Can't cope with adult daughter's behaviour (long post)

In a couple of weeks’ time I shall be 73. Over the last 18 months I have lost both my sister and my husband. I had been caring for my husband for around 8 years and for the last year of his life he was bed bound. He was very controlling and demanding and I found caring for him quite difficult. But we had been married for 48 years and I do miss him. And I never thought I could miss anyone as much as I miss my sister.

I have 2 adult children who both live with me – Philippa who is 46 and Ian who is 43. Neither of them can afford to move out, although they have both lived away from home in the past. Ian does have a job but it’s only a 15 hour contract, although he is looking for something more lucrative. Unfortunately, Philippa is unemployed for most of the year. Her interest is stage management and she usually succeeds in getting employment as a stage manager for a pantomime for about 5 weeks around Christmas. However, this never leads to anything more permanent. She does apply for other theatre jobs but the nature of the work means that there is very rarely anything permanent and she has only ever had a couple of other temporary jobs. She has previously worked in retail and worked her way up to department manager and duty manager in a supermarket, but it all fell apart when she was continually late for work and failed to carry out some of her duties.

Philippa has been displaying symptoms of a personality disorder (possibly narcissistic) for at least 25 years. She has been making our lives miserable during that time and now she seems to be getting worse. She hated her father and she hates her brother. She wouldn’t speak to either of them unless she really had to and she won’t stay in the same room as her brother. She spends all her time in her bedroom, only coming out to get herself some food (which she takes up to her room) or to go out. She lives in absolute squalor. It’s impossible to get into her room – she can only get on to her bed by climbing over all the stuff at the end of it, and the rest of the room is piled about 5 feet high with “stuff”. So, almost all her time is spent on or in her bed and much of the time is spent sleeping.

I have tried many times to talk to Philippa about her attitude, behaviour and life in general but it’s impossible to hold a rational conversation with her. She won’t accept that there’s anything wrong with her behaviour, doesn’t take responsibility for any of her actions and turns everything around so that she becomes the victim. As soon as either I or her brother start to say anything, she becomes very defensive, starts to turn everything back on to us, then starts screaming and shouting, often making no sense and telling Ian to f*** off. The whole exchange ends with her stomping up to her room and banging the door. She then sulks for varying amounts of time.

I have tried to set rules and boundaries for her but she doesn’t recognise any of them. She does nothing to help in the house – she says she’s not going to clear up after “him” – and it’s only in the last 3 months that she has started to contribute financially, although the contribution is minimal.

Over the years, Ian has been quite philosophical about her problems but he’s now becoming very resentful that she appears to be making no attempt to get a job that will allow her to contribute more to the household. He sees her “getting away with” doing nothing and having no consequences for her actions. I know he thinks I should confront her more and insist that she gets a job but, to be honest, I’ve tried so many times over the years and I feel I can no longer cope with the tears and tantrums and the blame. Yes, I am frightened of her and the stress is affecting me really badly. I feel sorry for her because I’m sure she’s very depressed and she has no friends. She also has some health issues but she is very secretive and I don’t really know what they all are. I have my own health issues which are being exacerbated by the situation and I’m extremely worried about the future. There is so much more I could say but I think I’ve gone on for long enough. I’m scared and I don’t know what to do or where to turn. I have no one to talk to and I feel so alone.

Jackie, I get a sense from your post that your situation feels overwhelming.
There are some straightforward things that would be recommended in such a situation - your daughter needs an assessment, she needs her own housing and you need to be able to live a less stressful life.
However, I acknowledge that this is easier said than done.
Your daughter will never acknowledge her role in things if indeed she has a personality disorder, therefore, trying to persuade her to engage with services will be extremely difficult.
I often post on here because of the difficulties I have with the ever increasing demands from my 95 year old MIL.
However, I too have an adult child (35) with Aspergers syndrome, a specific learning difficulty and Tourette’s syndrome. I have similar issues in that he hoards, needs prompting to wash and is incredibly defensive and stubborn- nothing is his fault and it’s all me and my husband!
He is very articulate and services, when we have tried to approach them, say that he doesn’t reach their criteria as he presents as far more able than he is. Yet I know that left to his own devices he would do nothing and live in squalor.
I’d love to walk away from everything, but obviously carry on knowing the impact on my own health is increasing.
Your daughter has worked, which is a positive, I’m wondering if you could help her look for a more permanent position. Is she open to going for a walk with you just to chat? Tiny things that might start a dialogue…… I don’t want to underestimate your problem.
I read this post with great sadness as it so resonated with me. I wonder what will become of my son, he has no relationship with his brothers as he has been so awful to them in the past.
I also would not want them burdened.

