Please help with my mother


Ya’ll have always been so great whenever I’ve posted that I’m going to open up about a family situation that I’ve been dealing with all my life. Right now I need prayers and advice in large quantities.

The problem is my mother. Ever since I can remember she’s always had a temper…an disordered one. When I was a little girl this wasn’t as noticeable—probably because it wasn’t as bad. But even then there were things she did and things she said that were very childish. Things like telling us kids that it was our fault she lost her temper so much and that we would have to go to confession and confess making her so mad. Things like throwing our toys violently against the wall when she was mad about clutter…

When I was 15 I was diagnosed with a bone problem that was pretty scary for me. But for my mom it was overwhelming. There were days of her not eating…crying all the time…telling me that she’d asked God to take her life so I wouldn’t need the surgery…telling me I could never get married or have kids with this health problem (because I might pass it on)…and during all of this, I had to care for my mom because she couldn’t handle it. Well, the surgery was successful, but my self esteem took years to return as my mother was constantly telling me to disguise my body or stand differently so my health problem wasn’t noticeable. It’s like during that time in my life she was trying to be helpful, but she just scarred me a lot by being so insecure about me.

So them we come to my late teen years and college. Man, was that a time of fireworks. My mother was very strict about so many things—I didn’t have a healthy social life in part because of this. And my parents’ marriage started disintegrating. At first I was dragged into the middle—I had to take “sides” as my mother argued about the dumbest things. And then she began to resent me for taking my dad’s side. It got to the point where every argument seemed to end with her threatening to kick me out. And she would have if my dad hadn’t intervened.

Thank God I moved out once I’d saved enough and was close to graduating from college. My life became so much less stressful but I found that came at a price. I’m the oldest in a large family and all my brothers and sisters have been living through the hell I left behind. And they’re much younger than I was when I started to have to deal with it.

I just don’t know what to do with the key problem here…my mother. She has lost the spirit of her Faith at least. Arguments to be holier fall on deaf ears…but she is still as scrupulous as ever (for example, everyone at home must have their teeth brushed and flossed by midnight on Thursday lest they have meat caught in their mouth on a Friday). She doesn’t have a good relationship with my grandmother and frequently tells her exactly what she thinks of her in no uncertain terms. But if I try to ask her to stop being immature I’m immediately the hated, disrespectful daughter…



So fast forward to last night…her birthday. My dad has through all this time taken a huge toll emotionally, psychologically, and physically. He is extremely anemic, has aged considerably, suffers from stress-related hemorrhages, has no self esteem, and major depression after all these years. But he wanted my mom to have a wonderful birthday so he worked hard to plan this week. He took off from work to meet her for lunch, bought her the diamond band she wanted, called her, and arrived home from work ready to take her out to a fancy dinner at a local restaurant. They never went. And when I arrived at my parents’ house that evening to celebrate with cake as originally planned I found this: my mother had locked herself in her bathroom (as usual) only replying in monosyllables through the door, my brothers in sisters were sitting in the living room watching a movie, and my dad was in another room with the light out, Kleenex scattered around, his head in his hands, and his shoulders slouched in defeat. My dad is a strong man, but he was almost in tears as he started to tell me how he’d tried to make this birthday special…but it was never enough. He said my mom couldn’t understand why he hadn’t taken off from work for her birthday (never mind that they’d already agreed that he couldn’t or that he had four big meetings that day).

I went outside my mom’s door and told her we needed to talk. I told her that my dad’s health was worse (trying to touch that fear of health problems that can get her to become somewhat human), that she wasn’t teaching the kids maturity by dealing with her problems this way. I told her that I know marriage can be hard, but that we have to understand how many lives we are affecting when we react by locking ourselves away. I told her that she is the example my brothers and sisters have and that they look to her. I told her that I know she isn’t happy and that staying in that room wasn’t going to change that. I told her that we loved her…that we wanted her to be happy…and that we couldn’t help her if she didn’t come out to us. She told me to get out. That she wasn’t coming out because I’d run her into the ground enough on her birthday. She didn’t come out until after I left…and then it was only to yell at everyone around her.

