Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Daughter is Trying to Ruin My Relationship”

I am a 47-year-old mom of two. My son is 21 and in college, and my daughter is 17 and a senior in high school. My husband of of twenty-two years passed away in 2014 after a long fight with cancer. My son has always been easy-going and happy. My daughter, on the other hand, has always been what we will call “high maintenance.” She would be miserable and scream when she didn’t get her way, and usually she ended up getting it — mainly just to keep the peace. She can be a sweetheart when she wants to.

After my husband died, both kids were doing pretty well except my daughter started becoming very depressed and talking about killing herself to be with her dad. I started allowing her to stay home from school, and I took her to a therapist. Looking back, I think I was trying to make her happy by giving her what she wanted.

A few months after my husband’s death I started talking with somebody online. This developed into a relationship that I am in now. He is a very loving man who would do anything for us. My daughter hated him from the start. He can do nothing right. I slowly introduced him into our lives, but she resisted. After two years she still says she hates him and tells me that, if I was a good mom, I would never have started seeing him, or that at least I should break up with him now to make her happy.

He has never bought into her drama. He sees her as spoiled and manipulative. I can’t say he’s wrong. She used to come up with emergencies when I would be going to see him. She is disrespectful and downright rude. I am thinking of spending my life with him and being happy, but I can’t because she will do whatever she can to try to make me choose her over him.

I have had her to three therapists and three psychologists. She has been on countless medications hoping to hit the right one that will pull her out of her misery. She is a miserable person overall with only one true friend who will put up with her demands. Everyone (and not just her family) should do things her way or she will make them miserable. Everyone is out to get her and nothing goes her way.

I am to the point of thinking about breaking up with my boyfriend just to have some peace. Then, in my next thought, I know that that is just what she wants me to do, so I am feeding it. Why should I give up my happiness for her? I am eating myself up inside trying to balance my feelings.

I guess I just need to know if I should drop everything for my daughter or demand she respect my life and my choices. — Distracted By Her Misery

Um, neither? I don’t think either option will work. So, you drop everything for your daughter and what does that solve? You continue enabling her, letting her believe that, as long as she protests loudly enough, she can get her way — a lesson that has not served her well, as her lack of friends, for example, has shown. And then you end up sad and resentful, forcing an even bigger wedge in your already obviously-strained relationship. On the other hand, how will “demanding respect for your life and your choices” actually work? If you could really demand certain behavior from your daughter, knowing she would comply, you would have done so a long, long time ago. You know very well no amount of demands on her will amount to jack squat.

What you’ve been doing so far — giving in to your daughter’s demands for seventeen years–hasn’t worked. Nor have, apparently, the six different counselors you’ve taken your daughter to. Did any of them have any suggestions for you? Any insight into what might be atypical about your daughter? Have you done a neuropsych evaluation on her? What about a psychoeducational assessment? Do her teachers report similar behavior at school? Does she get any services at school? Does she have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan)? Have you tried joint therapy? Have you tried individual therapy for yourself?

Having only tip-toed into this world a little bit myself, I can appreciate how overwhelming it is, how tempting it is to give in to your kid’s demands, and how frustrating it can be to not have an easy answer — to have to continue searching for the right combination of support. But… that’s what you do when you have a child who has some special needs. You keep searching for the combination of support that will meet those needs. And those needs change as a child develops and as he or she experiences different emotional triggers — like adolescence, starting a new school, and losing a parent to cancer. So, while six counselors and countless meds may sound like a lot of intervention over the course of seventeen years, if they aren’t the right ones, it doesn’t really matter.

And while I can certainly empathize with how you must feel having tried different things with little to no relief, I can imagine that however you feel is probably nothing compared to how your daughter feels. Because this is all happening inside of her, inside her head. At a time in her life when she craves some control, she probably feels like she has zero. Not over herself, not over her own emotions, not over her father’s health. And so she grabs at whatever might give her the illusion of control — like making you nuts. She knows that that, at least, is something she’s been successful at, and she knows exactly how to do it. She’s been doing it her whole life, and it works. What’s the best way to make you nuts? Ruin the thing that’s bringing you happiness. And as long as you continue giving her the reaction she’s seeking, she’ll keep doing what works. So, change the way you react to her. Continue searching for the right combination of support — for both of you! — that will help you both. Because she needs your help, and she needs your love. Whatever is up with her isn’t new, and it isn’t her fault. She isn’t the way she is to ruin your life. She’s the way she is because she’s the way she is.

I would suggest finding a parent support group for yourself — it could even be a page on Facebook — for parents who experience similar struggles. You may find the collective wisdom, from people who have tried some of the things you’ve tried as well as things you haven’t yet tried, to be super helpful. Both the practical support and the emotional support could do wonders for you. In addition, please consider a neuropsych evaluation for your daughter if you haven’t already. They can be quite pricey, and I don’t know whether your insurance will cover any of it, but committing your daughter — or yourself! — to a psych ward would be more expensive. If your daughter has been this way all her life, and you have a son whose behavior seems typical (i.e. not like hers), it suggests that nurture may not be the cause of your daughter’s behavior (at least, not the full cause of it) — that there’s a strong possibility that there’s something going on in her brain that’s atypical and needs to be supported. Until that’s addressed, I’m not sure there’s much you can do at this point to counter her. It’s kind of like driving with a flat tire. You can drive more slowly, pull over to the side of the road, yell at the tire, ignore the tire, even put a donut on it for a bit. But the fact remains: Until the flat is addressed, you won’t be able to drive at optimum speed and performance.

