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I have checked in on my nutty almost 90 yo mom from time to time. My dad died of ALZ two years ago and she has (to be fair to her, natural) become worse since then but does nothing to help herself. My one brothers thinks my dad never had ALZ but after 60 years with a nut case his system just fried out. I am guessing he had ALZ but she exacerbated it


I can try to divide her issues into two: 1) an anxiety level that medical and mental health professionals have termed as "through the roof," "off the charts," etc. This anxiety tires everyone out as she just vents it on every one in her way. Her doctor told me she spends ten minutes with my mom and is worn out, she doesn't know how I put up with her


My mom had a pelvic fracture last year and during rehab they assigned a psychological nurse to her, who recommended her doctor prescribe a more potent medication. My mom takes (or is supposed to take) prozac, but this nurse said prozac for my mom is like trying to treat a brain tumor with two aspirin. Her doctor would not prescribe is as I think as a GP she is out of her comfort zone in the more heavy duty psych drugs, also I think was miffed a nurse tried to tell her what to do, but the final issue is she said, Karsten, what difference does it make? She won't take it anyway. And she is right. Whenever my mom gets a med she reads every word of those disclaimers and as you know they warn you of all kind of potential things that COULD happen though rarely do.


This past week a brother from out of state came in and along with another brother we tried to clear out her house of all the junk, papers, advertisements and coupons from the seventies, 50 42 gallon contractor bags of just JUNK. That was hard enough in itself, but she was around and bugged us and vented her anxiety on us so we could not even work well. By the end of the week I lost car keys two times and cursed and yelled at a waiter who made a mistake on the bill in a restaurant. I am no saint but have never done that, and just being around her just wears you out psychologically.


That is with everyone, the anxiety and hyperness.


The issue that is exhibited only with me is a demandingness, lack of appreciation and basic attitude I am her slave. I had a forced early retirement but fortunately I am financially OK so don't need a job, but she thinks I am available 7/24. She lives in an independent living facility that has a van to take you to appointments yet she refuses to use it, thinking I should take her everywhere. I guess that is my fault as I had been giving in but now am drawing the line., But then she tells me how much I must hate her, etc


I don't want to hate my mom but I am getting too. She and my dad were good parents when youngers in the sense they sacrificed financially to take us on vacations, put us in scouting, sports, good Christmases, etc. So she has done good things and I want to honor that but I really resent her.


Instead of appreciating what I do do, she just demands more and tells me how much her friends kids do for them. (they don't do nearly as much as I do, as one brother lives out of state and the other has his own issues, so it is me)


I have decided she will never change on the demanding, unappreciative, petulant bratty infant behavior. If I want to stay in her life I will have to accept that. But I can set boundaries and will.


But the high anxiety issue? I dont know what to do about that? She will not go to therapy or take drugs. I suppose I could draw boundaries there and refuse to help unless she gets therapy but she wont go Ten minutes with her wears me out, several days in a row causes me to lose weight, lose things (wondering if I have dementia myself, even though not quite sixty yet) yell at people, etc. I suppose like the selfish behavior, I could just prove to put up with it. My younger brother says I am going to crack, and he used to say that more symbolically. Now I am wondering if I really will go nuts from her.

Karsten, I just read your most recent post and wanted to say congratulations! You have just successfully set your first boundary with your mum, about the van. No one said it would be easy, and doing it the first time is hardest IMO, as it feels unnatural after a lifetime of giving in and saying yes, and also you undoubtedly will incur the wrath of your mother who for once is not getting her own way and is therefore shocked and furious. You were absolutely right to hold firm, not give in, and not engage with the rage that followed. Think of this as the beginning of liberating yourself from her controlling behaviour. Take small steps at a time, picking off more boundaries you are going to set, be prepared for the rages and outbursts but STAY FIRM! I’m also sorry it saddens you so much to feel that your mother doesn’t care about your feelings or about making things any easier for you. That is the classic narcissist in her and it is not your fault, nor are you deficient in any way because she is like this. My mother is exactly like yours (even to the point of making the same complaints about the dial-a-ride that she can use to get to town, doctors, hospitals etc) and yes, I spent many years wondering what was wrong with me and how I could be a better daughter. When someone told me about narcissistic behaviour and I looked it up, it was absolutely my mother, even down to the words and phrases she would use against me. First I felt terribly shocked about the revelation but then I came to realise it wasn’t me, there was nothing wrong with me and I didn’t have to suffer the abuse any longer. I’ve been setting boundaries over the past 5 years or so (yes, it is an ongoing process), have withstood the rages, petulance and revenge-type behaviour but have stayed firm and am healthier for it. I hope this empowers you to do the same.
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Kirsten, two responses to complaints about the van:

