In my first post about my mother, I described what I remember of her. Today I want to try and make sense of her behavior in terms of pathological mental conditions.
I looked around the internet a lot. Studied diagnostic criteria. Leafed through mom’s shrink books. Talked with mom. Who was surprised, because I used to shy away from talking about my mother. But now I feel like I need to know.
But it’s hard. Hard to make sense of the behavior of someone I haven’t seen for 11 years. Also hard to recall enough memories to piece the picture together. So my conclusion might be wrong. Even so, I’m going to write it down, because I spent so many hours thinking about it last night.
After looking at the many personality disorders, believe my mother has most likely had Antisocial Personality Disorder and probably others on top. But antisocial describes the largest part.
Quoting from the ICD-10:
Antisocial Personality Disorder is characterized by at least 3 of the following:
- Callous unconcern for the feelings of others.
- Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations.
- Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them.
- Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.
- Incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment.
- Markedly prone to blame others or to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior that has brought the person into conflict with society.
I’ll try to find examples regarding if and how those critera apply to the behavior of my mother.
On 1: Callous unconcern for the feelings of others
I think taking pleasure in ridiculing your child, not caring a bit about your child’s cries when it got physically or sexually abused, but instead scowling “you little slut wanted it that way, so it serves you right it’s painful” qualifies.
On 2: Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations.
This one is harder. She never got into conflict with the law, because she knew how to suck up to people and say what they wanted to hear. But she never thought twice about going to bars at night when my step-father was away on jobs, leaving me home alone when I wasn’t even school aged for hours on end, so she could get drunk and find men to fuck her. Or brought them home. She never cared for rules other than her own and only pretended to follow them when someone was watching, but at home commented on how stupid people were who didn’t ignore the rules in area’s where they would get away with it without getting caught.
3. Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them.
She never had difficulty to pick up men when my step-father wasn’t around, but none of them were anything serious. She didn’t have friends that I know of. But my stepfather was an enduring relationship and he was the most important person in the world to her, in a sick way, so I don’t know if #3 fits.
4. Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.
This one is easy. Even minimal frustration, like me not doing exactly what she demanded I do, immediately made her lash out. She wasn’t one for warnings. I either obeyed or I regretted it. Sometimes it was violence for the sake of it. I remember an incident where I was in my room and out of the blue she came in and twisted my arms onto my back so hard that I screamed with the pain. I had no idea what I had done, and all she said was that she could tie me up with my arms like that if she wanted to. Back then I thought I must have done awful things to get punished so much, but now I think she might have simply enjoyed seeing me in pain. I have vague memories of other incidents like this. I wonder if she might have been sadistic.
5. Incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment.
That one is hard to tell for me. I don’t think she ever felt guilty about anything. She just felt like everyone constantly wronged her, like on purpose, and owed her. That others were stupid, and everyone deserved it when they were too stupid to realize they were being tricked. She stole cash from the guys she fucked, for example. I don’t know about punishment, because I never saw her get punished.
6. Markedly prone to blame others and to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior that has brought the person into conflict with society.
I never saw my mother interact with people outside the family much, but I know that she always said how everything was someone else’s fault, that all her misery was my fault, and maybe the closest thing to the second point were the incidents when my step-father came home from a job and saw she had beat me up because there were bruises on me, and questioned her about it. He didn’t like it when she hit me, even when he sometimes did the same thing. She always told him how terrible I had been to her so that she had not been able to help herself any other way, so he turned his anger on me instead.
There were other aspects of her personality, too, like being OCD about keeping the house clean, and paranoid about everyone being out to harm her, so I don’t know if other personality disorders added to her behavior, but there are so many things about antisocial personality disorder that sound right, that
I think this was the main thing.
Now I realize that sounds like everything was bad, but not everything was. When I was little, I loved my mother a lot and would have done anything to make her happy, to be a better daughter. She probably had good sides, too. It was just that with everything together, at the end of the day the shit part was just too much and too serious. Sometimes I wonder what happened to her to make her the way she was. But I feel like I lose myself if I follow that thought for too long, so I don’t go there.
I find it helps to piece things together, though. I find it helps me feel less awful about myself, and a bit more like even if I had tried harder, it would not have made much of a difference. That it wasn’t only because of me that things went so wrong. I wonder if there are other kids who have a parent with Antisocial Personality Disorder. I’d like to know how they cope.