That was the long answer. The shorter answer to your question is this: Don’t give up your boyfriend for your daughter. But do give up the idea that there’s an easy fix to all of this. These are complicated issues that require longterm commitment — from you, from your daughter, and from whoever will be intimately involved in your lives, including your boyfriend, so, if he’s not up for the challenge, he may not be the right fit for you. And if he is? Then, congrats — having his emotional support will help bolster your strength as you continue seeking the right combination of support for your daughter, and it will likely bring you closer together.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

75 comments… add one
  • avatar

    artsygirl February 21, 2017, 9:40 am

    LW – Please follow Wendy’s advice and do not positively reinforce your daughter’s bad behavior. She is almost an adult and if you keep giving in and allowing her to manipulate and throw temper tantrums she will be completely ill-equipped to deal with real life. Based on her age, she is likely going to leave home shortly. Perhaps living in your own space will help give her a much needed attitude adjustment.

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  • avatar

    Hannanas February 21, 2017, 9:47 am

    I feel bad for everyone involved – but mostly for the daughter. She was 14 years old when her dad died. She already had special needs (‘high maintenance’) and suddenly was talking about killing herself. Her own mom thinks she’s miserable. Her mom’s boyfriend thinks she’s spoiled and manipulative. She has few friends. She’s 17, for Pete’s sake. What the hell does she have to do to get some help?

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    • honeybeenicki

      honeybeenicki February 21, 2017, 9:59 am

      It sounds like her mom is trying to get her that help and its not working. From what I understood the 6 different professionals and different meds are after her fathers death trying to “pull her out of her misery.” I while I agree she may have special needs or some kind of true psych need that doesn’t only stem from her father’s death, some kids – especially those who have been indulged- ARE spoiled and manipulative.

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      • avatar

        Hannanas February 21, 2017, 10:16 am

        Like I said, I feel bad for everyone. But she is just a kid. She hasn’t coped at all with the death of her father. She’s jealous of her mom’s new guy.
        She’s a kid – no kid is “spoiled and manipulative” by accident. It’s how she was raised and what she’s had to (in her mind) resort to to get attention. And it worked. How horrible for her, is what I’m saying.
        .
        I appreciate the great advice Wendy gave, but as someone who lost her dad at a young age and completely lost it, I really feel for the daughter. I hope she gets the help she needs.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki February 21, 2017, 12:31 pm

        Oh I agree that no kid is spoiled and manipulative by accident – the LW straight out admits that they’ve always given in to her. But she is ultimately going to have to learn to take responsibility for that.
        And it totally sucks that she lost her dad. I’m super fortunate to have both of my parents. My mom lost both of hers by 15 so I’ve always been cognizant of how lucky I am to still have them, even now. But you made it sound like she *wasn’t* getting the help she needed but she clearly is (or at least her mom seems to be trying).

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      • avatar

        Hannanas February 22, 2017, 3:24 am

        I don’t think she *is* getting the help she needs – otherwise everything would be okay which it obviously isn’t.
        The mom does try, with the professionals and the medication. But this is larger than just the 14 (or 17) year old. This is a family dynamic. That’s why Wendy hit the nail on the head by suggesting the mom go into therapy as well.

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    • avatar

      Janelle February 21, 2017, 12:46 pm

      High maintenance isn’t “special needs”. Sadly mom allowed this to happen. We all have done something like this, enabled bad behavior because it is just easier. Heck my dog won’t stop begging for table food because I give in and give him some. That being said, boyfriend is right, she is spoiled. Her lack of friends are right to not want to be around her. Losing a parent is terribly difficult for anyone, especially a teenager but guess what, people lose important people in their lives, it happens. This does not entitle her to be a manipulative brat. In my opinion mom should simply STOP accepting this behavior. You want to throw a fit and scream, fine do it in your room and shut the door. You want to try to make me unhappy? No way. Go be unhappy yourself. It doesn’t actually sound to me that the daughter is suicidal, it sounds like she is simply manipulative and knows that those words garner the most attention. Her problem is she’s a “b$tch, hence no one liking her. The more mom ignores it the sooner she will realize it is doing nothing for her and get her act together. This is especially important at her age as once she goes to college, moves on to finding a job, she will be seriously handicapped if she behaves this way. The sooner this lesson is taught the better.

      I’d also say that when the fit is thrown she should be treated like the 2 year old she is behaving like. Sit in the corner in time out. You want to behave like a baby you can be treated like one. See how quick that behavior stops with that reaction.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy February 21, 2017, 1:11 pm

        Yeah, only a crazy bitch would be so manipulative to behave this way after losing her dad at age 14.

        Janelle, please tell me you don’t have kids and that you never plan to have kids.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark February 21, 2017, 1:14 pm

        Honestly? The way so many of you throw the daughter under the bus is beyond disturbing…

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark February 21, 2017, 1:15 pm

        That was toJanelle. NOT Wendy.

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      • avatar

        Janelle February 21, 2017, 1:18 pm

        I didn’t say she was crazy, just a bitch. I say this because mom mentions she has always been this way, not just following dad’s death.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark February 21, 2017, 1:20 pm

        Whatever, Janelle.
        .
        PLEASE.
        .
        Don’t. Ever. Have. Kids.

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      • avatar

        Kate February 21, 2017, 1:25 pm

        Hahahahahaha yeah totally, putting a grieving, pissed-off troubled teenage girl in the corner for a time out will stop her right in her tracks. Whatever you’re smoking, I need it.

