Turning Straw Into Gold

Life through a Buddhist lens

Is Your Caregiver Self-Absorbed and Manipulative?

Do any of the following sound familiar? At first your caregiver is amazing. He or she seems truly devoted to giving you the best care possible. But then this person to whom you’ve entrusted your care (and often your house keys) begins to criticize you and find fault with everything you do. Read More

Two sides of a coin

Very helpful piece, Toni. It's brutal to be chronically ill and have a narcissistic caregiver.

The flip side of the coin is a self-actualized caregiver. The role still has its travails. Maggie Strong's great book MAINSTAY was the first good look at caregiver life; it is also very helpful.

Thanks Anonymous

I didn't know about "Mainstay." I'll check it out. Warmly, Toni

Interesting! I have a friend

Interesting! I have a friend who will find this book very useful. Thanks for writing about it.

Hi Alexandra

I'm so glad you have a friend who will find the book useful! Warmly, Toni

Very interesting topic. I

Very interesting topic. I find it fascinating - and surprising - that most narcissists are insecure. They sure put on a good front...I guess that's part of the need to control.

Hi Sheryl

Yes, I didn't realize how insecure narcissists were either although when I thought about it more, it made sense. Thanks for reading and commenting. Warmly, Toni

This sounds a lot like what

This sounds a lot like what I've read about bullies. What "better" way is there for a seriously insecure person to feel superior than to squash others they find threatening. Whether they're a bully or a narcissistic caregiver, they're dangerous.

very interesting.. i didn't

very interesting.. i didn't know what narcassism is but from reading your blog we have been a victim of it several times by my nieces who have come to live with us and help us around the house as our illnesses got worse.. our last episode was with my oldest niece and her boyfriend, her boyfriend was great though she was the weight of the problems.. they moved in in October 2011 and shes not a country girl and we live on an old farm house heated with just an old coal/wood burning stove and each bedroom has an electric heater. she would keep hers on high all the time and still complain it was always cold and we had a warm winter last yr.. her boyfriend liked to cut wood for the stove rather than us using coal since we really couldn't afford it, she got cranky about that because she had to help.. she was supposed to be doing the dishes and cleaning the floors and doing the laundry and i was to pay her $80 every two weeks.. they were also to help us rip up the carpeting in the living room since it was destroyed from to many cats.. my daughter cleaned up most of the living room weeks before that.. my niece kept putting off ripping up the carpet and i wanted it up because with my breathing it was not good.. so one morning i was feeling pretty good i got up earlier then everyone else and i took most of the stuff out of the living room so we could rip up the rug.. my point was if she wasnt going to do it i'd do it myself even if i didn't have much energy.. she got pissy when she woke up and seen what i did but she eventualy went in and started ripping up the rug, i tried to help her and she'd yell at me.. her boyfriend would occasionally take the old rug out to the garage but usually she was so bitchy she did it herself...so next altercation came about a week later.. her contribution to the house was her food stamps every month which wasn't much but it helped.. well we changed our diet to suit them, we got more meats and carby stuff then we used to and alot of stuff to suit them.. but one day she decided to gripe that the food stamps weren't being handled right, that they weren't getting any food they liked.. we argued over little things for several days one of which was how my boyfriend treated his daughter, she didn't think he was strict enough with her.. it was none of her business... anyway things came to a head one night and we gave them the choice that they can just live here and take care of themselves we dont need them to take care of us anylonger or they can get out.. she decided they were going to move in with her sister who she turned against me also and the moving date was the day of my birthday.. i now talk to none of my nieces for various reasons and only slightly to my mother.. i have nothing to do with my brother or sisters either..
sorry for the long story..
much LOVE and METTA...

Hi Tina

I'm glad that you found the article interesting and that you know to try and steer clear of narcissists. Love and metta to you too, Toni

I never thought about a

I never thought about a narcissist as being insecure but that now makes perfect sense!

Hi Brette

I hadn't thought of narcissists as being insecure either, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Thanks for reading and commenting. Warmest wishes, Toni

such an interesting post

I didn't realize until reading this that I probably know a narcissist or two. Is it hopeless for them? How do they get help so they can change - is it even possible?

