The person I'm talking about is my own mother. She has depression and she's seeing a doctor.

It is a little rough talking about your own kind like this, but as rough as it is, it's the truth.

My mother raised me and my sisters by herself, after my dad passed away a long time ago. I think that this developed some disorder in her, and for sure, it would be a trauma for anyone having lost a deared one.

The issue with my mother is that she is always charismatic, all smiling and stuff until she creates trouble from somewhere. It is not something isolated, but a behaviour that she keeps doing.

This behaviour affects her relationships and draws everyone around her away.

For example:

  • she was the reason of the breakup of many of my sisters relationships.
  • She made my aunt's life a living hell.
  • She will present herself friendly for a time, and then create some obnoxious situation that will break the relationship.

The problem went to a point where my sister and I decided to move away from her to stay with our sanity.

The problem with this is that she stated to me that she's unhappy, and as a son I really would like to help her.

I would really like to be close to her, but the moment I do that, she will be possessive and it is granted that I will have a lot of problems.
I don't even want to present my girlfriend for her for this exact reason.

It is like she is really happy, and then she becomes really sad. Some bipolar stuff.

How could I approach her, about seeking professional help, knowing that her reaction will be unexpected?

By unexpected, I mean that she doesn't seem to acknowledge that she draws people away, and will probably cry non-stop if I bring this subject.

PS: Not sure if important but she is married and I expend as little time with them as I can.


I just talked to family members (sisters and aunt) about this situation and they stated that she already went to psychiatrist and counselors, and since the behavior didn't changed, I'm unsure if this is something related to a medical condition or she is just playing games.

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    If she is already seeing a doctor what you said she need professional help or will react unexpected? Mar 27, 2018 at 18:24
  • @JuanCarlosOropeza So, she is taking medicine regarding her depression, but I'm pretty sure the hole is above this, I'm not an expert, but I don't think that her behavior have anything to do with depression, and even if it had, she isn't improving, so, she should get a better doctor. Mar 27, 2018 at 18:31
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    What does "toxic" mean in this context? Is this description nessecary? Is there a clearer term? Mar 27, 2018 at 18:52

5 Answers 5


The best thing your mother can do is pursue therapy.

We often like to think that we can step in and help those around us, but most of the time we are either not qualified, or not cognizant of the price we'd have to pay to achieve those goals (if it is even possible).

By your own admission she was making your life miserable, and damaging the relationships of those around her. This is always going to be the price you pay if you engage with her prior to her getting some serious, professional help. Any attempt to help her will likely lead to the same outcome for you, and very little long term improvement on her part.

The best approach, and the path I urge you to follow, is to point her to the appropriate resources, keep in touch from time to time, but otherwise keep your distance, such that your own professional and romantic life don't suffer. Because carrying the responsibility for her well being on your shoulders will manifest itself negatively in your relationships with loved ones and coworkers.

Now, as far as getting her help is concerned, you should research some therapists in her area, and try to get the names of the most capable ones. Then take the time to see your mother, and have an intervention of sorts. If your sister or aunt would like to participate that's fine, but you should focus on building an atmosphere which will ensure that your mother is receptive to what you have to say, and doesn't simply get defensive and refuse to listen (you can Google this, and figure out exactly how to approach her). Explain your take on the situation (she is not only self sabotaging, but also damaging the relationships of the people around her), hand her the cards of said therapists, and urge her to see them.

However, you must realize that you can't force her to get help, and you must accept that. Your mother is an adult, and she must ultimately make - and live with - her own decisions in this matter. For yourself, you can make the decision whether you wish to continue engaging with her based on her willingness to get help, and whether she continues to try and destroy your relationships.

  • Really good advice, thanks for it! A thing that I forgot to point out is that she thinks she isn't doing this to herself. The first approach I take telling this to her it will probably result in her crying non stop. I'm really unsure of how to approach her with this. Anyways, as you said I'll google something. Thanks! Mar 27, 2018 at 14:25
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    @AndréSousa - one of the problems is that you might not be able to get her to listen to you. The way you would approach most people is to simply ask to speak to them, sit them down, and say "Mom, I hope you know that I love you very much, but there's something we need to talk about ..." - and then tell her the issue. However, people engaging in this sort of behavior don't typically want to admit that they have a problem. And so, you can try to engage with her and get her help, but ultimately it's her decision.
    – AndreiROM
    Mar 27, 2018 at 14:27

First off when your Mom tells you she is unhappy, it could be a metaphorical cry for help. Or it could be her trying to manipulate you through guilt.

I can't tell from your question which it is. Some things you've said lead me to think she is trying to manipulate you into giving her what she wants. But it could just be that she is in a lot of pain and doesn't know how to deal with it.

So as others have recommended She needs counseling (in my opinion nearly all of us do, some more urgently though).

How to tell her, Often there is no good way to do this but you have a tool. User your moms expressed unhappiness.

