Mother, part II

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:

  1. Callous unconcern for the feelings of others.
  2. Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations.
  3. Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them.
  4. Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.
  5. Incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment.
  6. 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.

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Antigone
    Oct 26, 2012 @ 23:05:34

    AsPD is a tough thing to deal with in a parent. I can’t say whether or not you’re right, but I’m sorry for what you went through. I did find it empowering to know that my mother had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It validated my experience and showed me that I was not the crazy one. She really did those things to me.

    • Lola
      Oct 27, 2012 @ 08:04:09

      I find it makes it easier to feel like maybe I really didn’t do those things to me because of something I did, because I was not good enough as a daughter. That maybe it happened just because that’s what people with AsPD do. That maybe she never cared about me because she can’t care about anyone, that it’s maybe just not a function of her brain, no matter what.

  2. vwoopvwoop
    Oct 31, 2012 @ 11:42:40

    i’m so sorry your mother wasn’t a good or safe parent for you. i know how that goes, so i know there’s really no words to console, but it looks like you’re doing great with all this new learning. it definitely wasn’t your fault. i’m glad you’re writing all this out, i bet it’s really helpful. i know it’s helpful for me to read.

    • Lola
      Oct 31, 2012 @ 16:45:02

      Thank you. And yes, I must say it really is helpful to figure those things out. Makes it easier to acknowledge stuff. I’m glad it’s helpful for you to read, too.

  3. Trackback: An Open Letter to My Birth Mother « Who needs normal?!
  4. Kyle Stanly
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 17:00:11

    Your step-father seemed to be more of a sociopath really… he seemed to know what he was doing. He sweet-talked your mother when she was young, probably knew your mother would get extremely attached to him, and he used her. Later he used you and manipulated you into thinking you wanted it and your mother into thinking that you wanted it, turning her hatred on you. If she was AntiSocial, she wouldn’t be ‘addicted’ to anyone, and she most likely would have done a lot worse. Your mother sounds Borderline all the way.

    You stated how she idealized and even worshiped your father, yet hated you and used you as an outlet. Has she always been emotionally and physically abusive, or has she been at least remotely kind and ‘caring’ when you were really, really young? Narcissistic Personality Disorder also has the criteria for a disregard for the feelings of others, which may be co-morbid with her Borderline Personality Disorder, which is rather common.

    The second is more attributed to high-functioning Borderlines being able to remain sane in the face of the public. If she were sociopathic, by textbook, she’d be more likely to be in and out of jail for multiple felonies. The sexual promiscuity is probably attributed to her trying to find someone while your step father was away. Also your step father’s ‘jobs’ were, I’m assuming, most likely illegal heists and whatnot, he’d be much more AntiSocial than she was.

    Sexual Promiscuity is a symptom of BPD, and some call it going out “hunting” really, just finding a partner for the night to get over the loneliness they feel. People with BPD are notorious for being charming to, sorry for putting it this way, luring people in.

    The fourth describes more of a Borderline than a Sociopath really, especially since, as you should know, emotions are dysregulated, and easily tipped over the balance. Someone AntiSocial only does things if they gain something from it, but will act on impulses, but not for no reason.

    Your mother most likely feels as if she is always right and everyone is always wrong, even when she does something wrong. She probably even thinks she’s the only sane one (aside from your stepfather) and everyone else is insane, which is a key symptom for those with high-functioning Borderline Personality Disorder. However, her stealing from them may be a bit more for the Narcissistic Personality side, rather than AntiSocial (The two share many traits).

    The last part, about blaming others is a big thing for Narcissistic and High-Functioning Borderline Personality Disorder, as blaming you for her “misery” is different from her doing something bad and saying you just deserved it because you “did x, y, and z”.

    I am no professional, but your mother does not seem like a sociopath, especially since she is addicted to your father, which sociopaths, by the DSM anyway, are not really attached to anyone, and only use others for their own gain, which is what your stepfather was doing.

    I don’t know your, never have met her, and never want to, but only you can decide.

    A few links to BPD and parenting

    I could be wrong, but I highly doubt she is the AntiSocial one, your StepFather fits the bill more.

    • Lola
      Jan 08, 2013 @ 17:56:07

      Thank you for the information, Kyle. It’s really hard for me to realistically tell what my mother was suffering from, because my memories are all, well, my own memories, and I don’t have anyone who can validate them, and I know my memory is not the best. But from what you said it makes sense that my mother could have had BPD also, or something Narcissictic, and that my stepfather fit the sociopathic angle more. It’s a really tricky subject for me, and I don’t feel in a good enough spot at the moment to explore it further, because I’ve already done so much challenging stuff today, but I want to thank you for the time and effort you put into the comment and for providing the links. I’ll come back to them. 🙂

      • Kyle Stanly
        Jan 08, 2013 @ 18:00:00

        My apologies if I triggered anything or caused you to relive anything, I was just trying to help, honest, but I’m sorry if I did more harm than good. Wish you luck.

        • Lola
          Jan 08, 2013 @ 18:03:05

          Thank you. 🙂 It’s alright. I’m just taking it easy and come back when I feel like I can manage better. I appreciate the kind intention, though.

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