Q: My mother was always controlling, telling me whom to like, what friends to have, what carrier to have, what to wear, etc. After my father’s death she became more controlling, telling me what to say to my brother or boyfriend. She is from Poland, does not speak English well, but she feels she is an expert on every topic. I moved away from her because I cannot handle her. I have been on Prozac since 21 y.o., and as a child I was suicidal, but never attempted it, I am very educated, and have several degrees. I understand she is lonely now, but I feel my mother should go to the doctor because she is not logical she contradicts herself. I think she is bipolar. I always do what she says to avoid conflict. I wear what she wants me to wear when I am around her. She creates secrets between me and my brother and wants me to keep them. She lies a lot. I need to know how to make her see a doctor or a counselor. Also she believes that I am the problem and there is nothing wrong with her, my brother and I are the sick ones.
I would appreciate any type of advice.

A: I really don’t think there is a way to force someone to get help unless they are suicidal, homicidal or incompetent (unable to take care of their basic needs). If you feel that any of these are true you can contact your local mental health center to have her evaluated or you can take her to the emergency room and let them know what is going on. You could also call the police but many times they cannot do anything unless they witness the behavior. Otherwise I suppose you could give her an ultimatum such as “I can no longer be around you until you get some help. I feel you need to talk to someone.” You may get further if you suggest that she go talk to someone about the loss of her husband then maybe you could go to some of her sessions with her to deal with the other issues. Sometimes the reverse works as well, such as inviting her to some sessions with you and your therapist. If you haven’t yet I would also suggest you read some books such as How to Deal with Difficult People or Toxic Parents. Sometimes letting someone know they are hurting you in a very sensitive and supportive way works well and other times a very direct blunt approach is best. All said and done sometimes the best you can do is get help for yourself and limit your contact with the difficult loved one. I hope things get better for you and your mother.