Some help to heal, caring for an abusive parent.

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As a caregiver of my 69 year old sociopath mother, who developed early onset Alzheimer's and Frontal Lobe Dementia we figure about 6-7 years ago, but we were only able to get her diagnosed Dec 2012, I have personally gone through an emotional roller coaster since she moved in with me and my family a year and a half ago.

As it turns out, people with mental illness's like my mothers and I'm sure others like bi polar disorders, narcissism etc, often don't loose these attributes but rather it intensifies with the onset of the dementia because it is actually a very strong personality trait, according to my Neurologist they see this happen with these personality types, and it usually does not change even with the loss of memory.

Reading through so many blogs, articles and forums about how to deal with a person with Dementia I noticed a great deal of concern for the caregivers and always we are told to take care of ourselves.

We are also told that as the loved one with dementia progress's we may discover abusive behaviors and they will often be verbally abusive to the caregiver, but one must not take it personally and understand it is the dementia.

For those of us that have been victims of abuse by a person with mental/social illness's, this last statement means something else, and by putting up with and accepting the abusive behaviors from the said person (usually a parent) we are damaging ourselves deeper and deeper, opening up old wounds that have never healed right.

I think that it is imperative for those of us that are dealing with this on a daily basis and often alone, that we find a way to deal with our inner person and begin to heal or re heal and recover from the harm that was done to us over the years.

This is important as caregivers, not just for us, but also for our parents/loved ones, because if we are not dealing with things well, then they are not being cared for well either and I think maybe in the end we might find forgiveness within us, which seems to be essential in lasting healing for ourselves and for closer as they pass on and leave us behind.

To that end I'd like to share some of the things that have helped me along the way, and maybe they might help you too...or at least let you know that you indeed are not alone.

About 20 years ago I turned on my TV in the middle of a John Bradshaw series on PBS.
I often watched PBS, but had never seen this guy before and he was doing one of his series on abuse in the family although I don't remember which one it was.

It has been so long ago now that I don't remember all of the details, but what it did for me truly changed my life in a major way.

The first thing that stood out was that I was abused as a child and that I was still being abused and I discovered that some of my behaviors were directly linked to that abuse. This was huge because at that point, I was in my early 20's and had no real idea that what I experienced during my childhood all the way up to that day had been in fact, abuse from my Mother.

I also discovered that it was important to break the chain of abuse so that my family would not be subject to that abuse, and being so young and no prospects on the horizon I figured it was a good idea.

Also very key was discovering the concept of Toxic Shame and Toxic Guilt. Toxic Shame is what I will write a bit about now for you.

“Toxic shame: describes false, pathological shame, and John Bradshaw states that toxic shame is induced, inside children, by all forms of child abuse. Incest and other forms of child sexual abuse can cause particularly severe toxic shame. Toxic shame often induces what is known as complex trauma in children who cannot cope with toxic shaming as it occurs and who dissociate the shame until it is possible to cope with.” http://artandpopularculture.com/Shame

I've also discovered that some people are calling it Core Shame, but it's the same thing.

But I have to say that I was always acting and reacting out of Shame and really I felt like I was worthless, not capable of doing anything right, not worthy of anyone’s love or compassion and a big one was I honestly thought I was completely without intelligence, so could never amount to much.

This series of TV specials that John Bradshaw did in those days really opened my eyes and gave me something solid to work from and understand why I acted the way I didn't and that in fact it wasn't actually my fault, but rather I was a victim of this abuse, but it was up to me to change that, to eliminate the Toxic Shame and to stop being the victim...to heal myself.

There is a lot of information on the net about Toxic Shame and Core Shame and many different approach’s to healing it.

Each of us is different and experienced different things in our childhoods so what works for one may not work for another.

I want to finish by saying you an amazing person ... Big Hugs go out to all of you.

13 Comments

I wrote the above piece late at night and it doesn't make as much sense as I was hoping...so if your interested...here is the edited version. :)

As a caregiver of my 69 year old mother, who developed early onset Alzheimer's and Frontal Lobe Dementia about 6-7 years ago, I have come to realize there are some challenges that are different than most peoples experiences.

To start off, she's been a sociopath her entire life. As it turns out, people with mental illness's like my mothers and I'm sure others like bi polar disorders, narcissism etc, often don't loose these attributes but rather it intensifies with the onset of the dementia because it is actually a very strong personality trait. According to my mother's Neurologist, they see this happen with these personality types and it usually does not change even with the loss of memory.

This often makes an early diagnosis difficult, not only because the person refuses to be looked at, because, of course, they believe nothing is wrong, but the behaviors and personality changes are not as obvious.

