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.