Back in October my mom came to stay with us for a month. One afternoon, early on in her visit, we went to a food festival and it wasn’t super fun. I was stressed out by the crowds and the fact that no one, not my mom, my son, nor my husband knew what they wanted to eat, or didn’t want to eat. For the first half hour they just followed me around in a line, in the middle of this crowded place, and relied on me to pick food for them, to find somewhere for them to eat, to get the tickets, to choose the vendors. And finally I fucking snapped, as one does from time to time. I sat my mom and son down with a hot dog and a soda, and I grabbed my husband’s arm, took him away for a minute and said, “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, DUDE?!” He realized then that he needed to step up and help a little, but he was overwhelmed too. Why we thought that was a good idea, I’ll still never know, but we learned a valuable lesson that day. We just can’t bite off more than we can chew.
That night I was feeling better. We had come home and relaxed, planned some activities for later in the week. I was treading lightly because my mother often tells me that I treat her like a child, say for instance when I grab her arm when she steps off of a curb. I do this because she suffers from neuropathy, and well, that’s never going to get better. She needs a cane, but she refuses. So instead she hopes she steps correctly when she steps off curbs and such. If my sister grabs her arm, my sister is helping her. If I do it, I’m treating her like a child. Then again, if I don’t grab her arm, then sometimes I am “being mean” to her. It’s a lose/lose situation with my mother. It always has been. I’m used to it.
So there I was, throwing ideas out about things we could do, but I was being mindful of a few facts. Like for instance, my mom can’t sit still for too long because she says it hurts her back and joints. She also can’t walk for too long because of the same reasons. So I am careful when planning things, not too much walking, or at least places to rest. Not too much sitting, long plays are out. As I was offering things, she was not giving me much to work with. I kept asking, “Does that sound like fun?” and she kept saying, “Whatever you guys want to do.” So finally I told her that, no, it wasn’t whatever we wanted to do, we have to account for a lot of things and I want to make sure it is something she can handle doing. That’s when she looked at me, dead in the eye and asked, “Did you take your pills today?”
I was taken aback, quite frankly. Because when someone asks, “Did you take your pills today?” what they are really saying is, “I think you are being crazy, and maybe if you took your pills you would feel better.” So I asked my mother what was bothering her. I asked her this because I have had enough therapy to know that she was projecting. See, my mother has pills she is supposed to take every day. Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, but she won’t take them. She thinks it’s the kind of thing you can skip doing for weeks at a time, which means they will never help her, because no, that isn’t how those pills work. And even if I had missed a dose of my pill that’s okay, because the pills I take stay in my system, they build up every day. That’s how those kinds of pills work. I know this. She knows this. It’s all common knowledge.
So my mother did a very my mother thing and went into a tirade about how I am mean to her. About how my sisters don’t treat her this way. About how she just can’t handle me and my “ways.” I suspect my “ways” are honest, adult, conversation. I ignored that, because it is the best thing to do, and I went on to explain that asking someone if they “took their pills” is incredibly rude and she needs to stop saying it. She went downstairs in tears and probably called my sister to tell her I was being mean. I’m beyond moved by any of that at this point.
But this is maybe something you all need to know. Some of you anyway. Well, two things really: 1. It’s not okay to ask someone on medication for mental illness if they in fact took their pills, unless, they are so low down, that you are honestly afraid that they haven’t been taking their pills and that they are to the point where you should be seeking medical attention for them. And even then, it should only be to someone who you know, and love, and that you are in this fight for, or with, every day. Like my husband could ask me that. He could ask me that and really mean, “Have you given up on yourself, because I haven’t.” But when my mother says it, she’s just being mean.
And 2. It is completely okay and necessary to tell people this. To set boundaries with your family members and friends. If someone is routinely asking you this, in the manner that is mean or uncaring, just to prove a point, rather than to the guts to say, “You know what, you’re being a little wonky right now, let’s talk” then you need to tell them that it is mean and that they need to stop. This is not the only time when this is okay to say to someone. Boundaries are very important and you should not feel uncomfortable about setting them.
A couple of days later my mom said she asks my sister this a lot when she is “being crazy.” I asked her if my sister got upset when she said it and she said no. I assured her that yes, she probably did, but that she won’t tell her. My other sister, I told her, probably would get mad. That’s when she told me she likes to say things to that sister to make her mad sometimes, she finds it funny. So yeah, that’s the kinda mom I’m dealing with. I know I usually only share cool, funny stories about my mom, but trust, it’s not all cool and funny. And I’m sure your relationships with your parents or family members aren’t all cool and funny too. And when it’s not, then try to help them, and if they don’t want the help, then leave. You don’t need that shit. And they will learn. Or they won’t. And either way, at least you can say that you tried.
Go forth and set boundaries today, y’all. It will help, I promise.