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Narcissistic Mother (parent) and how to get help - Carers UK Forum

Narcissistic Mother (parent) and how to get help

For issues specific to caring for someone with mental ill health.
I have written this short post to establish of there is a base of people who have the same issues and to understand if there is a way we can connect, meet, create a group, or other suitable method for opening up and making people aware of this area of mental health.

I am a 29 year old male and for my entire life I have been required to support my mother in some way - failed relationships, depression, low self esteem, suicidal thoughts, etc. This has now spelled into my adult life.

An intelligent woman with excellent profession and little in the way of financial worries, my mother has provided me with a great up bringing with many (expensive) physical things - but little time ever spent together and always a problem or one on the horizon.

From reading various forums and online journals / documents, I believe that she may have a mental health disorder - narcissistic personality disorder.

For those who feel the same, you will understand entirely the way this disorder plays out and indeed the strain it creates on your relationship with that parent (or other).

I need to understand more. I need to know how many people are out there struggling with the same.

I hope to hear back to this post.

Thank you
Welcome to the forum. My mum had a few undiagnosed MH issues, including agoraphobia and hoarding, but she was my mum first and foremost. I'm wondering why you have decided to deal with this now? Do you still live with your mum?
Thank you for the first reply.

No, I do not still live with her. Haven't done for 10 years. But we are still "close" for work reasons and generally.

When things are good they are great, but the lower end is scary. I believed initially that it could be bi polar, however this seems less likely.

A recent drastic drop in her mood, going from what I believed to be a total over haul for the positive, to back being near the lowest point has prompted my post.

I feel there have to be others out there, it must be more common, people around in my aree experiencing same, yet nothing I have heard about or seen support for.
Hi Ash,
Welcome.
Know nothing, no experience so can't help in that respect, but have you heard of/contacted MIND?
Elaine
Is she kind, loving, affectionate and devoted? Or just selfish and demanding? I would say if only the latter, then she's probably narcissistic (or just a nasty person????!!!!!). If she's the former AS WELL, then it's more complex.

My mother was 'needy' enotionally, and my bro and I had to 'look after her' all the time (we were 'on call' and could not make decisions about our lives without taking into account their impact on her). BUT, she was devoted to us in that she was very, very loving, very appreciative, and very 'mumsy'. She wasn't 'deliberately selfish', she was rather 'unthinking' about how much toll it took on us. But she loved us to pieces, and always said so. She was very vulnerable.

But she could 'turn' (mostly on our poor dad!), and harangue him, and the world, for the evils she suffered - as she was clearly paranoid schizophrenic (my bro and I grew up genuinely believing MI5 was constantly following us around and filming us from the TV set, etc etc!), I don't know how much of her 'neediness' was because of that, or separate.

I would say, from your description, it is all about boundaries, and it's up to YOU to decide what you will, and will not, do for her. And holding the line - but as kindly as you can? (I'm assuming here she isn't the 'selfish narcissist' type!) (if she is, then you don't have to bother to hold the line kindly.....)

There is an increasingly amount written now about narcissism. In a way, the repulsive nature of their personality is 'softened' when one assumes that the reason they have become narcissists is that they go no attention at all as children, and were ignored and belittled, so they've 'overcompensated' by becoming narcissists?? (Either that, or they are just highly unpleasant individuals!)

Finally, I've come up with a 'motto' that I think holds all too true in general -

'Selfish parents have unselfish children. Unselfish parents have selfish children." I think that is grimly true, all too often.
Ash_1606 wrote:I have written this short post to establish of there is a base of people who have the same issues and to understand if there is a way we can connect, meet, create a group, or other suitable method for opening up and making people aware of this area of mental health.

I am a 29 year old male and for my entire life I have been required to support my mother in some way - failed relationships, depression, low self esteem, suicidal thoughts, etc. This has now spelled into my adult life.

An intelligent woman with excellent profession and little in the way of financial worries, my mother has provided me with a great up bringing with many (expensive) physical things - but little time ever spent together and always a problem or one on the horizon.

From reading various forums and online journals / documents, I believe that she may have a mental health disorder - narcissistic personality disorder.

