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I am not Jess, but I also have a mom who is essentially miserable, but can show her nice side when it suits her.  Here is what I have figured out so far, in case it helps you.
  • Moms like ours base their lives almost entirely on their feelings (which can change from moment to moment, often without a warning) and on their internal scripts (which are their version of reality based on their wounded view of life.)
  • They only know how to deal with life by being a victim or a persecutor or a rescuer, depending on what their feelings dictate.  (These dysfunctional roles are from the Karpman Drama Triangle).  Our job has always been to take the role they assigned to us based on what they felt at the moment. 
  • If they are happy, we may not see their dysfunctional side.  If they are not happy, all bets are off. 
  • They cannot handle intimacy, because they are ashamed of themselves.  They react poorly to the people closest to them because they make them feel unsafe. 
  • They also cannot show genuine empathy because it feels painful to them.  It feels unsafe to give of themselves unless they are getting something in return (attention, praise, control, etc.)
  • They don't know how to authentically love because it is too scary to be vulnerable or trusting.
  • They are emotionally immature and never learned how to process their emotions or manage their chaotic minds. They cope by controlling, manipulating, raging and other unhealthy mechanisms.
  • We grew up with their dysfunctional modeling and views of life and reacted to it as best we could.  Those of us who  became codependent "pleasers" thought we could make them happy if we obeyed them.  We had no idea that that was never a possibility or that it was their job to soothe themselves and deal with life.
  • Their illness makes them see things from a completely one-sided perspective. 
  • Because we are their children, we have developed our own issues.  The only gift of having them in our lives is that we can grow and become more virtuous and have opportunities to authentically love, even as we recognize that with them, love is probably not coming back at us in return.  This is ultimately a tragedy for them, as being unable to love must be so torturous.
  • Their dysfunction can push us to our physical, emotional and mental limits, which only creates two broken people. 
  • While they definitely give us many reasons to leave (which may be the right choice), we also may choose to stay for practical and spiritual reasons.  It is a choice either way.  If we maintain contact, we must proceed with caution and protect ourselves.  You cannot maintain contact unless you are fully healed are are very centered in who you are and what you value.

If we choose to stay in contact:
  • We must be whole.
  • We must radically accept their limits and not expect what they cannot give. 
  • We must have strong boundaries.
  • We must have a strong arsenal of tools to deal with their dysfunction.
  • We must accept that no matter what we do, there will always be another crisis.  They crave drama and neediness, and we need to accept that as long as they live (unless they get help), this will forever be an ongoing process. 
  • Addressing their individual "wants" at the moment does not usually solve the problem or fulfill their true needs.  When we enable them by trying to meet their unreasonable requests, it usually contributes to their issues and validates in their minds that the problems are as they see them.  It also validates in their minds that their approach is the proper process to getting what they need (i.e. they rage or do some other dysfunctional things when they cannot handle their emotions and we respond by trying to read their minds, fix things, comfort them, and oblige them.) Thus, our perceived “nice” responses actually perpetuate their issues.
  • Without therapy, they will always want us to CONTINUALLY meet their needs.  We need to override their process and recognize that the true goal if we stay in contact is to create a space for healing for both of us.   For me, this means not making things worse, having healthy boundaries, being who I am, and giving opportunities in the relationship for true healing.
  • We cannot fix our relationship with them.  It takes two for a relationship.  All we can do is provide an environment for something potentially good to happen. 
  • We can see them with eyes of compassion. They are broken.  They are hurting.  They have chaotic minds.  Compassion does not mean letting their chaotic minds dictate our actions, though.  What dictates our actions is our own moral compass.
  • We do not help matters by being "nice", rescuing them or giving them dysfunctional things they claim they need.  We help by seeing what is best for them and for us.  And sometimes that means having a lot of distance.
  • One of the casualties of having a disordered parent like this is respect. 

Here is what has helped me have compassion for my mother:
  • I recognize that she is deeply afraid and ashamed.
  • She doesn't respect herself or others.
  • Her toxicity will never be addressed because she is too afraid to face herself
  • She is hurting and all she knows how to do with these feelings is hurt others, dump emotions on others, hide the feelings or get others to manage the feelings for her.
Here is what has helped me have compassion for myself:
  • I will not pretend that her behavior is acceptable.
  • I accept that detachment is the only way to handle being in her presence.
  • I accept the truth that I was abused, and I will heal those aspects of my life.
  • I will make my own choices and manage my own feelings.
  • I cannot make myself feel something I do not.  (I have no sentimental warm feelings when it comes to my mother.) 
  • I can enjoy her good qualities but do not have to stick around when I am not comfortable.
  • I can learn to handle her anger/tantrums/guilt trips and not let them bother me.
  • I can become stronger by seeing the truth, taking care of myself, recognize my reality, getting support, and owning my life.
  • I can see that my mother is a scary person who needed me to be weak, but instead of letting her scare me into weakness, I will now use that energy to heal myself.

