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Hi Dr. Robert.

I am 16 years old and for the past 8 years or so, something has been so wrong with my mom. I don't know how or when it all started, but she just won't do anything anymore.

I know she takes antidepressants and many other medications for her severe back problems that she has had countless surgeries for, all of which ended in failure. She just lies in bed all day, occasionally getting up for about an hour at a time. She won't come to our family dinners, any school meetings, even important events, claiming she "doesn't feel well." But it's every single day that she just won't do anything.

She always just randomly leaves and doesn't tell my dad, brother or me where she is going. She needs to constantly be told things a million times because she just doesn't remember anything. She hasn't stuck to her word in years. She will always tell me she's going to go out take me here and there, but when the day comes, she doesn't. She doesn't understand why it upsets me so much and when I try to talk to her about it she screams at me.

She does nothing around the house, my dad has to do everything. My dad has to clean, do laundry, go food shopping, cook dinner, everything, even after being at work all day. Even if my mom does rarely do one small thing, such as taking out the garbage, she'll complain and say "why can't anyone else do this?"

Being a 16 year old, this is the time when I need my mom the most, but it's like she doesn't even exist anymore. Her actions (or lack thereof) bring out the worst in me around her, and just make me so angry that it's hard to be around her without starting an argument. I can't ever talk to her as to what's wrong with her and what makes me upset because she'll either scream or refuse to talk. It's been like this for years now and I don't see it getting any better, I actually just see everything getting worse. If you have any idea what could be going on with her, please respond and let me know. Thanks for your time.

ask dr-robert


Although I never make a firm diagnosis without meeting the patient personally, judging from what you have written, your mom seems severely depressed. Depression this deep always requires sustained treatment which should include both psychotherapy and medication. Without expert help, I am sorry to tell you that she probably will not get better.

I understand how hard this is for you--how sad to have been without the companionship of your mother since you were eight--and I particularly understand that you are feeling the lack of maternal help in making the transition from childhood to adulthood, which is always a challenge even with parental support, and certainly much harder without it. Nevertheless, you will have to try to make this change on your own, because your mom is simply in no position to help you. I suggest that you speak with your dad about this, explaining how your mom's depression is affecting you, and asking him for help with your feelings. If you have another relative or friend of the family with whom you can speak about your feelings, that could help too. If none of those possibilities seems workable, you should make an appointment to meet with your school counselor and explain the situation to him or her.

Although you are young, you will be able to get through this sad situation, and I wish you strength in doing so.

Be well.

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