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I lost my house, my retirement savings, my youth, my strong back, my health... all for an ungrateful, woman that can not tell the difference between needs and wants. She just happened to give birth to me.  She never loved me, never will.  Though I still love her, I will always make sure she has the option of good care.  Just not by my hand, or bank account.
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Equality-letting go

You were fortunate that your s slipped which allowed you to have the epiphany that she was controlling you. Nmom once shrieked "When I did that before you always did what I wanted!"

It is shocking to discover that manipulation is the force driving the relationship, not love, not caring.
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Third Sister - Letting go

Wow, Letting Go, it sounds like your older sister and mine are two peas from the same pod.  My sister would get so offended when I disagreed with her as to "our" (meaning "my") obligations to Mom.  She complained "You're not listening to a word I say.  You're disputing me on every point!"  Like she has the great knowledge delivered from On High, when in fact it was the exact same situation here - she was worried about how it would affect HER if I stopped being the full-time unpaid servant Mom needs to satisfy her every wish and whim.

I never thought I owed this to my older sister (or my Mom) but my sister did/does.  My sister was sickly as a child and remains in somewhat fragile health to this day, and she seems to believe that in order to spare her any stress and strain, I should shoulder the burden of caring for Mom without complaining and without any help from her.  She has scolded me that I ought to be grateful for my own good health.  Grateful enough, apparently, to become Mom's slave and expect no contribution from any other family members. 

Oh, and my sister, who is married (I'm divorced) also thinks that because I have nobody at home to take care of, I have more time and energy to care for Mom.  While the truth is that she has a spouse who shops and cooks and cleans and contributes at least 50% to the joint household chores, while I do everything for myself and everything for Mom.

Family members can find a million ways to extract themselves and leave the burden on somebody else.  You can't trust anything they say; you can only look at what they do.

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I just found myself back on this board and it is like coming home and I want to give a warm hello to everyone.

No, I would not do it again, it wouldn't be possible! This board literally saved my life and my sanity because it gave me the beautiful gift of awareness! Thanks to so many of you here who patiently helped me to see what was happening in my family, with my sisters, with my mother, but more importantly with myself, I realized that I did have a choice and a voice, something that was taken away from me. For the first time I learned how to look after myself and healing began.

It hasn't been easy for sure, and it has been very lonely sometimes but I am getting there, slowly. I couldn't do it all at once, and that is one reason why I found myself back here today......looking for support and the sanity of health. You don't live 60+ years in the dysfunction of narcissists/abusive/selfish people and are not affected by ways you don't even realize and those ways are ingrained into every aspect of your life.

I still don't understand all the reasons for this insanity but I do know that it hurts everyone who comes in contact with it and destroys heath and well being, always taking something away from you. Sometimes it hides under seemly caring people, like your mother or father, or sibling or a friend and this time it was a long-time friend who was trying to undermine me and to be truthful, she was downright abusive.

I don't know why it still embarrasses me when people who I care about and who supposedly care about me can treat me badly and I still feel like there was something I did or didn't do that warranted this kind of treatment. Its really hard to accept the reality of what is happening but the good thing is, it doesn't take me long now to figure it out and deal with it in a healthier way... and I am so grateful!

Just a quick note about my mother, she is still in a nursing home, still fairly happy, and I don't see much of her these days, cause I can't drive for medical reasons and I can't say that I miss the sometimes 2-4 hour stressful drive or the unchanging way my mother treats me... I don't think she will ever give it up and just accept me but I know now that's her issue, not mine.. I'm making a new life, even have someone special now who makes me happy and I'm enjoying finding out just how happy and wonderful life can no, not a chance would I ever go back!



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Hello E-nuff,

I don't read this board as often as I used to, nor do I post much, but when I took a quick peek today and saw your post, I wanted to respond.   I'm so happy your life is going in a positive direction.  That is really, really great to hear.

You made some astute comments that I really think summarize what so many of us here have experienced:  You can't live with people who have untreated personality disorders and think you won't be negatively affected.  You often don't even serve their needs well by staying around.

This is especially true if the person is a parent (or worse, both parents).  It's nearly impossible to avoid the destructive consequences of their disorder, and sticking around often feeds their illness.  While we can have compassion for their condition and try to help them seek the help they need, we often do the most good by understanding the nature of their condition and working hard to stem the destruction (by not enabling it, by not rewarding it, by not making it easier for them to pass it on, etc.)