For those who feel the same, you will understand entirely the way this disorder plays out and indeed the strain it creates on your relationship with that parent (or other).

I need to understand more. I need to know how many people are out there struggling with the same.

I hope to hear back to this post.

Thank you
I had many years of counselling to help me get over my parents. I think it's possible my mum has NPD but equally I can read many different mental health descriptors and apply them to her so who knows? I've never heard of any support groups, I've had one to one counselling and read a lot of self help books about dealing with toxic parents and my own individual problems. My own issues were mostly over blurred boundaries - where's the line between helping and enabling, between being caring and being co-dependent, being tolerant and being abused? Personally I feel it's different for each person and what was important for me was to find out who I really was and to draw my own lines in the sand about what I would and would not put up with. It wasn't possible for me to maintain a relationship with my mum; my requests for her to change her behaviour just escalated the abuse and she's done some terrible things over the years. I've had no contact with her for ten years now and my life has been a lot better for it (not saying that would be the same for you, obviously, it's just the best way I found to deal with her).
I would definitely recommend some counselling for yourself to explore your mother's behaviour, and maybe get a label on it that fits (though these things can be very fluid and uncertain - and they can come up with ones no one's ever heard of - or multiple combos as well!), which would, I hope, help you to get a handle on things.

Are you an only child? I had the immense good fortune to have an older brother, and we were able to 'discuss and analyse' (interminably!) our parents and their relatiobship and our mother's MH issues etc etc etc. It was both a 'safety valve' and a practical means of understanding, as best we could, why she was as she was (though we don't really know why she got paranoid schizophrenia!), and, most important of all, how to 'handle' her with the least cost to ourselves, but not being 'horrible' to her. (If it's any hope for you, she got loads and loads 'easier' as she got older - far more tranquil and less difficult and unhappy)

I also take it your father is not on the scene? Does that mean your mum has 'over-invested' in her relationship with you her son perhaps? (I'm personally extremely wary of this - my son is an only, and his dad died of cancer some years ago, and I'm terrified of being 'clingy-mummy'!!!!!).

Whatever the situation, I do hope she is not actually a 'toxic parent' (as poor Mum who cares had), and that it is possible to disentangle the 'good bits' about her from the 'bad bits'. As I said originally, to my mind, the KEY factor is whether she is warm and loving to you AT ALL, even if that is 'intermittant' (and of course, that any signs of affection are not just a manipulation by her malign narcissism, if that's what she is!)

How is she if you ever say no to her? Can she cope? Does she rage, or weep, or react manipulatively at all? Or is she 'genuinely upset' in a 'reasonable' way?

I think what MwC's says about the difficulty, but the importance, of differentiating between enablement and support, between caring and co-dependence, and between tolerance and abuse, is absolutely crucial. Spot on!
Just thought - is your mum 'narcissistic' or is she a 'performer'? My mum was definitely the latter (she'd been an actress in her youth!). She was very 'dramatic' - she couldn't enter a room without making an entrance, and she played to the gallery and took ovations merrily! She could be brilliantly entertaining and was a real 'star' and a 'comic turn' when she held centre stage.

It wasn't 'malign' or 'selfish' it was entirely natural to her.

BUT, it did mean that she didn't really 'see' other people. When you talked to her, it was usually about herself (!), but she did it entertainingly - she was a 'raconteur' and really lived the stories she told. But she was never one to sit down and say 'How have things been with you, darling?' and 'draw other people out'. Other people were really there to be her 'audience' (and hopefully offer the standing ovations she blossomed when receiving!)

My mother had very little sense of her impact on other people - other than to 'perform' to them. She wasn't aware of saying tactless things, or being over the top, etc etc. I dont' think she was very sensitive. Though she was incredibly lovingand demonstraive, loads of hugs and kisses and extravagant praise of even our humble achievements (!) she wasn't really a parenting type of parent - I can remember being incredibly surprised, shocked even, when - after my father had a heart attack (stress induced by a stormy marriage, sigh), and I burst into tears, and she actually sat down with me and hugged me and comforted me. She'd never ever done that, never 'mothered' me like that before.

My mother had no 'filter' - she spoke what she thought, and whilst it was often entertaining, it often wasn't. When she went on benders she could be absolute vile (especially to my poor father who took the brunt of it.)