I hope I wasn't too long winded.  Good luck!
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Good info thx
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So, I'm in this same situation.  the N-mother.  She is injured with a broken shoulder.  She has a list of medical problems a mile long.  Right now she's unsafe at home and even her doctors agree.  She says if I make her go to a "home" she'll kill herself.  She guilts me daily, "I've taken care of everyone my whole life"  "I'm just a piece of S ##T now"  and on and on and on.  I cry daily, I cry now!  Does someone, SOMEWHERE have real advice on how to handle this?
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Send her to the home, like yourself and don't let her guilt you. Stand strong and see counselor. You' ve done nothing wrong even if send her to home.
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Guilt tripping is a form of control from the other person or society in general. Don't let it take hold.
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To the comment on 3/7.  I'm sorry I don't know your name.  I am definitely no expert.  The one piece of advice I have is do NOT move her into your house.  You may feel guilty about moving her to some type of assisted living, but I think you feel better, even if she tries to make you feel guilty, because you'll know she's being taken care of.  If she's in your home, she'll make your life miserable and then, at some point, you still will need to move her somewhere.  

Growing up I thought my Mom and I had a great relationship, so I didn't see a problem in moving her into my house when I felt she should no longer live alone.  Since my daughter moved out last year, there is only my Mom and me in my house.  She no longer has only memory issues, but also dementia which I never really knew much about.  Her negativity really comes out now.  It doesn't matter that we used to get along or that she used to tell me what a great person I was or how much she loved me.  She thinks I've change, that I moved her into my house without discussing it with her and she didn't want to move, that my daughter took some of her things without asking, that I'm doing things with her money even though she asked me to invest it, that I had her dog put to sleep for no reason.  I too cry a lot.  I wake up not wanting to get up or when it's time to leave work, I don't want to go home.  I've now started feeling sick often and my blood pressure is through the roof.  So, please, don't even consider moving her into your house.  No good will come from that.  I wish you the very best in working through this problem and hope that very soon you won't feel like crying about it.
frustrated and falling apart
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pixie, get her moved out then before you get ill

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Why is it so difficult to do what should be done - moving a parent out of your house?  I know you're right -- that I need to move my Mom out in order for me to stay healthy.  Any suggestions to make it easier to do and not feel like the bad daughter? 
frustrated and falling apart
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Splotchy, that's just brilliant. Thank you so much, and to everyone who posts here as well.

My mother (classic BPD) is in a nursing home since December with congestive heart failure, and she is working on me for plan B... "Maybe you'll have a change of heart by next week and will give me a couple of good years." (Do this do that do this do that, and by the way, you're an idiot.)

Your wisdom on this forum has been a godsend for me. I'm dropping the guilt, one day at a time! ~moineau

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The guilt often tries to creep back into my life as well, but I have to work hard at remembering some key truths:

- The elders in my life are going through a normal stage of life (the aging and dying process) and it is not my job to prevent it, change it, or protect them from that reality
- My role during this stage is to love them as best as I can and make sure their needs are met, but I do not have the power to turn back time and deposit them into an earlier stage of life that they liked better
- It won't help them if I am destroyed (by stress, by guilt, by exhaustion), and my demise is absolutely not part of any spiritual duty to honor and love them
- They have a choice to either embrace the reality of this stage, with all its pain and losses, or resist it and create more havoc in their lives
- Just because they refuse to accept reality, that doesn't mean I have to.

I recently read a really interesting article about an author named Kathleen Dowling Singh that you may enjoy. I haven't read any of her books yet, but she writes about aging and dying in "The Grace in Aging" and "The Grace in Dying."   The reference to her came from a spiritual blog, so if that is not your thing you may want to skip it.  Here is the link:

Anyway, I think a lot of our disordered parents have this misguided notion that just because they have ruled the roost and controlled everything in their lives up until now, they will somehow be able to continue to control their lives as they age.  Yet, that is completely contrary to the "natural letting go" that accompanies the aging and dying process. 

So I am simultaneously trying to have compassion for my mother during this phase (because I cannot imagine how scary it must be to get stripped of everything you previously had in life), while I see intellectually that this process is necessary (and even valuable) to make the next phase (dying) easier. 

I have heard psychologists say that adolescents often rebel to make the process of separating from their parents easier, so perhaps all the drama and tantrums of our elders will ultimately have the same result. When I am not in the midst of crisis (which these days is rare!), I choose to philosophically assume that this may be my mother's way of letting go.

In any case, I hope the stress and strain of care-giving doesn't wear you out too much!  

