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Context:

I am an early 20's British Male. I moved home after University and am suffering from somewhat severe depression.

As I got towards graduating, my mother suggested I moved home instead of finding a place to live, so I could save money while I built a larger nest egg. My partner, who I met at University lives across the Country and it is my intention to move to live near her once I have built up said nest egg. I pay rent that is similar but slightly lower to myself living alone.


Problem:

My mother always has something to say about me and why I'm substandard in one way or another, always in an accusatory fashion ( I couldn't take them as constructive criticism if I tried), she's in her 50's and worked for 10-15 years of her life before retiring due to injury, ergo has been out of the workforce most of her life.

My self care is below average at points, things like hygiene slip, however being aware of depression being the cause of this she realizes they're off limits as my sister was borderline suicidal last year.

Comments I have heard from her:

  • Shouldn't you be in bed already, I'm not getting you up in the morning (I go to bed 15 minute later than I meant to)
  • It's unacceptable you leaving the house at x time on a morning ( leave without extra time to spare because I wanted a proper breakfast or 5 mins to wake up)
  • I feel like a servant, you come home from work and you sit down while I make dinner after I've cleaned the house today(over exaggeration she cleans 1 room every other day on a rotation)
  • All you do is sit and play games on your computer (I'm a programmer + gamer, so my friends are primarily online, which she is aware of, also living at home, my in person friends live in other cities)
  • walking on eggshells was a direct quote (after I asked her to not keep putting me down)
  • Why is it always in a minute, why can't you do something when I ask (she walks into my room, which is private, not communal space)
  • why do you always have to visit her, why cant she come here for a change (we don't want to have silent sex, given we only see each other once a month, also my mom has ostracized her the way she has me, and we can actually act the way we want to, she also suffers from depression)
  • If you actually got up on a morning, you'd have plenty of time to do x (I stay up late instead as they aren't around)

Writing them down, they seem like reasonable enough comments, however they're said multiple times a day and with layers of snide on top, which gives it the context of wearing me down. Sometimes also layers with an expletive.


When she feels like I'm not paying her any notice, she involves my father and they gang up to attack me. He forms an opinion quickly and will only listen to one side of a story, so when I was younger and played the "game", it was always a race to get in our side of the story first.

I let these chips on my ego slide as best I can and I've had a polite conversation with her on two separate occasions. Once on her conversation with me being negative or derogatory, once about her speech volume/tone of voice as she tends to lose sense of volume when in a discussion with someone and tends to put on a shrill tone. Neither conversation amounting to much. Her feelings tend to be "hurt" for a while, she'll blank me, be nice to me for a day or two, the cycle repeats.

If I call her out on it, she says either that I'm ungrateful or something similar to above about being "hurt".


How I act under the criticism, I tend to let her say her piece, mumble agreeably, unless something is outlandish then I say so, I try to keep a neutral tone, but I have been known to argue back if something gets particularly under my skin. I cannot walk away as if I try to do so, I'm called back to listen to the rest, with renewed vigor.

How I act when I call her out, I tend to point out points to the contrary of her argument (i.e. "you do nothing to help around the house", "I did x, y, z"), if she persists beyond reason, I shut down, wait for it to be over, trying to stop my self confidence being undermined any further

How I act when she involves my father, speech is the kiss of death here, commentary or defense f myself will escalate the argument, sometimes I fight their points, others I accept it. If I do argue, they beat me down until I basically admit I'm in the wrong.

My question is, how do I break the cycle and form a relationship that is less toxic and more equal?

Obvious solutions I have considered without elimination:

  • Move out, I can get my own place, this increases my cost of living to the point where it would take a significantly longer period of time to achieve my goal of moving to be with my partner (6 months increased to 10-12 months).

  • Give her criticisms validation, do whats asked, behave like she wants. I think this might work short term, but would make me miserable and likely she'd find new criticism, as she did when I was young.

  • Have a round of talks with her each time this occurs, I fear this would just reset the cycle described and I would end up acting like her, rushing to get my criticisms in first.