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      • avatar

        dinoceros February 21, 2017, 3:40 pm

        Are you also the kind of person who doesn’t believe mental illness exists and that depressed people just need to “cheer up”? What the LW described is not high-maintenance. As most of the others have commented, it sounds like some seemingly undiagnosed (at least based on our info) mental illness. You sort of sound like my dad, who when I tell him about students I have who are suicidal, laughs about how they’re “babies.” It’s concerning.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph February 21, 2017, 6:43 pm

        Great idea Janelle, and maybe the behavior would stop because she would follow through on the threat to kill herself.
        LW needs to assume every suicidal threat is real and behave accordingly. The cost to not doing so is just too high.

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    • avatar

      Sketchee February 21, 2017, 1:33 pm

      Well said and I feel similarly, Hannanas. The daughter is in a tough place during her teenage years. Losing a parent (and yes, a husband) is a very difficult thing for all involved.

      LW, you talk about how your daughter has had counseling? I’m wondering since this wasn’t mentioned. Have you been to counseling for support yourself?

      Counselors give you tools in dealing better with grief, relationships, and parenting. Learn new tools to model the even handed, non-judgemental, and non-demanding while fair behavior that you want from your boyfriend and daughter.

      The solution often is to practice and learn a process. Giving up either the boyfriend or the daughter won’t help with the overall patterns. It takes a lot of work and support.

      Hope to hear an uplifting update as you all work through this.

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  • avatar

    Smalls February 21, 2017, 10:12 am

    Definitely agree with Wendy – I think the biggest thing you can do for yourself is get support. Your daughter sounds like she has some genuine mental health issues that she’s struggling with, and that can often take a long time to sort out with psychologists, medication, etc. And it can certainly be frustrating, to say the least, to continually feel like nothing is working. But two things are true: she’s your child and you need to do right by her, AND you deserve to have a life of your own and happiness. Therapy could be a good way to figure out how to go about both of those things, despite the challenging circumstances.

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  • avatar

    Northern Star February 21, 2017, 10:17 am

    What a terrible situation to be in. I’m betting the daughter got her way early because mom was busy trying to support dad in his long cancer fight, and there simply wasn’t energy left to deal with a screaming brat. And now, years later, the piper has to be paid.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph February 21, 2017, 10:32 am

    I’m sorry, I’m still stuck on the “my daughter was doing pretty well except she was talking about killing herself.” That is NOT the definition of “doing pretty well.” Your daughter was/is crying out for help, and you are ignoring her for your new boyfriend.
    Also, I am by no means against drugs (‘Better Living Through Chemistry’ we call it in my family) but depression is a pretty normal response to the death of your father. I don’t think your daughter needs drugs. I think she needs therapy, time, and some attention from her mother.

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    • avatar

      artsygirl February 21, 2017, 12:54 pm

      It sounds like the mother instantly took her daughter to a therapist to deal with her suicidal thoughts so you can hardly call that ignoring the issue.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph February 21, 2017, 6:46 pm

        True taking her to therapy is a good step. But she is certainly downplaying the issue in her letter here and maybe in her interactions with the daughter as well.
        There’s no “doing fine except for talking about suicide.” The venn diagram for “doing fine” and “talking about suicide” are two circles about 5 miles apart.

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      • avatar

        Ron February 21, 2017, 6:52 pm

        Gotta love a Venn diagram explanation.

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    • Miel

      Miel February 21, 2017, 1:01 pm

      Same here: “both kids were doing pretty well except my daughter started becoming very depressed and talking about killing herself to be with her dad.”
      Both kids? That’s not both kids. That’s possibly the son doing pretty well, but the daughter obviously wasn’t. Suicide ideation is not “step #1” on the list of “maybe starting to become a little bit depressed”, it’s step #125.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark February 21, 2017, 11:00 am

    This LW has seemingly always despised her daughter — who frankly, seems to be a bit of a mess, yes — but there is ZERO love for her daughter here. And frankly, that the new guy seems so judgemental about the daughter makes him sound like a real jerk. Yeah, he sounds like a real winner. NOT.
    .
    Honestly? Dump him.
    .
    Focus on your daughter. She needs help. NEWSFLASH — You’re not exactly mother of the year either. “She seemed fine — only she was threatening to kill herself.” Um, hello! That is so NOT fine…
    .
    She is not just “spoiled and manipulative” as some here suggest… but most likely mentally ill which NEWSFLASH 2 is a fucking disease. Did you, LW, blame your husband for his cancer?! No? So please stop blaming your daughter for her problems. That you do so is beyond disturbing…
    .
    She needs help. Focus on that for fuck’s sake. Speaking of which… Find somebody you can fuck later. Or keep fucking this jerk on the side… whatever. I don’t care — but put off marriage for a while. Trust me. Anybody so dismissive of your kids is no main course. This douche canoe is a side dish at best. Treat him like the dildo he is and then put him back in the drawer..:
    .
    I dunno. This letter and its wretched tone made my skin crawl. Just absolutely crawl. Blech… I need a shower now.

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    • avatar

      saneinca February 21, 2017, 12:44 pm

      Nope. The girl seems to be the type of person who will always have drama. Will probably never grow up and take responsibility for her life. Will spend her life crying about how miserable she was without her dad while creating hell for her surviving mom.

      If not actually mentally ill, probably one of the entitled millennials.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark February 21, 2017, 12:56 pm

        Whatever. The fact that some millennials have so many issues reflects far more on their FUCKED UP parents than it does on them.
        .
        The daughter is NOT some whiney little drama queen. Instead, She is mentally ill — a fact compunded by watching her father die and her mother bouncing to the next guy without a care in the world. Being saddled with mom who is far more interested in Mr Rebound than her… Christ on a cracker — No wonder the daughter is fucked up.

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      • avatar

        TheHizzy February 21, 2017, 2:00 pm

        If she’s 17 she fall under Generation Z. The generation after Millennials.

