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I’m writing to you even though I’m not a mother. I’m actually the daughter of a depressed woman who lost her husband, my father, in 2009 at the age of 48. He was the rock of the family and my mom is just very depressed. She’s always been on meds for panic attacks and depression, but she’s basically home bound again. She does what she has to do around the house, but is too content, if you ask me, on relying on our social security for money. I feel like if she got out, she may do better but she doesn’t want to hear that.
My brother also admitted a few months ago to dealing drugs and taking them too. He swore he stopped, but I’ve seen signs recently that indicate he could be back to it. I don’t think that’s fair to all of us. He’s 20-years-old, has no job and doesn’t contribute to the house at all. I’ve been on social security since 18, for my physical disability (I’m 25 now), but I’ve been working since I was in high school. I babysat for years and am a seasonal employee in an office that currently doesn’t need my services. Because of that, I try to do side jobs like writing for websites and I’m trying to do my own baking business. My ultimate goal is to make enough money to do Life Coaching and be a motivational speaker for the physically challenged.
But I feel like a prisoner sometimes and don’t know what to do. I feel the need to help out here and my mom will lose some of her social security if I move out, so I need tips on how to make my family open their eyes. Trying to talk to them never works. They take in what I say and then the next day everything goes back to how it was. I feel so much pressure.
Thanks for your time,
Dear Tired Daughter/Sister:
Before I get started I want to tell you how impressed I am by you, just by reading this letter. You’re obviously a bright young woman and I’d hate to see you be derailed by others. So I think there are a couple of things you need to do right now to make sure that does not happen.
PUT YOURSELF/NEEDS FIRST: It seems to me that “trapped” feeling you describe comes from feeling like everyone is relying on you, especially your mother. But listen, Tired, your mother is an adult and one who’s been around a lot longer than you. I’m sorry she’s struggling with the loss of her husband but she’s going to have to process that on her own; there’s nothing you can do to speed that along. What’s happening with her is a troubling pattern of “learned helplessness”. Your mother has decided on the kind of life she wants to lead (or thinks she deserves) and has become comfortable with that, even though you think she can do more. Your mom won’t make a change until SHE wants to, regardless of the amount of pleading and prodding from you. So you’re going to have to let that go. Same thing goes for your brother. If he is back on drugs, you can try to get him the help he needs but you cannot accept responsibility for him or his actions.
MAKE A PLAN: “You can’t steer a still ship.” Years ago, I heard a pastor say this and I repeat it nearly everyday. In other words it’s time for you to start laying out the blueprint for your life. Notice I said, YOUR life. Not your mother’s, brother’s or anyone else’s. This is about finding out what will make you happy. The most important thing about the above analogy is the understanding that you have to start moving in ANY direction. If it turns out to be the wrong one, you can change, course correct. But waiting for the right time, right circumstance or for your family members to open their eyes, is going to be a precious waste of time. Put your plan in writing and then..
START MOVING TOWARD YOUR GOALS: Babysitting, writing, goal setting, whatever you have to do, start moving on the road map of your life. During my days as a TV news reporter, I worked at several, pretty crappy stations. The one thing that gave me hope was when I took small, incremental steps toward my ultimate goal, which was to land a good job in a decent newsroom. That meant one day working on my resume, another day I’d be dubbing tapes, still another I’d be reaching and making contacts. See, I knew that if I kept my feet moving in a forward direction, I would ultimately get where I was going. Decide for yourself what those incremental steps look like then get busy.
One more thing, you’re probably going to feel that by doing this you are abandoning your mother by putting yourself first. Trust me, you are not. When she’s ready to do for herself, when conditions become so unbearable, she’ll do what she has to, to make it better. You can give her ample warning of your plan so she can make the financial adjustments she needs. But you need to know you are not abandoning her, or your brother; you are saving yourself.