July 16, 2014

Ask Me Anything: Mom Wants To “Fix” Daughter. {Weekly Advice Column}

laptop night

*Disclaimer: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal opinion, view or experience of the authors, and can not reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.


Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this weeks Ask Me Anything, elephant journal’s weekly advice column, where no question is out of bounds.

Please submit questions for next week via email to [email protected] or private message me directly on Facebook.

I look forward to hearing from you!


Dear Erica,

I have a daughter in her early 20s who is at least 50 lbs overweight. She lives at home and works, but only about 20 hours per week at a minimum wage job that brings her no joy.

When she’s not working, she’s in her room with the door closed. Whenever I check on her, she is either sleeping or laying in bed on the computer, with the room in total darkness. The situation is breaking my heart and I feel powerless to fix it.

My daughter has had a lot of challenges in her life. She lost her best friend in a tragic accident when she was in her teens, has always hated school and struggled to do well, and has never really seemed to find anything she is passionate about.

She has also always felt overshadowed by her sisters, who are all fairly accomplished, though she does get along with them and they all love each other. (She is the only one left at home.)

Over the years, my husband and I have tried many things to help our daughter including therapy and medication, neither of which were any help at all. I assume she is depressed, but I don’t know what to do about it.

Please help!

Sad Mom

Dear Sad,

Your daughter does sound depressed. When someone we love is depressed, it often affects our mental health as well, making us less able to help them and casting a shadow over our own lives. In this way, depression is truly a family illness.

Your feelings of frustration and powerlessness are understandable.

You mentioned that your daughter has tried therapy (and medication) in the past, but you don’t say how long ago that was. She may now be old enough to benefit from such help in a way that she couldn’t before, and the idea should be revisited.

Additionally, you could try and set up a modest walking routine with her—maybe 20 minutes a day. A simple 20 minute walk will get healthy endorphins flowing and provide the two of you an opportunity to connect in a consistent, low key way. You might both feel better.

I would also suggest your daughter meet with a career counselor. Most community colleges offer low cost and comprehensive career counseling services, and this could be a great way to ignite a latent spark or open a door she didn’t even know was there.

Finally, despite what happens or doesn’t happen, you must accept that you can’t “fix” your child. She is the author of her own destiny, whatever it may be.


man alone on bridge thinking

Dearest Erica,

I met the love of my life last year while working in his home country. He is the kindest, strongest man I know and makes me feel like the luckiest woman alive.

However, we’ve hit some rough patches as he’s moved back home to take care of his mother who has advanced cancer. His primary focus is his family right now, which I completely respect, but in the process he has completely shut me out because he feels that he needs to “protect” me from hard times, and that I shouldn’t have to “suffer” when he’s on such shaky ground himself. He feels that he can’t give me what I want right now, therefore I should leave if I want to.

I realize this isn’t about me and that he needs to process things differently than I do, but I’m finding it very painful to be separated from him (both emotionally and physically for I had to come back to my home country for some personal business).

I plan to return next month, but we haven’t talked about what will happen when I do. The last thing he needs is pressure from me on top of everything else. I know most people will say move on, that time will tell, but I’m not going to do that (leave him, because I know beneath it all he can’t live without me either).

I guess my question is, how can I be there for him through all of this in the best way for him? There are so many different factors and play here so it’s difficult for me to know how to approach this in the sanest way possible!

And I suppose I also wonder if he says he can’t give me what I want, it truly does mean he can’t give more of himself to a relationship. (Men being men and all of that.) I even hate wondering this out loud when he is dealing with much bigger problems, but sometimes I’m strong and feel so much love, and then sometimes I feel like a lost puppy whose owner has forgotten him behind.

I have my work and many things in my life to keep me strong and busy, but my heart is quite literally where he is.

Lost and In Love

Dear In Love,

I agree that it’s hard to tell exactly what your boyfriend’s motives or needs are at the moment. I would bet that he is having an equally hard time figuring those things out. Your situation is made even more challenging and complex by the long distance factor.

You don’t mention where your work is (but I am so glad you did mention that you love your work and your life independent of your boyfriend), but logistics will play a role here. If, when you return to his country in a month, you live reasonably close by, things will be easier, but even if you don’t the same basic rules will apply.

Treat this with a light touch. Be present without being needy. Continue to actively pursue the things you enjoy, and make it clear that you can be strong and patient.

Offer to cook a meal for him and his mother, call him briefly every day to see how he’s doing and keep the conversation mild, write him letters that will make him smile or laugh. Though he may not seem appreciative of these things, if they are done out of compassion (rather than desperation), he will feel the love behind them.

Your boyfriend might be unconsciously testing you. When his mother does pass, he will be in a whole other maelstrom of emotions and pain. He already knows this on a deep level and may be safeguarding himself against a possible rejection from you then.

He also sounds overwhelmed and for many people- men particularly I think– being overwhelmed equals a desire to withdraw.

You’re right, this isn’t about you, but it certainly involves you. Eventually, you’ll have to weigh costs versus benefits. As long as you can continue to be there for him, and he doesn’t outright tell you to get lost, without it destroying you, you should seek to do that.

If, however, you find that you’re being consumed by his situation, and that your own life has taken a back seat to your worries about him and his life, it may be time to move on.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Dani Lurie/FlickrChiara/Flickr

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