Caring for my primary abuser as dementia grabs hold of her

The woman who haunted and tortured me throughout much of my life is suddenly helpless and lost and desperate for someone to care for her (and her partner who also has dementia) as she grapples with knowing her mind is slipping away.

I have been forecasting what my mom’s demise was going to look like for about 7 years. I imagined all sorts of scenarios and I was just sure I was going to abandon her to some awful fate. That would be my revenge for what she has done to me throughout my life.

It’s hard to have mercy on someone who just 7 years prior subjected me to more horrific abuse that practically ruined me. As much as I wanted to believe the evil that I grew up with was somehow gone, she gave me a clear reminder that she was still right there prepared to show me the depths of hell to get her own needs met. She also very clearly reminded me that in her eyes, I was still nothing, would never be good enough, and had no value except to serve her needs.

I spent the next 7 years back in therapy after a decade hiatus, in-and-out of psychiatric hospitals, unable to work again, and struggling just to leave my house. Prior to that, I was living some semblance of a normal life, but I let her destroy me again. I didn’t even see it coming, and I have such programmed loyalty to my parents, sadly, I would probably do it all over again.

It’s weird how loyal most of us are to the families who ruined our lives. I am not amongst the group of people who decide to go “no contact” with their family. Mostly I decided to have contact because I convinced myself the serious abusive behavior was over.

For about the last 5 years, I have had minimal contact with my mom (my dad died 7 years prior). She had her boyfriend to make her feel like she was the queen of the earth. Boy, she struck gold with that guy. Does whatever she wants, no questions asked (a narcissist’s dream). It’s somewhere between cute and disgusting to watch.

Slowly over these last 5 years her memory problems started becoming more noticeable. Once the pandemic hit, and she stayed holed up in her house all the time, it started to become more evident the path she was on. The isolation definitely sped up her cognitive decline.

She would express worry about her failing memory every time I spoke with her. I would express concern to my siblings, and they would say she was fine and to just leave her be. We all have complicated relationships with her.

This last year my mom’s dementia started really ramping up. She is 87, and frankly it is an undeserved miracle she has made it this far. She has always been lucky like this. It has never been fair.

My mom would usually vacillate on our calls from sounding scared and helpless to scary and evil. Her dissociative identity disorder is not really relevant to this story, but it is fascinating and scary for me to see how DID can play out with dementia..

There were many times on the phone I felt like she wanted me to force her into assisted living or to live with me. Then she would scream at me at any mention of such a thing. It was a familiar whiplash for me.

Finally, it became clear that both she and her partner who has worse dementia could no longer prop each other up enough to continue living independently. My mom was unraveling. Parts of her I hadn’t seen since my childhood were popping out and behaving in ways she had been keeping contained. I hired helpers to come in, and she would do things like come to the door naked to greet them (a classic intimidation move from my childhood playbook). It wasn’t that she didn’t know what she was doing, she did.

Things continued to spiral downward until she finally got helpless and scared enough that she agreed to come up to assisted living by my house. Prior to this she had always lived a comfortable state away. My therapist was not thrilled about this decision as she knows the evil and power this woman has exerted over me, but as I teach my children, that’s the beauty of adulthood, getting to make your own decisions and mistakes.

After the initial high stress of getting her and her boyfriend moved in to assisted living, things have settled down. I have gone to see her frequently since she is only one block away from me. I have listened to her rage at me when she learned she couldn’t just leave the assisted living facility by herself given her dementia. I have listened to her have the same conversations with me over and over. The reassurance she needs reminds me of what my kids needed when they were young.

The surprising thing that has come out of this decision to bring my mom nearby was to get the benefit of exposure therapy by seeing her over and over. Through these many visits I now clearly understand that she is an old, helpless woman who can no longer hurt me. Finally.

