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Old 03-26-2013, 12:24 PM
 
Location: Minnesota
400 posts, read 1,911,066 times
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Does anyone else have to set very clear boundaries with their own family members (or even friends for that matter)?

I constantly have to set boundaries with my mom. After I learned how to identify her abusive behaviors (this includes emotional and verbal), I started to practice setting boundaries. Sometimes I succeed and other times I fail. But each time, it's a struggle because I still hang on to that "healthy" mother/daughter dynamic that I know deep down has never really existed because she has bipolar disorder and is not capable of showing empathy or sympathy.

Today was just another example of my mom's abusive behavior. She called to ask me to go to a matinee with her. I said yes, sure, that's fine, and then brought up my spring graduation date, to ask if she planned to attend. This gave her the opening she needed, apparently, to berate me for cutting all contact with my brother who threatened me during a drive to our uncle's funeral a few years ago. (I won't go into details of the fight because that's not the point.)

So after my mother demanded that I forgive my brother for what he did to me a few years ago while on the road to our uncle's funeral, I set this boundary with her; "Mom, thanks for the movie invite but I'm going to have to pass since you're being unpleasant right now. I'd like you to respect my decision not to have contact anymore with [my brother]. If you can't, then I can't go to movies with you or anything else." Then my mom hung up the phone (which she typically does when I assert myself with her).

She's 71 too, by the way. When she verbally attacks me, she accuses me of all kinds of untrue, crazy things. She accuses me for all the damage to our relationship, and tries to shift the blame on to me. All those years of her emotional neglect, manipulation, verbal attacks, instability, and selfishness somehow became my fault. When we attended family therapy 20 years ago, the family therapist confronted my mom, sister and brother with the news that they treat me like the family scapegoat. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, they just shift the blame on to me. And until I figured this pattern out and realized I could stand up for myself, it was how my family interacted. Now, anytime I assert myself with my family members, I still get verbally attacked because the dysfunctional pattern is so embedded that it won't change.

This situation reminds me of that quote, "the only people mad at you for speaking the truth, are those living a lie."

Can anyone relate?

Last edited by Midwest Maven; 03-26-2013 at 12:34 PM..
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Old 03-26-2013, 12:44 PM
 
4,761 posts, read 14,213,243 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Midwest Maven View Post
...I set this boundary with her; "Mom, thanks for the movie invite but I'm going to have to pass since you're being unpleasant right now. I'd like you to respect my decision not to have contact anymore with [my brother]. If you can't, then I can't go to movies with you or anything else." Then my mom hung up the phone (which she typically does when I assert myself with her)...
Perfect!

You are being "assertive". Very good, that is the way to do it.

The other options are caving in to these people or flying off the handle - yelling, name calling, etc. (Not good...)
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Old 03-26-2013, 12:49 PM
 
Location: Minnesota
400 posts, read 1,911,066 times
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Thanks Billy_J! I don't feel guilty as much as I used to, when I have to set boundaries with her. Still, it's hard because I feel really sad that we will never have a healthy mother/daughter dynamic to our relationship.

Oh, and when my mom and sister both moved out of state at the same time (to the same state, there's a long story there), my brother and I stayed behind, living about 30 minutes apart. During the three years my mom and sister were gone (before they each moved back home), not once did my brother and his wife ever pick up the phone to call me.

It's to the point now where I know I had a brother, but I never think about him or his wife or children anymore because of the toxicity between him and I. Out of sight, out of mind. Just because we're related doesn't mean I owe him anything.
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Old 03-26-2013, 07:03 PM
 
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I don't think its true that all BP people are not capable of empathy or sympathy. That is not part of the BP illness. While you see it being true in your moms case, there are all too many people in the world like that without any diagnosed illness. I've known some BP2 people that are very kind and considerate of others. I think I might be one of those BP2 types without the mania and I'd give the shirt off my back for stray animals and people that treated me well. My mom was purposely very nasty and mean, she wasn't BP, thats just how she treated me. Some family members seem to get treated like the crap on the bottom of the shoe even when they are the givers.

