And I don’t know what the hell to do about it.
I am going to try to make this as concise as possible, but there is a lot of history so bear with me.
My mother is severely mentally ill, has been for quite some time (at least since I was 6 or 7 years old.) If I had to armchair diagnose her, I’d go with Borderline Personality Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. At her core, she is a truly good, fun-loving, caring person, but this thing that takes her over drives her to paranoia, fits of rage, narcissism, and extremely controlling and unpredictable behavior (Example: driving a car deliberately into the side of my stepfather’s office building, hitting reverse, and doing it again.) My childhood was a living hell because of this, but this thread really isn’t about my childhood.
My Mom and I have come to an understanding - she doesn’t abuse me and I have a relationship with her. We now have what I would call a mutually supportive relationship, though I admit I really struggle sometimes with trying to take care of her and fix her problems for her, and she has a tendency to be dependent on me in that way, calling and asking for advice and sometimes claiming I am the only one who truly understands her (which I admit is probably true.)
She is trying, really trying, for the first time since I can remember, to get her shit together. She has admitted more than once that she knows she needs help but she is still incredibly unstable and really doesn’t know how to control herself or deal with her very strong emotions. It’s actually quite tragic.
My Mom is certainly not the only mentally ill person in our family (my uncle is paranoid schizoaffective, my other uncle, bipolar, killed himself) but her singular capacity to wreak havoc in already horrible situations is just astounding. Recently, my maternal grandmother’s husband died. I’ll try not to get into the details of this drama because it’s long and confusing (and embarrassing) but I’ll try to highlight the most relevant bits.
My Mom’s favorite person to irrationally hate is one of the people I love most in the world, my Aunt. My Aunt is my best friend, sister and mother all rolled into one, she spent years supporting my mother and did everything she could to protect me while growing up; she took me into her home when I was 17 and she is one of the most straightforward, competent, selfless people I know. Her devotion not only to me, but to other family members, including my mother, is without peer. I could write a novel about how completely amazing my Aunt is. The fact that I feel this way no doubt drives my mother absolutely fucking crazy with jealousy, but there it is.
My Mom called on Thanksgiving Day last year (two weeks after my grandfather’s death) in a vain attempt to drive a wedge between me and my Aunt and my Grandma. She was angry when I got defensive and started talking about how much she wanted to die. I spent the next two days on the phone with my Mom trying to prevent her from killing herself. I tried to fix the problem, tried to play mediator for everybody, but it was bigger than me and I realized I could not get involved without compromising my own mental health. Then something similar happened when I visited for Christmas - I got sucked in again, very unhealthy for me, and resolved, yet again, not to become too involved.
When my Mom realized that I was not going to take sides, she set her sights instead of my grieving grandmother. My grandmother is currently not ‘‘allowed’’ to talk about my Mom with my Aunt or to mention my Aunt’s name to my Mom. My mother is convinced, based on a purely fabricated personal narrative, that my Aunt has a secret relationship with her ex-husband’s sister, and that her ex-husband is plotting to destroy her and my Aunt is somehow apathetic or complicit to this. This all started when my Aunt talked to my Mom’s Ex’s sister at Grandpa’s funeral and was invited to a BBQ. She never went, but my Mom is nonetheless convinced that my Aunt is an enemy on ‘‘his side.’’
My Grandmother has done everything to try to make my mother happy because she still has PTSD from her first marriage, which was abusive and controlling. Meanwhile, she’s grieving a death, she has cancer, and her blood pressure is through the roof.
I was recently informed that last week, when my Mom took my Grandma to the hospital for her surgery, Grandma had an allergic reaction and nearly died. My Mom apparently absolutely fell apart. She started vomiting and on the way home she totally flew off the handle and started screaming to my grandmother that this was all my Aunt’s fault and my Aunt should have been the one to take her to the hospital and that of all the things she regretted the most, she regretted ever allowing me to get close to my Aunt because she is such a terrible influence on me. She said all sorts of nasty things about my Aunt (none of which I’m supposed to know), then screamed and demanded to be let out of the car. Meanwhile my poor Grandma is driving with a blood pressure through the roof and just begging my Mom to calm down so they can go home. My Mom then told her she would call the police on my Grandmother and report her for kidnapping if she didn’t stop the car. By the time they got home they were both sobbing hysterically and my Mom admitted she was fighting strong urges to grab a hold of the steering wheel and crash the car.
But Mom also told Grandma she couldn’t tell my Aunt anything about what happened. Well, my Grandma did, because she is terrified, and we now realize that my Mom cannot take care of my Grandma or help her through this. She admitted it herself, and called my Aunt and asked her to do it. My Aunt was already doing that even though she lives in a different state so of course she said yes, she totally understands and my Mom doesn’t have to worry about it. But less than two hours later Mom was calling leaving crazy ranting messages and acting like none of the previous conversation ever happened.
My Aunt and my Grandma are both at their wit’s end and I love them very much.
So three things.
- I am incredibly worried about my mother, as she has apparently been hiding the crazy from me SO WELL. She’s always been paranoid but I feel like it’s reaching the level of psychosis at this point and am very concerned. I don’t know who could help her because she pushes everyone away and I live in another part of the country.
- I am incredibly worried about my grandmother, who has already been identified as ‘‘high risk’’ for her upcoming surgery and is utterly convinced that she is going to die. She clearly cannot control her reactions to my Mom or stand up for herself without shooting her blood pressure through the roof. She lives alone, and the nearest relative who can take care of her is my Aunt, who lives about four hours away.
- I am incredibly pissed off that my Mom is villainizing my Aunt and I am really frightened that the next time she calls me to bitch about how neglected and ignored she is, I am going to lose my own shit and say something I regret. I know she is mentally ill, but I’m furious beyond belief that she could just say these blatantly untrue things about someone I care so much about, someone who has sacrificed so much for her, and who has forgiven her so many times for all the anger and hatred she directs toward her. I’m just really angry at my Mom and I’m afraid if we talk it’s going to make the situation worse.
I know I should be learning some lesson about not being involved, but every time something comes up, it feels like life or death to me. It was always life or death. It has been life or death. What if I don’t talk to my Mom and she kills herself? What if my Grandma really does have a heart attack? What can I do? I live twelve hours away and I love all of them so much.
Good times. Thanks for listening.