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My Mom is Depressed & Makes Me Depressed Too

Questioner

s

Reply Date

Dec 21, 2017

Question

I know what everyone thinks about the role of a mother in a family/life. But my mother has been emotionally more preoccupied by her needs than those of her children. When I put myself in the most compassionate place in my heart, I understand her. She is living without a constant present father figure, in a home where her own mom was abused by her husband. My mother got married very young (18) having her first child a year later in a completely different continent than her family. She was in a country with no support but her husband and she did not even speak English when they first moved to the USA making her being isolated even more than ever while my father was preoccupied in growing in his field. Although he was trying to satisfy his new wife at the same time. Both are nor right, nor wrong. They were just completely different and the compromise in their wedding was so big where one had to suffer for the other to be happy. I understand this. I get it. It is hard. But she is my mom. My source of security, of comfort, of self-esteem boost ... So many things she failed me being a child and having to witness very loud intense arguments, having to be in the middle of it, being beaten by one or the other parent or my mom provoking my father to beat me so he "could be part of our education". She was frustrated at him and we had to pay the price for it (because we never complained about how my dad's presence in our lives since we did have good moments with him). I am obviously a daddy's girl and express clear preference for my father although he did beat me so much harder than my mom. But the difference is that my dad was supportive. He would not make us feel guilty of needing him. My mom tried to please her husband so much and she tried to fix her relationship with her husband through us. I always had a feeling she liked me less but somehow respected me more because I was able to do what she couldn’t: have a normal relationship with my dad. I still remember clearly traumatic episodes like my mom telling me she wished she had me aborted with the sincerest look in her eyes. I was less than 10 years old. I don't know why, 15 years later, I still see the scene the same although when I repeat it, it doesn't even make me cry. I just say it in a sense that it should be traumatic but my heart is of stone when it comes to feeling the trauma and bring my tears. I really have so much resent against my mother. We are 5 siblings and we don't really talk to each other or have a relationship with one another. We had a bad habit of ignoring people we argued with for years. We never learnt how to have a healthy home with good relationships. I frankly can't even imagine myself doing the first step. People who tell me "you have to do it, it will be fine" get under my skin because no, it is not fine. I suffer from it but I can't even forgive it to make a first step. I blame my mom a lot for the family dynamic even if my dad has a huge part of this situation. But she is not supportive. We were tools for her to feel better. It was constant emotional harassment. Always seeking her approval to the point that now, I don't even care about her opinion. I don't even want to hear it. She is depressed and has been like this for years. She makes me depressed too now. I resent her for this. I feel horrible about myself. I hate my life. I hate it because I can't enjoy my blessing. I need help.

Counselor

Answer


My Mom is Depressed & Makes Me Depressed Too

In this counseling answer:

“I kindly ask you to really think about your situation and how you can change. I say “you” and not the situation because at this point it is imperative that you change your reactions towards all of this in order so that you can heal. I know this may not make much sense to you right now, but in sha’ Allah it will later.

Once you realize sister that you cannot change the past, you cannot change others, you may face a realization that the only thing you can do right now is changing how you think and react. You can change your strategies in regards to getting what you need and want. Be determined to start this journey of active healing.”


As-Salamu ‘Alaykum sister,

Thank you for writing to us. I can hear the pain and frustration of your words. I can only imagine what you have been through. Your family has a long history of abuse. Your mom’s mother was abused by her husband (your grandfather); your mom married young to find peace but ended up in a country wherein she did not know the language and was basically alone.

You stated your childhood was filled with hearing horrible arguing between your parents. You said also you were getting beaten by one or another of your parents. You stated that you are “a daddy’s girl and express a clear preference for my father although he did beat me so much harder than my mom”. So you prefer him despite his abusive behavior towards you as he was more supportive.

You also described the traumatic moment when before you were 10 years old, your mom told you she wished she had aborted you. I can only imagine how badly that must have hurt you! While you more or less say you are numb to it now and your heart is like stone, perhaps deep down in the recesses of your heart you carry a very hurt, rejected little girl inside of you who have carried these words her whole life in deep sadness.

In addition to the abuse, it seems you have never learned to communicate. You stated that as a family, you grew up not talking to each other for months or even years if one of you was angry with the other. You stated how your dad didn’t talk to your sister for 6 years and they lived in the same home. I can’t help but wonder how this affected your sister as well as your other siblings. How are they coping with the aftermath today?

You made several references to your mom always trying to please your dad, always complaining and making her children tools to try to get closer to her husband. How devastatingly sad this is, dear sister, for all involved, but especially for you and your siblings caught in such turmoil.

Alhamdulillah sister, you have great insight as to the fact that your mother is depressed (which you resent). You wish she would seek help but she refuses. Often times, people who are so depressed really cannot bring themselves to get help. As a child, and even now as a young woman, you did not deserve to grow up in such an abusive home, nor did you deserve to suffer as you did because of your mom’s pain and trauma.

