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EVERYTHING makes my mom mad . . . nothing is a safe topic
So yesterday was pretty typical, loads of texts from my mother, bouncing around between various inappropriate topics including saying mean things to me about not being married at 7 am, to informing me she's coming to visit in June (I told her that was a bad time work wise). She's also a gifted liar, so it's possible she went to my dad and told him I invited them to come in June in spite of what I told her.
Then in the evening, in an attempt to do I don't know what, I sent her a picture of the beautiful dinner I made. I think maybe I was hoping it would make her forget about visiting. We are both good cooks so this is usually a safe topic. She asked what it was. I said, spicy shrimp with tamarind rice and a side of mashed avocado . . . then I realized it wasn't tamarind rice so I corrected myself saying "oh it's actually lemon/turmeric rice". She immediately jumped all over me, even after I said "Yes, I corrected myself." Then I told her I had to go. (And who cares- both kinds of rice are good, and it's possible they could look the same in a picture!). She certainly has a knack for sucking the joy out of everything. Most people would have said it looks yummy or something to that effect.
Then, she needed to get a final punch in, so she said, "It's Siblings Day!". I have not seen or spoken with my brother in over 4 years because he is abusive, violent, and generally a jerk. She periodically insists on sending us both emails/texts and cc'ing him. Over the weekend she sent an email entitled "Family" with pictures of me and her from our last visit. I wanted to scream, how stupid, I HAVE all these pictures, and what do you think sending them to my brother is going to accomplish? I mentioned in an earlier post that one of her delusions is that he will take care of me. This is probably the most ridiculous and hurtful of her delusional ideas- he has NEVER taken care of me and for my own mental health I had to cut him out of my life. My father respects it and my mother continues trying to manipulate me into talking to him.
I go back and forth between being furious at her and feeling bad for her. However, interactions with her are just so difficult. And if I completely ignore her, she either complains to my dad or steps it up with multiple emails, texts, etc. She's shameless.
Nothing is a safe topic these days. If I send a picture of my dog, she gets mad. If I send a picture of me with a friend, she gets mad and also criticizes my appearance. If I mention work, she says nothing. If I tell her I had a good day, she's mad. If I say I met up with friend, she inevitably finds something negative to say about them. She's also started reinventing history not just for me, but for my friends- so again, that's not a safe topic- the other day she went on a rant about a friend of mine who she claims she saw smoking in front of her kids, which I know did not happen.
She seems to be getting more disconnected with reality, and more delusional.
My anxiety has been getting worse, especially with work related stress, and I couldn't sleep last night. Might be a good day to block my mom's texts. Maybe just for the rest of the work week.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
You need to try, and believe me its sooo hard, my mom can give me a look that is like a teenage girls and its awful, you need to try and think This Is Not My Mom, this is this old cranky lady I have to care for and she is not talking about me, she is talking about someone she thinks is me. While it may be personal, as she knows how to push your buttons, you need for your own sanity, consider your moms brain has been replaced (even if she was always this way) by a mean old lady, and you don't have to engage so much, better get chewed out once a week rather than five times!!
And don't set yourself up by over sharing, I find myself sneaking out of the house!
Just to make sure I'm up to speed - your dad is her primary caretaker and you live distantly?
I would (1) talk to her once a week and (2) read about and employ the gray rock technique. That's it.
I'm speaking to you as a daughter of a mom with at least one personality disorder, and a MIL who I've had to gray rock into oblivion for my own mental health:
She is not going to be kind to you. Sharing with her and having these conversations opens you up to her hurting you. Stop doing it.
Block her phone number Monday thru Friday. Call her Saturday. Then block her number again. Block her email. Delete her texts without reading. Do not send her pictures. If she's mean to you on the phone say "ok mom, good to talk to you, gotta go" and hang up. Being nice and normal with her is not going to make her be nice and normal. Asking her to stop sharing with your brother is not going to get her to stop sharing with your brother.
But you can control yourself. "I told you I wasn't interested in talking about Charlie, mom, so I'm going to go" Email you and charlie? Oh wait, she can't because you blocked her. Set your own limits because she is not going to do it for you. But you can. It's hard and it's heartbreaking but you can stop it.