Anyway, I say all this just to show how those kind of 'showstopper' personalities can present, and though she could be very insensitive and tactless, and very emotionally and practically dependent on me and my bro (and probably on my father, though she would have hated to admit that!), I truly don't think she had Narcissism in its toxic, malign manifestation.

I do think, by the way, that my brother probably caught more 'brunt' from her than I did - she was very much a 'man's woman' (she was very beautiful!), and I suspect that my brother was 'the male' in her life, more than my father. I used to be jealous of what I saw as her preference for him, not me, but then I compensated by being more of a daddy's girl I think. Interestingly, that reversed itself when my brother and I grew up - he gravitated more to our dad, and me to our mother. Maybe that's only natural?
Thanks for all the replies to my original.

Certainly getting to understand that there are people out there with the same experiences or worse.

So to answer as much as possible...

I am an only child, yes. My mum and dad split when I was about 5 and since then my dad has always been in touch and we have a great relationship. He has become someone who just helps out for my mum - they get on fine, but it's always thin ice. If he disagrees with her then woosh, he can "get out and never want to see him again "etc etc... He just tries to keep peace and stay low is how I would describe it.

To me, my mum has been...very hard to describe this. I have always received the best of material things, top end expensive, but then it's always thrown back in my face. "And I bought you...", "you get / have had everything and you do nothing for me" are the type of replies when I disagree or won't do things which are asked of me, or often demanded, even when completely unreasonable - expectations that I will drop whatever I am doing to do the thing I have been asked to do. Often I was told as a child that when "she asked me to jump, I should say, how high?"

She has no hobbies or life outside of work - an excellent business that she owns. No sports or hobbies. Some good friends,or, some good acquaintances.

Is she loving - how to define that...? I would say yes. I have experienced love from my mum but maybe not in a normal way where it doesn't feel unconditional. I believe, I know, that she would do anything for me. If love is materialistic, I have been greatly loved. I am literally all she has out with her business, something she has said to others too. She has had a number of failed relationships, all ending the same way. I have always supported these and then helped her to pick up the pieces. If love is spending quality time (not shopping or eating etc) then I have experienced less of. As a child she always ran about after me with sports competitions etc etc and was there to see me at events almost always.

Typical traits of her would be to become extremely angry over very small things. Gritting teeth and making claws with her hands straight down by her side when immediately raged by something - in my life I have seen this erupt into physical violence aggression even using objects. An unbelievable scary scene in this state. Indications of suicidal thoughts, possibly some attempted actions or cry for help actions I have heard. Screaming through gritted teeth - like a small child. This sort of behaviour can last hours and then Everything can become nothing and back to relative piece and normality over a few days / week or so - almost forgotten about. Unreasonable requests a standard. Expectations that when she asks for something done, it be immediately. Even when deadlines may be months away, it needs done now and exactly how she wants - no compromise, no discussion. Outspoken but hates confrontation - would say things possibly louder so as to be overheard. Exaggerates - everything. Spins a slightly different version of a story, it's always in the way it is told that makes the difference, especially when that one tiny bit detail makes the whole thing different. Will technically lie about what other people have said in order to support her reasoning - it needs done immediately, even X said so - no, I have spoken to X and they said that next week is fine.

As I write this and recall all the things I have witnessed over the years, i really don't know where all this can go or what it points to.
Ash, very, very brief 'first response'. You're describing highly abnormal behaviour! What does your counsellor say about it? 'Buying love' is very typically controlling behaviour, designed to induce guilt and obedience and compliance in you.

Now that you are an adult, with a whole decade of adulthood under your belt, what happens if you don't, for once, pick up the pieces?

Are you scared of her 'scenes'? It's another classic way of exerting control. 'Don't make me angry or I'll scream!' (etc). NOT being scared of her scenes will be liberating for you. It was for my bro and I. In the end, if our mum wanted to go on a bender, we just walked away. What do you do when she 'erupts'?

V glad you have your dad on the scene, even if he keeps under the parapet. My dad did the same! Any 'challenge' to her by anyone could cause an eruption! She couldn't tolerate being 'disagreed with'.....(especially when it came to her paranoia)