Mom I love you and want you to be happy. Would you consider seeing one of these psychologists/therapists/counselors, that I've researched, just for a couple months.

She is probably going to object. Most people still have a stigma about seeing a counselor. Just explain that

It is ok to seek help. These trained professionals can do a much better job than I can and helping you learn how to live happy.

Because being happy is in large part a learned skill.

And this is where you learn if she is really reaching out for help or is just trying to manipulate you. If she insists that you should be solving her problems. That you need to do x, y, or Z to make her happy. Then it is very likely that she is not honestly seeking help but rather trying to manipulate you.

Either way she is going to get mad and defensive and probably cry. If she is earnestly willing to truly seek help to be happy then you both should be able to get past those reactions with in 2 conversation max and have a real discussion about how she can get help.

You will be better able to have this conversation if you do some research on the benefits of counseling and if you can find some examples of people she admires who have had counseling. People she knows personally is best but famous people will work so long as she admires them.

I once heard Jordan Peterson (clinical psychologist in Toronto) say that "the first rule of counseling is that the person has to want help." (paraphrased from his maps of meaning course.)

So what do you do if the person you love and want to help does not want your help? You live a good life. Show them an example of how to live correctly or at least how to try to live correctly, hopefully you know how to do that, take responsibility for your self, treat others kindly and fairly, and don't let other people walk on you. To wit you will probably need to enforce some boundaries with your mom as well, to protect yourself from her toxicity.

Good luck!


Other answers have a lot of good advice. There is one very important thing to keep in mind though. That you are not responsible to save your mother and make her happy. And you actually can't. Most likely she thinks that if you do x, y, z then she will be happy. But it is unlikely the case. She has a husband, her own life, etc.

You respect her as your mother, you love her, you can support her to a reasonable extend but responsibility for her life lies with her. She managed to bring you up somehow after all.

That means, you can talk with her sometimes, suggest things if you feel like doing so, etc. The thing is to not accept responsibility for her life or feel guilty that she is not happy. Unfortunately we can't fix others. It's a pita that fixing others appears much easier than fixing ourselves 8-)

Reading your question, it sounds like living on your own and building your own life is what you want. And it is likely what you need. It would be a good idea for you to see a counselor (yes you, not your mother). You are in a very difficult emotional situation and I can feel for you (especially because the difficulties during your childhood). I tend to try "helping" others and had many situations where that proved not to be a good idea. Actually what I write above, I'm telling it actually to me, hoping to remember it next time I need.

Good luck.

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    I know comments like this are not supposed to be just a "thank you" But seriously, that's a great advice that I often think about it. You just might have given me the spark I needed to see a counselor. Thanks man! Mar 28, 2018 at 11:15

If your mother is already seeing a doctor for depression, it's very difficult for you to approach her problems from a mental-health perspective: an authority on the matter is already giving her what he or she believes that she needs.

Perhaps she would consent to your having a meeting with the doctor, with or without her present. You could tell the doctor what you see is going on with her, and get direct insight into the doctor's character and also what her condition is.

What else can you do?

Everybody is hurtful more or less, though some people stop trying and just become toxic. Your mother may believe that she is entitled to do this because she provided everything for you when you were little.

Loving people (not just romantic love) hurts yourself. After a time, no matter how good somebody is, they will do something bad to you. And some people do that all the time... it was good for you to move away.

If you really want to keep on giving and giving to your mother, that's a good thing, but it's gonna suck. Also, you may be obligated to do at least a little if she doesn't have any other support.

Burdens like this are really hard on people. Take some time to learn about boundaries and caretaker stress. You could even begin reading the books and articles intended for people with bipolar family members whether or not your mother already has a diagnosis of bipolar.

Also, if you are religious, look into your religious institution for support. They have dealt with people for generations and have special insight.


First of all: You are very brave for sharing your plight when your SE username is also your real name (maybe I'm wrong in making that assumption, and if I am: sorry!).

I really wanted to provide a helpful answer, but I wanted to ask for clarification: you mentioned that your mother has ruined relationships with her direct family members, and have provided good anecdotes. When you say "made my aunt's life a living hell", was this also relationship-related (as was the conflict between your mother and sisters)?

When you state she presents herself friendly for some time, and then creates conflict, how so? Are relationships the most convenient method for her to stir trouble? i.e. if she knows your sisters have boyfriends, and she has been "friendly for some time" with any one of them, would she then use her knowledge of those relationships as the most convenient way to stir trouble?

My advice would be to determine what exactly triggers your mother's desire to create conflict. I think what would help with that is to better study each scenario where she has created conflict, where you evaluate:

  1. the environment/conversation/context that directly precede an event where she creates conflict.
  2. the information she uses to create the conflict (are relationships just the easiest way?).

I feel that, if you can gather such information, you may be better equipped to solve your problem.

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