1. Oh dear.

2. So take a book.

This was a struggle because you are negotiating your role in transporting her to appointments. But you need *have* no role in taking her to appointments. She has a perfectly good means of getting there. The best thing you can do is provide invisible support for van use, for example by monitoring her appointments and making sure her slot is booked in good time.

Is it mildly inconvenient to her that the total round trip time - including waiting, detours to drop off and collect fellow passengers etc. - will be, say, five hours rather than three? Sure. It is inconvenient; but there's nothing stopping her making use of the extra time by knitting, reading, chatting...

Sympathise with her that using the van is not the same bespoke service as you get when you take your own car (or *cab*, let's not forget) or exploit your own children. But there's nothing wrong with it, except that she can't be arsed to book it and put up with the small drawbacks of having to share.

Here is the boundary.

Suppose your mother were in terrible pain, and sitting still or being bounced around for any length of time would be a serious matter. Then of *course* you would either take her yourself, packing plenty of cushions, or you would organise individual medical transport for her. She would come to identifiable harm without.

Her being obliged to join in with other people for a morning and to carry out one small admin task will do her not the slightest harm. That's the boundary. Will this hurt her, yes or no?

Don't discuss, don't explain. Decide for yourself and tell her the plan - nicely!

You're not going to take me anywhere?
Of course I am, I enjoy our trips out. Not this one, though; we'll book the van.
But I'll have to wait all morning - !
Tsk, it's a shame they don't leave more promptly; but they will get you to your appointment in good time.
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Karsten Aug 5, 2020
thanks for the good advice again.
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Thank you to everybody for taking the time to respond and give me good advice.

I thought it was funny as many people said read the book Boundaries. I ordered that book a couple of years back and began reading it and thought, yea, yea, yea, know all that, and in a sense I do.

But to BarbinBrooklyns point, I know it but still dont do it.

And I do not expect anyone to respond but an example is today. She started talking about the van again, say ign it is not always available, you have to leave earlier than you would want to, come back later than you want to, etc. I was about to start with the her time is no more valuable than mine, in other words, trying to explain the logic

Then I backed off and decided not to do that. I simply said, if a medical or dental appointment is less than six miles (the limit of the facility van) you will take it. She said you are not going to take me anywhere? I said I did not say that. I said in the cases where it is less than six miles you will take it, other cases I can deal with (even then, if I was working I would not even be able to do that)

When she seemed to realize I was not playing games, she got almost in panic attack mode, or like Dustin HOffman got in Rainman in his weird situation

Then even I thought, couldnt I do that to make her happy? So still this huge thing in me that just enables her.

But I am holding my ground and she is freaking out. She makes things blackand white. Like I will always help her or never. I said I didnt say that I will help you in cases where you need it