As someone with polyfragmented dissociative identity disorder (I have a lot of parts), it has been really helpful to see we have switched roles: I am now in the parent role and she is the child dependent on me. This has been a huge relief to the many parts of me. Finally, the parts who have held on to the belief that she was this omnipotent person who would forever rule her evil over us have finally reached the point of seeing how helpless and weak she is.

So far, my mom seems to mostly know how lucky she is to have me helping her and making sure her quality of life is the best it can be under the circumstances. My guard stays up, but not like it used to. When she yells at me now it is no longer as traumatic. It is mostly just pathetic and sad. This is where I try to show her mercy instead of payback. It’s hard when the days seem all too familiar to my childhood.

The few people who truly know who my mom is to me wonder why I am taking care of her. Why don’t I abandon her like she did me. Why don’t I show her the same cruelty she showed me. Why am I still loyal. I am the first to admit she doesn’t deserve it, and I think she may know that.

Right now, I have decided that the reason I am taking care of her as this helpless, old woman is because I am not her, and never want to be like her. If I turn my back on her, doesn’t that make me the monster she was to me growing up?

I am not a monster. I am a good person in spite of what she has done to me. I am a good mother and have taken good care of my children and never once abused them. That’s not who I am.

My mom. I don’t know how things are going to go. I have given up trying to predict anything. I can’t imagine ever forgiving her for robbing me of my life, but I can try to show her mercy as she approaches the destruction of her mind. She doesn’t deserve it, but I will try to be there anyway. Somehow I find comfort in being kind when I know she would have met me with cruelty. I can’t help but think about my first psychiatric hospitalization at 21 where she refused to see me and left me abandoned.

If she continues to live, the days will become harder for me. Her dementia combined with her DID and the evil within her is like a continuous gaslight coming at me. I am not sure I will always be strong enough to stay in my adult parts and withstand it. It will be like a constant storm approaching with me uncertain of how hard of a hit I will take.

Have to remember to keep breathing, and taking it one day at a time. I said I will try to take care of her, but I can’t promise it. I will not allow her self-destruction to become my self-destruction. I just pray I can keep my word to myself.


Mother’s Day When Your Mother Doesn’t Love You

Growing up, I don’t have a single memory of my mom holding me or saying she loved me. No photos of me in her lap, or her holding my hand as we walked down the sidewalk. In fact, there are no photos of me with her period.

I wish I had kind memories, even if only a couple, but absolutely none.

Mother’s Day sucks for me. I try to dissociate its existence so much that I am barely present for my own kids’ desire to celebrate the day. Sadly, I would prefer to stay in bed and not recognize the day.

I do try to just focus on my present day, but all the messages coming from seemingly everywhere about what great moms everyone says they had/have, puts it right back in my face of what I didn’t have.

It is a day I feel shaky inside, trying not to let my thoughts wander to why my mom did what she did to me. Trying not to have the rapid flashbacks of what she did give me.

Logically, it doesn’t make sense that a mother would do what she did to me. She was the opposite of what we would call maternal. So, it is dismissed as she is just a sick, twisted, sadistic, narcissist.

I can’t remember a time in my childhood when my mom did not hate me. When I go back to my earliest memories with her, my body tenses up with fear, shame, and confusion.

When I think of my mom’s body, I am repulsed and frightened. I think about my very young self laying in her bed in my father’s absence. I am trying not to be tense for fear she will get angry at me. She scratches my back for a few minutes, and it feels good. Then she pulls me toward her naked body. This becomes a regular thing for us. My father is absent a lot, and she scratches my back before she sexually abuses me.

This is as close to love as my mother ever came. She didn’t even bother to pretend that she cared about me in public.

My mom, though functioning as an alcoholic, always knew how to get what she wanted. She was powerful in her social circles and our community.

My mom sex-trafficked me from as far back as I can remember to get what she wanted. It didn’t matter the who or for what. If she could benefit from turning my body over to someone, she did. Sadly, sometimes it was only for her sick, sadistic pleasure.

