Shared psychotic disorder, also known as folie à deux (“the folly of two”)
When you are taking care of a crazy person, it is hard not to feel that the crazy person is really you.
And at times, I’ve probably become the crazy person because it is truly maddening to attempt reason or logic with someone who speaks in a circular fashion and responds to mundane conversation with the sudden pronouncement, “My kidneys don’t work.”
As a girl I prayed nightly that I would die before my mother. I loved her so desperately I couldn’t imagine life without her.
Now, 60 years later, I pray that she doesn’t suck the life out of me before she dies.
I have come to realize that Lilith is a psychic vampire, commonly known as someone with narcissistic personality disorder. Which means she has a much inflated self image and a total lack of empathy.
Reading about it for the first time I felt sick to my stomach. There, in an essay on the Mayo Clinic website was a description of my life. How had I missed all the signs?? Especially since I had written about her so many times …
My Mother Was a Beauty Queen ♣ Born To Win ♣ A Madness Shared By Two ♣ The Summer of My Last Innocence ♣ Up in the Country ♣ UITC 3
Ironically, the wicked stepmother in Cinderella was originally her wicked mother, but Disney or someone decided that was too harsh.
Lilith is the person who consistently makes everything about her. The most mundane, unimportant, or the life threatening … can always be skewed to be about her. And her drive to have it be about her is so intense that it demands control of her children, to the extent that she can and will warp any situation to redirect the attention to herself.
Initially girl children are her target as they can’t be real people. They exist to be mirrors of her, or shadows of her, but a truly narcissistic woman can’t bear other females so they vacillate between attempted domination of their daughters, and banishment of them if the controls happen to not work.
Off and on in my life I lived with my Grandmother, was left in the care of various aunts and uncles for long periods of time, and when she got wind of summer camp, I was packed off every summer for weeks and weeks.
I would like to get past it
The worst of it is, I would like to get past it. Have it disappear. But her very real need for care at this point keeps me in close proximity and still vulnerable to her machinations.
And, as has been the case most of my life, like a Chinese Finger Trap, the more I struggle to extricate myself, the harder she tries to regain control. I feel just like I did at 15: Suffocated and desperate to get as far away from her as I can.
Even when she isn’t around, the more I try to protect myself, the old stuff bubbles to the surface. I remember things long forgotten that screamed CRAZINESS then and scream it still.
- When I was pregnant with my daughter my mother wrote and told me she had dreamed about OUR baby. How she took care of it — she was so excited because she breastfed it. OUR baby.
- When that same child was three or four and we fought over the junk food she insisted on feeding my child when I wasn’t around, her final words were “You think she’ll love me more than you.” (When I laughed at her and said that had never crossed my mind she was furious for weeks.)
- On safety pins: “Oh these will never work. You have to take them back … You need to learn to buy quality.” Of course you do, because buying good safety pins is a much better idea than buying clothes that actually fit.
My brothers were mostly unaware until they took wives and then the trouble trebled as there were three women in Lilith’s orbit to be wary of and two of them had, after all, diverted her sons’ love away from her. For more than 20 years she predicted they would divorce (her sons would never put up with what those women were doing to her, which was nothing, but who is counting?)
Or worse, they’re surely sleeping with other women – how else could they stay with their wives?
Knowing my brothers as I do, I’d manage to get into a fight every time she brought up the daughters-in-law because my brothers love their wives. They aren’t and have never contemplated divorce and I’d bet my life they’ve never cheated.
She doesn’t want anyone to disagree with her, especially non-person me, so she’d switch back to bullying me for my lack of sympathy to her plight with the in laws.
At one time I had what was probably the largest personal collection of self help literature on the planet. I spent years in therapy because not only could I not get along with my mother, I also couldn’t get along with any of my husbands and I was scared to death that I was screwing up my kids.
Now my self help library overflows with texts on the narcissistic mother … Imagine my surprise to learn it isn’t that she doesn’t like me – what I have felt for my entire life – She doesn’t even think of me as a person.
In her mind I’m her Mini Me.