An untreated personality disorder hurts everyone who comes in contact with it, including future generations.   Like a contagious illness, an untreated personality disorder can silently and quietly ruin the health, well-being and sanity of everyone in its path.  As many of us have seen, children who are directly in the path get trained to believe irrational beliefs and behave in unhealthy ways, which they in turn base their lives on.  It ultimately helps no one to let the cycle continue.   To end it (or at least reduce the negative consequences), I think we need to learn the truth, get rid of our own irrational beliefs and behaviors, and the live as we were designed by our creator.  It seems you are doing just that. 

I don't think it is mean to admit that someone's health issues are too great for us to manage.  In the case of a patient with a personality disorder, their biggest need is often their mental health, so if this is something we are not trained to handle, I think the most loving thing we can often do is let the experts handle it. 

Again, E-nuff, it's so nice to hear from you!
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I guess I won't know whether I would "do it again" until it's over. Right now I'm the only surviving adult child in the thick of overseeing the care of a 92-year-old disordered mother and I'm honestly not sure how else I should have handled it. Maybe one day I'll look back and decide I could have protected myself a little better, but right now I'm too tired and committed to figure it out.

E-nuff, I had to post when I saw your name. I am just delighted, simply delighted, to hear how well you're doing and that you have someone special in your life. You're a wonderful lady who's been through dysfunctional family/eldercare hell and you deserve some happiness!

Splotchy, great to see your name too. I especially related to your insight that being around a parent with an untreated personality disorder "feeds their illness." Never has that been more evident than lately. The doctors, nurses and PTs have been pulling their hair out as my mother recovers from a recent injury. If she is denied contact with me for too long, she has a meltdown. BUT, as soon as I go to visit, she starts abusing and balking and it takes them a week to get her back on track. It's like seeing me is a reminder of her old horrible ways of getting what she wants and it's poison for both of us. I try to "stem the destruction" ... but it's tough at her age in her condition. I leave it to professional caregivers as much as I can —they seem better able to care for her responsibly in the face of her behavior. It just tears me to pieces sometimes, no matter how I try to keep an emotional distance. There's no way to be around her even on a limited basis without some additional damage to me. I simply try to keep it to a bare minimum.
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I am still in this role myself, as I currently have my mom, my MIL, my FIL, and two unmarried aunts, all of whom are all elderly and all of whom are living in separate, but nearby places. Not all of them require hands on care at the moment, but their various needs have opened my eyes to some things.

First, there is a big difference between being a caregiver and being a caretaker.  Some elders need caregivers because they no longer can care for themselves due to illness or age.  They genuinely need help with health issues and day to day care, and someone needs to do it.  And some elders need (or want) caretakers because they no longer can or want to manage certain things in their lives.  They need/want someone to manage their house and handle their banking and do all the various tasks involved in living in society. 

As relatives, I think we have to decide for ourselves how much caretaking and caregiving we are willing and able to offer and then honor our own boundaries and deal with the results of our decision.

Having said all that, I think there is a very unhealthy subcategory within caretaking that many of us with PD parents have been facing our whole lives.....emotional caretaking.  In my opinion, it is never healthy be an emotional caretaker who takes on other people's unwanted emotions and problems and stresses.  It is irrational and unhealthy to try to mold the world (and ourselves) into something that the person with PD wants just so they can feel safe and think the world is in their control.  It's a never-ending job with no good outcomes. 

Unfortunately, many of our parents with PDs will not allow us to do one job (caregiving/healthy caretaking) without the other (emotional caretaking).  As a result, we often get caught in loops of pain and confusion.   We want to help, but it worsens our parents' emotional disorders.

I have come to accept that my presence seems to set off an emotional caretaking "trigger" within my mother, making it difficult to do one job that I genuinely want to do (legitimate caregiving and caretaking) without involving the other (unhealthy emotional caretaking.)  I have accepted that this will always be a balancing act that forces me to weigh my values and priorities on a situation by situation basis, with no clear answers.

I wish you luck as you work out your own balancing act. It's not easy. 

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That's exactly it, Splotchy, "unhealthy emotional caretaking." That is, and has always been, my objection to being around mother, literally for as long as I can remember. And now that she's so very old and crippled, the pressure to drain myself emotionally for her seems to be at an all-time high. And I'm just about bone dry. Beyond bone dry some days. I've heard the term "compassion fatigue ..." I think I passed "compassion fatigue" a long way back.

