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I will try to get my situation across without going into too much detail. About a year ago I moved with my mother to the other end of the country. For me it was an adventure and a good opportunity to progress in my career. For her it was the realization of a childhood dream. Growing up in the southern part of Germany she always longed for the north and the sea. She thoroughly enjoys her new life.

For me, however, this was the worst year of my entire life. At the beginning I thought I merely had a bad case of homesickness but as the year progressed, I again and again slid into prolonged depressive episodes. I have been treated for depression before and I usually cope quite well with it, but now again, my situation has worsened to such a degree that I am convinced that I only have two possible courses of action: Get back to my hometown at the next opportunity or have my condition deteriorate until I am either hospitalized or until I harm myself.

For the second time since my move to Hamburg, I get back to my hometown on a business trip. Last time I was there, it felt as though I had waken up from a bad dream. Nevertheless, I made the trip back. This time, I am sure that I will be unable to return. On the one hand I am filled with joy at the idea of returning home for good, on the other hand I cannot put into words how bad I feel about having to tell my mother that I am not going to come back to her. I have to emphasize that she is dependend on me in a way that is certainly to be considered out of the ordinary. She has lost a lot in her life which is why she clings so badly to our relationship. I know that the announcement is going to leave her devastated.

I have about five years of buddhist practice and even though I think I have made a lot of progress and I know that I should aim to achieve upekkha, this is too big for me. This adds to the conflicting state, I am in at the moment. It feels as though, as if to add insult to injury, I am not only betraying my mother, but also failing in my endeavor to quite simply be a good person and to live according to the Noble Eightfold Path.

I am not sure what kind of counsel I expect or want to receive in response to this post, but in any case I am heartfelt grateful for everybody who took the time to read through this. (And maybe has a few lines of her or his thoughts to share.) This has gotten longer than I intended it to be but I want to make sure to make my feelings understood as precisely as possible.

By the way: I know that, quite apart from my feelings of spiritual shortcoming, depression constitutes a serious psychiatric condition. I do take medication and I have an appointment with my old Stuttgart-based psychiatrist two days from now. So I have taken care of that side of the coin. I would just like to try to evaluate and get feedback on my situation from a spiritual/Buddhist point of view.

Thank you again!

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Have you meditated on the reasons why you feel depressed being away from your hometown?

Is it friends and your social life in your hometown? Or is it some other reason?

If it is the friends and social life that's the problem, then you can try to make new friends. For e.g. why not join your local Buddhist community? For example, you can explore the Buddhistische Gesellschaft Hamburg e.V.. They seem to have a lot of interesting activities like group meditation, sutta studies and dhamma talks.

This way you can solve two problems in one go. It is not always the case that you have to choose either A or B. Sometimes, you can find a third way, C.

Drawing upon the example of the Buddha's life, he found that it did not work if he chose either over-indulgence or over-asceticism. Instead, he paved the middle way to enlightenment. The same theme can also be found in the Sona Sutta with the analogy of the strings of a lute playing music only when it's not too taut or too loose.

So, I suggest that you don't have to choose either your sanity or your mother's extraordinary dependence on you. Instead, you can pave the middle way, by solving multiple problems simultaneously.

  • Thank you very much for your answer! I have been constantly trying to come to a conclusion what it is that causes this extreme suffering for me. On the most generalized level, it is a deep feeling of not belonging there. I think it is the entirety of missing all those familiar places I have known since my childhood, all the memories they conjure up; missing the people who share my language and mentality; the harsh, wet coastal climate that really gnaws on me. This and a bunch of other things that make me feel miserable. – tigrefurry Feb 27 '18 at 19:50
  • Also, unfortunately, I can't just go and join a local Sangha. This is going to sound weird, but my mother is much plagued by (pathological) fears of loss that my leaving the house at unusual hours (like late in the evening) and on my own puts her under so much emotional stress that leaving is such an arduous process for both of us that I can't imagine doing this on a regular basis. Me leaving for the business trip today was quite traumatic for her. – tigrefurry Feb 27 '18 at 19:57
  • @tigrefurry Based on your comment of " my mother is much plagued by (pathological) fears of loss that my leaving the house at unusual hours (like late in the evening) and on my own puts her under so much emotional stress" - I would agree with Andrei Volkov and suggest that maybe it's better to leave your mother. It might be beneficial for both of you in the long term. – ruben2020 Feb 27 '18 at 23:41
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Two thoughts, not particularly Buddhist, but coming from Buddhist experience... You may consider this inspired by my practice and the teacher's instructions...

