I hope you are having a manageable lockdown number 3!
I’m writing as I’d love some advice on what I can do to improve my home situation.
I moved home last March because I didn’t want to isolate alone. I moved back to my mum’s house where I grew up, where it has just been mum, my sister and me.
At Christmas my sister decided to move in with her boyfriend so they could isolate together, leaving just me and mum in the house. Dad is a big part of my life but has worked in Turkey for two years now. Their divorce came about because dad got so fed up with mum’s refusal to address her mental health problems. She was having mood swings all the time, she took everything out on the family and then would accuse us of not doing enough to help her. He was right to walk away from her because he tried his best and didn’t deserve to put up with that anymore when mum wouldn’t help herself.
Of course she is my mum so I can’t leave her and wouldn’t want to anyway. However living with her is a nightmare. She manipulates the mood of the house and if she’s in a bad mood then she winds everyone else up so that they are too. We’re not allowed to be happy if she’s having a bad day and I think that’s unfair. When my sister was living here I at least had someone I could ride this wave out with, but now that it’s just me here I’m starting to feel really lonely and actually trapped.
I’m worried because once normality has resumed, I won’t be able to go back to my normal life because mum’s now become reliant on having me in the house with her. She doesn’t have hobbies and has made absolutely no effort to make friends since the divorce, so I’m all she has.
I’m really starting to resent her, but I could never leave her unhappy.
Sorry to burden you with this Donna, please help if you can.
I am so sorry to hear about your living situation. It sounds very difficult and would have only been exacerbated by lockdown. These lockdowns will have undoubtedly put a strain on even the most carefree family relationships, so when you add in the complication of poor mental health the result can be extremely difficult to live with.
As your mum is living with mental health problems, I strongly advise that you speak to her about seeking professional medical help in this regard. I cannot as an unqualified person suggest anymore than that for her, however this is something I would strongly recommend for both of your sakes. To seek counselling and professional support, her first port of call should be her GP who will discuss the best route for her. Should counselling be the preferred option, her doctor will provide her with a list of local professionals, or alternatively, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (https://www.bacp.co.uk/about-us/about-bacp/) run an online counselling service.
Now let’s concentrate on you. It is easy when you are living with somebody suffering with their mental health to forget just how damaging the impact can be on you. Please remember that the responsibility for your mum and her happiness does not lay solely on your shoulders. Tell you sister about your predicament and suggest ways in which she could support you. For now, that could be regular Zoom calls with your mum and in the long term when we are out of lockdown, she could see your mum regularly so that the responsibility for her happiness is not only your concern. It is fundamental that you return to your normal life and if this requires your sister’s input, then do not be afraid to ask for this.
You mention that your dad is a big part of your life – talk to him about this. Regardless of the divorce you are still his responsibility and he should offer you support in what ever form that may be. You should not be feeling alone in this – speak to your family as they are there to help you.
In the short term while you still live under the same roof as your mum, set boundaries and inform your mum of them. Tell her what you will and will not accept in terms of her behaviour. She needs to know that should she refuse help or cross the boundaries which you have set, that you will not put up with it and that you will remove yourself from the situation. As hard as it is, she needs to know that you are sticking to these boundaries for your own sake. In the long term, let your mum know that you will be resuming your normal life but that does not mean that she will be abandoned. Make plans for things that you can do together, even when you do not live together. This could be anything from a weekend away to a cosy night in every fortnight. Remember to include your sister in these plans because, as I said, the responsibility is not only yours to bear. I am sure that after lockdown when you can put your plans into fruition and you can regain your space, that yours and your mum’s relationship will be more harmonious.
I hope this helps. I will be thinking of you.