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You've all heard me whine before. Backstory: Mom is a 92-year-old with mixed dementia, mid-stage, with narcissistic personality disorder. The dementia was diagnosed 1-1/2 years ago but symptoms observed for 9 or 10 years. Mom received extensive testing from a neuropsychologist and staged 5 - 6. Dad was ill, in denial of Mom's dementia, and both refused help. Dad passed about the time of Mom's diagnosis when we placed her in memory care, which she hates. I am her POA and primary caregiver, though sis helps enormously. Mom sees me as the scapegoat demon child ever since I refused to be her primary source of narcissistic supply. I am nothing to her but an occasional means to get what she wants and the source of all her problems. She does not love me and has told me so. Her toxicity forced me to adopt a low-contact strategy to preserve health and sanity. Friends here encouraged me to emotionally distance myself. Excellent advice.


Here's my dilemma: In distancing myself emotionally I seem to have lost my compassion. Don't get me wrong. I see to her needs (Dr. appointments primarily), everything else from a distance if at all possible. Wonderful sis takes up the slack in furnishing outings, visits on a regular basis. Mom is less hateful with sis. Mom's endless complaints hit my armor and bounce off. They make you wait 30 minutes for breakfast? Too bad. Is the coffee weak? Oh, well. Are you bored, despite a minimum of 2-3 outings a week of going to church or taken out by myself or sis, or facility-provided bus outings)? Cry me a river. She's never satisfied and always a victim. Craves pity and attention. Totally self-absorbed; emotionally a 2-year-old.


In distancing myself, I feel better. Blood pressure has gone down. Sleeplessness abated. Anxiety-related health issues improved. But I hate myself for being so cold hearted. I feel no compassion. (Mom was forever and always manipulative, self absorbed, and abusive, compounded now by dementia.) Sometimes I hate myself for wishing she would die. I'm afraid if I soften my heart toward her, the anxiety-related health problems will return. Does it all have to be one way or the other? Help

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It sounds like maybe you are viewing your healthy detachment and setting boundaries with your mom as being cold-hearted. It doesn't sound cold to me, it sounds healthy.

You can care for someone but in the end if they are toxic it is sometimes necessary to keep your emotional distance for your own sanity.

I think I've pretty much come to terms with the fact that my mother is not capable and never has been really, of loving me like a "normal" mom. She sees me as someone to run her errands, meet her needs, and take care of HER. No real consideration for my needs, those of my kids (her grandkids), etc. She is an emotional vampire in a very real sense.

I think for years I tried to "fix" or "save" mom. I thought, if I did this, or that, or was a "better" daughter, she might get better and be the mom I never had.

Sadly, it's not been that way, and in all likelihood won't be. I do what I can for her, partly because I do care, partly out of a sense of obligation, and partly out of pity, because she IS sick, and I really don't think she has any awareness as to how she is. But I do what I feel I can do, and I set limits with her. One being that I could not care for her long-term in my home. Mom cries to come back home with me to my house.

I do still struggle with guilt sometimes, but then I remember how she was here, and what my family and I had to deal with, and I remember that I made a good choice.

Stay strong. Just because you set limits with your mom doesn't mean you don't care. It just means you said enough is enough.
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to FrazzledMama
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I think Frazzled said it very well, you are confused about what compassion really is. Getting yourself all worked up about every negative comment and jumping to fix things isn't compassion, it's a conditioned response that you have been taught. Setting boundaries doesn't necessarily mean you lack compassion, it just means you can finally step away and deal with true needs instead of wants and demands.
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Reply to cwillie
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I think you must do what is proving best for you. My mother is kind but is having numerous health problems. She hasnt taken care of her health for years. I take her to all the doctors. I have had several bouts of depression regarding all this. I can feel guilt at times and a great deal of anxiety that comes in waves. But I distance myself to a degree because I tried for decades to help her without a positive outcome. From all you indicate If I were you in this situation I would distance myself as much as possible. You do not deserve to be abused which seems to be the case and I cant imagine that changing. If there is another sibling who does not receive the same treatment let them shoulder the burden. No one deserves to remain in an abusive relationship no matter the relation.
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Reply to Riverdale
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Wow, Great insight all the way around!

Can't, if you saw a kid abusing a dog, wouldn't you take the dog away to save him? Of course you would.

What if later on you saw the same kid fall and scrape his knee, wouldn't you help him? Of course you would.

So you haven't lost your compassion. Neither for the abusive kid nor as a human being. Right? But would you then give the dog back to the boy? No way.

So how is it different if you remove yourself from Mom's abuse, yet continue to take care of her while she's sick, and unable to care for herself?

Also, I wouldn't beat myself up over resenting Mom and not liking her. Hell she's not likeable! And it's about time you put yourself first. You finally see your worth more then that. (And a 🐕 dog)

Here's something to think about when the guilt starts....

Why is it that you wouldn't think twice about rescuing and protecting a dog. But when you do it for YOURSELF, you think there's something wrong with that.....and you.
No.
Self preservation & self care are very healthy mindsets. You are A-OKAY!! 💖🌷🌼🤗
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Reply to Pepsee
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Thanks for your responses. It looks like I'm confusing self-preservation with a lack of compassion.

I'm recovering from a lifetime of parenting my mother. Any dysfunction a child lives with from birth feels "normal," and healthy self-preservation just doesn't, until the "child" sees the dysfunction for what it is.

Mom is sick and will never recover. I'm getting well.
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Reply to CantDance
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Wonder if my comment was posted or not? Anyway, I wrote that I find the other comments to decrease my guilt and resentment. Time to take care of myself. Thanks.
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Reply to Na2beards
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I did the exact same thing to preserve my sanity and my mom was the same way as yours. It also helped me to think of her as a sick child to keep my sanity as well. She finally passed away and I was glad I separated myself for self sanity. Your feelings are validated.
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Reply to CrazyMamaBear
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As there is very less humanity is left in the people, thus who work for the betterment of the other people must be honored. One of my friends recommended me to look at this website www.mission-humanitaire-afrique.org to join as a volunteer as and work for the betterment of the poor people and gain the rich experience in humanity. Thus though volunteering for a good cause can help to retain the humanity.
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Reply to TerryWalker
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Keep in mind that you are acting to care for your mother and supporting your sister.  This IS compassion, not flowery words, but real actions. And that is what matters.   Emotions are just emotions and for us humans, emotions are all over the place. It is what we do that is important. Remember the Bible story: father asks 2 sons to go work in the fields. One son say yes, but never actually goes. The other son says no, but thinks better of it and goes to work. Who actually did what the father wanted? The son who actually went.
Sounds to me that you are being very patient.  Your mother sounds a nasty person to be around - it is only human to be repelled by selfishness. But you DO the right thing.
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Reply to rovana
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