Abby: Coping Strategies

Given Abby’s many competing demands for her time and attention, she decided she would not visit her mother during the third hospitalization.

I just can’t. It’s really stressful to visit her. It’s stressful to talk on the phone with her. I try and call her but I don’t know if I can take on this emotional [burden]. There’s the guilt that goes along with that, of course. It’s not an easy decision. . . I think part of the guilt is it is always how she made us feel about things, like that is the way she wanted us to feel. And then the guilt has stuck all the time. Guilty about pretty much everything.

Abby and her siblings frequently lied to their mother to avoid conflict. They discovered they all had experienced guilt in interactions with their mother. Abby determined that they “feel like we actually haven’t been very real with her about things.”

Abby copes by “compartmentalizing.” For example, she does not worry about her mother when at work. She intentionally maintains relationships with friends, because she has seen the effect of the lack of friendships on her mother. She also recognizes some of her behaviors stem from her experience with her mother.

I feel like I’m a super people pleaser because of it and very cognizant if people feel uncomfortable. I don’t confront anyone. I don’t get into arguments. I just want to avoid all that stuff. That’s a result of feeling that way with my mom.

Abby’s husband, daughter, and father are sources of strength and support for her.

You definitely need someone to help you realize I need to take care of me. It’s hard to say that to yourself. When someone else says it, you’re okay, I can see that, so he’s [father] been a really big source of strength for me.

Along with her father, Abby’s husband also encouraged her not to visit her mother at the hospital unless she wanted to because then she would not be “authentic” in her presence. In addition to her husband’s support, Abby is grateful she can focus on caring for her daughter.