Some help to heal, caring for an abusive parent.


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.”

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 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.

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.


50's totally deserve a hug for this (((Hugs))).

The key is to understand that it isn't your fault your mom was the way she was. You didn't cause it, you didn't make her the way she was.

The biggest issue is accepting that when all of your life you have taken the blame and internalized it as you say...and how can you let that go.

There is a difference between feeling that you are somehow responsible for the issues your mother had and being Compassionate towards your mother as she was.

We can feel deep compassion and Love for a person no matter what they have done and can even understand that they are not always in control of their actions, but it does't mean that they get to put the responsibility for what they have done onto someone is still theirs.

I think most of the time we end up feeling bad because we do feel for them and do to an extent understand that it is a mental then we feel guilty for feeling angry, or not being able to deal with it in a perfect compassionate and loving manner.

I know it's hard to separate ourselves from their experience but truly it is so important to do so.

For myself it has already been a long journey, and I have to really watch myself because that deep seeded sense of Shame and Guilt still comes up from time to time but I've learned some different methods of bringing myself out of it, and if I am having a particularly hard time I talk to my husband and he talks me down.

Of course having mom here 24/7 for the past year and a half really stress's that situation, so it can be fun.

Something I believe is that no person is essentially evil...but their personalities are such that they are abusive to the extreme...but they don't even realize this most of the time. The best I've ever gotten from my mom is that she may not have been the best mom....but you know I did it all for you kids (this would be the shifting blame for the abuse onto us).

So glad you shared.

The things to remember:

You are not responsible for the behavior of your mother or her mental Illness.

You deserve as much compassion as you give others.

You are truly Loved just because you are.

You deserve a good life always.


This is long, so click through if you don't want to read a Dostoyevsky Chapter. My mother was abusive, always seemed in a rage or pre-rage state and we children could feel it like the ions before a thunderstorm. Every morning approaching the kitchen was like wondering if you’d trip a bomb. She didn’t drink, she simply was perhaps afflicted with manic-depression or ambulatory schizophrenia or malicious narcissim or who knows as it was never formally diagnosed. And this is no joke, as bombs were hidden in the house, and Mom often threatened to burn the house down. My older brother reacted with shooting guns at parents when he finally came of age and took her on. This hurts to share, but I cannot blame anyone because mental illness is like an artists’ creation, helping the ill one survive something that for them is untenable. Thinking of the parents of Elliott Rogers, this is more than a social or psychological problem, this is epic for the families it victimizes. Sure, putting them away will indeed help everyone. But what if you love them and there are huge kernals of truth and pity you see for them in their interpretation of the world? You cannot easily put family members away (I tried many times with my brother and was too ignorant to realize my Mother was the real terrorist). How much patience and love do you give? Mom’s attention to us was complete and ferocious, and as children we simply internalized her disapprovals, rages, manic acting out as being our fault, as we didn’t try hard enough or read her mind precociously enough. So I relate to “Some Help To Heal” in ways I don’t yet understand. Mom’s detached head keeps appearing in the lovely summer sky, and I know I have PTSD. I know the terror I would feel when looking into her eyes. I know she drilled into my soul like the most frightening Scarlett Letter Minister, “condemning” me as she was fond of saying with a laugh so that outsiders wouldn’t know she really meant it. During “caretaking” her (which was from 2000 miles away but I visited for two weeks at a time twice a year and everything else by phone), I was constantly told to “mind my own business” though it was apparent Dad could no longer manage their business. But Dad would plea to me for help. The guilt got to me so much I retired early and moved back (thank God my husband insisted on 150 miles away). I then walked Razor’s Edges with her, attempting to Help. Prickly fish help, thanked only when she knew it was taking a huge toll (I have lymphoma). Perhaps just as much to assuage my own guilt for escaping across the country, as well as human compassion for a woman who cut off all her sources of contact. I always tried, tried to look the other way, to realize she was a much more damaged soul than I – but how do you deal with an 89-year-old, arms bruised from god-knows-what, telling me “We lost you when you were eight years old” with such anger in her eyes, telling me again and again without the actual words that I betrayed her. I betrayed her in death, as she lay dying, and feel the rest of my life I will carry such sorrow that only she could have released me from. But she couldn’t, because she didn’t live on my plane, she was in a world that I can only imagine was paranoid and frightened and bitter that she gave so much and in the end, what she gave me and her vigilant family beside her is that “You are all crazy.” That’s what she told every friend and family member she cut off over the years. That was her comfort I guess. Uproar. Like so many of you have shared, she seemed to feed off of stirring up hornet’s nests, be it in the community, school, neighbors, government offices, restaurants, church, whatever – always vicious battles with Principalities. My sister and I used to joke that we would swap out “Favored Nation Status” in Mom’s eyes, and we got to be able to predict precipitators while competing for the Favor. However, it is as though Mom put a pox on us upon her death, and the toxins we are now dealing with have taken away the awareness and humor sis and I used to share. Both of us maybe grieving that the little carrots she so cleverly alluded to – wound up dissipated, stinking smoke like her two-pack-a-day habit. A day before she died, when able to talk freely and relaxed because of Morphine, I got up the courage to ask her why she smoked (everyone but me in our family got COPD, adult-onset asthma, etc.) – she said, “It calms me.” I now know she needed more than tobacco for self-medication, but I guess it got her through. I think she actually enjoyed blowing the smoke in our faces and watching us squirm as she told us we were “ungrateful %@@in kids” before assuming a Katherine Hepburn pose and arrogantly asking, “What IS a Mother?” It feels like the sword of Michael cutting through me every time I think of her and wonder what the H%^@ happened. With my Dad’s Cadillac insurance, she let the teeth rot out of her head and told us it was because she was sacrificing for us. We wore rags to the extent my Dad commented, “Why do we all have to wear rags?” Mom said it was because all other people were “condemned” for their narcissism. Talk about projection, eh? So perhaps, “Helping To Heal” did indeed open up new chapters of understanding, and perhaps Mom intended that. With Morphine, she was easier to talk to. She did let a few things out she never did before. For me, it just gaped open the unknown about my Mom, and ripped the lovely stitches out of my patched up world. But the truly weird thing is that I’m sadly glad. Maybe because she is now free (I remember feeling joy when my brother killed himself), and I want to believe I helped make that transition as comfortable as possible. I failed her in life. But maybe I wasn’t 100% evil. Mom would say accusingly -- “Who are you doing this for -- you or me?” I could not answer that question. But I know my compassion is growing for her, even as I have more and more nightmares. Wishing I knew every one of you. Thank you for listening and your rich sharing.