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      • avatar

        dinoceros February 21, 2017, 5:00 pm

        Apparently everyone who is born from now on will be a millennial. Or at least the ones that people find annoying.

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      • avatar

        dinoceros February 21, 2017, 5:01 pm

        Also, to be clear, I wasn’t directing the sarcasm at you guys. Just society in general.

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      • avatar

        TheHizzy February 21, 2017, 5:39 pm

        @dinoceros

        I’ve noticed the trend for sure.

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      • avatar

        saneinca February 21, 2017, 11:51 pm

        A millennial is defined in different ways. But most people use it for those born around the turn of century – that would be between 1996-2005. There are others who use it for those who reached adulthood around the turn of century.

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      • avatar

        Hannanas February 22, 2017, 3:27 am

        I think if anyone has a “right” to create drama, it’s the daughter. Way to empathize, saneinca.

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      • avatar

        Kate February 22, 2017, 6:37 am

        A millennial is about 18-35, at least for all marketing purposes, that’s how brand people define it. It does not start around the turn of the century, it starts about 1980. So someone who’s 36-37 is the very tail end of gen-x / beginning of millennial. People younger than 17 or 18 are something else, not millennials.

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      • avatar

        Kate February 22, 2017, 6:40 am

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      • avatar

        saneinca February 22, 2017, 12:51 pm

        @Hananns ( Can’t respond directly as there is no reply button), no one has a right to create drama. Everybody lost someone. Does not give a person a right to abuse others just based on that fact.

        As per LW, the daughter’s issues started long before the death of her father. She is just milking the situation to get out of school, abuse her mother and to be a all round pain in the ass to her friends.

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      • avatar

        Ron February 22, 2017, 2:18 pm

        Saneinca —
        I’m not even sure what ‘her problems started long before her father’s death’ even means. Her father died of cancer — that’s often a slow, multi-year, debilitating process, which may well have consumed the family for yearsr. So, the daughter likely was living in fear, grief, confusion, unhappiness since she was 11-12 or even younger. An adult may just suck it up under you theory that ‘we all lose somebody’, but it’s not the same for a young teen. After losing her father to cancer, new unsympathetic bf probably seems like she’s now lost her mother as well.

        Her brother was older when all this happened. Perhaps he was just a mellow, no problems kid, but teenagers, even those who haven’t had one parent die and the other begin dating rather quickly, tend to experience more than a little emotional turmoil as they grow into adults. They aren’t adults. Their brains are still changing, their hormones are changing, they have a lot of new issues to deal with, as middle school and high school aren’t as nurturing as elementary school and their peers can behave more nastily. And a lot of mental illnesses begin to surface at this time in life. Your advice pretty much boils down to daughter should ‘suck it up, buttercup’, which really isn’t at all good parenting.

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      • avatar

        Hannanas February 22, 2017, 2:35 pm

        @saneinca: what Ron said.

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    • avatar

      Sarah March 5, 2017, 7:27 pm

      Woah. I actually agree 100% with BGM??

      One caveat- As my BFF therapist friend always sas “Mental illness isn’t an excuse to act like an asshole for your whole life. ” So, while yes, she shouldn’t be blamed, at some point in her life she WILL have to learn to manage this. Unfortunately, a teen does not have the skills to do this and mom needs to stop worrying about dating and start worrying about keeping g her daughter alive and healthy.

      I actually kind of disagree with Wendy a teeny bit here. Would it be the worst thing ever for mom to give up her boyfriend? I don’t think so. I’d happily give up a bf who berated my daughter for normal grief after losing her father to a terrifying illness. It seems like mom has taken up a boyfriend for support when she should have taken up a therapist.

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  • avatar

    Essie February 21, 2017, 11:07 am

    Have you considered family therapy for both you and and your daughter, LW? Your communication is utterly broken – basically, she manipulates, you give her what she wants – and some professional advice could help improve things.

    I can’t imagine how difficult it is to parent a child with a personality like this, because I knew someone who was the adult version of your daughter. I don’t know whether there’s some underlying psychiatric problem here, but you need to continue with the therapy until you find someone who can help her. And until you find a therapist who works with YOU to help you parent this difficult child.

    I just noticed that you started dating this guy a few months after your husband passed away. I get that you’d been doing your mourning over a long period of time before he died, and I get how badly you probably needed comfort after that ordeal. But looking at that from your daughter’s perspective, she was reeling, lost, having suicidal thoughts…..and her mom is off with a new guy a matter of weeks after her dad died. I’m in my fifties, lost my dad just a year ago, and *I* would have been thrown for a loop if my mom had started dating three months after he died.

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    • bittergaymark

      Bittergaymark February 21, 2017, 11:18 am

      Yeah. This bothered me, too. Hell, I’ve grieved longer when I was merelyvdumped — much less when somebody I built a life with fucking DIED…
      .
      The guy is such a REBOUND. Ick. Ick. Ick all around…

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      • avatar

        Northern Star February 21, 2017, 11:37 am

        I’m not going to throw stones at the LW for dating again so soon. A long battle with cancer DOES probably mean grieving when the spouse is still alive—and being ready to move on to a new chapter soon after they pass. My own husband was a young widower of four months when I met him. His wife had died after years battling cancer, too. Maybe I’m a rebound. Maybe the boyfriend here is, too. But maybe it’s healthy enough in that respect.

        Of course, the daughter doesn’t see it that way, and having kids in the picture means you have a responsibility to make sure they’re OK moving forward, too. The mom dropped the ball here if her attention was quickly shifted from her grieving daughter to her new man.

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      • avatar

        Janelle February 21, 2017, 12:49 pm

        There is also a common concept that those in happy marriages move on faster. Perhaps not easy on the kids but it seems to happen often.

