Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: How do you tell someone you love that they are ruining your life? My mother has dealt with mental illness, addiction and depression for most of her life. This came to a climax when I was in high school, resulting in legal trouble, divorce, rehab and losing the people closest to her. I was very angry at her, but have now grown to realize that she is a victim of an illness and I need to support her. With that being said, it has gotten to the point (10 years later) where I am basically her parent, therapist, bank, chauffeur, etc. She tells me about how she wants to die, how unhappy she is, and how everything is everyone else’s fault, while she sits around with no job (and no intention to get one) and does nothing to improve her lifestyle. She makes no effort to make herself happy while complaining to me every day how miserable she is. Everyone else in the family has shut her out but I feel too guilty to do something like that, and because I am worried she may actually take her own life. I suffer from bad bouts of anxiety and panic attacks and honestly struggle to keep myself in a positive frame of mind day-to-day. I don’t know how to tell my mom that all of her constant negativity is really bringing me down and piling on my own mental illnesses. I have tried to express this to her but it does not seem to work. I understand she is dealing with serious issues, but she is taking a toll on my own happiness.

DAC

DEAR DAC: Talking to your mother about her behavior’s impact on you would have a limited impact in terms of getting her to change.

If she is depressed and suffering from other mental and emotional challenges, she may not be willing or able to make big changes for your sake.

I hope you will instead concentrate on yourself. You have been a very good and loyal child, but at this point, you have become part of your mother’s illness. Because you are functioning for her, she has no incentive to even try to function for herself.

You must seek professional mental health services for yourself. You have a duty to try your very hardest to be healthy, in order to create boundaries with your mother. Taking good care of yourself may necessitate that you keep some distance from her. You should take these important steps guided by a counselor, and also attend Al-anon (or another support group) meetings, where you can learn about creating and maintaining healthy boundaries.

DEAR AMY: A few years ago I was boarding a full airport shuttle bus with my mom, when three men immediately stood up and offered their seat to her. I took note of their courteous behavior and hoped to be like them someday. Fast-forward a few years and I am a college student at a large university. I often utilize the free buses to get around campus. The bus is often full. Being a male college-aged student, am I expected to give up my seat to a female peer? If not, what age (or for what situation) do I give up my seat? I have yet to see any other man give up his seat on a campus bus and am afraid the woman would be weirded out (or just say no) if I tried. Your opinion?

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Curious

DEAR CURIOUS: You are not expected to give up your seat to a female peer. What you should do is give up your seat to any person (regardless of gender) who is carrying a child, pregnant, who has heavy packages, who struggles with the bus steps or with their balance, or who seems particularly road weary on that day.

You should rise and offer your seat, and the person you are offering it to may thank you and demur. This offer should be received graciously, regardless of the circumstance.

DEAR AMY: “Furious Mom” was upset that her son was a lazy slob. It is wrong to blame the parents. The kid has a serious problem — basically he is a slob. This is not the parents’ fault. Stop blaming parents for everything! Kids need to take responsibility.

Roz

DEAR ROZ: In this letter, the parents laid out a very neat path, leading from their parenting style directly to their son’s horrible habits. Their refusal to do anything other than complain about their son is lazy parenting.