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Trigger Warning: Multiple Attempts, Having Trouble Coping


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My mother and I have had a difficult relationship for many years. Back in 2005 she had what I called a breakdown (I was shamed for doing so), where she went on a crash diet, lost a lot of weight, and her hair thinned out. She had something called a telegen affluvium, and she absolutely broke down, locked herself in her house, made numerous suicide threats to me (my father was traveling almost nonstop for work, my brother lived in another city, so I was the one left to scrape her out of bed, make sure she was fed, et ). Back then, the threats were subtle, like she would call me at 1 am and say she just wanted to be sure I had the house key, in case something happened to her, so the dogs could get fed until my father returned from wherever he was. And I would race over and at the time felt like she was manipulating me. Ended up moving 1200 miles away to get away from it after dealing with it for 4 years. They in turn bought a house across the state (FL), and now live about 2 hours away.

Eventually her hair grew back and life returned to normal. But then last March, my father called me desperate at 6:30 am, saying my mother was threatening to kill herself, had been, and he couldn’t handle it anymore. I raced over, ready to help him call 911 and handle the situation, and ended up leaving when he convinced her to calm down. I told her that she wasn’t allowed around my son until she got serious help, and was ostracized from my family for a year for it. 

Last month, my father called me at a work dinner to tell me my mother had overdosed on pills and alcohol and I needed to come out to the hospital. I raced out of the dinner, went to the hospital, and she was there, drunk, stoned, belligerent, threatening my father with divorce if he didn’t get her Baker Act lifted - and foolishly, he covered for her somehow and they convinced the docs that she had just taken a double dose of pills “by mistake” with alcohol. In reality, she took 85 Gabapentin, 5 Valium and washed them down with half a bottle of Johnny Walker - allegedly (those were the pills that were missing). Four days after coming home, my brother had to fly down and I had to go back out with my son because she was making more threats - was locked in her room with scissors, a belt, plastic bags and another bottle of booze. She refused treatment but was Baker Acted the next day when they continued, and institutionalized for a week and a half, before she convinced doctors she would follow up as an outpatient…then refusing the second she was out the door.

This past Thursday, my father had to drive himself to the ER in afib (cardiac arrhythmia). I raced out, again, to find that the stress of my mother’s daily threats had landed him in the hospital. She refused to answer the door and wouldn’t let me in to give her her pills (my dad now keeps them locked in a safe). My brother and I took turns staying on the phone with her until my dad was released the following day - with an event monitor and promises to not do anything stressful for 2 weeks. At that point, I drove home to hand my son off to his dad for the weekend, and not more than 10 minutes after I got home, my dad called in an absolute panic, shouting instructions to paramedics and telling me he came home to find her unresponsive again, collapsed on the bathroom floor.

I turned around and drove back, again. When we got to the hospital, I knew it was bad, because we both weren’t allowed back to see her. My father went back, came outside, called my brother and told him to book the first flight down. Somehow he convinced them to let him come back with me, and what I found was my comatose mother, intubated and with no brain stem activity - a blood alcohol level of .674 and positive test for pills. It took almost 20 minutes to stop scream sobbing and hyperventilating, and my father and I spent a sleepless night in absolute shock and horror that she had finally succeeded. Seeing my brother at the airport the following morning, we all sobbed in a horrible way at the airport gate, and planned our mother’s withdrawal of care and started talking about what would happen next on the way to the hospital. These are memories and images that will be burned into my head for life, and I haven’t slept since Wednesday of last week.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were absolutely shocked to find my mother alert, awake, and with no brain damage. Even more shocking was her story: she claimed a man broke into the house, forced her to drink a bottle of whiskey, then left. No missing valuables, no mess or signs of a struggle at the house - just her latest insane story to try and get out of the hospital and try again.

None of us are coping well. My son was inconsolable all weekend (I foolishly answered my dad’s call on speaker, thinking he was just telling me he made it home, so my poor child didn’t even know until the next night that his grandmother was still alive). My brother was so furious that he flew home the same day, refuses to talk to or about her, and said not to say anything else about her unless she was actually dead. My father is the worst - he’s considering how he’s going to reshape his life and live out his twilight years alone, or whether she will eventually come home and try again and succeed - or how many more 911 calls he will have to make (this was the third this month).

