Self-introduction (2)

Hello, I’m Karen and I care for my 76 yo mother. I’m reaching out to others because I’m just so tired (mentally, emotionally and physically). I tried being assertive earlier today and now I wish I hadn’t - I won’t go into all the comings and goings but I’m sitting here feeling bad even though I know I have legitimate right to have my own time and spend it as I wish…we are very different people, my mother and I. We have no shared interests - conversation doesn’t really take place because I’m usually the listener rather than the speaker. Topics of conversation usually cover what she needs to do (and which I need to facilitate), places she needs to go to (and which I need to provide transport), and weather (sometimes for parts of the world where I’m not in). I was recently called selfish over some trivial dispute, so why am I trying? I feel like I’ve given up my life in the service of hers and I can’t see that changing. What terrifies me is that when she passes, that I may be so eroded as an individual that I don’t know how to survive…that all sounds very dramatic, but I need to get it out of my head and know that line of thought is a reasonable conclusion in the circumstances. For a while being passive made for an easier life, now having turned 50 it’s suddenly struck me that I have done myself a great disservice and now it could be too late for me to have a life. Need some hope.

Hi Karen

I’ve split your post so that more members will be likely to see your message :slight_smile:

From your post I am assuming that you have had a difficult conversation with your Mother today and that, maybe, you’ve said things that you now wish you hadn’t ?

This is something that happens to all of us at some point - I remember having a melt down with my Mum over something quite trivial and then feeling so guilty for the things I’d said. It’s par for the course - after all we are only human and can only take so much before we break. My Mum had Alzheimer’s so she forgot the altercation very quickly but I felt the guilt for a long time afterwards.

It’s not too late for you to have a life of your own - you just need to work out how to go about achieving that. You don’t say what is wrong with your Mother so I don’t know whether your role is 24/7 and she can’t be left alone or whether you do have some time to yourself in which you can pursue your own interests ? If it’s the former then perhaps you need to sort out a “Needs Assessment” for her to ascertain what help is out there to enable you to have some free time.

You might also want to consider talking to someone via our Listening Support Service

Hello Karen, you’ve come to the right place for support and good advice.
Please don’t feel guilty about wanting a life of your own. You need to actively make plans as you’re mother could go into her nineties and if nothing changes imagine how you will feel by then.
I am made to constantly feel guilty by my mother in law, she hates us going out and constantly says she’s ill if we make any plans- suffice to say we don’t go. I have sacrificed seeing my children and grandchild due to having to be around.
However, advice from this forum has helped me take small steps to changing my situation and I have sorted out carers ( once a day well-being visit) which has stopped daily calls where we would drop everything and rush round there. She isn’t happy though!! She said she doesn’t need them, but I had the courage to say that if she cancels them, we may not be able to go around at short notice.
I also sought advice from a psychotherapist who explained that her hypochondria was an expression of her trying to exert power over her own body but also over others behaviour- she described it as being akin to slavery! She advised us to ignore her symptoms, keep things light and conversational and put in boundaries around our time. This has been extremely difficult, especially as she tells others she is not well and has no one to look after her! She sees us five times per week, we do her meals, shopping, medication, washing , take her to the hairdresser, all appointments and yet this isn’t enough!! But we have learned that anything we do will never be enough. She is 95 , physically robust and will probably see us out.
So shed the guilt and get yourself a life. You can still help and support her, but on your own terms.

Many years too late I read that as people become older they become more and more “self focussed” and increasingly unable to see how much others are doing for them. I could write a book on how our own parents did this to us!
Once you understand this, and realise that nothing will change unless you force change it gets easier. Trying to reason or negotiate becomes pointless, a waste of breath.
You sound as if you have become what I call a Clapped Out Carer, having done so much for so long you are utterly exhausted, there is nothing more to give. Most carers find our forum at this stage. You are among people here who totally understand.
Tell us a bit more about what you are expected to do, and why and we can give you some ideas for you to think about. Whatever our careers think, none of us can be forced to care!
When did you last have a proper holiday?
For the last two weeks I’ve been on holiday in Crete, where I stay in a hotel for single travellers only. I have made some new friends, one also a carer, the other has health issues, as I do. Our average age is about 68. We spent the last two weeks feeling free, we’ve walked, laughed, eaten and swum every day. I was so tired when I left, now I feel so fit and well. We all treated ourselves to a massage from someone who trained as a physiotherapist. I was shocked to find just how tense I was. When our careers are so self focussed, there are times when we too must self focussed, and have something to look forward to, and plan. My room is already booked for next year!!!

Wise words as ever, but I didn’t realise how difficult it can be to implement.
A mixture of guilt, worry, anxiety and “what will the neighbours think” kicks in and can impact on the best of intentions.
I’m building up the courage to say we’re going to see my son up north for a few days next week, and I’m dreading it​:grimacing::grimacing:!