I get what you're trying to do by doing these things - I was there for a long long time - but by engaging with her as if she was a normal mother, you are exposing yourself to her for her to hurt. The only way to set it up so she can't do this is to let go of the idea of a normal relationship, set hard limits, and move on.
I would not give this advice to someone who's mother was changed by dementia - my FIL was terrible to us post-dementia but it truly was the disease - but when your mom has brick by brick built a house of dysfunction over a lifetime, and wants to invite you in, decline.
I talk to my mom but I do it on my terms. She does not like it but... I didn't like many of the things she did, so oh well. I still find myself sharing something about a friend sometimes - just idle chatter, but I KNOW those friend discussions very well - and immediately regret it. See the patterns. You may stumble sometimes but get started on some boundaries.
When mom asks about why I dont' get her emails and texts, I just say "oh no, I'm not sure what's up with that. I'll have to look into it". When she asks where I was this week (when she called and was blocked), "oh just a busy week... how are you today?"
You don't need to argue with her ever again. Its stops when you stop giving it oxygen.
So sorry to read about your mom's mean behavior. It's so draining and sad to be treated like a door mat.
Everyone is going to suggest you try The Validation Method, and I wholeheartedly agree. Validating my mom's feelings and just agreeing with her often helped take the foul wind out of her sails. BUT, my mother had habituated herself to using me as her place to dump bad feelings, and I had to break the pattern with changes that went above and beyond Validation. Attacking me was in some way rewarding to her, as if I were her personal steam vent. More about my experience later; let's get to YOU.
I would advise you to remove your mother's avenue of abuse by blocking her calls, texts and emails. Don't feel guilty, just do it. Allowing your mother to bury you with abuse is BAD FOR BOTH OF YOU. Just make up a story as to why those avenues of communication are not available. Then - assuming that she behaves better in front of your father - Skype or FaceTime the two of them together 1-2 times a week. End the call as soon as she starts to get mean. If you start feel guilty about this, make up for it by doing some other good deed on her behalf, something that does not involve direct contact. Your dad must have his hands full, so you could channel your efforts into supporting him.
Here's what I experienced: In stage 3 my mom started saying mean things about me behind my back, mostly to people I did not know very well. In stage 4 she became mean my face, but almost always when we had some privacy. She had less self-control in stage 5, so then the meanness could pop out in front of other people. (This really shocked my family because they thought my earlier complaints and distress were overblown.) Mom was still making an effort to put on a good face, and this was my silver lining!
Other people on the forum advised me to stop interacting with my mother in a private setting such as her room. This excellent suggestion really helped curb the mean behavior, and demonstrated to me that she did have some level of awareness and self control. I would also leave immediately after she started an attack, giving a neutral excuse like an upcoming appointment. I never tried to directly "correct her" with an opposing comment. After 6-9 months of this, my mother's attacks noticeably diminished.
LBTB, you are in such pain, and have to take care of You before You collapses into a puddle, please!
My (91-yr-old) mom is very very unlike yours, but my younger son was (and still is) very very difficult. One book I read advised "taking your sail out of his wind", which concept has stuck with me all these decades.He also, when in the toddler/preschooler/early elementary ages, did this thing when explosive that I called "random neural firing". On his way back to trash his room, he'd speak total nonsense phrases. As he was introduced to actual swear words, he started adding those in, which is what he does to this day. Mom hasn't gotten to that stage yet, and I don't know if she ever will. She was always very kind, sweet, devoted to family, no marital doubts whatsoever, "last functional family in America", not suspicious, not a gossip-monger-- some of those concepts are totally foreign to her, so I speculate that she may not ever have the kind of random neural firing which equals behavior that she has never never engaged in nor even imagined. Just my idea on that. However, she has forgotten so so much, and maybe I can give you a little lightheartedness by telling you our version of the "she doesn't know I'm married" story.
Mom was very against my living with my to-be husband, our generations being what they are.I married late and am coming up on only 39 years, BUT! She hadn't seen DH in 6 years, until she moved here. She was introduced to him the first time we all attended church together, and I didn't mention he is my DH bc it seemed self-evident. At some point during a car ride weeks later she said how nice that man I was with was, and I said, he sure is, I'm so glad I married him. As one does. She turned to me and said with wonder and joy on her face, "you're MARRIED to him? You finally got MARRIED?". So I had to play along with that one. Obviously she wouldn't remember the wedding, and she asked if my dad knew I got married. We went on like this with me apologizing abjectly for forgetting to tell her I got married, but she was never mad at me, only overjoyed that I had done it. My bro and I had fun with this for weeks! Mom now is quite firm on my married state.
