Cost of Living: Debbie

A Mother's Struggles
“Three years ago, my life started falling apart. My mother passed away. My mother was my best friend. She got me through everything,” Debbie says. “My daughter, Lauren, had a massive stroke. They didn’t expect her to live. She had to re-learn just how to swallow, she had to learn how to eat, speak, breathe even. While Lauren was in the hospital, my husband left me alone with four kids and nothing. I have two children with special needs. Brooke was diagnosed at age 3 with Graves’ disease; Nicklaus has autism. A month after Lauren had her stroke, they diagnosed me with ITP, which is an autoimmune disease. I had to have my spleen removed, and I ended up in Intensive Care. When I was in Intensive Care, I checked myself out because I had to get home to take care of my kids. My childhood home we lost to foreclosure, because we had medical bills with Brooke. We had to sell everything in it.

“We live on a third floor walk up. I’m sleeping on the couch so my children each have their own rooms. There’s more crime in this area, and my kids can’t go outside and play,” Debbie says. “My boss has already told me that I’m going to be out of job very soon. I feel I’m going to lose the apartment. I don’t sleep at night because I worry, how am I going to pay the bills? And I worry about how I’m going to take care of my children. As a mom, it’s horrible. It breaks my heart.”

[AD]Debbie stands outside her childhood home. “This is the first time I’ve been back since the house foreclosed. It looks so abandoned,” she says sadly. She begins to cry. She shows a concrete area with her names engraved in the cement. “My kids’ names when we built that. That’s where our gas grill used to go. I’m very upset right now. It just hurts. It’s hard.”Onstage with Dr. Phil, Debbie wipes away her tears.

“I’m bothered that you say that you’ve failed as a mother. Tell me why you feel that way,” Dr. Phil says.

“Because I can’t provide for them anymore. I used to be able to give them anything they wanted, and I can’t give them anything anymore,” she says.

“You think it’s gotten to the point now that you’ve decided that you’ve let them down at the most basic level, because you think you don’t even live in a safe place, the car is not even reliable, you can’t get to doctor’s appointments, so you feel like my kids deserve better than this,” Dr. Phil says.

“My kids do deserve better,” Debbie says.

“How much time do you spend focused on taking care of yourself?”

“Not much,” she admits. “Zero.”

[AD]“You get, of course, that you’re the only mother they have. There’s a balance you have to have. You’ve got to take care of you so you can take care of them, right?” Dr. Phil asks.

“Yes. Everybody tells me that,” she says. “I just think of them 24/7.”

“But what will happen to them if they lost you?”

“I don’t know. They need me,” she says.

“So, they need a mother, not a martyr,” Dr. Phil says.Lauren, who was 15 when she had a stroke, is now 18. She has a message about her mom:

“My mom is pretty amazing,” Lauren says in a video interview. “When I had my stroke, and I was in the hospital, my mom was always there for me. My mom worries about just putting food on the table, helping us pay the rent and pay the heat. I decided to get my mom a North Face coat from the flee market because it was all I could afford. She never had a coat to wear, and it’s getting cold out. She feels like she’s not worthy. She shouldn’t blame herself or feel guilty. I just want her to be happy.”

Tears pour down Debbie’s face after hearing her daughter’s words. “It breaks my heart,” she says. “At 18 years old, she shouldn’t have to worry about putting a coat on my back. It should be the other way around.”

[AD]“It sounds to me like she’s a whole lot more focused on having you around than what you can give or provide for her. Doesn’t sound to me like she takes much for granted; that she just wants her mother,” Dr. Phil says.

“Absolutely.”

“What scares you the most?”

“That we’re going to end up homeless, that I won’t be able to feed my kids. We’re headed there now,” Debbie says.
Dr. Phil explains that Robin lost her mother when she was 58 because she didn’t take care of herself. Robin talks about it in her book, Inside My Heart.

“When my mother passed away so suddenly at 58, it was a turning point for me because I didn’t realize how important it was for me to take care of myself,” Robin explains. “She did not do that. She did not put herself first. She took care of all of us first. She took care of my father. Everyone else but her. She never went to the doctor. She never had any kind of checkup, and she went with undiagnosed heart disease and died very suddenly while I was talking to her on the telephone at the very young age of 58. It’s very, very important for you to put yourself first, put your health first, so you can take care of your children and be here to see them grow up.”

Dr. Phil explains that it’s a good lesson for her kids too, that it’s not selfish to take care of her children’s mother.

[AD]“You’re absolutely right,” Debbie says.

Dr. Phil has some surprises in store for Debbie.


But the surprises don’t stop there! “Come with me,” Dr. Phil says, taking her hand and leading her outside.

Debbie lays eyes on her 2012 Dodge Journey!