I just don’t know what to do. Supposedly all the marriage problems started when my mom started reading books to improve her marriage. Only problem is that she read those books on how my dad could improve the marriage…not what she could do. To paraphrase what my dad said—our marriage is just about what we can do to make HER happy…and that doesn’t succeed because it is never enough. They tried counseling…went twice and then my mom pulled out. The reasons from my mom? It was touchy-feely, the counselor was fat (so what could she know?), and my mom doesn’t feel she has anything to change. She won’t meet with a priest. She won’t live her faith. She is driving everyone crazy and she doesn’t realize how close she is to losing everyone around her.

I think she is mentally unstable—not suicidal or anything—but she needs to see a doctor. Only problem is that she refuses to.

It honestly seems at this point that all I can do is pray and be there for the rest of my family. So, please, if you have any advice on this situation please post. All input is most definitely welcome.

God bless,



I am not a physician but it seems to me from what you have described that your mother suffers from some form of mental illness. Her behavior seems odd, erratic, unreasonable and unpredictable.

I would give up trying to “fix” your mother if you have not done so already. Talking to her through the bathroom door was a complete waste of time but I think you already knew that. Trying to reason with someone who is not reasonable never works.

I guess at this point I would just try and be there for your father, and visit him when you get the chance. Try and keep things CASUAL and AVOID DRAMA. When your mother starts to make things dramatic…walk away (this will be hard for you). Talk to her about the weather, about the movies…do not engage her in dramatic conversations. When your father complains about her just say “mom needs professional help” over and over.

I am not telling you to remove yourself emotionally from this situation in order to be mean to your parents, however being emotionally engaged in the drama only hurts your soul. You could talk to her a million times and nothing will change. You can analyze her over and over and nothing will change. Concentrate your energy instead on your new marriage. I am guessing here but my guess is that your husband gets an earful of this on a regular basis…you are morally obligated to your husband first. Put less emotional energy into your parents and their relationship and your moms birthday and instead put that same energy into your marriage and your new home and your new life.

Never stop praying for them, but back off from their drama as much as you can. I will pray for you. This is hard to do but we had to do it with my in-laws. We even went to the Deacon as we were worried about how to handle it. He told us to make sure she was physically provided for (had a roof over her head, groceries etc.) and to call her once a month to say “hi”. That was IT. You are not morally obligated to be a part of this situation and in fact, I think you might be obligated to back away for the good of your own soul and your marriage. I will pray for you, hope this helps a little.


You’re right, Monicad. I do need to understand that while these are my loved ones, my hubby comes first. I have a wonderful husband…I really do. :love:

I think the reason I keep trying so much is because I can see so many negative effects of all this on my brothers and sisters (who range in age from 5 to 19). I keep fighting more for them than for my mom’s sake. But it doesn’t really change anything…:frowning:


I respectfully disagree. I think the reason you keep trying so much is that Satan has convinced you to waste your time and energy here, only to come away discouraged and depressed every time.

I beleive we are not always tempted by the evil one to do blatant evil things like steal or cheat…sometimes we are tempted in more subtle ways. Remember he is the prince of lies. He has convinced you that you can make a difference here…he has convinced you that to intervene in your mother’s life is the noble thing to do and that by intervening you are being good and showing that you care!

Your siblings need you, yes. However your siblings need to see a woman that is calm and cool and collected. Your siblings need your example to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. They need to see that they can grow up in this mess and still come out okay. They need to see a grown woman…YOU…that has a happy marriage and that does not live a life of drama. You are not helping your siblings when they see you knocking on the bathroom door where your mother has locked herself in and that you are actually engaging her in conversation trying to talk her out of the bathroom. What your siblings need to see is a woman…YOU that ignores this drama and sits down in the kitchen with coffee and tries to have a pleasant day despite their nutty mother. Simply tell your siblings that “mom needs help” and then try to distract them as best as you can. Encourage your brothers to turn to Christ for help and solace when they don’t know where to turn.

God wants to get through to your mother. God wants her to get help. Try to get out of the way so he can do his work. Pray for your siblings and your father and especially your mother. I will pray for your family too. Hang in there, hope this helps.


