A. I'm writing because I have long wondered if my mother has some kind of personality disorder. She often abused me physically and emotionally when I was a child and would fly into rages (yelling and crying). In fact, I don't remember a holiday that didn't end or begin with Mom pitching a fit. At 39, I am the oldest of four children, none of whom will acknowledge or address her behavior. None of the children confided in her much (except for me), and I now suspect it was because she seems only able to discuss or see others' problems in terms of how they affect her. Mom reacted horribly to me when, at 27, I had surgery to remove a brain tumor. She raged that I "couldn't be sick because I wasn't the wife." Then she attempted suicide when only I was home (recuperating) and blamed me for the attempt. She even made me go on welfare, though we lived in an upper middle class community. Finally, she evicted me from the house during my recuperation. Please know that until my surgery I had been self-supporting. I had even put myself through grad. school. In fact, I hadn't lived at home for years. Are people with personality disorders often abusive and how can family members maintain contact without being hurt?
Q. People with personality disorders are often difficult to cope with. Without trying to make a diagnosis, the lack of empathy warrants a look into the "Narcissistic Personality Disorder." Sometimes you simply cannot maintain contact without being hurt.
There's an old saying "if someone is drowning it's very noble to dive in and try to save them. However if they insist on drowning, and they insist on taking you with them, you must let them go." Detaching can be a very, very difficult process, but is sometimes necessary.
At the minimum I strongly suggest you get into therapy to make sense of this, find out what's wrong, and make a plan for the future. It's clearly overwhelming you at this time. Sometimes fixing what's wrong with you is necessary to improve dealing with an abusive parent. The book "Toxic Parents" by Susan Forward may be of help to you as well.