Dump the guilt.
Are you responsible for making mum old or infirm? Of course not!
It’s SAD she is not as fit as she was.

As to “what the neighbours think” if any say anything ask them if the could pop in and care for mum for the day so you can go out. They’ll run a mile. All they are doing is guilt tripping you so they don’t have to do anything.

What are you worried about?

You have every right to visit your son, in fact if you don’t see him enough because of mum, then that’s not right.

Thank you for taking the time to reply to me…yeah I think I am a bit clapped out. I also think that there are echoes of the self focus and the manipulation that others have experienced. In very brief terms, she had cancer surgery a few years ago. The immediate period of recovery required assistance with personal care etc, but now she is an otherwise healthy 76 yo. Apart from some residual pain from the surgery, she has no medical conditions. She has no cognition issues. So having said that her issues are related to confidence, self esteem and mental health. She’s a strong character, there isn’t any room in her make up to accept that she may have some part in her loneliness. She feels abandoned by people who were once friends, but again that is perhaps more to do with her reluctance to engage with other people. Apart from advancing age, she doesn’t need social care. Any suggestion that I employ a cleaner to help out round the home is dismissed. It’s me or no-one. I feel like I’m being held hostage through a combination of expectation and guilt tripping - almost as if I owe her. I’ve already investigated what support I can access, but she doesn’t need assistance. It’s me that needs the the support - but what I can access is limited. Of course I have friends but I don’t want to be that person who is miserable every time they’re with me. I suppose it sounds like I’m feeling sorry for myself but I wanted to find some comfort from shared experience. This all blew up because I tried to communicate my need for some space and time but that was interpreted as rejection which quickly escalated into discord. Yesterday I felt hopeless, today I don’t feel so hopeless.

Please request a needs assessment.

I so recognise your comments about not wanting to be the person who is”always moaning.”
That’s how I feel and so I bottle up my feelings and end up feeling even more upset and resentful of my situation.

Getting things out on this forum has been helpful, as has the knowledge that you’re not alone or a horrible person just because you feel as you do.

She certainly seems to be totally self focussed, a narcissistic personality.
Very sad that she is behaving like this at her age. I’m just 6 years younger. I too have had major cancer surgery, found my husband dead in bed when I was 54, major car accident nearly killed me, 2 knee replacements. OK, I get tired and need some pain relief every now and then BUT I’m just home after 2 wonderful weeks in Crete, laughing, swimming, walking and eating our way round the area, dancing Zorba’s dance in the evening!!!
How long have you lived with mum?
When did you last have a proper holiday?
You are an adult, she is treating you like a child slave. Unless you break free and ignore her moods, it will continue.
Have you thought of having counselling?

I need to post today to save my sanity or at least get some support ( or not)
Just a few minutes ago my MIL phoned to ask me to go around to make her a cup of tea!
I’m about fifteen minutes away by car which I know isn’t far, but it’s the total disrespect of my time and the attitude that I am always available that has left me feeling very upset.
I explained that I am in the process of cooking dinner and could come later. She became upset and said she would manage. After giving me her shopping list for tomorrow, she put the phone down.
This has resulted in a fairly pleasant day being ruined by leaving us worrying whether or not she is not well, although this is becoming a common occurrence.
My husband is better at cutting off from this as he says it’s how she’s always been.
She spent yesterday with us and it was ok, but we told her we are visiting our son on Friday and staying over until Saturday and I fear she is building up to something that will stop us going.
We will be seeing her every day until then, surely she can see we need a break?
My anxiety levels are through the roof and I’m genuinely upset.
How do people cope with similar issues?

Sorry to be posting about what seems to be such an insignificant issue, but it’s a “ straw that broke the camel’s back” moment. Monday is my only “ day off” from physically seeing her and I needed a break
It was the 7th telephone call and ……………
I’d had enough.

No wonder you feel like that.
It seems that she is being naughty and playing you, reminding you that she has needs and embedding that into you so you don’t go. She knows it is teatime and inconvenient.

If she is calling your mobile phone switch it off.
If it is the landline let it go to answerphone.

Let your husband answer his mobile phone or return her call from the answer machine.

Breezey, THANKS for answering, I just needed that little bit of acknowledgment and reassurance ( I’m not normally so needy) but it really got to me today and I’m now catastrophising about this escalating and ruining my weekend with my son - who I’ve only seen twice this year.
Just constant anxiety…… she called again to say next time she will call her neighbour ( implicitly saying “ at least they will come”)
Just feel at a loss, it’s unrelenting, or it feels like it today.
But thanks for your time and comments.

