Steel Advice: Dealing with depressed mom a sensitive issue

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DEAR STEEL ADVICE: Our family has been dealing with some major issues surrounding our mother/mother-in-law. She is going through some severe depression that started roughly two years ago, but things have become progressively worse during the past year, particularly in terms of her mean-spirited nature while in these depressive states. She takes simple events and reinvents them into huge issues so she is the victim. She routinely attacks people, via what we like to call "text bombing," often ripping into one of her own children/their respective spouses. She has even sent texts claiming she is suicidal, but making sure to send a follow-up text where she states she was "just kidding" -- so we don't have the proof to commit her.

At this point, the children and their partners are sick and tired of dealing with her antics; it is like dealing with an impetuous child. But we love her and want her to get the help she needs so she can be part of the family again. While she is in therapy, it does not seem to be helping as the attacks become more and more vicious. We don't want to shut her out completely as we fear that may send her even further into the dark depression, but for our own families' health/sanity, it seems like it may be the only option to prove the point that we will not stand for this behavior.

Any advice on dealing with her?


DEAR FRUSTRATED: There may be physical problems greater than depression causing your mother-in-law's behavior. Lines blur between a depressed patient and a high maintenance, bitter older person who has beginning symptoms of dementia. Depression is a feeling of intense sadness and your mother-in-law sounds like someone who is very unhappy who lashes out at her family because of her frustration. She rearranges memory to satisfy her version of events. Your mother-in-law may not be able to process or understand what is happening to her. So she puts a spin on things to justify her actions. She is terrified of losing control. You have to learn not to take her outbursts personally or permit her need for drama to control the family. Act respectfully toward this senior member of your family, and simultaneously try to get her to give you permission to speak with her doctor.

DEAR STEEL ADVICE: Years ago I went to a baby shower for a woman in my townhouse development. The ring leader of the group who held the shower was full of herself and made a huge fuss over the girl who was expecting her first baby. I was expecting my second baby at the very same time and no one made a comment or gave me a card or even said congratulations. Now I am planning a baby shower for my daughter and I still remember how hurt I was by these mean women. What is the etiquette for having a shower for a mom expecting her second?


DEAR SENSITIVE: Years ago baby showers were not given for moms expecting second babies. Today less emphasis is given to protocol. Friends get together to celebrate a new baby's anticipated arrival no matter the birth order. Second baby showers are called "sprinkles" or "mists" and often the guests are asked to bring diapers of different sizes as gifts. It is presumed the mom already has the required baby equipment. What has not changed over the years is distaste for rude, unfeeling behavior. Someone at the shower should have commented on your baby-to-be and made you feel special even though the party was not in your honor.

Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.

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