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Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 794
Experience:  Specializing in mental health counseling
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I feel im slipping down the slippery slope of depression,

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i feel im slipping down the slippery slope of depression, again. i believe my mum has NPD and i thought i could cope this time as i went through therapy once a week for 4 months a while ago before i got married. i didnot want to inflict this feeling i have on my husband and to be honest i have'nt felt like this for a couple of years and now its back, its horrible. i want to do the housework and i cant my mind out feeling so useless. i used to avoid mum for 2 years at a time to get my self esteem back. from the wedding till christmas everything was fine. now she's gone horrible again. somehow, i apparently upset her christmas day, she fought with my sister and believes that we conspire against her, in fact, we deliberately dont speak about her when we're together because we dont think she deserves our 'air' time. i thought i could cope and that she couldnt get to me having learned coping mechanisms, so i phone, since christmas, maybe once or twice a month and she's totally gone back to her old ways, so abrupt and hostile and i'm left thinking why did i phone. i used to be upset for about 20 mins after phoning, tell myself its her problem, her issues. now i realise subconciously its affecting me for alot longer and im so angry with myself! i dont like the fact that i feel like im the cause of her trigger of this latest episode and i know she's holding out for this christmas where she can tell everyone that i ruined last christmas for her, which will happen. i met up with her twice in the new year year to talk about it and try and sort out whatever the problem was, she's alcoholic and was plastered both times and is the case with npd didnot listen, more importantly she couldnot say exactly what it was i was supposed to have said. my sister and i went to mums for coffee earlier that month. my sister said 'i would like M&S vouchers for christmas, for new clothes as i have lost weight'. we said ok. i personally never say what i'd like unless asked so i didnt say i wanted anything. mum got my sister and myself M&S vouchers as a gift. i got my sister vouchers and my mum a limited edition gift which is in tune with one of her ever changing hobbies, my sister got me a necklace. Mum said 'we said we were getting eachother vouchers' i said no Alison said thats what she wanted, we never discussed what you or i wanted. thats the only thing i can think is what it could be. pathetic isnt it? ive rambled on sorry. if anyone can help i'd be grateful, just so i can get out of this mindset.
Hello, I'm Alicia. Thanks for your question. I'm happy to help you today.
It certainly is not easy dealing with a relative who you suspect has a personality disorder. What I am hearing in your message is that you keep trying to connect with your mum, and it sounds like you've been banging your head against the wall trying to figure out a healthy way to relate to her for most of your adult life. A lot of the problem seems to be this dysfunctional thought pattern you describe. You start by saying that you developed healthy coping mechanisms (such as avoiding speaking to her or not speaking to her as often, or engaging in mental self-talk to reassure yourself that she has a problem, etc) but then you seem to allow yourself to get sucked back in when she says certain things to you or acts in a way that just doesn't seem to make sense. It's not an easy situation to handle, so I do empathize with what you are dealing with here. Our loved ones often are very talented at pushing our buttons, even if it's unintentional, and it seems that that's what is going on here when you interact with her.
Part of learning to deal with your mother is simply continuing to tell yourself that she has a mental condition and she might truly be unable to relate to you with any amount of empathy (to be fair, I'm not sure if she's actually been diagnosed with a personality disorder, based on your message, or if it's just your suspicion, but it's very helpful to keep this in mind.)
Another part of it is trying to lower your expectations for the relationship. In some way, even as adults, we all want our parents to be a certain way. Perhaps we idealize the way we think they "should" be, and we allow ourselves to get hurt when they don't act this way. So they don't live up to our expectations, but the funny thing is, even though we know this on a certain level, it doesn't stop us from being hurt by their behavior. So what might be helpful is just reassuring yourself that her behavior probably has nothing to do with you. Whatever happens or whatever she says is most likely not an accurate reflection of who you are, it's just her own distorted sense of reality talking.
You might want to read this article. It has a lot of information about dealing with a loved one who has a personality disorder. The website also has a support forum that you might find useful, just to get some support from other people who have gone through or are in the same type of situation as you:
Basically, you have to try to maintain your sense of reality and not allow the actions and words of others to affect you to the point where you're feeling depressed. It's not fair to you and it causes you unnecessary suffering. If you feel like you are truly sinking back into depression, then you might want to consider seeing a therapist again, just so you have some extra support and a place to vent your feelings. You can also reply to this message if you'd like to talk some more. But just realize that you have more control over the way you feel than you think. Just try to remember to tell yourself that it's not you. You're not doing anything wrong, and even if you were the perfect daughter, she still would find something to criticize. It's not easy, but you just have to repeat this to yourself. You don't have to cut your mother out of your life, you just have to change the way you think and interact with her.
I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