And I am at a complete loss. I’m angry with myself for hating her, hating her for breaking our family, for destroying my son’s childhood that I’ve worked so hard to keep innocent through divorce and custody battles - he’s been through enough, for gutting my brother emotionally (he is her “golden child” - and he was her baby). I’m angry that she hurt my father - furious that she chose to try to give him a full heart attack by finding her dead, which would leave her kids with two parents to bury at once. I’m overwhelmed trying to drive back and forth across the state to keep him company and take him food and give him support. And I feel incredibly alone. My brother lives with a wonderful girlfriend who is there for him. My boyfriend of 2 years responded to the news of her brain death on Friday night by disappearing. I haven’t heard from him in 6 days, not even a text, so he doesn’t even know that she’s still alive. When his mother was hospitalized I stayed by his side - and he completely abandoned me in return. I can’t turn to friends to vent - we lived in a small town so telling one person means the whole town will know in a week. And I’m tired of feeling these feelings. My brother said my mother died Friday night and he mourned her, that he will not be able to do that again. But I can’t shut off like that - and I’m panicked and worried about what comes next - when will the next call me, when will she succeed?  

So here I am shouting into the void and hoping someone who understands will have some advice to offer for how to survive a repeated suicide attempt survivor.

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Dear Bocamom,

I am so sorry you and your family are going through this horrible situation.  Your mom obviously has a severe mental illness and addiction issues. 

You mentioned moving away after dealing with her behaviour for 4 years. Was she well before that? Prior to her breakdown where she lost her hair, was she a fairly stable person? What was she like when you were a child/teen etc? Has she always behaved this way?

Addiction and mental illness go hand in hand and she needs to be treated for both. No easy task, I realize. Especially with the bizarre behaviour and being on the edge of suicide so often. I'm not a psychologist, but maybe she has bipolar disorder? Was she always manipulative? Saying things like she hoped you had a key, basically incase she passed away is a pretty selfish thing to say. Yet it sounds like a cry for help too. 

What an awful thing for you, your dad and your brother to go through. The stress must feel unbearable. Your poor dad too... It sounds like your mom needs to be somewhere long term, to get the help she needs and to give all of you a break.

I can understand your brother's feelings as well, after thinking and believing your mom was dead, only to find her perfectly fine. No one can live like this. At least he has the support of his girlfriend, but your partner let you down. 

You deserve better. You deserve to have someone who can be your rock and your strength when you really need it. I'm so sorry that happened. 

You are also perfectly within your rights to not have your son subjected to your mom's unwell behaviour. That is you  protecting your child. That's what a good mom does. 

Has your dad involved the family doctor/GP? Are there any places you and he could look for, to get your mom the help she needs? Such a hard situation and my heart goes out to you. 

You have some choices but they're not easy. You could cut contact, as your brother has done.  You need to preserve your own sanity too and protect your son. If you can't do that, then I would suggest making strong boundaries between yourself and her. I would also suggest if you are able, to seek counselling to help you cope. I would look for a therapist who deals with trauma specifically, because you're certainly dealing with stress and trauma.

Please know that your mom is ill and none of this is your fault. If she does (heaven forbid) follow through with her suicidal tendencies, that will not be your fault or your dad's either. You have done everything to help your mother as well as your father. You sound like a caring and loving daughter who is at the end of her rope.

I hope this helps some how. Just know that you are heard and in a safe space to share your feelings.

I truly wish you the best and will keep you and your family in my prayers. Xx



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6 hours ago, Traz said:


Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words, Traz. The craziest thing about this is that she’s absolutely not an addict - her father was an alcoholic and my entire life I’ve never seen her drunk - until this month. IF she has a drink, it’s been a few sips of wine at an Italian restaurant they go to that includes the glass with a meal, and she takes a few sips and gives my dad the glass, and that’s maybe 3 times a year. The alcohol is a tool for her - she’s been obsessively researching how to kill herself, and knows that the alcohol mixing with the pills will kill her. And the pills are all prescribed to manage what she has alleged is major depression and anxiety tied to her hair - but we’re realizing these were tools for her to control my father. He had to retire from work to care for her, and he isolated himself for the past year from both my brother and I to sit with her 24/7. She’s always been controlling with him, but while I thought the zero contact was just with me - I recently learned she had forced it with my brother as well (see below). And when all of this started last month, we started checking in on him daily to be sure he was coping, and she demanded that he stop talking to us again “until she was ready” to see and interact with us, too. For most of the year, he had been taking her on car trips and overnight getaways - and I mean daily - and her troubles seemed to have gone away. But when he started consulting again for work, the suicide attempts started.

