Dear Amy: When I was 31, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I started having symptoms when I was 11. It took me years to seek help, even after my dad was diagnosed when I was in my mid-20s.
I told my mom a few times that I thought that I had the illness. I was hoping she would help me seek treatment, since I was so afraid of the stigma, but also after having an acute episode, I would feel better and convince myself that nothing was wrong.
Every time, my mother told me that she didn’t think anything was wrong with me, even when I confessed that I was contemplating suicide.
Finally, I sought help on my own. Medication and therapy has helped me tremendously, and my mom has been supportive now that she has witnessed one of my manic episodes and realized that I really do need help.
I still harbor resentment toward her for not encouraging me to seek treatment earlier. I realize that I am an adult and ultimately responsible for myself.
I want to forgive her, but I want her to apologize.
Am I wrong for wanting that? I bring up my illness with her more often than I should in the hopes that it will spur some remorse. I want recognition that I had to struggle with this, while she denied anything was wrong.
I would hate to damage our otherwise good relationship.
Waiting for Sorry
Dear Waiting: Your narrative brings to mind the famous quote from Maya Angelou: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
Parenting sometimes seems like a long string of opportunities to fail, and your mother failed you. I can think of several reasons why she didn’t seek help for you earlier, including ignorance, denial, stigma, or flat-out fear. All of these reasons will seem like excuses at this point, however, and now you are owed an acknowledgment and apology.
Rather than bringing up your illness and being continually disappointed when she doesn’t take the bait, I hope you will ask your mother for what you want: “Mom, it would help me a lot if you would explain to me why you didn’t help me seek treatment earlier. I need an acknowledgment.”
If you don’t get what you seek, you will have to do the hard work of accepting your mother, despite her own failings. Forgiveness should follow.
Dear Amy: My husband passed away last fall. Because grandchildren were in college, we buried him just after Christmas.
Our daughter and her husband came from Texas. Other siblings brought their families from other parts of the country.
This summer we had a memorial brunch and celebration of their father’s life. Our Texas daughter refused to come to this event because she was working 60 to 70 hours a week at a new job.
I wrote her a letter saying she owed it to the family to appear. She says I’m not being compassionate toward her for expecting this.
It has now been almost three months that she has not answered my phone calls or emails.
I need suggestions on how to deal with this.
Dear Grieving: I’m sorry for this loss to your family. I assume that your daughter is grieving, too. Many people don’t respond well when someone issues a basic demand that they “owe” it to others to appear.
You don’t say why you didn’t hold a life celebration when the entire family was gathered at Christmastime, but I wonder if there are reasons your daughter feels you accommodated others, but not her.
The tone of your communication at this point should shift from blame to reconciliation. It is vital after a death in the family that everyone should do their best to be gentle with one another. Gentleness from you should inspire the same from her.
Dear Amy: Let me add my voice to others who objected to your response to “There’s No Place Like (the Beach) Home,” whose sister had purchased the family’s vacation house and now wanted to charge rent for visits. You thought this request for rent was a bit much. I disagree.
Dear Dissatisfied: As I said in my response, many families find ways to successfully share expenses for a family vacation house. This house was not a shared house, but had been purchased by an individual. I think welcoming family back for a short summertime visit should be an act of generosity – many readers disagree.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.