loved one who refuses treatment.

My partner has a son who is, among other things, paranoid, and he benefits a lot from a regular support group where he can just BITCH about the crap he puts up with. He still deals with a lot of guilt about this because clearly his son has a problem and isn't a bad person, but it helps my partner feel more grounded and sometimes learn other techniques (from people who have been there) for managing the situation. The groups are free and run by NAMI and are very useful.
posted by jessamyn at 7:46 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

+1 NAMI. If you can't get to a support group, they have online support groups. They also have a class that helps family members learned to deal with the issue.
posted by valannc at 8:18 AM on September 2, 2016

I have borderline personality disorder, I have never experienced these issues. I think there is something else going on. Definitely follow the advice above and contact NAMI.
posted by shesbenevolent at 9:06 AM on September 6, 2016

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