I can see your point about distancing yourself from you. She obviously knows how to push your buttons and enjoys doing it for some reason. When my mom hung up on me when my 16 year old dog that had heart trouble was dying, well I stopped calling her. How cold and heartless is that. Then a few months later she fell and broke her hip, as I have no siblings it was up to me to tend to things. She got weaker, hospice for a short time, then she died. Its too bad cuz at one time we were close and got along very well. Still an open wound how it ended up. Don't let it work out that way for you. As you have other siblings, move far away and you will not have to deal with nearly as much of it.
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Old 03-26-2013, 10:59 PM
 
18,837 posts, read 37,203,487 times
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My Mother is mentally ill. I understand that. Her behavior is part of her pathology.

At the same time, I don't take any shoot from her. If she says things that are cruel, I ask her if she meant to be deliberately cruel. She tries to "laugh it off", like I am the one with the problem. Yes, I am, the things she says are often done just for a negative reaction. I tell her that saying things like that hurts me, and I don't want to be around a mean old woman. And I leave.

Wow. She has really straightened up her act. Topics are current, no going over past things. She now avoids "hot zones".

Of course, the fact that I support her probably has a lot to do with her personality change.
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Old 03-27-2013, 11:27 PM
 
Location: Military City, USA.
5,502 posts, read 6,415,074 times
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I just finished a class called "Boundaries", the book is of the same name, written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. You are doing exactly right in setting boundaries! Please read the book (look for on ebay or at a half price book store before paying full price) or take the class (usually taught at a church Bible study, although IMO one would not have to be a member of that church, I wasn't).

Keep up the good work, and don't feel guilty or bad, you cannot control other people.
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Old 03-27-2013, 11:48 PM
 
Location: Minnesota
400 posts, read 1,911,066 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by todd00 View Post
I don't think its true that all BP people are not capable of empathy or sympathy. That is not part of the BP illness. While you see it being true in your moms case, there are all too many people in the world like that without any diagnosed illness. I've known some BP2 people that are very kind and considerate of others. I think I might be one of those BP2 types without the mania and I'd give the shirt off my back for stray animals and people that treated me well. My mom was purposely very nasty and mean, she wasn't BP, thats just how she treated me. Some family members seem to get treated like the crap on the bottom of the shoe even when they are the givers.

I can see your point about distancing yourself from you. She obviously knows how to push your buttons and enjoys doing it for some reason. When my mom hung up on me when my 16 year old dog that had heart trouble was dying, well I stopped calling her. How cold and heartless is that. Then a few months later she fell and broke her hip, as I have no siblings it was up to me to tend to things. She got weaker, hospice for a short time, then she died. Its too bad cuz at one time we were close and got along very well. Still an open wound how it ended up. Don't let it work out that way for you. As you have other siblings, move far away and you will not have to deal with nearly as much of it.
Hi todd00. I see your point that not every BP person lacks empathy or sympathy. Sorry to hear that you suffer from BP as well. And I'm sorry to hear that your mom was nasty and mean to you, although she wasn't a BP when she was alive. And it took a lot of integrity to maintain your boundaries with her when she died. I appreciate the advice not to let that happen with myself and my mom. At this point, I am okay with the distance between us and leave it up to my sister and brother to care for her when that time comes. I can assure you that I won't regret "not being there for her." She's still abusing me as an adult and she's still in complete denial about the consequences of her abuse. That is not someone I can be around, regardless of the fact that she gave birth to me. She is toxic to my mental well being. And please find healing for yourself about your decision. You did the best thing for yourself. You are stronger than you think. Don't beat yourself up about that anymore.

