Post-traumatic, narcissistic Mom, alcoholic step-dad and emotionally dependent parents.

Started by

After a recent mild stroke, two years ago now, my narcissistic mother is using the experience to manipulate my brother and I. The stroke was so mild that it has not left her with any physical disabilities. She is not even weaker on one side. The only damage is to her speech. She immediately stopped the speech therapy because she said that it was not helping. The truth is, she didn't try because she doesn't want to get well. She needs a reason for her children to feel sorry for her and come do whatever she wants us to do. She has been enabling an alcoholic husband for the past 50 years and now wants us to take that over! She has cleaned up after him when he gets too drunk to control his urine and bowel urges and now wants someone else to do it. She just sits on the couch and is angry all of the time. My mother also has post-traumatic stress from the early childhood loss of her mother. She has played a major role in the dissolution of any relationships that I tried to form with anyone! My brother has never been married because he is afraid of intimacy because of our examples.

My brother and I are trying to cope and know that the next step is either home care or assisted living because my father won't take care of himself (because he has never had to) and the only way that my mother knows to get her way is to try to convince us that she can't do the things that she used to do. She has not made any effort to get back to a state of normalcy since the stroke. She is not physically disabled in any way.

I guess I just need to know that I am not alone and coping advice for the bouts with guilt and pity for them. We are trying to establish the right boundaries, while being sensitive to what they really "do" need.


Has she been evaluated for vascular dementia?
mbmarc, this sounds like a good situation to back out of. Besides being an alcoholic, is there anything physically wrong with your father that makes him require a caregiver? If he doesn't require one, and your mother is okay physically, then I would not adopt a caregiving role to enable the problems that are going on in the home.
Do you or your brother live with your folks? If not, it should be easier to set limits on how much you get sucked into their dysfunction. You can support them in healthy ways, but not enable them to remain dysfunctional.

But don't be surprised if they'd rather stay where they are - in denial and dysfunction. But that's their script and doesn't have to by yours or your brother's. It sounds like you can be a good support for each other.
Thanks everyone for the feedback and responses. I appreciate it. She hasn't been evaluated for dementia, but that is a next step we have been discussing. Dad doesn't require a caregiver, he just gets plastered before bed every night. He makes sure that she is fed and takes her meds though. My brother moved in because he was having some remodeling work done at his house and has been there for a year now. I have to help him cope some days, but he has been working a lot of extra hours so that he doesn't have to spend a lot of time with them in the evenings. They want me there. I have always been the obedient daughter and have never said No. They are shocked and would rather believe that my brother is influencing me than credit me for having a mind of my own. My brother has no problem setting boundaries with them, but the emotionally dysfunctional atmosphere is hard to ignore if you are around it for any period of time. We are our only support. Most of our other family members are just as dysfunctional so don't see anything wrong with it. They definitely are more comfortable where they are. Mom blames Dad for everything that is wrong and he just takes it! Its so sad and it does help to know that we aren't the only ones experiencing this.
Mbmarc - stay strong and stay away from living with them!! It sounds like your brother can manage them and set limits. You can support from afar. Good for you for standing up and saying "no" to moving in with them! Come back here and keep us posted on how you're doing.
Thank you to everyone on this forum! I've read some of the other discussion strings and see a lot of good, supportive advice. This is a God-send for me! Bless all of the wonderful people in this forum! I feel good knowing that my feelings about this are not selfish. I have been burdened with my mother's emotional dependence for as long as I can remember and for the first time, I am able to see how destructive it has been to our family and individual lives. She demeans my step-dad but we defend him because he is a very broken man. Nobody outside of our immediate family, only a couple of other aunts know how my mother is and can be. Everyone thinks she is a saint and she really knows how to play the part publicly for the church family. There is still a good heart there, but she can be a deceptive, manipulative, judgmental and severely unaccountable person! My brother and I realize that she has rarely, if ever said that she was "sorry" for anything that she was wrong about. She always lived through me, but she also lives through anyone that she can...since she retired about 8 yrs ago, she no longer has any personal interests (she used to read and did things with my aunts) and she doesn't seem to identify with anything around "her" or her independent experiences. As I said, she acknowledges and knows that she has had a stroke. She wants the world to think that she is physically disabled from it, but she is not. She has not put any energy into trying to get back to being independent. She is completely obsessed with Dad's alcoholism and I've noticed she seems to have increased anxiety when he goes through his ritual of getting completely drunk every night (takes him about 2-3 hours). She wants her children to save her from her internal misery, but we know that "she" is the reason for it. She has never known how to accept herself and has struggled with low self-esteem all her life. Again, we know that some of her problems go back to her childhood loss of her mother. I do think that there is dementia-related behavior, because I also sense that she is struggling. Its hard to know when she is being manipulative or when she really is "confused." We know that there is residual stroke behavior. It is so hard seeing her breaking down this way and as you all know, the biggest struggle is in not getting sucked into her plan to use the stroke to become completely dependent on my brother and me when she is still physically able. She has Dad waiting on her and no matter what he does, its not good enough. She is emotionally and verbally abusive to him. We stopped being her punching bag a long time ago and because she wants us around her all of the time, she is careful with how she talks to us. She shuts down and won't talk when we tick her off. I know that we will learn to cope with this because I am a believer. This experience has taught me more about myself than you can imagine and I am also healing. My brother as well. We are thankful for this adversity, because we will be stronger people on the other side. Be blessed to all!

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support