Both of these bottles that she drank were gifts from me to my father: the first was a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue that my boyfriend and I gave him in 2004/2005, that’s been sitting there with his bar, sealed, since. The second was a bottle of whiskey my son and I brought back for him from Tennessee in 2021 (because of the Chris Stapleton song). He has a bar of more collectible bottles that he displays, but he doesn’t really drink, either. Maybe a sniffer or Grand Marnier once a year or a glass of wine a couple of times a year. She’s doing this as a means to an end, and both of her bottle selections (passing up tequila and vodka and other strong alcohols) seem to be more so I can carry the guilt of being the one who bought the bottle than anything else.

As for being stable - no. She has always been manipulative, which is why I’ve always had a difficult relationship. My dad put it best recently: she thinks she can say whatever hurtful things she wants to everyone else, then acts like a delicate flower and demands my father “protect her” once she picks a fight. I’ve always been the target within the family (my brother was always the golden child), so until she needs something from me, it’s a long string of insults and verbal assaults: “We stopped loving you years ago, and we wouldn’t care if you were dead in a ditch somewhere except it would be less convenient to see our grandchild,” or “I don’t need to meet the person you’re dating, because I already know he’s a scumbag. Only a scumbag would be interested in someone like you.” (PS - retired military officer was the “scumbag” in question, I’m a college grad who owns my own successful business, and she says these crazy things whenever I try to build a life that doesn’t revolve around her). It always comes down to abuse as a means of control.

We have been looking back on the behavior - and this nasty, angry, manipulative behavior is tied to this perceived sense of abandonment whenever my father or I have anyone in our lives but her: she isolated him from his entire family, I was forced to choose her over grandparents, aunts, cousins, and our family was *only* her and each other, but she drives wedges between each of us so she’s at the center. Another example: she went on a trip to London with my brother (who had been my best friend my whole life), and when they came back, he stopped talking to me for 8 years. She told me at the time that they had had an argument and she had “told him all the things I’d said about him” which was crazy because I’ve *never* badmouthed him, so I was also confused and hurt for YEARS that he would even believe whatever nonsense came out of her mouth, especially without even talking to me about it - which means it must have been really bad. We ONLY started talking again this month because of all of this, and we haven’t even touched on the subject of what was said because we have so much else to unpack.

As for involving people - my dad IS the family doctor, so he’s been trying to handle things. And now she’s been committed for the second time in a month. Last time he helped get her out and promised the docs he would be able to manage her at home. This time, he has promised not to do that, and my brother and I have both said if he does it a third time (first time she was released right from the hospital, second after a week inpatient), he will be on his own.

From what we have put together, we think she has something more like Borderline Personality Disorder. And that’s not easy to manage, especially since she has gotten away with it for 65 years with no acknowledgment of the disease or help. I’ve also been researching obsessively genetic links (I’m terrified to end up like her), and what I’ve found is that there is a paternal genetic link - which would make sense given what we know about her father.

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Wow, I am just devastated for you - having those things said to you by your own mother and all of the manipulative behaviour. So very damaging.😔

I hope that you know it's not your fault and that your self-worth is independent of her cruel words. 

Yes, I was wondering about Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Certainly the fears around abandonment correlate with BPD. The first step is acknowledging you have a problem and to seek therapy. It is treatable with Dialectical Therapy.  A family member was diagnosed with it, so I did some research. I ended up speaking to someone highly regarded at CAMH in Toronto. She told me if a person with BPD puts in the work regarding therapy, learns to regulate their emotions etc.,  they can get to a point where they'd no longer meet the diagnostic criteria.  She told me it's one of the few mental illnesses you can probably recover fully from. 

But, it sounds like your mom would resist any and all attempts for help. I feel for your dad, as he is her husband and has been manipulated by her all these years. Would you all (excluding your mom) get family therapy? I guess it would just be you and your dad, as your brother lives far away. This is so much for you all to deal with on your own.

We're not responsible for anyone else's happiness and we can't control their behaviour and choices.

Sometimes the best solution with a destructive and toxic family member, is to cut ties - as difficult as that is. I understand that in doing so, it would leave your dad in a difficult position. I hope he can get some support from either Social Services or the Mental Health professionals at your hospital. 

I'm so sorry that your mom drove a wedge between you and your brother as well as other family members. The scars must run deep. I am the child of a mother who was abused by her alcoholic father. She never dealt with her trauma and she had a lot of mental health issues with anxiety as a result. But she was not as abusive as your mom. Once again, I'm so sorry. 

And no, you won't end up like her.  You are aware of your own behaviour and I'm sure you're a good parent to your son.

I hope you're able to find some support for yourself and that you, your dad and your brother can be strong for each other. 

Prayers to all of you. 


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