Elaine: Making Sense of Her Daughter's Experience

Elaine wondered if she is contributing to her daughter’s mental illness or whether she is helping. She asked, “What is the role that I have as a mother, responsibility, and yet knowing people are fully capable of doing whatever they want? How do I manage that relationship?”

Terry’s father also had attempted suicide and Elaine noted a history of mental illness in her family. She commented about the likelihood of repeating the same things one’s parents have done, unless you receive an intervention (education or counseling). She recognized that trauma in Terry’s early life stemming from her father’s alcoholism and her parents’ divorce did not “set a good stage” at the beginning of her daughter’s life. She is trying to understand Terry’s experience, given that she had to cope with a learning disability while at the same time living in the context of family emotional challenges.

Although Terry has female friends, romantic male relationships are more difficult for her. Terry’s behavior often becomes erratic when she is dating, which can be a catalyst for her gambling addiction. She has let men move in with her without knowing them very long, but does not ask them to help with rent. One time, Terry gave $2000 to a man who had lived with her for a short time. Elaine was trying not be judgmental about her daughter's choices and she struggles with letting go and allowing Terry be happy with her own decisions.

When financial challenges became too overwhelming for Terry, Elaine took over management of her budget. Then Mark, Elaine's husband, volunteered to help Terry when conflicts complicated Elaine’s relationship with her daughter. Mark put all Terry’s financial responsibilities online, which simplifies budget management. Currently, Terry has gained some insight about how alcohol affects her medication use. Elaine believes that she is learning to monitor her drinking. As Terry gets older, Elaine hopes she will find “a path that she’s comfortable with and can sustain.” She observed, Terry is “doing the best she can and what she thinks is right.”