I'm not sure how to "detach" from my mother and start my own life.
July 9, 2017 1:50 PM   Subscribe

In my last question I asked if I could "legally move out" of my mentally ill mother's home and let her fend for herself, as it were. When I wrote the question I felt trapped, but with the help of my therapist and some serious self-reflection. I think that moving out is the best choice, for the both of us. Moving out and away from her just seems like such a massive task that I can't seem to chunk it down into something that seems possible. However, I don't really know... the best way how to do that? I still feel stuck. Lots of feelings and mental blocks inside.

Before I move out of my mom's home (and my childhood home, which I think is partially why I feel reluctant to move, especially with my dad's passing), what do I need to consider? (I live in Alberta, Canada, if that helps for any local advice).

Again, my mother is a 72-year-old mentally ill schizophrenic alcoholic who, according to my therapist, appears to fail at the activities of daily living. However, I can't have her assessed because she thinks nothing is wrong with her, so there's not much else to do.

The things we have set up so far are: automatic bill payments for everything, including property taxes, house insurance, etc. I'm sure I can hire someone to come once a week or every other week to mow the grass and shovel the snow in the winter. I'm not sure how she'll get groceries, she doesn't drive and the only place she seems to be able to go to is the local bar. However, in the winter she's more homebound as she doesn't feel "safe" walking to the bar (you have to walk through an alley that gets rather icy in the wintertime to get there) and she's afraid of slipping. So, I'm assuming that I'll have to still come by and buy her groceries on a weekly basis.

My greatest fear is that she'll spend all of her money at the bar. What if she spends every cent from her CPP, OAS, RRSPs, life insurance at the bar... and then what? I'm assuming that I'll eventually have to move her into some sort of care, what if there's no money for that? I guess we could just sell the house? The house does need significant repairs and I'd like to get some of them done ASAP so I can "supervise" everything and make sure what needs to get done is done.

Aside from worries about my mother, with my dad gone, I just feel much more insecure about life. Like, everything seems less safe and I have no one who'll protect me? God, I know I'm 29 and I should be a grown up and just get over all this and become a proper self-sufficient woman, but somehow facing the world alone TERRIFIES me in a way it didn't used to. In an odd way, I do feel a shred of security (despite everything) living with my mom in my childhood home. How do I get over this fear? So many people live on their own and manage to survive, why am I so frightened of it NOW? At 29!?!?!? I'm sure roommates make more sense, because I'm going to grad school and working part time, but I don't even know what I should be looking for.

And stemming from that I also have a lot of anxiety about money. Again, when my father was alive I felt "secure" and "protected." My current job is not bad, but I'll be working part-time for the foreseeable future and attending grad school (perhaps not in the most lucrative field ever, but it makes sense and I will not be going into debt for it). I'm afraid of even myself running out of money. I have about $30K of my own savings and I have an inheritance of a little more than $100K (which he gave me before his death, so I have access to the funds right now). With this money and what I'll be making from my job, I know that I should be fine on my own and that I'd have to be really stupid to "run out" of money within the next 2-3 years while I'm in school, but it's a real fear. Again, how can I get over this fear of... I dunno... money insecurity?

I probably won't be able to move out ASAP. I've decided to at least go on a two week vacation out of the country (which, again, terrifies me because of her) in August. I'd like to move out in October/November, definitely before winter. I want to move out but it just seems like SUCH a massive task, and my father's estate isn't settled yet, his life insurance policy for my mother hasn't been approved yet (waiting on provincial health care documents), and everything just seems stuck. How can I star planning my move now to make it feel less mentally/physically exhausting? I feel like a ridiculous 29 year old woman because somehow over the past year and a half, I've forgotten how to live and I'm afraid that I won't make it on my own. Any advice/guidance is appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have 1) a support system (friends, other family) and 2) access to therapy? I think you could really benefit from both. You sound isolated and overwhelmed, and like your sense of "normal" got distorted from living with your mom this past year and a half.

Therapy - cognitive behavioral therapy in particular - might really help to address your fears and work through them. Plenty of people have picked up stakes and moved, to different countries even - most people in Canada and the US can trace their family line back to people who did just that. You're not contemplating a move with no job and no money.