God Bless you and your mother. It may be a long time before she asks for help, so you need all the coping skills you can apply. Check out (National Alliance for Mental Illness) for many supportive forums for the mentally ill, their caregivers, and specific subforums for Children of Mentally Ill Parents, etc. There is also a connection on the site to NAMI Faithnet.

Above all, protect your marriage and your future family. Support your father and siblings as much as you can without losing yourself in the woods, perhaps by sharing these resources with them. Look out for yourself. Pray deeply. You’ve knocked. You’ve asked. Help is on the way.


I agree your mother is likely mentally ill. You can’t do anything about that, and neither can your dad.

Here’s what I think you can do, and that your father should do:

Your dad needs to separate physically from her-- after consulting with a priest. If that means divorce to protect the kids, then so be it. Otherwise, just physical separation. She is abusing thse kids, and your dad. Only he can decide to take this step to *protect *the family from her illness and rages.

You need to set boundaries for contact-- meeting only in public places like restaurants-- and limit exposure to your husband and/or children. If she calls, don’t answer. If she rages, walk away. If she threatens, get a restraining order.

Get dad and the kids in counseling w/o her. Preferrably a Catholic counselor (you can inquire in your parish or online).

Get all of you into a support group for family members with mental illness.


Agree with others here.

Seek competent, professional, medical attention and counseling for the whole family as soon as possible.


This resource is excellent. But don’t try and diagnose her yourself. Your mother needs professional help, possibly hospitalization. I know it will be difficult to convince her, but it’s worth a try.

Mental illness affects families greatly. If the person with the illness refuses to get help, the best the family can do is get help for themselves in order to deal with it. Your dad appears to need the greatest help, since he deals with it most, and it has affected him the greatest with his own depression.

Instruct your family that if your mother does go into another one of her violent rages (where she’s throwing things and threatening suicide) that they have the right to protect themselves and her and call 911 immediately. Hate to say it, but it might be the quickest way to get her the help she needs.

I’ll be praying for you and your family. My own family went through this with my own mental illness. Eventually, I did get the help I needed for something that has been a part of my entire life, and with a deeper understanding of why I do the things I do (with the help of doctors and counselors), I am able to eliminate my rages, and my family is better for it. It takes time and acceptance on her part, but if she’s not ready to get the help, you and your family need to make aggressive plans to deal with this and take the steps to help yourselves.

God Bless!


Lots of people seem ready to diagnosis the op’s mother with mental illness. Her behavior certainly sounds odd, but stress and hormones shifts from menopause might also be a source of the problems. As far as the birthday, maybe she’s not dealing well with the fact she’s aging. You say your dad’s showing his age too, and maybe that scares her too. If she was reading books about problem marriages, then she probably felt dissatisfaction about something in her marriage already that prompted her to read such books in the first place. Basically, she sounds unhappy with her life and may be taking it out on the rest of her family.

It sounds to me like your mom needs a little break and some spiritual refreshment to once again reconnect with God and find “the spirit of her faith” you say she’s lost. She might be open to attending a retreat. Maybe you could find a solidly Catholic weekend retreat, sign her up and help your dad watch your younger sibblings while she goes.


I really wish it was just her birthday and getting older…but this happens pretty much every birthday, holiday, and weekend. She isn’t happy and is upset about getting older, yes, but I think it is more than just menopause. As for proposing a retreat–we would love that for her. But she currently isn’t even going to confession and often chooses to go to a different Mass from my father. So I don’t think she’ll go on a retreat while she’s like this, because then she’d have to focus on self-improvement and she, ironically, thinks she’s the one with all the answers.

But thanks so much for bringing those issues up–and thanks to all of ya’ll for the wonderful responses!



Yes, it does sound like she is mentally ill.

Also I wouldn’t try to reason with her if I were you because I’m positive she has “powdered butt syndrome.” In case you don’t know what that is, it’s the tendency for someone to ignore advice from someone whom they powdered their butt as a baby.

I’m not in the position to give too much advice as you might be able to tell from my other post. I’ve gotten some great advice there so you might be able to gleen something from that…



The OP indicates this has been going on since she herself was a small child. This is not “menopause”.