It is hard to survive a sadistic, narcissistic mom. Most days I wish I didn’t.

I am still here, and honestly don’t know why, except to raise my own kids. I don’t know why I am not a person who would do to my children what was done to me. I imagine my mom’s parents did really awful stuff to her.

It is strange or lucky to not be part of the generational abuse that goes on. I don’t know why I didn’t become her, but I do thank God I did not.

My mom is still alive this Mother’s Day, and it feels like she is never going to die. I stay away from her as much as I can. When we are together, I become this numb person who does her best to not think of her mom for who she truly is.

As a family, at some point it was decided that we would not speak of the past, ever. I can’t say this made my mom become a loving mom, or even an ok mom. We just pretend like it didn’t happen, and God forbid if I let my guard down.

I didn’t escape “ok” from childhood. It left me saddled with complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder. Not to mention my severe attachment problems. These 3 things affect my everyday life.

So, it’s Mother’s Day, the day I am supposed to celebrate my mother. I wish I could fool myself into believing she wasn’t that bad, or that she really does love me.

Unfortunately, when I was in my early 30s, I had just driven 4 hours to see my parents with my own family. I don’t really know what happened, but within 10 minutes of being there, I found myself confronting both of my parents about never loving me, and only loving my siblings. I can remember so clearly both of my parents just sitting there silently, neither of them willing to deny they didn’t love me, no matter the cost to me. I put my family back in the car and left after that conversation, never to speak of it again.

But in case I forgot, fast-forward another 15 years when my father is dying and I am the only one in the family willing to take care of him. I watch as my father shares his love for my mother and siblings when they would be willing to be in the room with him (because watching him die was just something they didn’t want to deal with). Me. By his side, everyday for months. Not once did he say he loved me. Not once. Of course, like the trained dog I had become, I would tell him how much I loved him.

My mother did not thank me for the severe trauma I went through during this experience of taking care of my dad (another story for another day). Instead, when I begged her to come out of her bedroom to the living room to see my father on his deathbed, she slapped me across the face with as much ferociousness as she could muster, and I just stood there as the wounded adult child.

This woman, whom I twice saved her life as an adult, just never let go of her hatred of me.

This woman. My mother. She will not be celebrated. But this trained dog will call her still to wish her a happy Mother’s Day.

How severe neglect and abuse affect relationships

My parents did not love me. They did not hold me or care for me in even the most basic ways as a baby/toddler/child/adult.

As an adult, I know how this has affected me. I struggle to connect lovingly with other people in relationships. I don’t like to be touched. I struggle to feel anything other than numb.

There are people in my life who say they love me and care for me deeply; yet, I feel empty and nothingness and awkward to their loving gestures.

Interestingly, for me, I can feel love when it comes to my children. I genuinely love them, and I feel their love for me. I am not sure why it is so different when it comes to them.

When people other than my children say they love me, I cringe as if a dagger just went through me. I know I am supposed to give a loving reply back, but I can’t, and retreat into a state of internal awkwardness.

In case you are wondering, I am married. I don’t know why my spouse puts up with my difficulties around love, touch, sex, and oftentimes being aloof.

Sometimes, the fact that I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) comes in handy as there are other self states within me who do not struggle with the attachment damage from my childhood.

I don’t always control which part of me is out, and thus I fluctuate in the level of connectedness I have with others. This can be confusing to people because they don’t know about the DID (or don’t understand in my spouse’s case).

There are times when I am home with the family and I find myself very disconnected from them. My spouse will ask me what is wrong, and there isn’t anything wrong, but a self state that has more severe problems with attachment is usually present.

Other self states may go overboard with love and intimacy with other people. These self states tend to like to drink and be social, which of course is not the best combination.

My adult self-states are mostly similar enough that even the people who know I have DID have trouble distinguishing between them. But there are subtle differences if one is paying attention. However, very few people know about the DID.