Thank you everybody that shared your stories...what a help. I think when we are going through these things in our lives we just don't know how many people are going through similar circumstances and it is very healing, at least for me, to read your experiences.

My big thing is about the healing when ever I can get my head above water...this week has been very stressful with mom.

My mom was harsh when she was around and a good deal of the time she was not around so my brother and I had to fend for ourselves.

She would, for example, decide to do something with us, like cooking and she would be all happy dancing around and we would be laughing and enjoying this, then suddenly something would make her snap...not ever sure what it would be and she would get this look on her face and suddenly I'm be smacked across the face.

She would say it was the way I looked at her or I didn't do something quite was always sudden and unexpected.

It was like anything that made me happy, or any achievement that I actually had was not acceptable.

She used to flirt with my male friends and my boyfriends and she would suggest they wanted her not really creeped them out...and made me madder then heck!

My brother was the lucky happened much less with him...she favored him, although he got smacked a few times too...but he found ways to get away...still I was the brunt of it through the years.

That is just one thing, but it was one thing that was very debilitating to me and my self esteem.

My mom stopped hitting me when I was 18 years old and really I had not lived with her since she kicked me out onto the street when I was 15...but she had enticed me to come back home at 18 years.

I had learned in those three years to be street smart and how to defend myself, so when that look came on her face and her hand went up I grabbed her arm and my fist was almost connected to her face when I caught myself happened so fast and was instinctual at the time.

I never did hit fact I was mortified at the thought, but shaking I told her to never raise her hand to me again. I think it freaked her out solid and only a few times after that when that look came on her face ... I looked at her with the I wouldn't do that if I were you look and she stopped.

I hate that that happened at all...and wish life would have been is so against my nature to be that way, but I suppose when you are in a state of trauma and survival for so long you end up doing of being who you need to be to survive it.

I have to say those survival stratifies have been part of my life the past year and half since she has lived with me, and just now I'm starting to find my way back to my more authentic self while being able to access them as needed.

About 4 weeks ago we were out at payless shoes, she was all annoyed and pacing around and there was a mother in there with a three year old that wouldn't sit still...I had my three year old with me as well...she was actually being pretty good...but the mom yelled at the child a couple of times and my mom got all upset.

She has suddenly gotten where if there are young children around and the parent gives them heck or they start to cry she gets nasty mad and sites the parent is abusive...regardless of the situation.

So then the little girl ended up getting a smack on the butt...the mother was at the end of her rope...I so understand this...having been there and done that on occasion with three kids.

We are in the line to get pay and mom decides to confront this already distraught women and tell her that she was abusive and what she did was wrong!

OMG...I told mom to stop and she started advancing to this women ... it was bad...I had to physically remove my mom out of the store...apologies to the women and purchased my shoes.

So sometimes it gets like that...I wish I didn't have to take her with me because of these types of things. but it is what it is at the moment.

This week she is wanting to escape us and her situation...she has no way to do so and is getting angry...arguing ... being nasty. It comes in cycles...every few weeks

Anyhow...I'm trying to go with the flow this time around, but it is difficult. I hope today will be a better day.

(((Hugs))) to everyone. I really hope it helps you as much as myself to share and to know that it wasn't us that were the issues...but rather our parents. There is no Shame to surviving.

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!

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.

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'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.

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.

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.

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.

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.