I hope I have lightened your day by even just a microgram.
The goal is not arguing. Gray rock technique works for me. Validation is also helpful. "oh I'm sorry I lied to you about what I had for dinner, mom. I'll try not to do it again." Where there is no resistance, there is nothing for her to fight against.
"Oh you told me that's when you were visiting? I must have forgotten. Unfortunately, I'm not available that week". Complains to brother, dad. So she complains. She sounds like someone who has always complained. That's not changing.
The vitriol that many of us have been subjected to by family members means we must take control by any means necessary to protect ourselves. No apologies.
THANK YOU, everyone!!! So much kindness and support here, I am touched by the thoughtful responses, and it's good to know I am not crazy for feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. I definitely have some skill building to do around not engaging my mom and not allowing her to push my buttons.
I feel better, and I feel understood. Also, a general update: I emailed with my dad, and yes, they are planning to come here in June, but he said they would go directly to their vacation home and I could just meet them for lunch (PHEW). . . !!!! Now, time to not feel guilty about that . . .
And, I will look into the gray rock method.
Gubblebum- Your responses always make me chuckle, you clearly get it. I took your advice and renamed mom in my phone, and she's blocked until I feel like talking to her again. And, on the upside, I don't have a work phone number, so she can't harass me there! (She did that at every other job I've had- would call me in the middle of the work day and get me so riled up I'd end up crying in front of co workers, and then they all thought I was crazy). And reframing who my mom is within the context of "This is a crazy woman who I have to deal with" helps a lot- she's not going to change or get better. And as one of my friends pointed out, it's sort of my dad's job to get her to the doctor, and if he's not doing that, it's perfectly ok for me to just focus on my life, especially given the distance.
Citydock- Yes, Mom and Dad live about 1,000 miles away and he is her primary caregiver, he handles everything for her. We are immigrants so the rest of our family lives literally halfway around the world- they've been in the US for 50 years and I was born here, no one else ever emigrated so that affected our very dysfunctional family structure. She always told me I should be grateful to have a mother who took care of me. One of my friends pointed out that's basically a mom's job. You phrased it so well- it's not that dementia has changed her personality, but it's always been dysfunctional, and our relationship has always been very difficult- I am basically her punching bag for everything. I also had ridiculous amounts of responsibility heaped on me from an early age because my dad travelled for work so much. And, I am also accepting the fact that she probably should have been medicated or treated earlier in her life for depression, anxiety and paranoia. I need to build stronger boundaries and not feel guilty about it- despite what I've been told, I do deserve to be happy, and I have been a good daughter. And I am an adult, I have every right to do what I need to do to protect myself. She has *always* complained about everything.
CodyW- Your mother sounds so much like my mother. My mother freely insults me in front of other people. I don't even want to know what she says about me behind my back, especially to her family. And nowadays she insults everyone, even my dog (!). And I really agree with you about the Validation Method not being appropriate in this instance. I'm not going to agree with my mom when she starts insulting me, my dad, my dog and everyone else . . . . your advice about not interacting with her in a "private" space is really good- texts between me and her is basically a private space where she feels free to attack me, so guess what? I'm not going to do it.
Zauberflote- YES, Self Care is VERY much needed now . . . . yesterday I treated myself to lunch out, sometimes little things like that really help lift my spirits. But I am generally feeling totally drained, run down, and approaching a debilitating level of stress. And I'm scared about this affecting my job. Your youngest son sounds a lot like my brother- you never know when something is going to set him off, and it will inevitably result in a barrage of verbal abuse, swearing, and threats. That's why I refuse to be around him, and nothing my parents can say or do will change that. I have ZERO guilt about the boundary I've established with my brother- it's the best and safest thing for me. With my parents it's more complicated, I really do adore my dad, he is so smart and resourceful- he's 78 and I can send him a work document and he actually has feedback and suggestions for me! (And he did a completely different kind of work than I do, which is what makes that even cooler!). You lightened my day by at least 5 micrograms.