Reading through so many blogs, articles and forums about how to deal with a person with Dementia I noticed a great deal of concern for the caregivers and we are told to take care of ourselves.

We are also told that as the loved one with dementia progress's with the disease, we may discover abusive behaviors. They will often be verbally abusive to the caregiver, however, one must not take it personally and understand it is the dementia.

For those of us that have been victims of abuse by a person with mental/social illness's, this last statement means something else. It means we are expected to accept abuse from our abuser and no matter how hard I've tried, and to a limited degree succeeded, I can't see it as anything but continued abuse...just like before.

I think that it is imperative for those of us that are dealing with this on a daily basis, and often alone, that we find a way to deal with our inner person and begin to heal or re heal and recover from the harm that was done to us over the years.

My journey to healing started 20+ years ago when I turned on my TV in the middle of a John Bradshaw series on PBS.

I often watched PBS, but had never seen this guy before and he was doing one of his series on abuse in the family, although I don't remember which one it was.

The first thing that stood out was that I was abused as a child and that I was still being abused. I also discovered that some of my behaviors were directly linked to that abuse.

This was huge, because at that point, I was in my early 20's and had no real idea that what I experienced during my childhood, all the way up to that day, was abuse from my Mother.

I also discovered that it was important to break the chain of abuse so that my family would not be subject to that abuse, and being so young and no prospects on the horizon I figured it was a good idea.

Also, very key, was discovering the concept of Toxic Shame and Toxic Guilt.

“Toxic shame: describes false, pathological shame, and John Bradshaw states that toxic shame is induced, inside children, by all forms of child abuse. Incest and other forms of child sexual abuse can cause particularly severe toxic shame. Toxic shame often induces what is known as complex trauma in children who cannot cope with toxic shaming as it occurs and who dissociate the shame until it is possible to cope with.” artandpopularculture/Shame

I've also discovered that some people are calling it Core Shame, but it's the same thing.

I have to say that I was consistently acting and reacting out of Shame. I felt like I was worthless and not capable of doing anything right. I did not feel worthy of anyone’s love or compassion and a big one was, I honestly thought I was completely without intelligence, so could never amount to much.

John Bradshaw really opened my eyes and gave me something solid to work from and a better understand of why I acted the way I did. That in fact, it wasn't actually my fault but rather I was a victim of this abuse.

However, it was up to me to change that, to eliminate the Toxic Shame and to stop being the victim...to heal myself.

Today I am not a victim of my Mother's or anyone else s abusive ways. Which isn't saying that I don't have self worth issues, or some of the behaviors that come from being traumatized for many years, but I'm not a victim of it and have not been for many years.

My sincere hope is that by sharing these things, that maybe, it might help others deal with what is happening now, and what has happened in the past.

It is so easy to be angry about it, and believe me, I have my moments. Ultimately, I believe that by understanding the mental/social illness's our parent/s had and the subsequent issues we have due to their illness, we can relieve some of the pain, shame and guilt we have carried around with us for years and maybe find some facet of peace within.
Thanks for sharing this info. with us. I've heard that narcissists are one of the worst personality disorders, and it seems as if so many of the personality disorders are intertwined.
Yes Whitney, narcissism does seem to accompany most of these disorders, it seems to be the part that does not allow for compassion for others which is key to healthy relationships IMHO.



Our Mother early on set herself up as being "queen" and all of her seven children were programmed at the onset when entering our family that we had better submit to her harsh authority or there would be h*ll to pay. Our father, was a blue collar worker and was out of town most of our early childhood years; leaving our mother alone to oversee us.

When he would return from out of state, we would be petrified because our mother would paint this horrid picture of what she had to endure being left with us, and the beatings would commence. I have vivid memories of being a toddler hiding under a bed to keep from being whipped with a belt for things our mother Had to "endure" while left alone with us.

Our father, loved our mother dearly and was devoted to her. He himself was a victim of harsh child abuse and he dealt with the narcisstic domineering personality of our mother the only way he knew how, and that was to submit to bidding. Right before our Father died, many of us stepped forward to tell him of the many years we endured the abuse from our mother. He just hung his head and said he had no idea what was happening and kept saying how sorry he was. There were many, many red flags over the years, and of my six siblings all of us have been affected in different ways. My oldest brother, who was forced into being a surrogate father when our Dad was away, and took the brunt of many brutal beatings from our father, is now angry most of the time, and lashes out at anything and anyone who comes close to him. I call him the wounded bear. He wants to be loved, but all the pain makes him keep people at a distance. Our mother now lives with him and his wife. He hovers over our mother and is very protective of her. I look at this with pity, because I know he this because he feels obligated to her, because she is our mother. This feeling is something she instilled in us early on with statements she would yell at us; "I'm your mother! You'd better listen to me, or you'll regret it when your father gets home"! Our oldest brother and sister became our parents, and really had no childhood.