I didn’t mean to indicate menopause alone would be to blame for such behavior, but that it may be a contributing factor to the situation getting worse. She indicated her mom has had a temper and tendency to blame others when she looses her temper. That’s a terrible personality trait, but unfortunately not an uncommon one, nor is it always indicative of mental illness. (Nor am I saying she’s not mentally ill–I don’t know that either.)

That last statement makes me think you may be seeing the negative sides of your mother’s “temperament”. (Maybe there’s mental illness too, but I’m not so quick to assume that.) A person with a “choleric temperament” has a tendency to be argumentative, loose her temper, blame others and think she has all the answers. They also tend to hang onto anger and hurt.

You say she gets mad at your dad, and you also say this behavior comes out every birthday, weekend, and holiday–aren’t those the times your dad is home? She’s going to a different Mass from your father as well? Something may have gone on in their marriage that they may not be telling you about. Or maybe it’s just a temperament with high expectations that’s dissappointed in what’s become of her life; she may expect your dad to “fix the problem”, but he can’t.

Back to the retreat idea. I don’t think of retreats as a focus on “self-improvement”, but rather a chance to re-connect with God and fall in love with Him again. (At least that’s the kind of retreat I would seek out for her.) If she refuses such a retreat, encouraging her to go to adoration on a regular basis. Maybe she needs mental help, but she also needs grace.


My mother also had very damaging behaviors that started when I was a young teen. I can very much relate to your post. I had open heart surgery and she went out of her way to buy clothes that hid my scar. I also had a pacemaker put in at the age of 8 and I remember tryinging many bathings suits until we found one where the outline of my pacemaker didn’t show. She didn’t want anyone to know I was different.

As I went from a child to a teen my mom could not handle me being more independant. My sister also passed away when I was 13 and ofcourse this was very traumatic for my mother as well as my dad and me. My mom would slam funiture, throw things -she pulled the table coth off our kitchen table while my dad and I sat at it and things went flying everywhere. When she got angry at me she pulled my hair or threw things at me and screamed for hours, saying vicious, horrible things. We tried counseling but I was the one that needed to be “fixed” my mom took no responsibilty for her behavior. Same thing when my dad and her tried marriage counseling.

I tried counseling again as an adult with her but it was still the same I was the one with the problems that needed to fixed. I realized through private sessions with my counselor that I could do nothing to change my mother. I was the one who had to change how I reacted to her. My parents marriage is a disaster, my dad bought a second house to escape to when she gets crazy.

I learned when my mom calls to rant and rave about how awful my father is is just to sit silently and listen (or more often than not put the phone away from my ear and check back every once in a while).If she goes to far I simply end the conversation. If I’m at her house I simply leave. Over the years I tried to give suggestions on how she can change things but then I’m the one that gets my head ripped off. I realized she doesn’t want to change, she just wants to play the martyr. She refuses to move forward and instead rehashes the past over and over again. She laments about all the horrible things in her life and how things could have been different if she had been more selfish and thought of herself more instead of others. :rolleyes: Sometimes my dad is mean to her but I know after living with her until I got married (at the age of 18) dealing with her on a daily basis makes you mean. I felt like I was losing my mind living at home and started becoming physically sick from the stress.

You have to realize you can’t fix things for your dad. He is a grown man and he choses to stay in an unhealthy situation. You can be empathetic and supportive to both him and your siblings but you can’t fix your family. So may times I thought maybe this time I can get through to her, maybe we can have a normal family. I finally had to make peace with the fact that this is who my mother is, I can’t make her change. All I can do is move forward and and enjoy my husband and daugher and be happy with all that I have.

I agree- model a healthy family and marriage relationship for your siblings and your dad. Even recommend counseling for the rest of the family if your mom won’t go to help them learn to cope with the situation. But step back from trying to make things better and trying to reason with an unreasonable person. It is not your job, and not your responsibilty.


Oh and my mom reads books too -and and from that she’s come to believe that my dad is an abuser and a control freak.:rolleyes: She see’s nothing in her behavior that in anyway contributes to the problems they have.Everything she reads (or watches on TV) points out how the people around her have all these problems and she is the victim. My mom won’t even go to confession because she “hasn’t done anything bad”.

She is a also very jealous person and laments how her other family members (and even neighbors) have better husbands, children, lives etc.

It’s a very sad way to live.


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