Dear Annie: My toxic mother has put a strain on my family. Two years ago, she got into a fight with my husband, and I sided with him. Life has been a living hell ever since. She constantly calls and leaves horrible messages on our voicemail. She has turned family and friends against us. Our kids are scared to death of her, but she has told everyone that I turned the children against her for no reason. Of course, she would never admit doing anything wrong. She’s been like this since I can remember. She tormented me during my childhood. My psychiatrist says she has mental health issues, and our lawyer says she probably won’t follow a restraining order.
My husband says to ignore her, but that’s impossible. My children and I want to move. I have panic attacks every time I see her phone number show up on our caller ID. When she doesn’t call, I’m on pins and needles waiting for the inevitable. I dread leaving the house, because I worry about running into her somewhere.
How do I convince my husband that it’s in our best interests to move? If he won’t, how do I get my mother to leave us alone? – On the Edge
Dear Edge: You cannot change your mentally ill mother’s behavior unless she is cooperative. And asking your husband to move is a big step, especially if it means leaving his job. While running away might be helpful in the short term, unless you plan to go into the witness protection program, Mom eventually will find you.
Instead, take control of your life. Issue that restraining order, and if Mom violates it, call the police. Get an unlisted phone number. Refuse to let her bully you. Then, if you still wish to move, you and your husband will have time to find jobs and a home in a new location rather than letting Mom chase you out of town. We also suggest you discuss this with your therapist and work on ways to feel safe.