What bothers me more thaneven the work of helpingher is that shewould not on her own want to make things easier for me. Like if she thought, if in some and certain times I can make things easier for Karsten by taking the van, I will, as I do not want to burden him. But she does not think that. I would want her to think that.
Her mom was a saint, never wanted to burden anyone,etc. She would have been happy to take the van. But my mom? She has no interest in making things just a bit easier for me. I never told her I would abandon her altogether.
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Karsten, your writeup shows the mind of an extremely intelligent and organized person with a whole lot of insight into so many things. You have not allowed your Mom to enter your home; that is smart. You have done with your family what can be done with her home, even though it was overwhelming. You express so well and so rationally what may have happened with your Father. And you express that your Mom has always had these severe issues, and will not really address them. You have been to doctors and they are in your corner.
So all in all I think you have this. You know, and you say you know that you are unlikely to be able to get her to take her medications, so in all likelihood there is no help for your Mom. Your Mom is in care, and that is wonderful because most people in our country with this severity of illness end their lives on the street with families who have thrown up their hands in surrender after years of trying and no results.
So you have this. You know you need boundaries and you do. When Mom needs an appointment then she goes on her assisted living van, just as though you were 1,000 miles away. Or she doesn't go at all.
Get a good book on boundaries. There are dozens of them and one is actually named Boundaries.
You have this. You understand it. You know what you can do and what you cannot. And you live with the constant foment and frustration of who your Mom is. You will have to limit contact with her for your own good. The effect on your Mom is, quite honestly, not of a whole lot of interest to me. She is exhibiting what happens when you co bad behavior. And even those who are mentally impaired, as she is, DO get that. When I used to be floated to the Psych Unit it was amazing to me how much acting out could stop on a dime when people understood that continuing to do it got them into isolation and away from the Nurse's Station, where it was a whole lot more fun.
Wishing you good luck. What a tough thing for your family to deal with. But it does sound that with such a dysfunctional Mom you have all come out VERY functional, and I congratulate you on the strength to have done that.
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So, I have a mother like yours, unfortunately, so I can relate. I can also tell you that HER knowing you're retired is a big mistake. Tell her you got a new job working full time *or whatever* that starts next week and you're no longer available for phone calls or visits until X day and time each week. Period. That's what I do. I retired in March but my mother believes I work full time which lets me off the hook for her incessant demands of my time. She uses the same BS guilt-inducing and infantile "you must hate me" remarks that your mother uses on you.

What this does is it emotionally exhausts us. When I was a child, I used to tell her, can you please just BEAT ME UP and get it over with? So I can have some PEACE in my life instead of suffering through The Silent Treatment or the 100 other torturous techniques shes used (and still uses) to manipulate me and get her way. These women get inside our heads; they plant themselves there like a fungus that doesn't go away no matter WHAT you try to do.

So the answer lies in how to manage them. What lies need to be told so that WE can maintain OUR sanity in the midst of their continuous insanity. Thru the roof anxiety levels have been referred to as 'nervousness' in my mother for 63 years now. My father used to threaten to put me in a convent b/c I was making my mother so NERVOUS. I used to beg him, DO IT DAD! Can we leave tomorrow? It never happened, unfortunately, I had to wait until I was 18 to move out and find some freedom from the mind games.

The pain of mind games is much worse, in my opinion, than physical pain. Which is not to discount or minimize physical abuse that someone has suffered; not at ALL. Neither form of abuse is good or acceptable, but there is just something about emotional abuse that stays inside one's head and wreaks havoc in there; there's no escape, you know?

Decide right here and now that you will not 'crack' and you will not be going nuts from her. That you will read up on the subject of Covert Passive Aggressive Narcissism which I have a feeling you will find a lot to relate to: https://lifelessons.co/personal-development/covertpassiveaggressivenarcissist/

I know I did. Did it fix the issues with my mother? No, of course not. But it gave me validation that what I'm feeling is due to HER mental instability and it gave me some techniques of my own to use against her. The main take away is Limited Contact if you can't/won't go No Contact. Limited Contact means YOU choose the playing field; the time, the place, the length of the visit or the phone call. That YOU hang up when the nonsense gets too great, as I do: Goodbye mother, I will speak to you at another time when you are in a better mood. That you leave her presence when the ugliness reaches too high a level. You don't deserve to be disrespected, no matter HOW hard she tries to convince you otherwise. YOUR life is just as valuable as HER life, even though she is your mother. One human life is not worth more than another human life, even when one of those lives gave birth to the other. Respect works two ways. Remove yourself from the toxic cesspool and make it a point to respect YOURSELF by doing so. Set boundaries and stick to them like glue.