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      • avatar

        Ron February 21, 2017, 2:51 pm

        I won’t disagree with this Janelle and Northern Star. My father and mother had a great marriage. My Dad started dating several months after my mother died and was married several months after that. He was very lonely, no kids left at home, and someone just swooped in. I will say he moved WAY too fast and entered into an awful second marriage. You may grieve your spouse during the long process of cancer, but that doesn’t make you ready for a successful new relationship. Your emotions are very raw, you aren’t back to being an independent self yet, you are desperate to relieve the loneliness, .. you just aren’t in the right state of mind to think well and choose wisely for the long term.

        This LW needed to give more weight to the possibility that even if she believed she had grieved and was ready for a new relationship, that her daughter hadn’t reached that point yet.

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    • avatar

      csp February 22, 2017, 8:34 am

      I agree with the family therapy. LW. I think you and your daughter can work on your interaction and also work on being present with each other when together. When it is just you and your daughter, are you guys interacting or looking at the TV or Phones? Are you connecting? It is easy to feel alone when everyone is checked out. I think you both working together could be huge.

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  • avatar

    keyblade February 21, 2017, 11:48 am

    Letter writer,

    I feel so much frustration and resignation emanating from your letter. Wendy’s advice was so good, I think. I imagine it must feel so hard not having the support of your late husband. It is only natural to want to be with someone who you can love and receive love from. Your daughter obviously has special needs and you sound exhausted. Do you have close friendships or a spiritual practice? Does your daughter have anything like that in her life? I ask because I know many organized social/art/spiritual centers offer camps and social opportunities which might allow your daughter an opportunity to work on her social interactions and could provide you with some relief. Do you have any family that might be able to watch your daughter and allow you some time to yourself (not necessarily with your boyfriend) to have a break and change of scenery?

    I agree strongly with Wendy that being “spoiled” probably didn’t cause your daughter all of her emotional problems nor will its removal remedy her of them. This could be a chronic condition for her. This is not your fault. You deserve to be happy, too. It doesn’t need to be an either/or choice. Your daughter does need your love and support. Honestly, I probably would have done the same things you’ve tried. This isn’t your fault. I doubt it was fully caused by the death of your husband; it sounds like it exacerbated what was already there. Don’t let your boyfriend make you feel guilty or inadequate about your choices to be gentle with your suicidal child. That isn’t the kind of support you need nor should he be the only source of support you provide yourself. I noticed you mentioned your son was happy-go-lucky. I think it’s normal for parents to look at what seemed to work for one child and express bewilderment that it wasn’t enough or what was needed by a different child. But they are two different individuals. That isn’t your daughter’s fault any more than it’s your fault; it’s just what happens to be. I wish you the best in all of this; I hope you come out the other side with peace. I’m sorry for your struggles and loss. I wish you well.

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  • avatar

    Ron February 21, 2017, 12:20 pm

    LW seems strangely detached from her daughter’s problems. She speaks of 6 different therapists/psychologists who she has involved in her daughter’s problems, but nary a word of what these 6 professionals say about the daughter’s problems or what LW could/should be doing to help daughter. Also, no mention of why mother switched professionals 5 times. Why was she dissatisfied with their services? Did she expect that they would provide a silver bullet pill of a solution, rather than just help on a long slog, in which the mother needs to play a big role. This whole mention of 6 professionals just strikes me as bizarre. How can LW expect any of these people to accomplish much of anything in such little time? This is just an extremely passive, burnt out approach by LW. You are going to have to work with the professionals. Joint therapy may be necessary. An actual commitment for a 48-hour psyche eval may be necessary — this is common in threats of suicide.

    LW: you will not be parenting your daughter much longer. Likely she flees as soon as she can. There is a time urgency is working to ameliorate her problems.

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    • avatar

      for_cutie February 21, 2017, 12:59 pm

      This.

      My husband is a child psychologist. LW, if you do nothing else, get her evaluated NOW. This week. She is 17 – too old for many of the people who work with children to even see her. This is very urgent.

      Taking her to 6 professionals is on you not her. It is not a badge of honor to turf her around. It is disruptive. You are the parent, so this reflects poorly on you. It sounds like you didn’t want to put in the work or take the feedback so you try something else. This is a lifetime long problem that no one – and no drug – can solve in a few weeks/months or even years.

      If you child EVER mentions suicide, you need to take them to a professional that instant and have them evaluated for inpatient care. If you don’t have a psychologist, go to your pediatrician or PCP. I am sure we all know what the consequences could be for ignoring these pleas for help. My husband has dropped everything on evenings and weekends to preform these evaluations – it saves lives.

      LW, I hope you wake up, take this seriously and channel your energy into your daughter. You have few precious months left of her to be in your care – show some compassion and prioritize her mental health over all else (including your love life).

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    • avatar

      Sue Jones February 21, 2017, 1:20 pm

      I had a situation with my stepson, who is now doing very well (about to graduate college, in internship, stable) , who has Bipolar disorder. There was an issue for the first several years of him (and his mom) being resistant to treatment, so he would “fire” many of his therapists and psychiatrists. We went through a bunch of them until we found the right one. He was in an expensive in-patient halfway house type place for a bit. It took 7 years, but he found one he likes, got mostly on board with the medications (he questions and researches everything which is both good and bad), and he is stable. So I understand the “doctor shopping” may not be all on the mother, but also the daughter’s resistance. And with meds, sometimes it takes a long while to find the right combination, that needs to be adjusted over time as well. I do agree with the age 18 cutoff though. We had a LOT of issues with this since my son got sick at age 16. There were times, long periods of time, where we were paying for his therapy but did not have his consent to talk with any of the doctors and therapists. Frustrating indeed. LW you have my sympathy.