You may need to focus on yourself and what help/ strategies you can employ to ease the impact of all of this on you.
I self referred to the nhs on line counselling and start this week.
I’m hoping to learn something- I’ll let you know.


Hugs. Tell us more about Philippa’s care needs etc. Whilst on a walk with her maybe politely recommend part time work at a local church or similar. I found the national career website a great source of reliable information in the past. Make notes. Speak to a trusted career advisor about the options out there. Good luck.
You are in my prayers. Keep us updated. She sounds as if she requires a live in carer who can support her or a place in a care home. There are several out there that are worth looking at. Start off with the council tomorrow morning. They are the people who can help you out at least initially. See if you can find a advocate for you as well.
A therapist may be a good idea.

Hi Jane,

Thank your for your reply and suggestions. I feel for you, too, trying to cope with your MIL and your son. Your situation resonates so much with me, although I no longer have to cope with my husband as well as my daughter. Unfortunately, I think we’ve already tried everything you have suggested - unsuccessfully in every case and sometimes making things worse.

In the past she has been referred to a psychologist and to the community psychiatric nurse. She allowed me to accompany her to the psychologist but, after a few minutes, he asked her if she would prefer to see him alone: she answered yes so I had to leave. Like your son, she is very articulate and she can put on a good act and the result of the meeting was that she didn’t need any more appointments. As for the community nurse, she never attended the appointments. Several years ago I spoke to our current doctor about her, but was met with the recurring theme of “she’s an adult so I can’t do anything unless she approaches me herself”. I know she has had some counselling sessions with Wellbeing, but nothing came of it and she still doesn’t accept that there is anything wrong with her.

Yes, she has worked and she tells me she’s always applying for jobs, but she never seems to get any interviews. I have offered to help her and I pass her the details of any relevant jobs I see advertised, but I don’t know whether she applies for any of them - she says she’s applied but she tells so many lies that I don’t know whether to believe her.

I suggested doing some voluntary work for a charity but she told me she tried them all and none of them needed any volunteers. I certainly didn’t believe that, as they are always advertising for volunteers!

I, too, worry about what will happen to her and have even broached the subject with her but, as with everything else, she just flies off the handle and accuses me of not wanting her.

Good for you! I hope you have a positive experience and really get something out of it that will help you. I have considered referring myself - in fact, I did have one session with Wellbeing a few years ago, but they felt that what I needed was practical help which they couldn’t provide. Also, I have had counselling training myself, so I understand about coping strategies and the various therapies.

I’m looking forward to hearing about your experience, though!

Hi thara,

Thank you for your response and your suggestions. As I’ve explained in my response to Jane, I’ve tried in so many ways to try and help her but all to no avail. Also, I come up against a brick wall with every organisation I speak to - she’s an adult, so they can’t help. She has told me that she is on the council’s housing list, but she’s never been offered anything. The problem is, in their eyes, I guess she’s “adequately housed” so she’s not a priority. Also, I don’t really believe she’s applied. I have offered to write a letter to the council, telling them I’m going to evict her but, as always, I was met with, “You don’t want me, you just want to get rid of me”.

Perhaps see if part time work can make a difference. I know that in my area charity shops are always looking for new people. Alternatively try till or restaurant work with supervision. Contact local offices in order to see what they say. Make brief summary notes.
Other good options worth looking at include cake making etc. Look on the internet in order to find out some more details. Best of luck. There are lots of options to find work these days. It might even teach her some life skills. Get hold of some useful career books at your local library or bookshop. Take it from there.