And pray. I do every day, and somehow, some way, God gives me the strength to get up and do it again. Amen.
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elaine1962 Aug 3, 2020
Awww, thank you lealonnie. Yes, I have taken BIG steps. I have been on this Aging Care site since last September and everyone's advice is FINALLY sinking in my head!! But I love your statement about FUNGUS. They are in our heads like FUNGUS. Plant themselves there. But I have come to find out that by letting go of my Mother because lets be honest, she is very independent. Does her own bills, orders and takes her own meds, takes call a bus to go grocery shopping. She does these things all by herself at 96 years old. So by me letting go and seeing and talking to her once a week, the FUNGUS as started to fall off, little by little. We actually laughed on the phone from 12am-3am in the morning. Belly laughs!! But that's because i'm her daughter. Daughter only.
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Your mother sounds like my mother. Emotionally draining to be around. Emotionally exhausting!! You need to back off from her. That’s what I did. Stop caregiving and start being her daughter. What’s the difference? Don’t take her to appointments. Let her take the van. My mom takes call a bus and she’s 96 and lives home alone in her house. Stop taking her calls. Visit with her as a daughter once a week. That’s what I’m doing. Once a week. I don’t call her during the week. I visit as a DAUGHTER once a week. I don’t touch anything in her hoarded house. I don’t empty her pot in her potty chair anymore. My son goes over a couple times a week to bring in mail and take out garbage. If he didn’t do it she would pay a neighborhood kid to do it. She said she is not going anywhere. She will die in her home. My mother has undiagnosed mental illness but she has her mind. She is competent. She pays all her bills all by herself. She orders her medication and takes them all by herself. During Covid 19,my son was bringing her groceries but now she goes out on call a bus twice a week and does it herself. I went to visit my mother for 3 hours last night and everything was fine. Then she knew I would be up late at night because I work the overnight shift she called me at midnight about an obituary that lead to us talking and laughing about other people until 3am. I had fun talking to her. I’m finally her daughter again, NOT her caregiver, NOT her boss, NOT telling her what she can and can’t do, NOT treating her like a child. I use to do all of that, but NOT anymore. Also, my mother lives in her hoarded 2 story house at 96 years old. She won’t let me clean it. I gave up years ago trying to clean her house. My name is not on the deed of her house. My mothers name and her name only is on the deed of the house. My brother came up for a visit last Sunday and we sat in the kitchen in folding chairs for 4 hours. We had a nice chat with her as daughter and son. Then we left.
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lealonnie1 Aug 3, 2020
That's a very profound statement you made, Elaine. "I'm finally her daughter again, NOT her caregiver, NOT her boss, NOT telling her what she can and can't do, NOT treating her like a child." You figured out how to deal with her and that's HUGE! BRAVO!!! :)
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So, Karsten, are you getting the same message from all of us AND from your therapist? That for your own physical health and sanity, you MUST back off?

Tell us why you are hesitant to do that.
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Karsten Aug 3, 2020
I guess it goes back to a guilt thing. If I feel I let her down I think that I am hurting her, and she has been a good mother in some ways growing up

The therapist told me the false belief there is that her life/well being is more important than mine.

But i think I am learning and progressing, but in answer to your question I think it is guilt Lots of good advice here toda y for which I am appreciative, and no problem if people thought i was a woman.
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Karsten, if your mom would not be "independent" unless you were around, then you are propping her up and enabling a false "independence".

If you die, would she be able to remain where she is? If no, then you need to step back and let the professionals get her into the level of care she actually needs.

Why on earth was she at her former residence while you and your bothers were cleaning it out? Because she demanded to be?

Are you able to say "no, Mom, thats not possible" to her?
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Karsten Aug 3, 2020
once again the therapist I talked today on zoom said same thing about propping her up
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Karsten, I watched a bunch of videos on "Covert" narcissism on You Tube. It was just like taking classes!
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lealonnie1 Aug 3, 2020
It's a doozie, huh? Here's a great article on 25 signs of a Covert Passive- Aggressive Narcissist I found super informative and useful:

https://lifelessons.co/personal-development/covertpassiveaggressivenarcissist/
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Karsten, sorry to hear how difficult this is for you. As others have said, setting boundaries is most important for your health and to allow you to live your own life. My elderly mother is very similar, and lives with us, which just makes things worse as I cannot get away easily. However, when this all reached a crisis point in my health a few years ago, I sat down and wrote a (long!) list of all her behaviours and the scenarios that were making me ill. I then tried to write a possible solution alongside each one, which can be the beginning of setting boundaries. It was also useful to try and write down and rehearse stock phrases and responses I could say when things got bad. These could be as simple as “I’m doing my best”, or a firm “please don’t speak to me like this”, or a “please don’t distract me right now, I’m very busy”. You don’t have to expand on these or explain yourself, just say the sentence in a firm and non emotional manner. I’ve posted before about cutting off the oxygen of attention when the rages and bad behaviour start. In my case I might exit the room or get on with something else and ignore it. In your case you could decide to put the phone down when the behaviour gets too much for you, or take a deep breath and walk out of the room as I have done. At first I felt terribly rude and guilty about doing this, but it has become normal for me now and I am all the better for it. To put this into context, I’ve had a particularly difficult day today, with around 15-20 interruptions throughout the day, when I’ve been really really busy multitasking and where if I break off I forget what I’ve been doing and will have to start again. My polite answer all day has been”not now please, I’m very busy”. I have therefore managed to get everything done in a reasonable time instead of still doing things at midnight as was the case before. It turns out none of these things were important or relevant - for example, one was about needing an eye test next February!! Hope you find some of these ideas helpful - it’s important to take control of the situation rather than let it control you. Good luck!
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Are you sure she is not Bi-Polar? It took my cousin till her 40s to be diagnosed. She describes as her mind going constantly. She self medicated with alcohol. Narcissists tend to be verbally abusive. Its never their fault, its yours.

I would think being high anxiety all the time would cause BP problems and maybe other health problems.
I suggest finding out if a neurologist can help her or a psychiatrist. She may find that medication would make her feel so much better. I can't imagine being like this all the time.
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Part of the boundaries you so desperately need to put in place, and the book is great, is to stop defending or explaining yourself at all to mom or brothers. Decide what you will and won’t do, stick to only that and don’t bend, and most importantly, don’t explain, don’t get caught in any conversation about it. That’s what will leave you angry, frustrated, and feeling used and powerless. You’ll feel better about both the situation and yourself when you state (sometimes only to yourself) what you will and won’t be involved with and know that’s the end of any talk of it. If mom talks of it, hang up or leave. Have literally none of it, this will empower you so much, and make the anxiety you feel diminish greatly. You call the shots, like a real grown up! Best to you!
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Karsten Aug 3, 2020
Kind of funny. I just got off a zoom session with therapist

He said exactly what you did. I have this false belief that I can explain things. But I cannot as she operates only in the emotional world and not logical. All explaining does is drag on the conversation and give her more stuff to fret over. So just say, I am nto coming today. Dont say I am not coming because I have been there eight days in a row and need a break, that will not matter to her. Just say no.
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Karsten, have you read the book "Boundaries" by Townsend and Cloud?

It sounds to me as though you still have this expectation that mom will change and acknowledge your efforts. I think that is unrealistic.

The only thing you can change is YOUR behavior and your expectations.

What if you said to yourself (or to your therapist): "my mom suffers from unspecified mental illness. I want to be available to help her, but I need to balance that need with the imperative that I need to protect my own mental health".

How would your plan to help mom look if it followed those principles?
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Karsten, once you've said you're going (or hanging up, or leaving the room, whichever applies) - you go. Your mother then has no option but to stop, on account of your not being able to hear her; and you won't be driven to use harsher language than you'd like to.
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Wow--you could be talking about my MIL, except for the hoarding thing.

She is impossible to spend more than 1 hr with before I am in tears or have stomped out, furious at her.

DH just sits there, as she abuses me, up down and sideways.

Since I am DIL, I have the 'luck' of simply walking away and stating in no uncertain terms our relationship is OVER. Which I finally did, 44 years too late, but the freedom of not having to even listen to her whiny voice, her constant complaints and negativity--it's worth the anger my DH feels as he thinks we're in this 'together'. When I asked him when the last time was he even SAW my mother, he had to admit it had been YEARS. Why he cannot visit his mom for 1 hr every other week is HIS problem.

It was not worth my sanity to deal with her and her hyper anxiety about EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD. I also have anxiety and she'd trigger me into a full blown panic attack.

If she cannot understand--due to dementia or if this is just 'her being her'..really, only you can make the change.

Dh has learned boundaries, but not how to deal with the intense pain of her anger after he sees her. I would tell him to cut her off completely, but that would leave 100% of the care to his sister, who does not need the grief.

If my MIL lived in a IL, she would have One visitor and one only. DH would happily never speak to her again.

