The Phone Bill


I saw mum’s phone bill today. FML, sideways.

It’s no biggy. Well it is kinda big, but it’s only money. It’s something more than that which made me think ‘FML lengthways’ when I saw it. Let me explain.

I wrote a blog post a while back where I explained about how my mum has anxiety issues on top of other complex health problems. When discussing these with the GP mum said;

“It’s his fault” pointing at me. “I’ve worried about everything since he was born. It’s hard being a single mum and I’ve worried about everything as it was just me and him”

I’ve also tweeted about how hard it is sometimes to deal with her anxiety problems. She’s had a psychiatric assessment and there is some movement towards a course of CBT, but I’m not sure she’ll cope with it. I think her stroke has caused her to react too emotionally, if that makes any sense, so all rational explanations for those things that panic her go out the door.

If I leave the house mum calls me. Here’s what happens, if I’m out seeing friends for example. Friends know of my mum’s issues and are happy to talk to me about them but it goes like this;

‘How’s your mum’

‘Ach. Same old. Meltdowns and panic attacks, hospital appointments. Hard but I hope I’m making a difference. I think she’s improving a bit.’

Then she’ll call. Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with? What are you doing? Where are you? She’s confused. Not thinking. She knows where I am but she’ll panic and all this information about where I am, which I’ve told her, will go out of her head. 10 minutes later she’ll do the same thing. Same questions. Confused. And then again. And then again.

It feels like an invasion. It feels like an invasion of my time and then I feel mean thinking about this. Sometimes I can’t pick up the phone. So she’ll ring and ring and ring and ring until I do. Sometimes I just can’t pick up the phone and sometimes I just don’t want to.

This is an example of how many times she’ll call in one morning.


Another example.


The phone bill lists over 350 phone calls to my batphone since the middle of April. And that’s why I said, in my head, ‘FML. Vigorously.’ And these phone calls are made when I’m out, and quite often I DON’T go out as I CAN’T go out. I’ll have to stay in to head off a meltdown or deal with one which will last for hours. I’ve cancelled more things recently than I care to think about. Arrangements have been made and then I’ve had to cancel them at the last-minute because mum is stressing, anxious, panicky. I’m glad I have such understanding friends otherwise I’m sure they’d give up on me.

I’ve tried getting mum to do breathing exercises to calm down, but the panic takes hold of her with such strength that she can’t. Or won’t perhaps. Perhaps she just doesn’t know how to be calmer. Her stroke, undoubtedly, has affected the area of her brain which helps her reason but then she’s always been like this. As long as I’ve known her. Because it’s my fault, as she explained to the GP.

I looked at the phone bill and calmly pointed these calls to my mobile phone. She refused to acknowledge them. ‘I didn’t call you that amount of times Spencer.’

I asked her what she thought was happening. Why she would call like that. She said she didn’t. I decided, recklessly, tough love was in order. I said I’d change my number so she couldn’t call me.

And then she crumbled. She’s not a tactile person but she grabbed me, held me tighter than she has in years and wept. She begged me not to. She begged me not to change my number and her sobs were coming from a place of pure fear. Please Spencer, don’t. Please please please please. Promise me you won’t. Promise promise promise promise promise…

How can I? This wasn’t emotional blackmail. She was trembling and scared. And how could I do that to her? If it makes her feel better to do this then I guess that’s okay, right? I shouldn’t object.

But the thing is I don’t think it does make her feel better. And I don’t know what will.

We’ve made a deal. I’ve promised not to change my number and she’s promised not to call me. Let’s hope that works.

But she’s made me promise not to change my number over 20 times in the past half hour.

And so it goes on…

Thanks for reading.

18 responses to “The Phone Bill

  1. Can you teach her to text? Then she could just text and say something like all ok? and you can text back the same text each time, something like I’m ok, at…., be home at …. xx

    • I’ve tried but she just doesn’t get it, and when she’s in a confused state with her panic attacks she will forget how to text or how to even read a text. She’ll forget where I am even if I write it all down. Calling me calms her down. But then it doesn’t. Something else needs to be in place to stop her from getting this scared. And I think another trip to the GP might be in order.
      Thanks for reading.

    • Referral to psych assessment. Done. CBT has been mentioned but I just don’t think mum’s brain is able to cope with that. The stroke has affected her so badly. Chicken and egg problem.
      Thanks for reading.