My therapist seems to think my attachment problems can be healed through therapy and working through the pain of my childhood. I disagree. Though I have much more insight into my attachment problems, it doesn’t seem to do anything to help change that this is the way I am.

She would say I am feeling hopeless again, as if depression or something is causing me to come to this conclusion. I don’t feel particularly depressed. My mind is actually fairly clear, and I see my thoughts and feelings about my attachment problems as a form of acceptance of my reality.

I don’t mean to be a Debby Downer, but I do think it is better to accept reality and try to live life as it is rather than chasing a mental health that will never come for those of us who have been severely neglected as children.

That is not to say we can’t have a different version of mental health based on acceptance, instead of forever chasing a higher level of mental health and living our lives in the therapy room instead of the real world.

Too many of my friends and myself have spent almost our entire lives in the therapy rooms chasing an elusive mental health that will never come.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do believe in therapy, and it is necessary for many of us to survive in the world. But, I believe many of us with severe trauma backgrounds are using up our entire lives waiting for the wellness to begin. It’s just something to consider.

Yes, get therapy help, but don’t get caught in the idea that you will get “cured” and then miss out on living your life because you spent it searching for answers that don’t seem to transform into wellness.

*Disclaimer, my therapist and others do not agree with my point of view.

Wrestling with the truth that my parents repeatedly reinforced into me that I am not lovable has turned off a switch in me that should be on to experience the human condition of love and care.

This leaves me like one of those futuristic robots who can show the slightest bit of emotion, but fall short of the real human experience.

My mother didn’t love me, and today I know that was her fault, not mine

I am at a place in my life when I hear another woman discuss what a wonderful mother she has, I tense up and freeze until the moment passes. My mind and body go blank.

Lately, I have described myself as feeling awkward around these situations. I don’t want to take away from someone else’s joyful relationship with their mother, but I truly cannot relate to it at all.

My mom never loved me. In fact, I think it is fair to say she hated me from the moment I was born.

I spent years and years trying to understand what was wrong with me, or what I could have done differently to have had my mother’s love.

It is so hard to sit with the idea that your own mother doesn’t have an ounce of love for you, and would in fact prefer that you be dead.

My mother loved my two older brothers, which made it even harder for me to process as a child.

On any given day my mother would show her hatred of me through her mean words or her sadistic and narcissistic behavior.

I would try so hard to be small and invisible so as to not provoke her, but it never worked.

She hated every ounce of me since the moment I was born, and maybe before.

I have known for a long time that my mother did not love me, but now I am reaching deep down inside me to face the realities of the pain and problems this has caused me throughout my life.

I struggle with loving and being loved.

It’s like the love switch is just turned off in me. I often feel like a robot, and sometimes when I do attempt love, I can get it very wrong.

As an adult, I do not long for my mother’s love. I gave up on that very early in childhood. I know who my mom is, and I want no love from her.

However, I have learned that the longing for a mother’s love does not go away.

I have tried to replace my mother’s love by unsuccessfully trying to get two different therapists to become my replacement moms. I tried to do this with therapists who have good boundaries, so it was a total flop. Plus, because I never had my mother’s love, I was clueless as to what I even wanted from these replacement moms.

People tell me the secret to recovering from this type of deep maternal wound is to parent yourself.

I still don’t have a clue as to how I would heal myself through parenting myself. I am not actually sure this is a real thing, but I have heard it enough.

For today, I will sit with the fact that my mom did not love me, it was not my fault, and it has caused me great pain and damage.

Tomorrow I will see my mom, and will lack human presence around her. I will probably have a moment of feeling sorry for her and thinking how pathetic she is. I will also feel very stressed as I secretly count the minutes until she is gone from my life again.

Even though I was raised by a horrible mom, I somehow managed to become a distant, but loyal daughter for her.

And by the grace of God, I managed to be a fairly good mom to my children, which is quite miraculous as I only had television to model good parenting for me.