The situation:

My mother recently had surgery and I'm helping her. It's been about 8 days now. I don't mind helping, but she wants to talk to me.

As for what it is. She had bunion surgery.

My situation:

I have really bad anxiety and depression, and I do not deal well with people.

The result:

I am shutting down. My anxiety level is sky high because I don't know when she is going to want to strike up a random conversation I don't care about, and I'm depressed because I can't get anything done. My brain is not working. I can't think. At first, I tried to get some thesis reading done and some writing, but now, I'm can't even concentrate enough read a "fluff novel". I'm even too depressed to play games. Before writing this, I was lying on the floor, curled up in the fetal position waiting for her to say something.

It's not just having to hold a conversation, which itself is hard for me, but not knowing when I'll have to do it next. And then there is the issue of having to be on high alert all the time. I'm mentally and emotionally exhausted.

The complication:

In addition to not wanting to offend her, I don't want her to stop asking for my help. She is mostly able to do everything she needs to on her own now, but if there is something she needs help with I WANT her to ask for my help.

I should stress that my mother is exceptional at inducing guilt. Right now, I'm ill-equipped to deal with my existing mental and emotional stress. I can't take any more.

What I need:

I'm not really sure. I'm at the end of my rope here. I can't say anything because she'll do her Catholic mother guilt thing, and also she does actually need me for stuff. I just need...I don't know, what I need. I just want her to stop talking to me.

I need quiet time. I need peace. But I can't push her away, and I can't damage my relationship with her.

I guess what I need an answer too is then:

The question:

How do I communicate all of this to my mother without causing problems?

What I've been trying:

I've been exercising as much as I can, and I'm already on anti-depressants. For the most part, however, when I'm not talking to her or helping, I'm sitting in front of my computer trying to play games, or, more recently, lying on the floor.

Normally I bike, but the weather isn't so great. That's another issue.

I also tried finding a cafe within biking distance. Just say I was going to go there for an hour or two. However, there aren't any. I've been of the opinion "why have a care if you can instead spend that money on a nice apartment close to campus."

How it ended up (aka final edit):

As it turned out, my mother recognized something was wrong, and sort of broached the subject the very evening I posted this question. I was, after all, a basket case. I simply explained that I want to help, but need to otherwise be left alone. It was a simple short, painless, and guilt free conversation. She is now back at work, as am I.

The answers given don't quite answer my question. In the end, it just sort of resolved itself.

Thanks everyone.

  • After 8 days, is there any progress? What is the prognosis? If there is some end in sight toughing it out just may be the least painful option...
    – Bookeater
    Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 19:19
  • Oh I should specify. I'll edit my question. Nothing major. Just bunions removed.
    – Nero gris
    Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 19:20
  • 2
    Welcome. What is your question? What's your goal? We need to know what you want. I can't tell if you're asking about a personal issue, which would be off topic, or how to tell your mom that you need a break, which would be on topic.
    – Catija
    Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 19:23
  • @Catija I don't really know what I want. As mentioned, I'm not thinking clearly. I want some kind of resolution. I need quiet time, but I can't upset her or cause her to stop asking for my help.
    – Nero gris
    Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 19:29
  • Mmm it seems that you seek a way to communicate these needs (quiet time for you+effective help for her) with your mother?
    – Bookeater
    Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 19:34

3 Answers 3


It's been eight days since the bunions operation. Unless there is something I don't understand about the operation or your mother's ability to physically recuperate, eight days is long enough for her to start becoming self-sufficient around the house.

You can still assist her with things that are difficult for her -- perhaps carrying heavy or awkward objects or doing tasks that involve a lot of standing or moving (cooking? taking a load of wash down to the washer ? getting the mail ? making the beds?), but these things can be planned ahead and do not require you to be in constant attendance.

Meanwhile, your school work is suffering. You cannot work on your thesis. There must be other university-related things you are skipping -- seminars, conferences with your advisor, lectures. Even if it is Intersession, there are events at university you are missing.

Tell your mother that you need to get back into your university routine. In particular, you need the library.

Your mother also needs to ease back into her normal life. Ask her if she'd like you to go with her to do some shopping, or would she like you to escort her to visit a friend and then pick her up at a certain time and take her home, or would she like to have some of her friends over.

Your last sentence is unclear:

"why have a care if you can instead spend that money on a nice apartment close to campus."

It implies that you have some money. If so, and if the weather is so bad biking is impractical, and if public transportation is bad, take a taxi to the campus. Or walk. Just get out every day.


If you really want some quiet time and you want to be truthful about it, you need to tell her the same. Tell her clearly that you are always there for her, however, you need time to study and complete your work so request her to call you only when it's something very important.

Otherwise, you can find a way out of the conversation (once you are sure she doesn't need an actual help) by pretending to be on a call/chat with your friend, an important event at college/work which can't be postponed and say something like 'I've got a minute, I need to run'.

In either case, chances are she may try to make you feel guilty. Mine does, whenever I tell her I'm busy "Oh, I'm sure all that work is much more important than your elderly parents now that you don't need us as much". I have learnt to ignore these kind of comments.

Even new moms occasionally need some time for themselves from their babies, a grown up kid needing time away from a parent is nothing to feel guilty of. You can't really control her reaction to what you are saying, just try not to feel guilty about needed time for your own.

Good luck !


In my opinion you need to take a firm stand saying that this cannot continue as-is, as well as base your argument on neutral things related to you, and not directly to her (so she will not take it personal and move the discussion there). You also need to say that you still want to help and support her, but on your terms, not hers.

I would suggest using your education as leverage - as your mother she is most likely interested in you doing well in life, and probably consider your current efforts important.

"Mom, I need to attend to school now or I will miss out too much and risk failing my exams. Also I absolutely must have time on my own to minimize the impact that my anxiety and depression has on my learning ability.

I will still be happy to help you but I cannot do it all the time, so I would like to make an arrangement with you that I come by every day from X to Y and do what you need help with, and then leave for the day?"

I think the best result will come if you think a little ahead, so you are prepared if it comes up. Decide with yourself what X and Y should be beforehand. Decide if you will negotiate them or not. For this to work when she agrees to it eventually, I would suggest that you give her your full attention in that time, and none outside of it. ("Mom, can this wait until I come over tomorrow?")

Good luck.

  • Hey. Can you please add some explanation for why you say that this would be a good solution? Why is this a good idea? How does this solve the OP's problem? What is the thought process behind this advice?
    – Mithical
    Commented Jan 1, 2018 at 9:13
  • @ArwenUndómiel I've tried. Better now? Commented Jan 1, 2018 at 10:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.