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    Hi and welcome to IPS! You've given a lot of description of how your mother acts, but since answers here will be advising on how to improve your interpersonal skills, can you describe a bit more how you act in these situations? For instance, what does it look like when you "call her out"? What sort of tone do you use, what sort of comments do you make? – Em C Mar 22 at 21:00
  • Could you give some actual examples of comments she has made? I know that my own depression often clouds my interpretation of things, so it may be the case that the same for you. – Rainbacon Mar 22 at 22:05
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    I've edited the arrangement of information to make it easier for users to follow the flow of information. If you don't want to keep the edit or improve it, feel free to roll it back or continue editing! – ElizB Mar 23 at 0:47
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Background

During my college years and right afterwards, I was in a very similar situation as you currently are. I was depressed, spent most of my time staring at a screen, and didn't take good care of myself (poor eating habits, sleep schedule, etc...). After graduation, I moved back home for several months before taking a job that required me to move quite far away. Also like you, my mother was a bit hard on me.

A note about parental behavior

When I was diagnosed with depression, it was really hard on my mother. Parents put a lot of time and effort into raising their children. Putting so much into a child leads them to have certain expectations for how that child will turn out. When we talked about it a few years later, my mother told me that it was really hard on her to see me depressed because she felt like she had failed as a parent. She wanted so much for me to be happy, but I just wasn't and she had no idea how to help me.

That's why she was hard on me. She read everything she could about depression and would constantly tell me that I needed to do this, that, or the other thing (and I mean anything; eating certain foods, doing certain exercises, doing chores, going to church, etc...), not because she thought less of me for not doing them, but because she was willing to consider anything that had even a chance of lessening my depression.

What you can do

The first thing to do is to put your mother at ease. Let her know that you appreciate what she's done as your mother. This will lessen her feeling as if she's failed as a parent. I've found that the things which work best for me to achieve this are extremely thoughtful gestures. For example, my siblings and I made our mother a memory box where we wrote out our favorite memories of her. To this day, she still goes back and re-reads those memories to remind herself that she was successful in being our mother. Your gesture doesn't have to be a gift. It could be doing a chore that she hates to do or any number of other things. What's important is that you find something that will be very meaningful to her.

The next step is to help her understand how her comments affect you. It was very helpful for me to explain to my mother what I was feeling. I explained how depression affected me, and then how her comments made things worse. When you explain, be very explicit about it. It took me a couple of tries because I wasn't blunt enough. Eventually, I said

Mom, when you say things like that, it makes me feel like you don't understand what I'm going through.

When I said this, it got through to her that there was a problem between us, and we were finally able to fix it.

One final note

Moving away helped my mother and I a lot. While things were getting better between us, the process accelerated when I moved. If the other information in my post fails for you, moving away could be a good alternative.

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You cannot fight absurdness with logic. Logic has a limit while absurdness has no limits and thus logic will always lose. You have already tried and failed to resolve the issues between you and her on your own. Your mother is being toxic for reasons known only to her, and given the fact that you currently reside in her home - you have no leverage over her behavior. Moving out would be the most optimal route, because for every dollar you save while living with her you will pay with your mental health.

Edit:

One of the comments suggested I add something to back up my words: I'm a 28 year old male who moved out at 23 due to relationship issues with my parents, despite the fact that I was working and studying at the time. Study progress was significantly slower because of me moving out. It took me 8 years total to get my CompSci bachelor degree because I could only afford half the course load per semester. Nonetheless I persevered and graduated without debt too!

Do I regret my decision despite the setbacks? No. Mental health is a fragile thing, and as someone who attended professional therapy it's lengthy and expensive to fix.

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    Welcome to IPS! Please take the time to read your faq about writing good answers. Please note that we require answers here to provide back-up for what they are suggesting. This back-up can be based on personal experience or on external sources. Your answer currently isn't providing back-up which explains the downvote. – Ælis Mar 24 at 13:55
  • I see, I'll modify the answer. – IDDQD Mar 24 at 17:34

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