It's a hard job but I accept the practical stuff I do for her. The constantly changing caregiving arrangements, aide problems, mutating health conditions, incomprehensible doctor instructions, seemingly endless paperwork, budgeting pressures. When I visit, take a shift, I can handle pushing the wheelchair, helping her in the bathroom, setting up her AL apartment to be attractive and convenient for her. That kind of thing.

But if she gets me cornered and "starts" with all the horrible old stuff that has come out of her mouth for a lifetime, I just can't take it anymore. I can't make her happy, never could, and rationally no longer see that as my job. But when I'm at her mercy, it's hard to shake the irrational part of me that's been conditioned otherwise. And I admit, it makes me very very angry that she takes advantage of me being there — sacrificing a chunk of my life to help her — to say and do every damn thing that she knows upsets and offends me while in turn expecting me to be a bottomless well of affection and sympathy. God forbid I say Word One that she doesn't like. It's a raw deal.

So one day if I look back and ask myself, "Would I oversee my crippled elderly mother's care again?" ... I think the answer would be "yes." It's the right thing to do, by my principles. But if there were any conceivable way to do it without coming into direct contact with her, or at least even less than this, I would choose that. I wish I had moved to the other side of the world as a young person. I should have run a lot further and faster.

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I haven't posted here for a very long time but visit frequently and appreciate everyone's posts.  Prodigal, your story sounds so much like mine, it's not even funny. 


Would I do it again for my N mother?  Reading between the lines, I'm thinking that maybe there might be an unspoken part to this subject-line like, "knowing what you know now"? 


Yes, I would do it again but only in the capacity that I have currently achieved after umpteen yrs. of abuse and growing pains.  I don't mean to sound arrogant by saying "achieved" and I am quite sure you all agree that if one comes to where they can handle an N and not be depressed and without any self-esteem, then it is an achievement!  I'm thinking I have enough on-the-job training to have a PhD in how to be and survive being an ACON.  I would help my N-mother again only because I cannot morally let an elderly person survive completely alone when she does have one family member (me) that can still (barely) stand being around her.  She is a 92 yr. old narcissist, divorced when she was 38, never remarried. I swear it is true that they (N’s) do statistically live longer. 


How I function in the “relationship” with her now, after uncountable trials and tribulations, is very structured both emotionally and physically, in every sense of those words.  My two sibs (who are both now deceased (having both died prematurely) and I strongly encouraged that she get into an assisted living several years ago.  She finally consented to move to an AL after it became evident to her that she would benefit (and be able to remain the center of someone’s attention, wink). 


1) I don't talk about or share anything deep, just superficiality. I don't give a crap if she knows that is the state of our relationship.  I am logical and pleasant most of the time.  Narcissists try to but can't fight pure logic, it stops them cold.


2) I don't spend much more than a couple of hrs. with her at one time, and that is once every two weeks, unless I absolutely have to spend more time due to an appointment or a “real” emergency.   My visits to her used to be kept to once a month when she was healthier and able to be more abusive.  I have made her aware that, if she abuses me now, the frequency of my visits will decrease accordingly and she may have to hire outside help because I will not stand by and take it anymore.


3) I have adopted, adapted and practiced a repertoire of responses and methods that work for almost every "situation" she presents. These are designed to stop her manipulations, protect myself/my dignity/my space and time, which in turn protects my marriage as well. 


4)  I have no problem with the simplicity and effectiveness of the word "NO" and no longer go forward after saying it by defending myself in any way.  When she pushes for me to defend myself a blank stare into space or silence will do.  I have done enough listening, talking, explaining, reasoning, defending to last a lifetime… I’m done.  I use the fewest words, actions and thought processes possible!  Do not get me wrong, when she goes into one of her funks, I have to remind myself to just watch, listen, take a time-out to think and let my blood pressure/anger subside before I can think clearly, recall my empathy for an elderly mentally ill woman, not take it personally, and use my repertoire of methods.


5)  Her doctor has actually diagnosed her with a personality disorder and so I have been able to inform the caregivers at her residence of such.  This way I am comfortable in explaining to them the symptoms they will see in her and the necessity of the structure I’ve had to enact in our relationship.  They have all eventually been on the receiving end of her personality difficulties and are now very amenable to helping when I am at the end of my energy with her.  Therefore, I lean on them within reason and within the parameters of their duties and this is a huge part of my salvation.  These caregivers deal with all types of people as they age so at least have methods that work in difficult situations with other elderly people.  Plus the caregivers are less enmeshed. I can honestly say that several of the more astute caregivers have indicated that she is a challenge that they have not seen before.  They do an amazing job!  I have learned from them as well and am so grateful to them.


