Can’t effectively communicate with my mother

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I’m 24 with no real work experience. Though I was doing well, I had to leave college because I couldn’t afford it and move back in with my mother. I’m obese and I have been since I was little (around 8). I was teased at school almost every day from around the age of 8 until I graduated high school so I made up excuses not to go to school. In doing so, my grades suffered so I didn’t qualify for scholarships and my mother made too much money for assistance but not enough to cover tuition. I have struggled with suicidal thoughts since I was 12. I’ve told my best friend but she thinks I’m joking because I’m sarcastic a lot of the time. In my family you’re looked at as weak for needing help. Or thinking things like that. They expect you to pray and that’s the end of it because life is hard.

Well it’s been harder to deal with my mother since I moved back. I work freelance but it’s not much and rarely consistent. She doesn’t see that as working. She belittles me for not having steady work. She says things like she can treat and talk to me anyway she wants because I’m the “child” and she pays for everything. I try to tell her how badly she hurts me but she’s completely dismissive and gets mad at me for being angry with her. She gives me the silent treatment until I apologize or she wants me to do something.

But if I hurt her feelings (even over the dumbest thing) she acts like I just mortally wounded her. Again she gives me the silent treatment and she tells everyone in the family how ungrateful and selfish I am. She tells me I should be thankful for being alive because she didn’t have to have me. I was an unplanned pregnancy.

If I try to ignore her she shames me by telling me all that she’s done for me. But I feel like she only does things for me so she can throw it back in my face. How can I talk to a woman like that? My suicidal thoughts were a rare occasion while I was away at school but have been happening more frequently living home. If I told her the full extent that she makes me feels she would try to have me hospitalized. I’m not crazy and I don’t want my whole family talking about how weak I am.

A: I admire your struggle to cope with your mother and appreciate the fact that you want to do something about it. But my response isn’t going to be about improving your communication, it is going to be about improving your individuation: It is time for you to plan to move out.

Everything you have described about your mother is the fact that she is restrictive. She seems to limit you in many ways. While it is just a guess, my experience with other people in similar positions to yours is that the suicidal ideation is often the result of an unresolved anger. Don’t let these thoughts continue to happen without getting some help. There are three things I think need to happen.

The first is for you to get involved in therapy and to have a medical evaluation for antidepressants. Beginning therapy will help you sort through the feelings you have with your mother.

Secondly, I would encourage you to become involved in group therapy. This can be through NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. You may also find groups offered through your local hospital. The link will help you find meetings in your area. These options will either be offered for free through NAMI, or on a sliding scale at the hospital.

Finally I would develop a plan for moving out and becoming independent from your mother. The plan could be for a year, but it should allow you to be more on your own. As part of this plan my hope would be for you to return to college so you can support your independence.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 May 2011

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2011). Can’t effectively communicate with my mother. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/05/28/cant-effectively-communicate-with-my-mother/