One, regarding "the bad dream" experience. This sounds like a clear indicator that the town in the north is not your place in life. In my tradition we are taught to trust our intuition. Specifically, we believe that your life and your path should be bright... Perhaps difficult and full of effort, but not gloomy. If you feel like you're having a bad trip, that's enough of a reason for change.

Two, regarding your mom. It is pretty typical for moms who had difficult lifes, particularly had issues with their male partners, to form strong attachment to their sons. This works well for both sides for a while, but may turn into pathology over long time, if not checked. Most people who went though similar scenarios, would tell you should start separating from mom, even at the price of hurting her and yourself in the process. It will be for better long term, I think.

All in all, it sounds like you have come to the same conclusions yourself already, so all I can do is provide validation. It sounds like you're very reasonable and have good connection with your heart, so keep trusting yourself and going on your own path and you'll be fine.

As for causing pain to people... Sometimes we can't avoid it. As much as we would like to be perfect, we have to pay the price for the individualized existence. Accepting our inevitable contribution to the pain of others is a humbling experience and, in my opinion, makes us more humane.

  • Thank you for your thoughts! I have first marked your answer as "correct" as it expresses quite clearly what I feel. I do not mind hardship, I've lived through pretty bad episodes of financial problems and existential fears and my Buddhist practice did indeed help me to stop worrying about material matters. And your phrase nails it: I don't mind times of difficulties but I cannot live with perpetual gloom. As for my mom: I would like to believe that she would come strengthened from such a challenge and maybe able to finally live a life of her own and I think I might indeed be helping... – tigrefurry Feb 27 '18 at 20:10
  • ... her to achieve that. What makes me a bit more confident is the thought that in two or three years from now we might be able to look back on it and realize that this extreme situation was for the better. I don't know and Ajahn Brahm, who I admire very much, once stated that it is moot to speculate about the future since the future is likely to turn out completely different from what we imagine. Still, I hope for it to be that way. – tigrefurry Feb 27 '18 at 20:21
  • By the way: Sorry - I took the "correct" marker away from your answer again, because there cannot be a right or wrong answer to my initial post. Still, your answer has encouraged me. Thank you! – tigrefurry Feb 27 '18 at 20:22
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    You're welcome @tigrefurry - I know I did not quite open the new world with this answer, but as the Buddha said (paraphrasing), the teaching is taught for the sake of achieving certainty, so if certainty is all I give, that's good enough result for me. – Andrei Volkov Feb 27 '18 at 22:25
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I'm not sure that "you have to".

Do you have a choice about it?

  • If so, you don't have to -- you can choose to, if you want to.
  • If not, you don't have to -- it's not you doing it, it's just the way things are.

Also I'm not sure about "announcement". That means you're making a decision (by yourself), and announcing the decision after the decision is made.

Might it be better if your mum participates in the decision-making? "Mum, I feel I'll end up in hospital if I stay here; going home was like waking up from a bad dream; what do you think I should do? What should you do? What's best for us, can we compromise? How do you find it here, are you making friends?" and so on.

It may be that she wants whatever is best for you: and so, all you have to do is to figure out with her, discuss, what that is.

Similarly you may want what's best for her ... and these goals (best for her and best for you) aren't conflicting, because what's bad for you isn't good for her and so on.

I say this without understanding your personal relationship, but ...


Also "not coming back to her" is an extreme way to phrase it. It does take hours to drive across Germany, so if you are living at opposite ends of the country then you wouldn't see each other every day, but you might still want to visit each other for holidays or something -- and talk by phone and whatever else you want.

A lot of people live in different countries, even, and/or visit (but don't live with) their parents -- and a lot of people (parents and children) cope with that, so: a) it's maybe not extreme to ask/expect; b) there are many people with experience (role models, friends and advisers) of how to manage that.


And maybe your attachment to the old place is a bit of an attachment. I remember (and sometimes "miss") many places where I used to live. Sometimes I'm reminded of the end of chapter 80 of the Tao Te Ching, instead of thirsting for other places, to be somewhere else.


I tried asking this question, Duty to parents?, people's answers to which you might find relevant.

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