Unfortunately, there were favorites among our parents and it was obvious growing up. Our mother would "reward" her favorites and ignore or berate the ones who she didn't feel we're giving her the attention she deserved. It goes on even to this day. Because two of or brothers and one sister have chosen not to continue to allow her to abuse them, she has written them out of her will. Of course our two oldest siblings have taken great offense at the siblings who have done this and support our mother in her decision.

I can't point fingers of judgement at them since this is the way they have been programmed by our Mother for years; show me unconditional love and snap to when I say so and you will be rewarded by me. They just don't see how manipulated they are by her. No child should live their lives being made to feel that the only love that they will receive from their parents is if they yield themselves to conform to someone else's depiction of what good is.
Danna24 -
"No child should live their lives being made to feel that the only love that they will receive from their parents is if they yield themselves to conform to someone else's depiction of what good is." I am standing and applauding you! And am more sorry than I can say about your siblings' ongoing willingness to be abused and manipulated by your mother. I came out of an extremely lightweight version of your family (not nearly as bad, but core functioning similar), and my husband very recently out of one with a much more insidious set of parental dysfunction (no beatings, but nasty and warped emotional/spiritual abuse and the demand he satisfy emotional needs unmet by his father, who died last year.) We are now in guarded but civil contact with my parents, and are in a stated time of no contact with my mother-in-law. We both know what it feels like to be in that programmed state, trying to be a good son or daughter, trying to make everything better by continuously forgiving and overlooking the manipulation and abuse. But sometimes, it's not until you take a long break from it that you can become free of the brainwashing and toxic mental/emotional habits. I'm so glad you have been able to do that.
Wow. My husband suffered at the hands of a woman very much like you describe. His brother was the favorite. His dad became an abusive drunk at her hands. My husband left when he was 18. Now at almost 60 he still has so much. anger and trust issues. His brother died of schirrosis from drinking. His mother told him the wrong son died. His dad passed from Alzheimer's but made peace with my hubby before the end. Mom is now in a nursing home. I am her POA and hubby forces himself to visit but cannot even hug her. He loathes the very sight of her. All those years of abuse have taken a toll on him. I pray for his healing. Thank you for sharing your experience. God bless you.
You're right Nancy! What is so heartbreaking is that my Mother has accomplished what she wanted in her sick demented way. As we were growing up she allowed and even incited hostility among us siblings, and pitted us against one another. She was in her glory if she could cause a rift between us.

For the longest time, I was considered the "big mouth" of the family until I figured out that our Mother was using me to find out things she wasn't being told by my other siblings. She would engage me in conversations as if she knew what was going on and me, being none the wiser, would feed her information that I assumed she already knew. My siblings would ask her who she was talking to and she would gladly tell them I was the tale bearer. My mother and I's relationship became strained after that when I told her if she wanted to know things to ask my siblings directly; because I was aware that she was using me and then throwing me under the bus. To this day my siblings are very guarded with me regarding private matters, because of the stigma my Mother labeled me with among them. I don't blame them, I've just learned the hard way how manipulative our Mother is.

I have to admit that our two oldest siblings have fallen into the "guilt minded mentality" and everything that happened in the past, and that was carried into the future is met with, "but she's our Mother". Just because a woman gives birth does NOT make her a mother. A mother is someone who lays down her life and denies her needs and wants to see that her children have to thrive physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. By saying this I DO NOT mean by any way, shape, or form that she is to sweep her needs under the carpet, but she needs to establish a "healthy" balance between herself and her children's needs.

As we grew and developed interests out side our home, our Mothers influence stunted us psychology and emotionally. She was very, very guarded with us and we weren't allowed to develop close friendships. If we were invited to parties, or social events, most of the time we weren't allowed to go because, one if it meant a gift had to be bought, we never had the money, or two, if it was an event that had an admission fee, we could only attend if our admission was free, being paid by someone else, or our Mother liked the person who invited us, which was a rarity. It wasn't until much later in my life, that I realized that this was our Mothers way of controlling that anything that happened in our home, stayed in our home!

There were days and weeks of going to school without a lunch or being given money to buy a lunch. My sisters and I learned very quickly not to take subjects in High School that would require us to have to buy necessary supplies for projects we would be graded on such: as material for a sewing project in Home-Ec, or required additional manuals other than the standard ones given for a corse. Mother would not get us the necessary supplies or pay for the study material. Yet, our parents over the years, had multiple homes, and made multiple mortgage payments so that when the time came, they had the money in the bank to pay cash for their retirement home.