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    Miss MJ February 21, 2017, 12:35 pm

    Love Wendy’s advice! The analogy about driving with a flat tire is the best one I’ve ever heard about dealing with mental or emotional illness in a close relationship, and, from what the LW describes, it does sound like the daughter has an underlying medical problem that discipline, love and attention aren’t just going to magically wish away. As long as the LW is actively seeking to get her daughter help – which 6 professionals and different medical treatments indicate to me – I don’t think the LW has any obligation to put her life on hold, as long as her BF understands that her daughter’s mental health is a priority.

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    • bittergaymark

      Bittergaymark February 21, 2017, 12:48 pm

      But CLEARLY, he doesn’t view the daughter’s mental health as a priority — and, frankly, neither does the LW…

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      • avatar

        LW February 21, 2017, 1:18 pm

        I came to Wendy for help/advice. For those of you who understand, thank you. For those of you who call me a bad parent, etc. please know that I have called myself all of these same names. Since my daughter is 17 it is her choice whether or not I am in her therapy. I cannot even talk to her therapist without her approval. I find this ludicrous, but it is the law. No matter what I am at every med check with her.
        Some of you say that I care more about my BF than my daughter…you are so very wrong. I have done everything for my kids. I have always put their needs first. Probably to a fault.

        We switched therapists because she would stop going or talking to a certain one, making them unproductive, due to them not “clicking”. I have interviewed therapists, I have gone along with her, we have done group counselling and it only upsets her more if the counselor agrees with me. Her diagnosis started with depression and has now become possible bi-polar. I understand these are diseases and she needs help. Which is why I have done as much professionally as I have. There is no rule book to this. And yes, I will make mistakes.
        Again, thank you for all of your insight. I can tell you that some has helped and some has just made me feel like I am the bad mother I feel that I am.

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        Northern Star February 21, 2017, 1:52 pm

        LW, not everyone is going to “understand” (I assume you mean agree with your position that your daughter is a miserable spoiled brat who needs to let you be happy with your boyfriend). If I were you, I’d re-think my characterization of my depressed and possibly bi-polar child. Your letter was all about how difficult your daughter is when it comes to your love life—not about how your mentally unwell daughter resists help, and you’re afraid for her future (as you SHOULD be). I think you want permission to give up on her, and you won’t get that here. She’s still your child under your care, and you’re responsible for her wellbeing.

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        Sketchee February 21, 2017, 5:07 pm

        LW, I know it’s a tough situation and I totally do empathize with you. As someone who has received help and advice – and fully hearing you that this is what you came here for – may I suggest you seek to have your own therapist.

        This would be part of your own separate support system. One that you aren’t sharing with your daughter. This will give you a place to talk about your parenting relationship, grief, and tools for your self.

        Having your individual self in a way that isn’t linked with your role as a parent, partner, or widow will help yourself. And by strengthening yourself, you’ll be in a better position to help those that you care about

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    • juliecatharine

      Juliecatharine February 21, 2017, 2:22 pm

      @NorthernStar– THIS. LW, I can’t speak for others but Northern Star really hit on what was bugging me about your letter. You didn’t reach out for help on how to more effectively assist your daughter, you reached out for help in getting her to lay off your relationship. In terms of priorities that comes off pretty badly. If your daughter is or may be bipolar finding a regular therapist and the right medication(s) is crucial. You have an ever-closing window to help with that. Unfortunately I don’t have advice on how to execute that but some other folks may. Psych central has some decent forums you may want to check out or post to. I would imagine young people who deal with BPD may have some good insights about what helped them or how their families aided in getting them effective care. Good luck.

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      dinoceros February 21, 2017, 5:06 pm

      I think one of the issues with dating in this situation is that a lot of people are not going to be as invested in the child’s mental wellbeing as the parent. And if the child, from either person, is perceived as just being a regular kid who just happens to be a brat, then it’s going to be harder for the partner to deal with it. Just as I hope a partner would be understanding if a single parent was dealing with a child who had a severe physical illness, hopefully they also can understand that this is going to be an ongoing issue. If they don’t, then they need to go. Partially just due to the fact that they’ll be gone soon anyway, or they’ll drive the parent to “abandon” their kid to an extent.

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  • avatar

    Sue Jones February 21, 2017, 1:13 pm

    Is the daughter going away to college next year? That would solve some of the issues not having her living with you anymore, but it also sounds like she may not be emotionally ready for college. However, things change once they turn 18. You can no longer force her to have treatment for her mental health issues which can be a huge problem. Consider sending her to an in-treatment facility for her depression. Or an early college program away if that seems to suit her. It sounds like if she is healthy enough that it would be healthy for her and you to have some time away from each other. A place where she can grow and get the help she needs or explore life opportunities, such as a summer job as a camp counselor even. That way you can have your life and she can begin to grow into hers. I know all of this costs $$$$ and do not know your situation, but if the funds are there, do consider it. And keep the boyfriend.

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  • avatar

    Ale February 21, 2017, 1:36 pm

    I kind of like Wendy’s advice, however I find it hard to empathize with the LW. LW says that she “wants to be happy” and her daughter isn’t enabling that. She talks about her daughter like she is a burden, not someone she has to take care of because she loves her. I’m sorry but your daughter’s problems do not sound like tantrums and you are incredibly focused on you being happy yourself instead of finding help for your daughter. The way LW talks about her daughter means that she might have called her “miserable” and other names to her face, which obviously does not help.
    I also don’t appreciate LW’S boyfriend describing the daughter as spoiled and manipulative. I do think the BF could be manipulating LW, who knows! What right does he have calling her spoiled. Both of these people seem to really not care about the grieving daughter.
    Did your BF know that grieving a parent can actually take up to three years? Especially when you don’t have the right care, yes, because, LW, “helping” someone isn’t just throwing that person to therapist after therapist, it actually means getting involved and helping. How is your BF helping your daughter? There is so much to discuss here.