Until you can get to a therapist, Mood Gym might help you.

A support system of friends and family can offer you support and encouragement, and help you re-calibrate your sense of what is normal. If you don't have any social support, that is something you will want to build up in the future.

Finally, be sure you are eating well, exercising, and getting adequate sleep. It's important to take care of yourself and your own health.

Good luck! You can do this!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:18 PM on July 9, 2017

All of the things you're saying cause you to be stuck are your mother's, not yours. You are 29. Look now for a flat share in September and move in when the school year starts. You literally pack a car of stuff and go. There's nothing to it. Hundreds of thousands of people do this every school year and you are not less capable than they are.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:24 PM on July 9, 2017 [9 favorites]

What DarlingBri says. That would be the absolutely easiest way to move out. You're out immediately, it'll be furnished, you're committed for a term or perhaps whole academic year but no longer. Also a fairly economic way to go for the time being, even if you can afford a place of your own. Invest the money you save in therapy/exercise/whatever self care you can think of. Student services can probably advise and point you as well - you don't want undergraduate housemates as grad student.

Your dad's estate and life insurance payment are not necessary for you to move. Don't worry about the estate, the life insurance or house repairs at the moment (as long as the place is safe to inhabit). Once the estate is settled, if you want to tackle the state of house/research selling the house you should speak to a couple estate agents. Get valuations of the property as is and if you did some or all repairs. Yes, buyers will deduct cost of repairs from the price they are willing to pay but given your stress levels the last thing you need is to be supervising building projects.

As for groceries for your mum - cross that bridge when you come to it. You really don't need to have all the answers at the moment. You just need to breath and tackle one task at a time. At the moment that is search a flatshare and book this trip in August.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:48 PM on July 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

To answer the grocery bit, I'd look into grocery delivery. Safeway has online ordering for Canada. I found several hits by searching for "calgary canada grocery delivery" and "edmonton canada grocery delivery". You might also consider a service that delivers pre-made, refrigerated meals.

You can do this! My mother is mentally and physically unwell, and I can't imagine living with her. Even just dealing with her right now is stressful, and I have my own home/life. You can get out! I could tell you over and over that she's not your responsibility, and you shouldn't feel guilty having your own life, but I know what it's like to be that child so I know me telling you is probably not going to help much. But really, with modern conveniences, you can pretty much automate a lot of her needs, which may relieve you of some of the guilt you're feeling about moving out.
posted by radioamy at 3:00 PM on July 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

It will be so much easier to handle all these questions as they arise rather than waiting to do anything at all until you think you've figured out every single detail of how this will work.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:15 PM on July 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Move on out to student housing of some sort, and be there by September. Do not wait. Do not worry. Just do.

Do not sweat the other stuff. Your mother's money problems are not yours to resolve. You probably cannot stop her from spending all her money. You cannot force the house to be fixed. You are worrying about a bunch of stuff that a 29-year-old should not be burdened with. You should be focusing on moving forward with your life. It should be an exciting, possibly stressy, complicated, and even messy time of your life, but if it is, it should be because of the things you're doing, choices you've made, and future that you want for yourself.

There's no guarantee that there will be anyone who will protect you. When you become an adult, the responsibility for your life shifted to you. It is nice to have a safety net of parents, friends, and family, but in the end, it is all on you. Your mother isn't a functional part of your safety net even now, so the sooner you realize that and adjust to the situation, the better it will be for you.

You're going to grad school, you're not in debt, you don't think you'll need to go into debt, you have money, a job, and you're concerned about spending money. Financially, you're doing better than many of your peers.

Do not "move out." Instead, pack no more than two suitcases of clothes and only as many boxes of other essentials as will fit in your trunk. This will help you focus on the things you really need for living. Go find an apartment or student housing, and get a fresh start. If you REALLY find that you need something that you didn't take, well, you have options. You can buy it. You can go back home and visit your mother, and take it at that time, if you feel truly compelled.

