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I’m Not Good Enough to Keep My Mom from Being Depressed

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I’m 15 years old and I’m an only child. When I was 10 I found out that when I was two my mom had suffered from depression, my dad said it was because she was pregnant and then had a still born baby on Christmas Eve. However very soon after my parents talked to me about that my mom lost her job and was out of work for two years. She started changing, she was gaining a lot of weight and would cry all the time. All my life she had been able to sleep a lot but once she lost her job she wouldn’t get out of bed for days. Once she got a new job she seemed “happier” but then she became obsessed with work and likewise obsessed with my schoolwork. It was unacceptable if I got a B, it wasn’t “good enough.” However even though she had a job she would sleep all the time and would always be crying. It got to the point that between work and sleeping she didn’t have time for any of the normal mom things. She stopped doing laundry, cleaning, coming to my basketball games, and so I picked up her slack. Ever since I’ve been doing all my families laundry, cleaning the house, planning out what we need from the grocery store every week and if she ever offered to for example do the dishes so I could go to bed I’d wake up the next morning and they wouldn’t be done. Whenever I would talk to my dad about her he would say that that’s just how she is now because of her brain and that whenever she freaked out on me to not take it personally. Recently me and my mom were driving to Pennsylvania to visit family and she had a panic attack while driving she swore that the truck drivers were out to get her so she pulled over for an hour trying to “clear her head”. Also every time I try to talk to her about a problem with a guy or anything she turns it into her problem and I always end up holding her while she can’t stop crying. All of this started, because she lost the baby and after she lost the baby it was like I wasn’t good enough for her. I wasn’t a good enough reason for her to try to get better I wasn’t good enough to keep her happy I wasn’t good enough for her because I got a 92 in biology and “ruined my chances of going to a good college.” If I’ve never been good enough for her then how can I be good enough to help her? (age 15, from US)

I’m Not Good Enough to Keep My Mom from Being Depressed

Answered by on -

A.

Reading your question breaks my heart for all of you. Your mother’s depression is not your fault. It has nothing to do with whether or not you are good enough. Depression is a real issue that no one can cause someone else to have. Would you blame yourself if she was diagnosed with diabetes?

Losing a child is one of the hardest things people can go through and it sounds like what may have started as grief, or post partum depression, has turned into clinical depression and anxiety. These disorders can affect your not only your mood, but also sleep, thinking, energy level, and even how someone perceives the world. As hard as it may be, you have to not take the things your mother says or does (or doesn’t do) personally. It is about how badly she feels and she may be projecting this onto you without meaning to do it.

You should not be taking on adult responsibilities within the house. It’s one thing to do some chores and help out, but it’s another to run the household. You need to focus on school, friends, hobbies and age appropriate activities. It is not your job to take care of anyone else.

I strongly suggest that you ask to go to family therapy. This is all too much for you to handle without an ally and guide. A therapist can help rebalance the family and provide a safe place to talk about feelings. All of you would also benefit from seeing someone individually as well. Talk to your father about therapy soon, and if you need some extra help with this, you might consider speaking with your school counselor or doctor first.

You are a strong, caring person. You are good enough just the way you are. But, it’s time to be a kid.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

I’m Not Good Enough to Keep My Mom from Being Depressed

Holly Counts, Psy.D.

Dr. Holly Counts is a licensed Clinical Psychologist. She utilizes a mind, body and spirit approach to healing. Dr. Counts received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wright State University and her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Counts has worked in a variety of settings and has specialized in trauma and abuse, relationship issues, health psychology, women’s issues, adolescence, GLBT, life transitions and grief counseling. She has specialty training in guided imagery, EMDR, EFT, hypnosis and using intuition to heal. Her current passion involves integrating holistic and alternative approaches to health and healing with psychology.

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2018). I’m Not Good Enough to Keep My Mom from Being Depressed. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 25, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2015/09/24/im-not-good-enough-to-keep-my-mom-from-being-depressed/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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