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  • avatar

    Debby February 21, 2017, 1:48 pm

    She may have a Borderline Personality Disorder. Normally it is not diagnosed in people under age 18, which could explain why nothing has worked. Conventional parenting does not work. My child has BPD and it’s challenging, to say the least. Give it a google, see if it applies.

    The classic book on the subject is: https://www.amazon.com/Stop-Walking-Eggshells-Borderline-Personality/dp/1572246901

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  • avatar

    dinoceros February 21, 2017, 2:35 pm

    The part that concerns me is that you’ve sort of been driven to see your daughter as some sort of terrorist whose behavior is solely based on a malicious desire to ruin your life. It seems to even be impacting how you parent or at least how you judge your parenting, because you do something and then worry if it was what she “wanted,” which is implied to be part of some evil plan. I’m not saying you’re a bad person. It sounds like you’ve had a lot to deal with, and I can see how you might lose patience and villainize her. I actually have a student who I imagine acts like this when she’s at home, and I have a lot of sympathy for her parents because I can’t imagine that being my life.

    Do you have your own therapy you go to? You need to learn how to parent someone who has the issues she has. That’s not to say they can solve your issues, but they can probably give you some ideas on how to respond to her in a way that makes things more manageable.

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  • avatar

    Brise February 21, 2017, 3:29 pm

    Dear LW,
    I have no idea about your daughter’s mental state but I would have a few advices: don’t judge her, and don’t let your boyfriend judge her. That doesn’t help at all. Obviously, she is in pain, she has issues.
    Secondly, stick to a therapist, preferably a psychiatrist. It doesn’t help at all to treat them like disposable products and change all the time. It takes time to cure a mental disorder like depression. So allow the process to happen with a significant amount of time with the same therapist. Reactions, resistance, are normal in a therapy.
    Lastly, don’t make it an either/or question between your boyfriend and your daughter. It isn’t the real problem. She is in mental trouble, partly because of your husband’s death, which is traumatic especially at this teenage. She will probably always have emotional vulnerabilities. So accept this fact, don’t be angry at her, support her in her treatment, and date your boyfriend without imposing him on her. She should be your priority. He has to accept it too. Don’t tolerate any war between them. They must respect each other, and accept the pain and psychological damage that comes with bereavement.

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  • avatar

    Brise February 21, 2017, 3:40 pm

    Post-scriptum: usually, children are quite similar to their parents. This is what both can’t bear when it is dysfunctional. Accept these similarities. You don’t sound so subtle yourself, and seem a bit entitled…
    Somehow, the roles seem reversed in your family. She mourns her father and you date. She thinks perhaps that she has to carry the mourning for you? She doesn’t have a personal life, she doesn’t date or tries to go away of home, she is dependent on you. She is blocked in this bereavement phase. And you skipped it somehow. Everybody deals with such a loss as they can. But please do see the common ground here: you are a duet and act a bit in a mirror roles.

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  • avatar

    Dovies February 21, 2017, 4:07 pm

    Perhaps the issue started while her father was ill but her acting like that at age 17 is indicative of much larger problems than her being spoiled. Her dad barely died 3 years ago after a long bout with cancer. It’s hard enough for adults to process and mourn the horrible deaths cancer doles out; how much worse for a 14 year old child who has, it sounds, been practically abandoned emotionally by her mother.

    I understand there may have not been much left over after taking care of a dying husband but then to focus on a new man after 3 months. The only way she has to get your attention is to act out. You have taught her this over the years. To abandon her now or at age 18 is just awful. No, you don’t have to put your life on hold but damn, at least try to put the effort in to fix the breakdown in communication between you. Give her the attention and love you should have been giving her these last 3 years. She lost her *father* to death and her *mother* to what seems like her mother’s coping mechanisms (new guy).

    I feel so bad for this poor kid.

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  • avatar

    CK February 21, 2017, 7:38 pm

    I’m curious. How many of the people replying to this have teenage daughters or stepdaughters? Or experience parenting teenagers? Because there’s a lot of hatred on the poor LW and the boyfriend. If you have day in day out abuse from kids, and you begin to become exhausted, sometimes you become less sympathetic. I’ve only had a touch of this and I got so sick and stressed that I had to go to hospital. After that I stopped judging perceived bad parents or step parents unless obvious abuse of the child was taking place. Sometimes good people get in bad situations.

    I feel terribly sorry for everyone in this situation. LW would she be open to family counselling? Because understanding everyone’s perspective helped my family get through tough teenage years. And unless the boyfriend is getting in the way of your family getting better, do not dump him. You will need the support to get through this.

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    • avatar

      Dovies February 22, 2017, 5:41 pm

      I have 2 teenage daughters, one of whom is acting out defiantly every so often because of my divorce from her father.

      I’m not wholly unsympathetic to the mother’s situation, especially since I understand how easy it is to just give in to the tantrums when you’re completely emotionally drained. I don’t think there is anything wrong with mom putting her focus on her kid for these last few months and at least trying to fix the communication issues at this late date. BF will still be there when the kid turns 18. If not, then he was no prize anyway.

      I also say that as a divorced mother of two with a boyfriend on the other side of the country that I will probably end up marrying. My kids still come first and my boyfriend knows it. Same for him too.