One might say that was commendable accomplishment for our parents. However, our Father usually walked around without a dime in his pocket and literally begged our mother for money if he wanted or needed something. He would only get money IF our mother decided that what he wanted was necessary or something she could benefit from also. After leaving home, all of us would give our Father money, so if he was out and wanted a cup of coffee or soda he would have money for himself to buy it. Mother caught on to it and he ended up giving her what we snuck to him!

Making a very long story shorter, the ending of this story is still playing out, as our Mother is still very much alive and celebrated her 88th birthday recently. Anyone with any reasoning ability can see through the narcissistic manipulation and mental illness we endured at the hands of our mother. Our Father, God bless him, never knew from one day to the next, how to keep her happy, and she sucked the very life out of him. His taking his last breath was his freedom from being controlled every waking hour since he married her. She calculated and made sure she controlled all of their finances and personal positions. When she talked about what they owned it was always expressed as "my car, my house, my RV, my boat, my .. My... My, you get the picture! Dad died and she got everything he worked so hard all his life for. She sold the house and it's contents at auction, as this was what our Father had set up prior to his death because Mother refused to disperse anything equally among the siblings in a will. She wanted everything in her control until the very end. Once again trying to make us dance around her and give into her incessant and tiring roller coaster of insane behavior. I had to really do some soul searching and ask the little girl deep inside me if she wanted to come out from the protective hedge she's placed herself behind, to grovel for the crumbs our mother will throw at me when she deems me worthy. To this, I square my shoulders, and hold my head high, and I steel myself for the onslaught of emotions that will come with the passing of our mother, and take a deep breath and exhale all the guilt, worthlessness, & feelings of not ever being good enough. I will let my other sibling divide the spoils of the queen and her kingdom. To assert myself and demand what I feel would be rightfully mine would be falling back into her web of calculated turmoil that she so loved to place us all in while she was alive. I will no longer be controlled by her selfishness, to do so would be to accept her mental illness as my own.
I too grew up with a harsh mother and now I am the only one taking care of her. I have PTSD as result of her behavior. I am seeing a therapist and making a lot of head way. but I have to deal with her personality everyday. I am here because no one else would. I do not hate this woman, I feel very sorry for her. no one cares about what happens to her, but me. She will never find the peace I am getting closer to everyday. I have no advise for anyone but to say, with professional help, if you can afford it, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a freight train. All that I thought I was (or wasn't) is what she programmed in to me. I am taking it all back and ending the insanity I lived in for 18 years before I was old enough to leave.
she is one miserable human and she always has been. being miserable is what makes sense to her and always has. she creates hateful situations between family members and then she sits back and enjoys the show. I can't stop that behavior, but I no longer am a player. She plays alone now, and doesn't know she is alone in her game. I feel very sorry for her. she is who she is and she has no sense of remorse when she hurts someone. She doesn't cry because she doesn't feel sadness. Sadness is for weak people she will tell you. She knows the difference between what is right and what is wrong, but she doesn't care, as long as the outcome of the situation is in her favor. These personality "traits" are becoming more noticeable. She doesn't sleep all night she naps and wonders the house while awake. She only eats sweets, tomato anything, and eggs. I am just venting here, because this thread struck a cord with me. I will be years "healing" what she did and I am willing to go the length to get better. I don't "hate" this woman, I care what happens to her. She deserves to be cared for and cared about. She will never love me as her daughter, she doesn't know how to do that. that is not why I stay. I stay because the woman should be with family as long as possible. thank you Everyone on this site. You are all gentle kind people, we have all been victims on some level. thank you for listening to my babble
You need to call adult protective services before someone else does on you first!
I had a very similar thing happen! I was Grandma's favorite, I did notice My Father and Uncle could just not take 1 minute of her antics, and I couldn't have ever imagined feeling so about My sweet dear Nana in a million years.
3.8 years was more than enough time to go from what we were to I am an abuser and cut out of a 2 mil trust fund I was 50% of for years. As the agreement I deferred payment to after her demise should there be funds left,
which I was sure however she was never sure regardless of 1 mil or 2 mil!
She bought a home with a claw foot tub in the worst area so bad she would never let me leave !and the claw foot tub was never used or replaced in 2 years, she never bathed too cheap to buy a shower, this was not crazy to me as she was the shot caller so long it slowly degraded to craziness and her telling everyone I was abusive 3 months before she dies.
Forget a will or trust, get a payable on death account or IOU etc
creditors come first and no guarentees with trsts nobody over sees any of the affairs and many are ilegally done.

get a POA or do not consider another day.
Make sure everyone knows what is going on! she might tell a neighbor you did something bad! get everything in writing and get POA or forget it all responsibility with no control is always a bad idea!

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