On the verge of a breakdown, newly widowed, newly disabled, son with LD and a disabled mum, I had some counselling.
The counsellor was horrified that my whole life was spent running around other people, no time at all for me.

Put your answerphone on and leave it on. Then you decide when to listen to mum’s calls.
Count them, record them somewhere, then say to her after a week how many calls she has made, and what they were about.
She is lucky to have a daughter, even luckier that you live near. Lucky that you care about her.
If she cannot manage without calling you so many times, then residential care is the only option left to make sure all her needs can be met immediately.
You are her daughter not her slave.

How long have you been caring for your mother for? I’m already 31 and already worrying that it’s too late for me to have a life and I’m still nowhere near brave enough to cut the cord and leave. I still have trouble with guilt. My mum was struggling with walking difficulties and pain since I was 15 but only admitting to needing help when I was 20 or 21 (I remember her complaining about the stairs on my 21st birthday outing and using crutches). The crutches were actually making her worse and she got to a stage where she couldn’t stand the pain so she asked me to be her carer seen as how I already lived with her still. I didn’t really want to because I knew it entailed me now doing everything and we live in a relatively big house. It was all too much for me. But I agreed to it because I worried that if I said no she would grumble at me and hate me, maybe think I was a terrible daughter for not helping. I didn’t mind helping but I figured being her 24/7 carer was too much! I felt obliged so I agreed to it. Then she encouraged me to get carers allowance and tried to convince me it’s a sweet deal so I got roped into that. As soon as I got it she virtually said, maybe parphrased “haaa, now you are being paid to do absolutely everything so now you HAVE to do absolutely everything, no excuses for being lazy” I was like “nahhhh shit, heyelll nahhhh, what have I gotten myself into???” so now I felt trapped. 5 years later she had a heart attack and now I was left to deal with a heart attack patient with memory loss and psychological problems from the trauma that I wasn’t medically trained to deal with. No help or advice or support was provided by the hospital or doctor. Just a social worker who said I should dump mum in an old folks day care once a week so I could half a life. mum went ballistic at that saying I can’t have a life coz I’ve gotta be her carer!
I had a kind of mid-life crisis after that and I became a bit depressed because I was getting older and still had no life.
I know exactly what you’re going through even if our situations are different but I feel the same way as you.
She definitely has became self focused too and even said it’s all about her now she’s disabled, not me, who cares, you’re young, your’e able bodied that sort of attitude!

Like you I tried asserting myself, but I did so many times and it always resulted with her going ballistic at me and me wishing I hadn’t started or escalated a conversation as she’d give me such a horrendous hard time.
Alot of the time I just do whatever she asks me to do because it’s easier. If I say no, she woulnd’t take that for an answer. even if she did get up and do something for herself she’d moan about it


Breathe, count to ten slowly.
You aren’t being needy, just annoyed.

Your MIL is trying to assert power over you, the phone is a command tool to her and you need to have boundaries with it as Bowlingbun has said, you choose when to answer or return calls, obviously if you are certain that all is well.
For as long as you will answer it and go round to her, she will call you to go round or ask you to make lists etc.

Be firm for your weekend, communicate with your husband about any tricks she gets up to in her attempts to scupper it, let him deal with his mother and protect his family weekend with his wife and son.

My counsellor pointed out to me that my mum was still controlling me as if I was a child.

I did NOT have to do whatever she wanted (I was brought up never to say No to my parents) in fact it was fine to say I wasn’t available.
I did NOT have to say what I was doing or where I was going, so mum could be the judge of what was more important than her.
This last bit was difficult to learn, the desire to say “because I …” is almost overwhelming.

If your mum is summoning you to make her a cup of tea, then this is the moment to start saying to her that if she can’t even make herself a cup of tea it’s time she either had carers to come and make one for her, or move into residential care.

I know this sounds harsh, but isn’t it the reality?

Turning off the phone was life changing for me, mum would ring me to have a chat in the middle of my working day when I was writing a magazine on the subject of old lorries. Easy when I could discuss things with my lorry owning husband, quite a different matter after he died.
Mum used to say “I wish you didn’t have to do that magazine” completely failing to realise that if I didn’t I’d never manage to sell the 30 tons of lorry spares in my garden on which my entire income depended.
After a chat with her, I had to give up writing for hours, sometimes only getting back to it in the evening, working until 1am to meet deadlines.
Mum was very fortunate to have a substantial civil service pension and hadn’t worked outside the home since 1950!

I believe everyone is responsible for their own happiness.

If your mum, like mine, never joined any clubs or societies, that was her choice.
If she felt lonely as a result, she was responsible for her own life choices.

I have a young friend who moved her family to Australia to get away from a controlling mother!