To make matters more compounded, it appears that you see your mother in yourself through your depression, your complaining stating “And I became like her.” That is a deep statement, my dear sister. All the resentment and hostile feelings you have for her you have seemed to turn them inwards on yourself as well.

There is a lot of hurt and pain here, and rightly so. However, while you state that your father was more supportive and that is why you prefer him, you also state he beat you worse. While you did not go into why your mother felt rejected by your father, do you think his rejection of her was the right thing to do? As you know, your mom is wounded by her own traumatic past (and current situation).  That is why healing and addressing our issues is so important so that we do not live a wounded sad life nor harm those that we love the most such as our children.

Sister, I feel that through all the horrendous family dysfunction and abuse you have been through, your parents do love you very much. They are reliving how they were raised and acting in accordance with how they were treated. How can one be supportive and nurturing of another when they were never taught to? How could they do that when they were never supported or nurtured themselves? Sadly, none of this family situation was conducive to raising healthy, happy children. So where does it end? Or does it just go on from generation to generation?

You are a very smart young lady with much insight. I kindly ask you to really think about your situation and how you can change. I say “you” and not the situation because at this point it is imperative that you change your reactions towards all of this in order so that you can heal. I know this may not make much sense to you right now, but in sha’ Allah it will later.

It is like a child crying for food and nourishment. There is a tree with fruit a few feet away but the child continues to weep and cry out in hunger pains. If the child changed her/his thinking and behavior and took a few steps towards the tree and plucked the food to eat, this is change and this is a step towards healing.

Once you realize sister that you cannot change the past, you cannot change others, you may face a realization that the only thing you can do right now is changing how you think and react. You can change your strategies in regards to getting what you need and want. Be determined to start this journey of active healing.

It is not easy, I know. I also know it is irritating when people say “you have to do it; it will be fine”. I also agree you are right; you are not fine and others can never know what you have suffered.  However, in that statement „you have to do it” is truth and a lie. No, you don’t have to do it, sister.  You can remain stuck in your anger, resentment, pain and hurt for the rest of your life, like your mother and your grandmother, like your father as well as millions worldwide who chose “not to do it”.

The truth in this statement is that if you are a Muslim, then yes, you do have to do it. I’m not doubting your faith, sister, so please don’t get me wrong. I am just saying that as Muslims, we have to do it; we have to forgive and let go of resentment.  

MentalHelp discusses resentment in these terms “ resentment is corrosive because it involves thinking obsessively about the insults and injustices committed against the self. Because the nature of life is such that there is plenty of injustice going around for all of us, there is no end to the amount of anger we can perpetrate against ourselves. In other words, in the end, the feelings of resentment become turned against the self because maintaining such a high level of negative emotion takes a toll on physical and mental health. It seems that the resentful person cannot let go of this negative emotion and move on with life. There is a constant reliving of the injustice that was committed”.

Sister, by holding on to resentment, it is in fact only hurting yourself.

Also, you say you can’t forgive. However, we hope that Allah forgives us, right? If we are to desire Allah’s forgiveness, we must begin by forgiving others.

 “Allah ordered His Prophet to forgive the people their misbehavior (towards him)”. (Saheeh Bukhari)

Our beloved Prophet was ordered to forgive the people their misbehavior. How deep is this, sister?

I kindly ask you to go to Allah and pour your heart out to Him. The one who created you knows you better than you know yourself. Ask Allah to help you forgive, to help you melt away the resentment, to heal. So you can move on with your life, break the pattern of abuse and live a happy productive life, in sha ‘Allah.

Sister, try to develop a close relationship to Allah. Make du’aa’, recite Qur’an for guidance and knowledge, do dhkir daily to attain peace within your soul by the remembrance of Allah.

While addressing your spirituality, please do in sha’ Allah take steps to change your way of thinking as far as resentment is concerned. There are practical steps you can take.  Psychology Today offers some very good tips you may find useful, in sha’ Allah.

I would also kindly recommend that you seek out counseling on your healing journey. A good therapist can assist you in sha’ Allah with the issues you are having with anger, OCD, paranoia, anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

However, you must take these first steps, towards nourishment, towards the healthy “food.”  True, you don’t “have to do it”, but I pray to Allah that you do in sha’ Allah. You worth it, sister. Allah loves you. We love you for the sake of Allah. And as dysfunctional as your family is, they love you too. You may be the example they may need to see to begin their own healing journey.

We wish you the best, sister,

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad-Swan

Aisha Mohammad-Swan received her PhD in psychology in 2000. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York with a focus on PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, and Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. She is currently studying for her certification in Islamic Chaplaincy, and takes Islamic courses at SHC. Aisha works at a Women's Daytime Drop in Center, and has her own part-time practice in which she integrates counseling and holistic health. Aisha also received an MA in Public Health/Community Development in 2009 and plans to open a community counseling/resource center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah.

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