Then do yourself a favor and just stop worrying about it. Focus on your studies. You cannot fix someone else. You should not try to be responsible, or feel that you have to be responsible, for someone else. You have already done so much more than many people would do in this situation.
posted by jgreco at 3:36 PM on July 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

I recently sat down, figured out my expenses and then compared that to my income- properly- dividing yearly costs over the year and looking at things at a weekly level. (Budgeting!) This has helped me feel comfortable with finances, as opposed to the horrible floating feeling.

I'm 29 too and trust me, even though I am out of home and married, I still don't "feel like" an adult. (I think everyone else secretly doesn't feel like one either.) I pretend to be a grown up, and in pretending I become one. I sometimes marvel that they let people like me be grownups, you know?

Great advice above to move out as a student first- it's ok to take little steps, just keep taking steps.
posted by freethefeet at 4:25 PM on July 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

You could sign her up for Meals on Wheels, so you know she'll be getting frequent wellness checks and fresh food. And then get student housing and go.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:40 PM on July 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm convinced no one ever feels like an adult. It's not a barrier to cross. Nobody really has it figured out, some people are just luckier/better at pretending they do.

You are going to be OK. You are in really good shape as far as schooling/debt for someone of your age, plus you have the experience of seeing how badly things can go. I have a problem parent as well, and there are a lot of things that we need to do to help ourselves:

1. You are not your parent's keeper. You could do things like go to the bar and set a daily limit, put a sensor on her phone, drop off a daily pint of alcohol, bring her to a weekly appointment. The thing is, you're 29, she is 72. There is NOTHING that you can do to change her if she is not participating. I totally support you checking in once a week, but you are not her parent.

2. You deserve a life. There are normal relationships where it's a give and take, where one person doesn't have to spend 99% of their time babysitting the other without anything in return. You're allowed to ask for things and talk about yourself and indulge your feelings (even when they are negative).

3. You are important. Being a caretaker messes you up and I (internet stranger) am so proud of you. You did stuff that is hard for people to do without any complications, and you had crazy complications. You are fantastic!

I totally agree with the above. Grocery and/or meals on wheels deliveries if it is possible. Visits once a week (or less) if you feel comfortable, and you focusing on you. It doesn't make you a bad person. You can't be helpful to anyone else if you are extremely unhappy. It's ok to be selfish.
posted by elvissa at 8:33 PM on July 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

It came to me last night that you should definitely go on your two week vacation in August, but you should see if you can set things up such that when you return, it is to your new place, not back to where you are now. You have already created a potentially great opportunity to make a clean and less-traumatic breakaway scenario. Use it.
posted by jgreco at 5:12 AM on July 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Aside from worries about my mother, with my dad gone, I just feel much more insecure about life. Like, everything seems less safe and I have no one who'll protect me? God, I know I'm 29 and I should be a grown up and just get over all this and become a proper self-sufficient woman,

My second parent died when I was almost at my mid-30s and that's just how it feels. worse probably for you than for most, both because you're a little younger and because you're having to behave as though your mother is gone for good but still have to anticipate her actual death at some unknown time. like a third parental tragedy when most people only have to worry about two.

sorry, I hate expressing some very personal distress and being told it's just normal, but there is at least nothing you've done wrong or failed to do. nobody being there to protect you is what grown up means -- it's not immature to feel it, it's just perceptive. you can feel like (and be) a fully independent functioning adult from 18 on, but having parents you don't need is a completely different feeling from having parents who are not there because they died.

plenty of people don't go through any of this until they're in their 50s or older. you are functioning well above what is usually expected of people your age, or of people in general. many people of any age wouldn't do for their mothers what you're doing.

the money insecurity -- invest a lot of of it in low-risk investments and get an adviser who will take care of the details so it can be a safety net you don't have to worry about. Pay for someone to buy and deliver groceries to your mother and do periodic wellness checks, since you can; it's worth it to keep yourself far away. but don't let all the money be slowly spent on her upkeep.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:46 AM on July 10, 2017


Like, everything seems less safe and I have no one who'll protect me?

The problem here is that 150% of your energy is going towards worrying about and taking care of your mom, which leaves less than zero energy for you to worry about and take care of your own needs.
posted by Brittanie at 1:27 PM on July 10, 2017

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