thanks Alicia,

I totally understand where you're coming from. Each time i phone i never think 'she'll be different this time', i have no expectations. Ive learned not to have those from years of this emotional torture. My interaction is upbeat, firstly asking how she is etc and usually followed by an invitation of sorts to see her. I am proud of my ability to not waver on the abrupt one word answers that follow and when i put the phone down (phone calls average 5mins) its like a 20 minute battle of wills in my mind to do the advice you've already described. Usually it dissolves and i think i will go back to the therapist if this feeling persists. No she has'nt been diagnosed, ive been researching over the last few months as her behaviour has become more erratic, the symptoms of NPD and the knowledge of her relationship with her own mother is the result of my suspicions.So, at present this is how i feel...ive not gone in to work today because my anxiety just totally took over and i panicked and thought i cant go in. im letting my husband down because i cant muster up the strength to do the most menial of tasks (he is very supportive). Im useless, i just want to hide away and not speak to anyone. Ive got my head in the t.v to escape. Any other useful suggestions?

Hi there, and you're welcome.
I realize what a difficult situation it is, because she is, after all, your mother. And we all grow up with this idea (and longing?) that our mothers should take care of us, support us and want the best for us. Seems like a pretty normal, realistic idea, too, but unfortunately, it's just not true for a lot of people. It's very sad, and sometimes healing from the pain of a dysfunctional mother means that you literally have to let yourself mourn the loss of what you never had.
It sounds like you really try to handle things as best as you can by being positive and upbeat. It's not always easy to not let yourself be affected so much by the things she says, but the best you can do is try. It sounds to me like she might even have borderline personality disorder. It's a very common disorder (and especially in women, though I am not entirely sure why that is), and the symptoms can also resemble those of NPD. It sounds like you've done your research, but you might want to read "Stop Walking on Eggshells" by Randi Kreger (You can find it on Amazon), because whether she has NPD or BPD, the coping strategies you can use are basically the same.
It is not so unusual that you're experiencing anxiety, in light of the circumstances. There's nothing wrong with taking the day off, either, because you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. I'm glad to hear that your husband is supportive and that he understands what you're going through. Mostly I would say that it's important to try to change your cognitive patterns, not only for helping you deal with your mother but also for helping you overcome the anxiety and possible depression. It's not easy to do it on your own, though I commend you for trying. It really does require a lot of hard work to change those thought patterns that you learn at a very early age, so it's not really so strange that you feel like you have a battle of wills in your mind, as you put it. You can tell yourself something over and over, but until you truly believe it, deep down, then saying it a million times won't make a difference.
That being said, I think you should just take today to relax and unwind. There's nothing wrong with doing something mindless like watching TV or reading a book. It does you no good to dwell on the situation, and that's just not productive. She won't change unless she wants to, after all.
And you might want to give some serious thought to joining a support group for people with relatives who have a personality disorder. One way or the other, the most important thing toward changing is realizing that it's not your fault (but again, truly believing it) - and interacting with others in the same situation (as I mentioned earlier, but whether it's online or in person) can really help you accomplish this.
As far as the anxiety goes, just be compassionate toward yourself. Tell yourself that it's okay to feel like you're feeling, that everyone feels anxiety at some point, and that the feeling will eventually pass. Try not to beat yourself up for feeling this way. You don't have to talk to anyone today if you don't want to - you might just need to take some time to focus on yourself. Everyone needs that every now and then, so just try to do something enjoyable, go for a walk, do something - anything - to get your mind off things for the time being. Putting yourself in a different mindset will help you see the situation with your mother differently, too. And it really might be worth seeing the therapist again, even if it's just for a few sessions to get your mind back on track.
I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any further questions. Just take it easy today.
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