And I agree with you that certain family members of dysfunctional family systems get trapped into the scapegoat role early on, and are stuck with that role/label which is meant to keep the dysfunctional family pattern going, so whatever the real painful issues are, are kept hidden away, with the scapegoat used as the target of distraction. Everything is the scapegoat's fault, even when that person isn't guilty of doing anything wrong.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jasper12 View Post
My Mother is mentally ill. I understand that. Her behavior is part of her pathology.

At the same time, I don't take any shoot from her. If she says things that are cruel, I ask her if she meant to be deliberately cruel. She tries to "laugh it off", like I am the one with the problem. Yes, I am, the things she says are often done just for a negative reaction. I tell her that saying things like that hurts me, and I don't want to be around a mean old woman. And I leave.

Wow. She has really straightened up her act. Topics are current, no going over past things. She now avoids "hot zones".

Of course, the fact that I support her probably has a lot to do with her personality change.
Hi jasper12: I'm glad you can relate because of your own mentally ill mother. How long did it take you to get to that place where you put up very strong boundaries with her? Good for you for standing up for yourself by telling her that her comments hurt you and then you leave. That is a very healthy response. But why do you continue to financially support her? That has to be extremely difficult on your psyche, not to mention your wallet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michigan Transplant View Post
I just finished a class called "Boundaries", the book is of the same name, written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. You are doing exactly right in setting boundaries! Please read the book (look for on ebay or at a half price book store before paying full price) or take the class (usually taught at a church Bible study, although IMO one would not have to be a member of that church, I wasn't).

Keep up the good work, and don't feel guilty or bad, you cannot control other people.
hi Michigan Transplant: I'll have to get that book. Thanks for the recommendation! You're absolutely correct that I can't control my mom or anyone else. I definitely don't feel guilty as much as I used to. She has done and said some terrible things to me growing up -- and continues to do so at 71 years old. I should add that my mom's mother died from Alzheimer's Disease at the age of 76. Sometimes I wonder if the nasty moods my mom exhibits are an early symptom of Alzheimer's. Who knows. She was nasty when I was a child, so it's probably just her personality. I should take a class on "Boundaries." I wonder if I can as a non-psych student.
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Old 03-29-2013, 07:37 PM
 
18,837 posts, read 37,203,487 times
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My mom lives in poverty, and makes unwise choices. But, I don't want her homeless or living with me. That being the case, helping her out is worth it to me. She knows her budget, and only needs help for significant expenses, new heat pump, car payments. I am not wealthy, but I have sufficient income to cover some reasonable expenses.

Really, what other choices are there? Mentally ill family can't take care of themselves.
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Old 03-30-2013, 07:04 AM
 
Location: Minnesota
400 posts, read 1,911,066 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jasper12 View Post
My mom lives in poverty, and makes unwise choices. But, I don't want her homeless or living with me. That being the case, helping her out is worth it to me. She knows her budget, and only needs help for significant expenses, new heat pump, car payments. I am not wealthy, but I have sufficient income to cover some reasonable expenses.

Really, what other choices are there? Mentally ill family can't take care of themselves.
Well it's kind of you. What other choices are there? There's always assisted living options, as far as I know. I guess it depends on where you live.
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Old 08-13-2013, 04:04 PM
 
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Wow! I thought I was the only one who had to deal with an unhealthy mother / daughter relationship due to a mother who suffers from bipolar disorder. My mother has always been verbally and emotionally abusive to me, even as an adult. Unfortunately my sister seems to be showing the same signs as my mother on a recent visit. I now refuse to have either of them stay in my home for visits due to the verbal and emotional abuse. Boundaries only seem to make them angry, but is the only way that I have found to deal with them beside refusing to respond to the verbal assaults. My mother has even shown up for a surprise visit with her two dogs and a friend and she lives across the country. I have my own family now and feel that I have to protect both them and myself, but even from a far my mother has convinced other family members and family friends that I am this bad person and my reputation has been attacked on Facebook for the world to see. So I am no longer friends with many family members on FB due to the 3 times that I have been called vulgar names on FB.
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