It's extremely difficult dealing with a person who is mentally unwell. I've dealt with a few. The difficult part is that you have to treat the person as if they're not in such a mindset as they are (let's call them "crazy" for short). Basically, you have to treat them in a saccharine manner so they treat you back in the same way.
First example of this is my stepbrother, Jason, who's got Down's syndrome. He's in his mid-30's, but he acts like a perpetual 6-year-old. What are you going to do, tell him to act his age? No, you've got to put up with his whining when you turn off the TV, take him bowling, take him out to dinner, play with him, etc. etc. There's nothing that'll solve his disorder, it's just something with which you'll have to deal.
The real thing I'm getting to, though, is my mom. My sister can easily attest to this, but I mean this in all seriousness when I say that she's got a mental problem. It's a mental problem in the way that we all have mental problems - we've all got our quirks and they'll be with us forever - but this is quite a dire case. What her problem actually is isn't as important as how it's dealt with, but I'll give a run-down on our little history.
When my sister and I lived with our mom (I stopped living with her around the age of 16; my sister this year at 15), we were subject to verbal abuse. Yelling, insults, the like, because of things like grades, activities, but mostly communication between her, us, and our other set of parents. It got to a point where she became so fed up with us that she would evict us from her house and bring all of our stuff to our dad's. Because she was apologetic and I was forgiving (but mostly because I had to take care of Lily), I moved back twice before I evicted myself the third time around. Lily wasn't as forgiving, and she gladly moved out of our mom's house rather permanently.
Why, exactly, did it get to this point? Because we wised up and realized that the sort of disciplinary bullshit she was feeding us was just that. The things she was complaining about were in her head. There was nothing wrong with us. She demanded that we accomplish ridiculous goals, and we were suffering because of it. By the third time that I left her house, I was laughing at her because of her claims.
Three years later, I realize that I was laughing at someone who was a lot like my stepbrother.
My mom is capable of intelligent conversation, is a good artist, writer, and has a plethora of other admirable qualities, but she also has severe emotional problems that interfere with her reasoning, logic, and I would even go as far as saying her memory. This is the reason that I continue to deal with her - because even though I don't think that these problems can ever really be solved, it's not entirely her fault that she has them. Ever since I left her house I've refused to argue with her, and it's shown a great improvement in our relationship. Yes, she continues to yell, and I continue to be only receptive to the point where I understand how she's feeling when she's not "crazy."
I feel my sister isn't at the point where she can deal with this. It really shows. It gets to her. It gets to me, too - my mom, who I've known for 19 years, is "crazy" and it's taken me a very, very long time to realize this. I don't blame my sister at all for not wanting to interact with her or have anything to do with her.
Today, a day after my dad and stepmom left for a vacation, my mom invited herself over and had yet another "talk" with us. We could tell that she wasn't in the best of moods, and that it was pretty futile to try to reason with her. I tried to convey to her, as I usually do, that you can get what you want from other people if you treat them with respect and positivity, and, as expected, she agreed.
It wasn't 5 minutes later that my mom demanded that my sister call her every day to tell her where she is and what she's doing, even though we are not staying with her and she has not been given any rights by our other set of parents to supervise us. My mom ended up calling her own mom to get her argument backed up (and what else would my grandma, as a wise old woman, do? Shun her? Tell her that her concern is totally without backing?), but all my sister would do is tell my mom to leave. I (and my mom's boyfriend) just sat and watched, feeling hurt that she had completely ignored what I was telling her just 5 minutes ago about respect and positivity.
A few hours later, my sister and I had plans to see a few of my mom's art pieces in a gallery in San Francisco. My sister, obviously after this horrid encounter, refused to go. I went, though, mostly to maintain a cordial, respectful communication with my mom, under any circumstances.
This is why I'm so torn. As far as I can see, my mom is emotionally endangering my sister, but it would only hurt the both of us more to completely shut her out and pretend as if she doesn't exist. All I can do is smooth things out, like I've always done. And now, especially with my parents off on vacation, it might prove to be a full-time job.
Thanks for reading. And for everyone else, thanks for reading this final sentence, I guess.