Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012 7:53 am
Dear Annie: I am married to a great guy, and we have two wonderful, intelligent teens. But my mother-in-law is causing great stress.
“Mama” was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder 10 years ago and is prescribed a cocktail of drugs to help with a preponderance of violent mood swings, anger, resentment and occasional dissociation. She is a textbook narcissist who can only demand love for herself and is unable to give to others. Her family relationships and many of her friendships have taken a dive. It’s a wonder she can hold down a job.
Her big trigger is perceived rejection. When she was in our home, she expected to be everyone’s entire focus. She demanded the full attention and affection of my husband and deeply resented his relationship with his own children. Needless to say, invitations to holiday gatherings dwindled over the years. Her grandchildren have grown up without her in their lives, although we have taken care not to poison them against her.
Now, Mama has taken herself off all meds and declared herself cured. She has convinced herself that her diagnosis was wrong, and that her problem all along has been emotional abuse from others, including her children and grandchildren. In short, everyone else is to blame.
The trouble now is that she is blogging on the Internet, publicly criticizing family members, including our teenage kids and their cousins. The adults can dismiss this as the ranting of a mentally ill person, but we’re afraid our kids are going to come across the blog one of these days. Any advice? — Also Sleepless, but in Sonoma
Dear Sonoma: You have our sympathy dealing with such a difficult situation. You don’t have to poison the children against Grandma to have a heartfelt discussion on mental illness. The kids are old enough to understand that their grandmother is not well, and that her behavior can be unpredictable and sometimes unkind. They may never see her blog, but if they do, you will have done all you can to inoculate them against whatever damaging reaction they may have.
Dear Annie: I work in a small office with one of the most unprofessional and disgusting co-workers a person could have. My main complaint is that when we are in the break room, “Penny” takes out her dentures and sets them on the table.
Between the gross dentures and her vulgar mouth, none of us wants to take a break in the one area we have. Nobody, not even management, is willing to address the issue. She reads your column, so please print this. — Grossed Out
Dear Grossed Out: We are sympathetic to Penny’s desire to be comfortable in the break room, but it is important to be considerate of others who share your space. Don’t count on her seeing herself in the column or doing anything about it. Our suggestions are for you: You can take breaks when Penny is not using the room; you can ignore her dentures to the best of your ability; or you can bite the bullet and ask politely if she would refrain from removing her dentures when others are present.
Dear Annie: “Loving Mom, Disgusted Mother-in-Law” is worried that her daughter will return to her drug-abusing husband. It’s too bad the daughter isn’t going to Al-Anon. They said I would know when I wanted to make the break. It comes down to how much pain you can tolerate before you are willing to make changes. I realized two things: that I didn’t want him to die in the house, and that we would lose our home if I didn’t do something.
He finally reached sobriety six years after the divorce and managed to be a good dad for 22 more. — J.
Dear J.: Self-help groups like Al-Anon (al-anon.alateen.org) and Nar-Anon (nar-anon.org) can be godsends for those who live with addicts. Thank you.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger 8.29.12