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      • avatar

        CK February 22, 2017, 11:10 pm

        Love this

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  • avatar

    Ashley February 21, 2017, 7:50 pm

    Sidebar- I think it may be helpful LW, to point out that since our daughter will be a legal adult soon, she needs to be prepared to take over her care, schedule her own appointments, order her own meds, possibly find a provider in the area she goes to school. You’ve already run into this to an extent in not being able to get certain information. especially with mental health, it’s important not to have a gap in care. Also, going back to the soon to be an adult thing…perhaps once your daughter builds her own life, she will be much less interested in yours. Fingers crossed things work out for all of you.

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  • avatar

    S February 21, 2017, 10:07 pm

    I would add in to consider avoiding making any permanent (public) committments (like engagement, moving in together) to the boyfriend until your daughter is 18 and done with high school. Obviously you should be free to make committments to whoever when it’s right for you, but since she’s so close to being 18, that way if she really finds it so abhorrent that her mom wants to be happy, she can leave. And that option may be the tiniest olive branch in keeping a relationship with her. (Then again, maybe getting engaged the minute she leaves for college would also seem bad? At least something to consider)

    Are there any other family members who can talk to her about… any of this? From any reasonable perspective? I mean, obviously don’t force anyone, but if you mention to your son/your parents/your siblings/your in-laws/whoever some version of all this, and that you’d appreciate their advice or their talking to her (about whatever she wants to talk about), well maybe someone else can help you get through?

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  • Kicia

    Kicia February 22, 2017, 4:09 pm

    I’m actually kinda with everyone saying that the daughter is out of line on this and I probably understand best what this kid is going through considering I lost my dad at 14 as well (due to sudden heart failure). Granted, I think losing someone to cancer is actually much worse (went through that with my mom at 17. Thanks life.) but I think her behavior is over the line. Her problems sound like much more that just grieving the loss of a parent. You can use the dead parent card for a lot of things, but you can’t use it to justify being a nasty person.

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  • avatar

    Ron February 22, 2017, 4:25 pm

    Did your mother bring a new boyfriend around less than a year after your father died? I would say we agree there is more going on here than grief. We think that mental illness is also involved, which LW has confirmed.

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    • avatar

      keyblade February 22, 2017, 5:14 pm

      @Ron- your comments give off the impression that you think there is some required off-limits grieving period before a surviving spouse should feel like dating, again. Obviously, when there are kids there are always their feelings to consider, but this letter said she began her relationship as friendship and it grew from there.

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    • avatar

      Northern Star February 22, 2017, 6:02 pm

      Ron, perhaps struggling to overcome cancer meant Kicia’s mom didn’t have time to date. I think it’s not very kind to throw that question at her, as if the circumstances are SO VERY DIFFERENT that they couldn’t compare. For Pete’s sake, at least the daughter in this letter still HAS a mother instead of losing her at a young age, too.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark February 22, 2017, 6:50 pm

    Honestly? Dating somrbody a few months AFTER the other parent of your child dies seems cold to me. But to date somebody who repeatedly tells you your mentally ill suicidal daughter is just “spoiled and manipulative”? Now that IS beyond FUCKED up.
    .
    Sorry. It just is…

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    • avatar

      keyblade February 22, 2017, 7:52 pm

      I won’t defend a boyfriend labeling the letter writer’s daughter with those words. I don’t care if he thinks it’s true. But I do sympathize with the letter writer who seems to be having a hard time teasing out what behavior is teenage rebellion and versus symptoms of a bigger, misunderstood whole mental health picture. I think just because someone is suffering from depression or another unspecified mood disorder, does not preclude them from behaving in ways that are manipulative. That doesn’t automatically make someone bad, many kids and teens push limits, manipulate, and many try to have a bigger influence in the way decisions are made in the family by pushing perceived buttons. It’s not always the case that these kids are forced into that position, sometimes it’s just kids experimenting and finding their footing. Kids who have lived with the grief of losing a parent get a wider space for making mistakes from me. In this case, I doubt it is even intentional, though. Few mentally healthy human beings, especially teenagers choose to be such miserable, isolated, bullies. It’s sad because it is an unsympathetic condition that many attribute to poor parenting skills (and obviously, there are poor parents who just don’t care enough to set limits). This letter writer may have misjudged things earlier in life, and taken the easy road of avoidance, but early traits of mental illness aren’t exactly easy to spot. One doesn’t know a quirk or impassioned response is symptom of something bigger until it blooms.
      This letter writer is confused and seems to have sympathy burn-out for her daughter. People will judge it; it’s normal enough. I don’t know this letter writer but given everything she’s lived through the last few years I sympathize with her disorientation, especially because her kid is almost a legal adult and has limited the amount of power she’s given her mom to help. My wild guess is that this daughter will not follow a typical path and will need more financial and emotional support as a young adult than what most people will think is appropriate because most haven’t had a kid with an emotional disorder compounded by grief. Somehow this letter writer is going to have to find a balance between having a life with some personal gratification and making more space to help her kid. It doesn’t sound easy; she has my sympathy and compassion.

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      • avatar

        saneinca February 23, 2017, 1:37 am

        Well said keyblade. That was the part troubling me. Forget the BF. How is the daughter going to cope with life if she refuses to change her attitude ? The mother trying to give her all the help she needs. It is up to her to use it and help herself. Otherwise she going to be that person who perpetually lives at home with no career, no college or no life of her own.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom February 23, 2017, 7:06 am

        @saneinca Living with mental illness is never as simple as choosing to change your attitude. If the daughter is bipolar she can’t cure it by changing her attitude. Mental illness often shows up during the teen years appearing as out of control behavior that isn’t diagnosed as mental illness until the person is a young adult.

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