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Psychiatry & Psychology--General/Please help - abusive parent with a possible diassociative identity disorder (previously called Multiple Personality Disorder) from continuing to be verbally and emotionally abusive, with decades of history of being physically, verbally, and emotionally a


Please help me - is there any way that I can stop my mother with a possible diassociative identity disorder (previously called Multiple Personality Disorder) from continuing to be verbally and emotionally abusive to me as a middle aged adult, short of cutting all contact?

Here is the situation: My sibling and I were abused horribly by my mother growing up. There was physical, verbal, emotional abuse.  I was never in the hospital, but for example the physical abuse I was picked up and thrown by my hair, whipped with necklaces so it left welts.  The school and CPS were called several times, but I refused to cooperate due to fear of her and they weren’t able to prove anything.  Emotional abuse included screaming, yelling, being told I should never have been born or aborted, told to kill myself, and asked to kill myself (she tried to insist I do it and tried to give me a tool to do it), as well as blaming me for everything she did to me because I “made her” do it.  She also blamed me on occasion for the abuse she inflicted on my sibling.  I was threatened to never tell anyone, or I would be taken away and have no possessions, or if the family split it would be my fault.  I didn’t for a long time. As a teenager I wasn’t believed by my father when I started talking, and got punished for talking back or defending myself.  The physical abuse stopped when I was 15, after I told her how bad she messed up my life and I would never forgive her.  It stopped until I was 20, when I begrudgingly and painfully forgave her.  2 weeks later she dragged me out of bed by my hair and started slapping and scratching me again, over a poorly washed car.  I never forgave her again.  The physical abuse stopped again.  The emotional and verbal abuse, however, has never stopped.  
My mother has over the years claimed to have no knowledge of what she did to us, claims it never happened. She also sometimes remembers things and tells us about them, and then days later says it never happened.  This “selective forgetfulness” has been going on our whole lives.  I know for a fact that she also at least blocked out horrendous abuse she at they very least witnessed on a continual growing up.  Over periods of time, she apologizes and says she wishes she could remember, to denying it ever happened, to “remembering” and blaming us again.

I have severe coping issues, depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive thinking patterns, and a complete inability to cope with conflict as a result – and no ability to handle my emotions or deal with emotional pain or work through things. Decades after no longer living with her, I’m just now beginning to get the help I need.

The odd thing is my father is a mental health professional – and he is just now realizing that yes, the abuse DID actually happen, after he witnessed it with his own eyes with my sibling.  Up until then he didn't believe us - thought the truth was probably between what my mother told him and what we told him.  My mother was very good at hiding it and lying for years, and forcing cover up through fear.  He is the one who thinks she has some sort of disassociation going on (which I am really wondering if he is right), and he never really fully (wanted to) see it.  I do not think he is willing to force her to face it because he thinks it will cause her too much pain.  When he mentioned it, something about it just makes sense.... besides this, sometimes she is incredibly capable, sometimes she acts like a completely lost incapable child....  her states of being are sometimes so radically different, I truly wonder if this is what might be going on.  Regardless, I want her abuse of me, and other family members, to stop.

The latest is she is still verbally and emotionally abusive at times.  I got in a fight with her over the phone after she denied it ever happened, I blew up, and she then “remembered” things she did, and once again blamed me for some abuse she inflicted on my sibling, when we were both young children.

I am tired of being emotionally and verbally abused.  At this point, I don’t think I can have a relationship with her, because she refuses to admit she needs help, and people around her (family members) are shielding HER from what she did, because “she is a victim too!”. Is there any way to make any abusive disassociative states STOP???  Like when she starts the verbal and emotional abuse is there something I can say or do to snap her out of it?  I love my mother and she is a wonderful person 85 percent of the time, but five percent of the time she is a monster, and I can’t continue a relationship with her knowing the abuse will never stop, while she denies it and others make excuses for her.  Help?

Yes, you need to get out of this abusive relationship.  Some therapy for yourself might help you get the resolve to end it, or at least put significant structure on it (only see her in public places like restaurants -- where physical abuse could be witnessed by others and the police could be called). But, yes, it has to end.

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Daniel S. Harrop, M.D.


Dr. Daniel S. Harrop received his B.A. and his M.D., both from Brown, and his M.B.A. from the Edinburgh Business School, Scotland. Board-certified in adult and geriatric psychiatry, he is a past president of the R.I. Psychiatric Society and a member of the Committee on Medical Quality of the American Psychiatric Association and the Committee on Continuing Medical Education of the R.I Medical Society. He serves as a consultant to four of the top five major medical management companies, including OptumHealth/United Healthcare, Magellan Behavioral Health Services, ValueOptions and APS Healthcare, and maintains a private practice in Providence, R.I. He also serves as chief psychiatric consultant on the Medical Advisory Board at the R.I. Workers Compensation Court. He was formerly on the faculty at the medical schools at both Brown University and Harvard University.

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