So sad. People have choices to be nice/mean and all in the in betweens--it's so hard to have angry, hostile parents when you yourself are in your late 60's. Just doesn't seem fair, does it?
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Yes, could you explain what you mean by ‘high anxiety’? Suggestions on how to respond really do depend on a bit more detail.

In terms of her demands and unappreciative behavior, I hope that you have had lots of input on ‘boundaries’ and ‘grey rock’. If this is your fourth post on the same thing, have you had any success implementing the previous responses?

You say that she is in an IL, but is she really independent? If she is only coping because of all the work you are doing propping her up, the main boundary you need is to stop. Let her get help from people whose job it is. Perhaps you can go back to being a daughter, not an unpaid aide or a punching bag.
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polarbear Aug 3, 2020
.MargaretMcken, Karsten is a son.
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Try the boundaries first. Where are you planning to put them?

Also, try being truthful with your mother. E.g. "Mom, you are getting on my nerves. I love you dearly but I am going home now, and I will come and see you again on Friday."

I have observed with some "challenging" individuals that people pussy-foot around them rather and do not name the unacceptable behaviours such as completely unreasonable demands/timescales, slanders, groundless self-pity etc. Telling it like it is can sometimes reconnect you with the underlying person who used to be normally well-adjusted. Don't try it on a genuine narcissist unless you want to be thrown out of her social circle (every cloud has its silver lining...), but with others I've known it work.
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Karsten Aug 3, 2020
Like always very good advice from you. One problem is I try this nicely and it doesnt work. (your first sentence) Not until I am very firm, almost angry does she stop, or only once I have scolded her like a child. Then I feel guilty.

People here have said my mom was a narcisisist. I know she has anxiety/OCD but never thought that as she is not really flamboyant. But they tell me there is a covert narcicism which maybe she is
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Karsten - oh boy! I would crack too if I had a mother like yours.

Yes, I agree with you 100%. You need BOUNDARIES and now.

Can you give examples of what she does as a result of her anxiety that causes you so much stress?
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Karsten Aug 3, 2020
One thing is constant questioning. When my brothers and I were cleaning the house out she interrupts me all the time with what she believes is an important question, but for her is just an unanswered question (though I have answered it several times) and unanswered questions are anxiety. People think she is losing her memory as she asks same question over and over. And she may be. But she had done this her whole life. The reason I know is the fifth time she asks the same questions, I give a different answer. She will than ask why the answer is different than other times. I believe her OCD makes he keep asking a question just as others might keep checking if hte door is locked (which she does) or the iron is off (which she does) She wants to be sure

But the questions not only annoy me, (and she asks them in a rapid fire machine gun way like a prosecutor badgering a witness (her dad used to say she shoudl be a lawyer, I can see why) but in interuppt what we are doing We are trying to clean out the house for HER, yet she interuppts, and says it is important and just one question (though it is never one question) and if you are trying to work for one hour and a person interupts you with a question five times, it is not just the five minutes of questions, it you dont get anything done. So in this case here is a crux like all of it: She believes whatever she needs, in this case answers to questions) is more important that whatever I am doing And even my brothers who know shes nuts, see that for some reason I take the brunt of it and am her primary whipping post. I have seen a therapist now and then over the years and he says basically, I am her anxiety pill. Whenever she is anxious, she harrasses me to lessen her anxiety.

I think een when she needs physical work from me or errands, it is more just an excuse to not be alone.
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Karsten, you do have to practice and then commit to saying NO. She is sucking the life out of you, and for what? To feed her anxiety? She is still well enough to take care of herself to the point where she refuses medication. So when she calls you and goes off on an anxious rant you could tell her, "Mom, we've been over this a million times. I'll talk to you once you've settled down." And then hang up. You have to act in your own best interest. You know all this already but it's time to actually take your own advice.
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Karsten great big hug!

I totally understand that her gaslighting makes you question your own sanity.

I feel like a woodpecker is having a go at my very soul when I have to deal with my mom.

Boundaries are your best friend where she is concerned.

You know that she says her garbage to manipulate you, just ignore it or have some fun with it. Like telling her to call her friends wonderful kids when she needs something.

Remember, NO. It is a complete sentence.
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