6)  I have on several occasions prior to her appt. called her MD or his nurse to inform them of what she’s been up to.  A few times it has been obvious to her MD when he gets the E.R. reports in which the E.R. doctor could find nothing wrong other than an anxiety attack.  Luckily her MD is very good at communicating with her in a manner which makes her think about how things could be worse or could get worse if she doesn’t get a handle on herself.  This ticks her off, but she calms down for a while!


 I am 56 yrs. of age with no other family to help with her.  My sibs died and other family live far away and have washed their hands of her after being victims of her antics.  Very sad.  I will always believe that the stress that she created in my sibs lives helped them along to their premature deaths.  If only we had been aware of what we were dealing with and had the tools to help us deal.  We had no father to balance things either.   


Sadly, we ACONs are forced into some passive-aggressive methods in order to survive and must be superficial with our parent, of all people.  If we did not employ such methods to protect ourselves, it would be like crawling along in the desert waiting for the tiniest drop of rain out of a very black cloud.  Not living my life that way, thanks.


 Now, how do I deal with myself?  This is one of the toughest tasks, thanks Mom.


 Quite simply, this…


 She made it clear to me as a child that what she thought of Me and what others thought of Me was number one in importance.


Of course, the many things that she told me that she and others thought of me were never the positives.  I still have to force myself to examine all of the self-effacing/self-blaming/panicky thoughts that so frequently ruminate in my mind due to my extensive training. I have a formula for that too that gets me out of depression and back to loving myself (eventually).  It can be very exhausting, but less so, as I get better at the formula.  And (this has been a biggie) I have actually come to BELIEVE that I am good, my perceptions are acceptable and what others think or want is not always number one in importance in MY life. Sometimes others are not going to like me or my “stuff,” and that’s normal, okay, I can still love myself, not always have to change myself just because I differ from someone else, I can be empathetic to others without totally losing myself as their caretaker, I can trust others to not totally dislike me just because I am different than them.  I now know that I don’t have to be everyones’ mirror!  And I know that she won’t change, period!


This is what works for me.  Of course, there always seems to be some new challenge that she can present!  Hopefully this will help someone else along the way.

Good health and healing to you all!




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It was so good to hear from you Splotchy and you Prodigal, brings back a few memories! Although it is has only been a couple of years, my old life, and the old me seems like a such a very long time ago, even another life-time! When I saw the title of this thread, I knew that the chapter of my life being my mother's 'right-hand man' is gone forever cause I could never be that person again. All those years of negative emotions and pain, and the shock of finally becoming aware, that I am not my mother, nor is she me and we are not joined at the hip how I was brained washed to believe, have taken its toll on me! At first, I thought that I could never recover, but time and space can make miracles happen!

I often think of you Splotchy and you Prodigal and some of the other posters and wonder how they are doing, how their family member is doing, if they are finding happiness and peace in their lives. I know we too that it seems that so many of us here are dealing with the same issues whether our family member has a PD or not.......we love them/want to help them but finding a way to do that and keep a balance of our own health and sanity is the challenge!

It seems that I am now settling into a place of calm and acceptance and peace and look foreword to the future and discovering more about myself everyday! I know now that I love my mother and my sisters and that they will always hold a special place in my life and in my heart but I also realize that I don’t have to give them all my energy and strength, that my first responsibility it to myself. I will always still share what I can with all my all loved ones and help where I can because that's a big part of who I am. Although not a lot has changed with them, I have changed so much and just like I want to be accepted, I am leaning how to accept them just the way they are too. Now when my mother phones, I really do enjoy talking to her and that she is a part( not my whole) life.



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That's so wonderful, E-nuff, that you can actually enjoy a phone conversation with your mother again! I am happy for you, that you have that back now that you've weathered the struggle to escape from all the unreasonable expectations surrounding her for so long. Honestly ... I can't recall wanting to be on the phone with my mother, ever. Well, maybe back when I was first in college and so lonely and scared, I would choose to talk to her. But the older I got and the more I was around people who genuinely took pleasure in life, the more reluctant I became to have contact with her. I mean, it's been almost four decades since I left my parents' house and I've pretty much never hung up the phone after talking to mother without feeling either a little bad or a lot bad. The best I can hope for is relief that the call is over and that it didn't turn into one of those marathon verbal torture sessions that leave me paralyzed with misery.

