Dealing with a Difficult Parent

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m 17. I’ve suffered from depression since i was 15, have recently been diagnosed with Crohns disease, and on a daily basis i suffer from chronic migraines. Now that’s not just it. what im here to ask is for your professional opinion on how to deal with my mother. Right now shes unemployed and basically a single parent. My father was sent to prison leading me to fall into depression. I stopped eating for a while and started cutting. But then one night i did attempt suicide. After that i realized i needed professional help and my mom helped me get that (at the time i was 15 when that happened) i attended therapy for a few months on and off then it eventually came to an end and i figured i didnt need that help anymore things appeared to be better.

But when i turned 17 i was diagnose with crohns disease. The stress that it put on my mom, taking me to millions of different doctors for months just to find out where this pain was coming from, took a toll on our relationship. Then with my father being away there’s very little money to support me. She tries her very best to support me with the few dollars she gets from unemployment. Being a single unemployed mother with an ill child isn’t easy. and i say that only because i witness it. But being the child of a non existant father, cranky worn out mother, and being sick all the time at 17 years old isn’t fair either.

Lately , almost a year now, all we do is fight. and its not the type of fights you get over the next day. Its the type of fight that continuously goes on and kind of never really ends. I’m ready to be a happy 17 year old NORMAL girl but that seems to be so hard with her. Shes unhappy i can understand why…but im abnormally unhappy too. I figure im to young to be this sad. Where can we meet half way? she holds on to the past…but i don’t. She wants to fight…but i won’t. She wants to kick me out…but i want to stay. I’m ready to throw up the white flag , but shes so complicated, how do i do it?

A: I’m very, very sorry that you have so much to deal with. Your letter shows you to be a sensitive young woman who is trying extra hard to be fair in spite of it all.

I wish I had a recipe for making it all better. Unfortunately, I don’t. I would need a whole lot more information to come up with a solution to the fighting. For that reason, I’m recommending that you call up that therapist. You had a successful experience with therapy before. Why not give it another round? Once you’ve made a relationship with a therapist, you have a resource you can return to whenever you need to. She will know your story up to when you left so you don’t have to start completely over. Therapy can help you sort out how best to handle your situation. You could also invite your mom to join you so the two of you could work on your relationship.

While you wait for an appointment, please remember this: Someone can only fight if someone else fights back. You have some responsibility – and some power – in this situation. Just because someone invites you to a fight doesn’t mean you have to participate. You could just say something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way” as gently and respectfully as possible, promise to try to do better (there’s always room for us to do better) and go about your business.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Nov 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). Dealing with a Difficult Parent. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/11/19/dealing-with-a-difficult-parent/