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nice! thank you, splotchy. as the article said, god is going to get us one way or another. i enjoyed the article.

i had a dream last night about my mom and a "home" magazine. i woke up from the dream, it was 6am, and i had a revelation. the main focus of my mom's life was her home, apt, wherever she lived; it was always beautiful, quality, usually more than she could afford, but whatever! it was her raison d'être. she loved it when people would visit and admire her handiwork.

well, that's gone and with it, her raison d'être. she was angry, still is, but she is also weeping quite a bit. since that dream, i have felt more compassion for her and less judgment. she's grieving and she's doing it... as painful as that is for her and for me to watch.

looked at from the perspective of that article, she's "letting go"...

thanks again. ~moineau xooxoxox



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Thank you so much Splotchy and Moineat. I am setting healthy boundaries with my mom. She just lost her husband of 27 years two weeks ago. He was a good step dad but he was an enabler. My mom is now playing my sister and I against each other to meet her needs. My mom doesn't drive and is in poor health. I stood up to her and told her what I would do and what I would not do for her. She did not like that. She wants to be in control and dictate when and by whom something is done. This is not by first dance with her. I have not shared much about her with my own adult children. My children do not seem to get it. Any thoughts on how to break the cycle? It feels good to know that I am not alone.

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Older daughter, I'm so glad you wrote, which took me back to this forum. My mom died on January 26th. We had a great healing in our relationship thanks to this forum and a book I found within its posts, "Understanding the Borderline Mother." Without that book, my mother and much of my own life would have remained a mystery to me and I am not sure I could have done what I did over the last year without falling apart. Instead, I loved myself and healed, as well as loving my mother and fulfilling a promise I made to her: to help her cross over to the other side.

For me, the most important thing I did for myself and for my mother during this process was to set boundaries. I visited her once a week and I telephoned her once in between. I was able to put together a wonderful palliative care team for her. I did not try to meet her every need, but I did do a lot. I spoke with each of the team members weekly, advocated for her medical and spiritual care, shopped for her, and cooked a beautiful home-cooked meal for her. I got her new dentures and glasses after they were lost. I read to her from the New Yorker and other articles every week. We listened to the music she loved. And I was blessed to be with her when she died a relatively peaceful death. She kept calling her own mama to take her home and then she just went to sleep. She was ready.

She was never happy in the nursing home but she did embrace several of the staff. I knew from years before that I could never live with her and I held that boundary. It was crucial for both of us, even when she wanted to believe otherwise. I do not feel badly about this. No one person could ever meet my mother's needs, especially the last few years. I would not abuse myself by trying. I watched others try and fail.

I am so grateful that I researched and found this forum! And I encourage you to ask yourself first and foremost, how can I love and take care of myself? And keep asking it. Don't expect your mother to change. Just love yourself.

Best, ~Laura (moineau)

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I am happy to hear that you had a peaceful ending with your mom. That is what I am praying for as well. Some days, it seems like a distant dream, but I still hold out hope that miracles can happen!

Older daughter,
My own adult children (and other people in my life) only really began to understand what was going on with my mother when her behavior began to directly affect them.  For many years, I tried to shield them from the fallout, but as they got older, they began to experience things firsthand (the rages, the unfair treatment, the odd behavior, the victimhood, etc.) and it became clear to them that something was very wrong with her. 

At first, it's very comforting to have other people see just how difficult things are, but often people's gut reaction is to distance themselves from situations that are challenging, and that's exactly what my children (and most everyone else) did.    

On one level, I am happy that my kids have better boundaries than I do, but it sure is painful to have to manage things more or less alone because no one else wants to deal with things. And even though I have pretty good boundaries these days, the sad reality is that often we end up having messes to manage as a result of our untreated mentally ill parents' choices. 

Among my parents' tragic legacy is that they created a very fractured, broken family.  And even though I did not do what my parents did, I did bring many dysfunctional things into my children's lives, largely because I didn't know how to respond to toxic people.  So, despite my best efforts, I didn't fully break the cycle.  However, I have been willing to admit my mistakes and try to improve, so I think that has to count for something.  

In my opinion, untreated mental illnesses have many devastating effects on families, and these effects can last for generations.   As moineau/Laura mentioned, often the best thing we can do is take care of ourselves and not let the poison infect one more person. The trick, at least for me, has been to accept that life with parents like ours is going to be messy, so I cannot expect a simple life that others may have been blessed with.  I can hold out hope, though, that my particular life can hold many beautiful blessing and opportunities.

....Sort of like having rainbows after storms....

So these days, I search for rainbows a lot....

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Well said, Splotchy. Thank you so much for everything you have shared on this forum. I am banished by my two sons, 39- and 33-yrs-old. I thought I was mending with my eldest but last Saturday, he raged at me and threw me out of his house. Untreated mental illness. Life is not easy, but it's worth it. Twelve step recovery and my spiritual practice save my life everyday. And truth. And beauty. And joy. I have to keep the focus on Laura. ~moineau
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