I have a very controlling mother, and she is driving me up the wall. I have entered a counseling group, but that's only added to my stress, because the people in the group have become like family to me; and now I have to worry about them. Their parents abuse them, and all of them have tried suicide at lease once, and three of them are now in a nut house. Also most of them are on drugs; every day I have to worry if one of my friends has killed themselves. What should I do?
It sounds like you feel that it's your job to worry about everyone else's problems. Somewhere along the way you appear to have been misinformed, because caring about someone does not necessarily mean having to feel responsible for his or her life, success, or happiness.
One important way that you can help both your friends and yourself is to learn not to feel so responsible for other people's lives, just your own. Work on teaching yourself to take responsibility for your own feelings and actions and to let other people stand "on their own".
Please don't misunderstand, I'm not at all suggesting that you stop caring or empathizing with people who you care about or love, just that you "take yourself off the hook" from feeling responsible for their life decisions.
There are a lot of ways to still care about others without getting pulled into their "dramas". You can encourage them, give them moral support, write to them, or even pray on their behalf, all without having to feel responsible for how they ultimately feel, or what they ultimately choose to do.
Maybe you ought to share with your group how it feels for you to care about them, knowing that you can't do anything to stop them from acting on their suicidal impulses, short of being their friend, praying for them, or giving them moral support.
Okay, now let's talk about you and your mom's situation, which is actually related to all of this.
Even though you haven't spelled out the exact nature of your mom's concerns, I would bet that they probably have a lot to do with fear for your safety and well-being. She may have the best of intentions, even though she is driving you nuts. In effect, she is really just acting on her own kind of "over-caring."
Knowing this can help you to understand how she feels and be in a better position to not get so upset by her behavior. It can also help you learn how to best "handle" her, so that her fears are lessened somewhat.
"Make it okay" for yourself that your mom is just feeling how she feels, and accept that nothing you can do will change her.
The real challenge then becomes within yourself, how you can learn to best respond to her controlling behavior and the feelings of frustration or anger that come up for you, when she does her controlling thing.
Don't fight her about her feelings, because that will just make her more fearful and defensive, but be smart and figure out in advance what is the minimum you can do to help her be calm.
For instance, calling her when you're out to let her know your okay, or keeping your word as much as possible about being on time, and most of all, avoid giving her "bad surprises", like calls from the school principle or the police.
The bottom line is, once you allow her to be herself, "controlling behavior" and all, then the real challenge becomes how to best satisfy or allay her fears, while still remaining independent and your own person.
Good luck, and remember - don't be like your mom when it comes to caring about someone else - caring does not have to mean controlling the other person's behavior. You are only responsible for yourself, and your choices or decisions.
Marc H. Garson, MSW, ASCW, ACP