Question: I decided to cut ties with my mother 4 years ago. After years of treatment, I began to understand that she was an emotionally and physically abusive narcissist who was incapable of loving others. I know it is better for my health and the health of my children not to come into contact with her.
I felt so much better when I made the decision, but now, many years later, the situation has changed dramatically. My mother was diagnosed with a dangerous cancer and she needed someone to take care of her. My sister lives abroad, or as she puts it, “the further away from our mother the better”. We have no other siblings.
My aunts and uncles are feeling guilty and telling me I need to step on the plate, but I don’t know if I can. I spent years healing my childhood wounds and I don’t want to be reactivated. What should I do?
Answer: You seem to be facing a lot of difficult feelings – some of them old and familiar, some of them new and perhaps harder to name.
You are navigating the role reversal that occurs when a child becomes a caregiver. At the same time, you’re asking why you should care about parents who didn’t take care of you.
I have shared your dilemma with a number of experts and they have all noted how difficult it is to break ties and how brave you are to do it.
You’ve “worked hard in therapy” to understand your mother’s impact on you, says psychotherapist Margaret Parkes in Dublin, who specializes in working with survivors of narcissistic abuse. “I’m sure she overcame her guilt to change and separate from her mother – strength,” she said.
You still have that power, Parkes notes, but she wonders if guilt is gripping you again. “Because she’s giving people power over her, she’s in a good mood,” she said.
“When we make decisions from a place of fear or guilt rather than a place of choice, we are sadly abandoning ourselves. Please don’t leave me after I’ve found myself.”
Parkes says people who grow up in environments like the one you describe are constantly seeking their mother’s approval — “which, of course, we never get…then we go out into the world to find it. seek external approval from others”.
Feeling guilty about being fooled by your aunts and uncles is a version of approval seeking, says Parkes, who wonders if you’ll allow your “guilt button”. is pressed again or not.
Psychotherapist Jennifer Barton agrees that guilt doesn’t promote good decision making, who notes that you put pressure on yourself and “go into all the “shoulds” and ” maybe “.
“A narcissistic mother cannot empathize and that harms the psychological development of her children,” she said. Seen from this perspective, she wonders where you are on your own recovery journey.
She explains that you’ve grown up feeling “rejected and embarrassed,” and that “recovering from a narcissistic mother ultimately means replacing the negative maternal noise in the interior.” your mind with the noise of a nurturing mother.”
When Barton works with clients in your position, she helps them “construct the role model of a calm and nurturing mother, even if it’s not their biological mother.”
Have you done the inner work that allows you to connect to such an archetype, she wondered? Did you take the time to grieve the mother you didn’t have, which is an important part of the recovery process?
Narcissistic parents, she adds, can’t see “the boundaries of separation.” Have you passed the “personalization” process and become who you are?
If you do decide to be your mom’s caregiver, Barton says it’s important to go into a situation that’s grounded, has firm boundaries, and is free of expectations.
“She can say no, but she needs to protect herself from emotional readiness,” she said. “In other words, don’t share good news or bad news. Her mother is more likely to dismiss good news, and bad news can be used as criticism.”
At the same time, she wonders if you’ve explored all of your options. She suggests that perhaps you could go from “no contact to little contact,” or perhaps you and your sister could hire someone to take care of.
Parkes says she prefers the second option: “When working with clients, I find that narcissists, when they become unwell, feel they are allowed to use the victim card and they can become difficult to deal with. more difficult and disrespectful than ever. was before.
“So yes, she is definitely at risk of being reactivated and abused. I don’t encourage her to be her mother’s caregiver.”
Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy at Family Carers Ireland, admits this is a difficult special care situation “given the history of the relationship”.
“The second point of note is that there seem to be young children in the house,” she said. “Demographic changes mean that this ‘sandwich’ scenario – taking care of ailing parents and their children – is increasingly common.
“In fact, children in such circumstances are being selected to be their grandmother’s babysitter. This experience will affect them – both for good and for bad – for the rest of their lives, and it’s important for any parent to pay careful attention to the possible net impact on any given child’s life. Specific case. “
Taking care of your mom full-time can pose “significant health risks” to you and your baby, she adds. “In some cases, the healthy boundary under a particular care arrangement may not extend to full-time direct care, which seems to be what is being contemplated in this case.
“We always see the consequences of not addressing such dilemmas in our counseling service – it is an ongoing and extremely dangerous problem for a small number of carers. family. And in the end, that often means not only that the care agreement is unsustainable, but that two people require third-party care and support when the agreement falls apart. ”
Cox urges you to question society’s expectations and assumptions about your broader family.
“Unfortunately, it is very often the case that a family decides who they feel should be carers and then limits their contribution to making claims,” she said. instead of supporting the primary carer in the same way carers need support.
Take time to consider alternatives, she adds, and consider family mediation or psychological support if it all becomes overwhelming.
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https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/i-feel-pressure-to-become-a-carer-for-my-abusive-sick-mother-41433671.html I feel pressured to be the caregiver for my abusive, sick mother