Thank you so much for all your valuable insights and tips, imokyurok! What you posted is almost exactly how I handle my current caretaking arrangements and 'relationship' with mother ... although you sound way further down the road emotionally than I am just yet. I get stronger every day and I play a pretty tough game, albeit as kindly as I can. But I've had it with being her whipping boy. Had it. I leave her to the professionals, albeit with careful oversight. Like you, I would do this again but only with the emotional armor and knowledge of how to keep myself safe that I have now ... after damaging my own life and 
nearly losing my sanity in the beginning years of the eldercare journey. Would I go through the sheer awfulness of that stuff again? Wow. No, I don't think so. Looking back, I can't believe I made it through in one piece. It was that bad.
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Becoming the person who loses their identity so someone else can live their life through me is just wrong

That touched a cord! I think realising that was one of the biggest things that thankfully stopped me becoming my parents' hands-on caregiver - but being an only child I was still IT as far as arranging care/running theor own personal care home, finances, legal stuff, maintaining the house etc etc was concerned. I never fully had an identity to lose - from earliest childhood I was groomed to be voiceless, passive and an extension of my mother so she could do just that - live her life through me. Her brain was simply incapable of comprehending that I was a separate, living, sentient person, and that it is natural for a child to mature into an adult who has different values, interests and ideas to the parent -  expressing feelings or different opinions was punished directly or by shaming. In my late 30s I managed to break free and had a few brief years of "normal" life, which I think saved me by showing me a different life was possible, before I was catapulted back into sheer hell when both parents developed dementia, and my mother sabotaged and fought against everything put in place to help them. A year since her death, and 7 months since my dad's death, I am still suffering from major depression, struggling to manage my own life, have lost my friends, my fitness and am still clearing out a large house stuffed with junk accumulated over 45 years (they wouldn't downsize or move into assisted living because they wouldn't "have enough room for their stuff"!) and the tangled financial mess they left behind. 

The problem I had was my extreme aversion to my mother, but my deep love for my dad - I was constantly in a push-pull situation. Had it been just my mother, I would have ended any contact with her years before she developed elder care problems (probably at 16!) because of her constant abuse. Had it been just my dad I would have probably moved him close to me (and my dad was so easy-going even towards the end of his life that he wouldn't have minded) so I could have spent more time with him. Living alone and working long unpredictable hours, having him live with me wouldn't have been possible and I couldn't afford to give up work, but I would have been happy to help him in assisted living then memory care - because he was so undemanding and even with advanced dementia, his caring loving helpful personality never faltered (in direct contrast to my mother who became ever nastier and more manipulative).

So good to see so many familiar names, but sad that many are still struggling with the fall-out. 

JeanS - I saw your comment about Sidekick. I am so sorry. I can imagine how much you miss him, he seemed from what you have written of him, and that hilarious video of him chasing the great danes, such a larger than life little dog. ((((hugs))))
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Hello !  I was so glad to find you back on the board.  I posted several years ago after the death of my father and the realization that my brother was an N. 
You reached out to me with kindness and support.  I felt so lost and confused; you helped me not to feel so alone.  You sound great - clearly you have claimed your own life and live it with integrity.  I wish you continued strength and clarity.  Enjoy!  I am sure your siblings would be happy for you  !   Holly

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I'm still caregiving, almost 3 years now and while my mother's (age 93) temperment is pretty gentle, she throws tantrums every once in a while or at least once a week.  I'm 66 and still need to work full-time for 2 to 3 more years to recoup what I've lost of my own retirement money taking care of both her and my dad and keeping my sister's head above water. In caring for her and my job and running the errands, I don't even have time to keep up my own home, much less have any time for left over for myself nor can I go on the occasional outing with co-workers.

If you've read previous posts, I have to keep my mother in a handicap accessible building because she needs a walker and cannot access the stairs to my co-op apartment.  She's still fairly independent, suffers from some dementia so I have an aide come in four hours a day M - F, but she's unhappy with that.

So I hear you.  And while the caregiving on my part is more of being a personal maid currently and to state that I will miss my mother terribly when she's gone, I can't help at times wish it was over and when I find myself doing that feel extremely guilty.

I do have a sister, but she's not much help being as she's in Florida and when she was here complained 15 times a day when my mother did live with her so sending her there would not help.  I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown at that point which is when I moved my mother up by me. But again, if I had to do it again, my answer would be an emphatic NO. I would not and will not ever do this again.
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Holly and Prodigal and All,
Thank you for just being you and for all of the support here!!!   
Logicshere et al,  I hear you loud and clear! 
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