real life

"That’s when she said it. She told me she wanted to die."



The author of this piece is known to Mamamia but has chose to remain anonymous.

I responded to this card from my mum with:

“For fuck’s sake mum. How do you think that makes me feel? If it’s what you want, don’t hold back on account of me”.

Probably not the response you were expecting, right? Let me explain.

First of all, I love my mother and in a lot of ways we are close. When I was young she was the “cool” mum. I could tell her anything. I told her that I’d lost my virginity and when I got home that night she’d put lube and condoms under my pillow. She did all the things a mother should. She taught me how to cook, manage my finances and told me to dream big and respect myself.

But then she changed.

She became paranoid, withdrawn, aggressive and spiteful. I grew afraid to tell her that I’d blitzed my exam or that my friend’s parents had invited me to go out for tea with them. She became jealous. One day while we were shopping at a produce market, a young man made a passing comment about my green eyes to her. She smiled and talked me up as mothers do. Later that evening when I was getting ready to go out she made snarky comments that my outfit didn’t accentuate my eyes.


She became worse as the years went on. I never knew what mood she’d be in or how she would react towards me. One minute she would be saying how proud she was of me, how beautiful and intelligent I am and the next thing I knew I was being told I’d put on weight, look tired and pale or shouldn’t bother applying for a new job because I wouldn’t get it.

Not long after she started to become physically ill. I watched her have her first seizure. It was a painful and distressing experience. I remember screaming into the phone at the emergency operator to hurry because she wasn’t breathing and her lips had turned blue.

Then there was the day I was sent home from school, for reasons unknown to me at the time, because I had to look after my brother so that mum could go into surgery. They had found cysts in her ovaries. More seizures and illness followed. Each time I was called by a nurse to say my mother was in hospital but ok and I needed to come and pick her up. My mum had failed to tell me she had been unwell and changed the subject when I asked her what was wrong.

When I planned to move overseas in 2009 she came to me a week before I was to leave saying two pea sized lumps in her hands might be cancerous and if I left, who would take care of her? By this stage my relationship with my mother had become toxic. I spent my days worrying I was going to get another call and that she would be terminally ill or injured.

hen I did speak to her it only upset me as everything I said was turned against me. I felt rejected, unloved and alone. At the times I needed my mother most, I felt I couldn’t call on her. When I too had a cancer scare before I left to go overseas I decided not to confide in her because I knew she would make it about herself and leave me panicked instead of assured.

I knew I needed to gain some distance from her and do something for myself. I could no longer take care of her and give her the reassurance and support she demanded from me. So I decided to go overseas as planned even if she had cancer. Some of my close friends that knew about my family situation were still shocked at my choice. How could I leave my mother?


It was easier than I imagined. I knew that if I didn’t leave I would become like her, angry and depressed.

It turned out in the end she didn’t have cancer.

It was impossible for me to imagine that she could get any worse. But while I was away, she did. I urged her to get help and when she finally did she was diagnosed with mental illness and depression, although I don’t know for sure the specifics; what she’s told me.

She mentioned one day she had also refused to take her medication, which was against the doctor’s orders, because she didn’t like the way it made her feel.

The turning point, if there is such a thing in a situation like this, was when we’d had a phone call in which she sounded particularly depressed and she’d mentioned she’d given up on life. I did my best to remind her about how much I loved her and that things would get better.

Before she hung up she promised to call and let me know how she was in a few days. I never got a call. I tried calling and texting but I got no response. After nine weeks of no word I added mum’s neighbour on Facebook and asked them to check on her.

While I sat at my computer waiting to hear back I thought my greatest fear had become reality. I was so angry I hadn’t done more. Just as I was about to vomit from the stress my neighbour contacted me. Turned out she was alive and well. She had told my neighbour some bullshit story about changing numbers and that I must have got confused because she had given me the ‘new’ number weeks ago. Bitch. That’s the first word that came out of my mouth. I then proceeded to scream.

A few weeks ago, I saw my mum for the first time in over a year. I hadn’t forgiven her but she wanted to see me and out of a sense of duty I did so. Also little part of me thought perhaps she had changed and things would go back to what they were.

Like our usual conversations, things started loving and positive but it quickly turned sour. As we were hugging goodbye I told her to promise me she’d stay in contact because I worried about her. She said she’d try but sometimes she feels depressed. I lost it. I told her how selfish she’d been and I how thought she’d killed herself months before. That’s when she said it. She told me she wanted to die.

I know some people wouldn’t believe me if I told them, but I’d be OK if she died. No life is worth living if you’re that unhappy, which she is. Although I can’t stand the thought of her taking her own life, I can’t continue to live the rest of mine with this kind of emotional stress and anguish.

So what would you say if this had happened to you? I would love to know how others have coped with knowing and loving someone who suffers from a mental illness.

Since the conversation described in my piece my mum has sought the help of her doctor. She said seeing me in pain and clearly distressed made her realise she had to change.

This article was originally published on The Peach here, and has been republished with full permission.