  2. Fear is a terrible thing…
    I’m in the situation where my heart goes out to you both. I understand fear but I also understand how you feel, Spencer. I’ve left the phone ringing many a time on my mother…I just didn’t have the energy to cope with her sometimes. I feel guilty about it now because she’s no longer here but I can’t be held responsible for her actions…only my own and her actions were the reason I didn’t answer the phone…
    I feel for you, Spence, I really do x

  3. Oh Spencer, I’m so sorry for you both, it must be hard for both of you. My parents were always very anxious, but never like this…My parents-in-law struggle with my husband’s grandmother, she’s in a home right now but she always thinks that she will get better and will be able to get out.I can’t help you, sorry .I just know that you look like you need to protect yourself, because you’re dealing with a lot here. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for taking the time to read. And I’m putting things in place to try to make life easier for mum and me but she’s not meeting me half way. That’s the hardest part.

  4. I hope the CBT helps. It might in her case. My argument against CBT has always been it helps you deal with how to react not the causes but in her case it might be too scary to do anything else but the CBT surface stuff might be good?

    Blimey that’s a lot to deal with though.

    • Gosh, you’re in a tricky situation. You can only do what you can do. I would go for the CBT, nothing to lose really?
      Wish i could give advice but I’ve not yet been in hour position. In fact, my mum avoids me like the plague. Families eh….

  5. Can I help Spencer? You know what I do. We could get her the pocket panic buster MP3 player? She could carry it with her

  6. You’re in an impossible situation. Can’t tell you how sad that makes me feel for you Spencer. Please keep the blogs coming. I know how much they can help x

  7. Oh Spencer it must be so tough for you. It sounds very suffocating.
    I hope she can get the help she needs really soon, and that someone is able to help.
    You say that your mum says all of this is your fault, you don’t believe that do you? You know it’s not your fault right?

  8. My heart goes out to you – I’m sorry I can’t offer any useful advise to you, I can’t say anything to help right now, although I’m trying like mad to think of some sort of solution – offering a huge virtual hug x

  9. My mum suffers from anxiety, but I think it’s a by-product of living on her own, age (pushing 80) and a need to control everything around her. It’s not unusual for me to receive a stream of messages from her ‘Just calling to say “hi”‘, followed by increasingly panicky messages asking me where I am, followed by googletalk messages from my brother telling me to ring my mum because “She thinks you’re dead.” (Bear in mind, she lives in Canada and I don’t). I have no words of wisdom for you. I’m no expert, but I’m not convinced CBT would work in her case. Perhaps all you can do is be there, as much as is bearable? Do you think her anxiety is linked to a need to assert control (over you?)?

  10. It’s not unusual spencer. I was listening to local radio the other day when someone phoned up concerned that there was something wrong with their elderly friend’s phone, as there were HUNDREDS of calls to the speaking clock and she was unable to pay the bill.
    When the radio show got involved, the old lady had to admit it was a mixture between being confused about the time and needing to hear someone elses voice – despite the fact that she is out with her friends for most of the day.

    I feel sorry for your mum, but I’m getting a little concerned that this is too much for you as she is so ill. I totally understand your loyalty towards her. I’m just worried. Sending hugs.

  11. Oh my God she reminds me so much of me. I had a year at University where I was just like that, with what was my boyfriend and is now my husband. This post has put a painful lump in my throat. Even more so when she grabbed you as that was me.

    Just so you know, tough love works but only when the person is strong. I used to crumble again and again and again.

    I only got strong via healing. I don’t know if you guys are open to anything alternative?

    Stay strong. These must be tough tough times for you 😦

    Liska xx

  12. You are a fine son Spencer. My wife has an anxiety disorder. She gets real scared when i am driving at night with her in the car. I am a good driver, she just cant deal with it. She is an awesome lady though.

    I thought you made the right decision about your phone number getting changed. I almost teared up. when she begged you not to do it. I get real frustrated with yvonne sometimes, but I just have to stop and take a breath and put myself in her position and say to myself, “This fear she is having is real to her” That helps me. I understand that with you it is a little more severe.

    Great post man, I really like writers who are not afraid to share.

  13. So sorry for you Spencer but I’m sure you don’t want sympathy, you just want a break. I bet you feel damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I think our country is very good a letting the carers down, almost to the point when they need caring themselves. There is no “get out clause” with families. What does the GP say and do for you? Is blogging your only way of getting help, releasing pent up emotions. RESPECT AND LOVE TO YOU SPENCER xxx

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