"Too Much Text" incoming!
So I've been pretty much convinced for over a decade, now, that my mother may have Narcissistic Personality Disorder
. Not being a psychotherapist myself (and her never having been officially diagnosed by a professional), I can't be sure, but she fits the vast majority
of the suggested patterns and behaviors. Just to get this out of the way - I'm not interested in arguing whether or not she has this disorder, simply because I understand fully that this may not be the case. That being said, she exhibits so many of the behaviors, and so strongly, that I feel it's helpful to mention anyhow to give a background on how she interacts with me, as it hits the nail on the head regardless.
My mother has always been rather difficult to get along with [for myself, for her mother, for her siblings, for neighbors, for her coworkers, etc]. She physically abused me for about a year and a half that started right after my parents divorced when I was in the 5th grade, and was verbally and emotionally abusive to me for roughly eight years - basically from age 10 until I was able to go to college and remove myself from the household.
In my senior year of high school, she remarried somebody, and I feel she started to improve as a person and a parent. She is far from perfect, but it allowed us to renew a bit of a relationship. Now that I live in another state over and have my own life and apartment, things have been much, much easier. She and I call eachother every now and then, and more often than not we have a pleasant, fulfilling conversation.
Sometimes, though, she'll tell me what I should be doing in my life, or she'll make suggestions on places she wants me to work (because they are exciting places to her), or tell me I should break up with my boyfriend, or whathaveyou. When I do anything but thank her for these "suggestions", she gets extremely mad and immediately frames the situation as if I've "never taken any of her advice and clearly never will and I don't care". Radical hyperbole is a favorite of hers. She would continually buy me sweets when I was trying to lose weight - when I thanked her but asked her not to get me any more, she'd say, "FINE, I'll never do anything nice for you EVER AGAIN." She can be incredibly childish like that out of the blue.
A few days ago, my brother suggested that she was speaking poorly of me and my ability to communicate...so I mentioned in a message to her what he had said. I told her that I wasn't sure if it was true or not, that I had been planning on calling her soon (true), but hearing what my brother had said made me feel shitty. I asked if she was angry with me at all, and I mentioned that I had been going through a lot recently (true) and that I hoped she'd understand I was trying my best.
She replied with this:
"Who is mad? I'm not, I just wonder why I haven't seen you for almost a year, and I can count on the fingers of one hand our conversations in that time. I know you are having a hard time, and that you don't welcome my attention, my ideas, suggestions or remarks on your life. You made that very clear. So I don't persist. Because I'm heartbroken, really, at your cold shoulder. I want nothing more than to be part of your life, to feel welcome - to call you, to chat on the phone, to give you a hug when I see you, and most of all, to let you know how very much I love you."
1. It is over a three hour drive from my place to hers. I have told her she is welcome to visit me. It is incredibly expensive for me to make this trip. I have made this trip at least once in the past year.
2. We have spoken at least a dozen or two times in the past year.
3. She doesn't know the hard time I'm speaking about, which has been a recent serious medical scare.
4. I have never even suggested that I don't welcome "any attention, ideas, suggestions or remarks". I don't welcome her telling me to break up with my boyfriend or work somewhere else because she thinks it's "cool", or her advice about *applying* to jobs by walking into famous film and game studios and asking to meet with the Art Director. If I thank her but decline any of her "advice", she becomes livid and hyperbolic in my "mistreatment" of her.
5. We communicated cheerfully last week. We have been keeping in regular contact. I honestly have no idea how she thinks this is a "cold shoulder".
6. She made an incredibly hurtful post about me on her mostly-abandoned blog last year, where she again referenced how "cold" I was to her (this happened right after a conversation where she told me to break up with my boyfriend, move, and apply to her favorite company...and I asked her to please not say that stuff to me anymore).
7. She bounces back and forth between telling me how wonderful I am, and suggesting how awful of a daughter I am. In company, she'll make up stories and gross exaggerations about me that put me in an awful light, while falsely inflating herself. She has always had a problem with viewing herself as a martyr or victim. She has always had a problem with any rejection of her "suggestions", no matter how kindly done...she will immediately fly off the handle into Hyperbole Mode, saying "FINE, I'll never_____ again". She very rarely obliges any requests on changing her behavior, even if she is told her behavior is hurtful. If she does at all, she never lets you forget how awful you are for suggesting it, then she reverts back. She put me in therapy about eight times because she wanted them to "fix" me - she would pull me out in a rage and find somebody else after the therapist would suggest she was part of the problem and should join the sessions (every time).
I have not yet replied to her, because I'm not sure how
to. I was not at all expecting that message, or the suggestion I was ignoring her. I would currently like to maintain a relationship with her rather than cut her out of my life completely. The only thing I can think of that might not enrage her is apologizing, but I'm afraid to apologize (even though I feel I have done nothing wrong) because I feel it would validate this reaction to her, and she would hold it over my head and reference back to it repeatedly. I'm afraid of suggesting we set any boundaries, because she's never done well with that, and I feel she'll go into Hyperbole Mode, which is useless and gets us nowhere.
I've considered saying "I'm sorry you feel that way - I haven't felt like I have been giving you the cold shoulder at all...I thought we had a fun time talking about the pictures you sent me last week, and I try to answer every phone call or text you send me. Would you like to try having a regular, scheduled talk once a month?"
This might backfire and she might say, "WHATEVER
, [my name]" - another favorite of hers - and then ignore me. She also might accept, and drag me across the coals in each conversation for not doing this sooner. She might also want it more frequently, which would be very hard and potentially too stressful for me. I don't know, but I feel like it's my best shot. I've gotten better at setting some limits for myself regarding her behavior - that if she's treating me too poorly, I'll try to remove myself from the conversation. It's still a difficult balancing act because I'd like to continue to have a relationship with her, but I feel she makes that impossible sometimes. I don't think she's acting abusive presently (maybe she is?? I don't know), but she feels very needy, demanding, and very
childish. It does hurt. Other times, though, we can have a really great conversation...so that's why I'd like to try to maintain contact. Ideally I'd like her to try to get some therapy but I'm not sure if she'd ever accept the idea.
I'm wondering if anybody has maintained a relationship like this out of choice, how they've kept it "healthy" for themselves, or if it's not healthy at all and no contact would be best, etc. I'm just at a loss. She is not rational half the time. I'm not sure how to not upset her, while not upsetting myself.