Hi Christine

I'm not an expert on this so I don't know what the outlook is for them. I do believe that everyone can change though and so I'd think if they got help, they could to. It must be painful for them to be so insecure. All my best, Toni

Unfortunately since

Unfortunately since narcissists' absolute worst fear is criticism or perceived criticism of their "mask" they are highly unlikely to seek or accept professional help, according to everything I have read. They tend to rid themselves of anyone who challenges them, and keep close people who offer constant praise. Best advice, accept they are sick and avoid any situation they may interpret as you criticizing them (do not even offer advice or compare how you do something) because they will go on the offensive and attack you.

VERY INTERESTING. SO WITH MY

VERY INTERESTING. SO WITH MY CFS COMES A VERY LOW STRES THRESHOLD. DO I STAY WITH A PERSON WHO UPSETS ME CONSTANTLY & MAKES MY ILLNESS WORSE OR DO I LEAVE? SINCE THEY ARE UNABLE TO CHANGE, THEN IT'S UP TO ME TO MAKE A CHANGE. WILL I BE BETTER OFF ON MY OWN? LOVE TO HEAR THOTS ON THIS ONE!

Hi Bonnie

I wish I could provide you with some guidance here. It's such a complex situation and decision -- tied up with finances, personal relationships (do the good times ever outweigh the bad), etc. I would think that the people around you -- who know you and the person you're with -- would be better able to advise you. I hope that things improve for you soon. All my best, Toni

narcissism

Bonnie, I'm sorry you are in that position. I suggest getting ahold of a book called "Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay." It has helped countless people decide exactly what you are wondering about. I recommend it to friends and clients all the time.

If you find a way out of this relationship, then you might find yourself in less pain. The stress of that relationship is possibly tensing your muscles everywhere in your body - once that stress is gone, your muscles will learn to relax just a little more.

Blessings, Mary

Thank you SO much Mary

for jumping in to help Bonnie with the book recommendation and your comment. I don't have experience with narcissism which is why I wasn't able to be of more help to her. With gratitude, Toni

Of course!

Toni, of course, you are welcome. I know of you through Jan Lundy. She is my mentor and we both live in TC. I'm an art therapist and life coach, and I have first hand experience with a narcissist, which was a terrifically hard time in my life.

I always read your FB posts with great joy!
Mary

I'm in the 25% ME group,

I'm in the 25% ME group, meaning I spend most go my time in bed and need care. I have become a hermit, and am lonely. Luckily I am a HSP(Highly Sensitive Person) and an introvert. I like my own company but still there is a difference between. Being alone and loneliness. For me loneliness means no human contact other than my husband and no spiritual bond with anyone. I do have online friends but an holding a hand or an eye contact that says I totally understand, is missing in my life.

I have been ill for many years but when I stopped being able to do certain things I discovered my husband was a narcissist. I was able to ignore that for a long time and blamed his disinterest on his busy job. But after a crisis I flat out asked him why he never took care of me when I was in bed. He told me that he could not place himself into another person's feelings. That he grew up without empathy. That his mom was the same and that having empathy was heavily discouraged at his home, it was something they looked down on. A weakness. His father died months before his birth so he was raised by his mom, his siblings already left home. I was flabbergasted when his siblings told me years later they never knew I was sick, he never mentioned it and by than I was already in a wheelchair. Illness was also seen as a weakness. They did not even have Tylenol at house, if you had a headache you just dealt with it and go on.

He admitted the no empathy feelings towards me but said he was willing to learn. He will do things as long as I ask him to. It does not come from his heart. This is exhausting, I feel embarrassed, shame, guilt but most of all I feel like a little girl having to ask her parent for everything. There is no spontaneous care taking. He can hear me up at night, fainting, vomiting and will come and ask if I need help but than leaves me lying in bed all day. There are days I just can make it to the toilet. It doesn't occur to him to look in on me to ask if I need anything, a cup of tea or water or maybe some food. I could easily be death and he would discovered that a day or 2 later. (We have separate rooms). Hearing him walking through the house, he works from home, without even a peek around the door is the loneliest feeling I know. If I would be able to walk to the living room and ask him to make me a cup of tea he would gladly do it. If I tell him how much this disinterest hurts me on top of me being ill he acts surprised, every time again. Over the years we have discussed this many times and every time it's like it is news to him.

It also applies to my treatment, I should get injection 2-3 times a day. My dr asked him if he would be able to do that and he happily said yes. But guess what? It rarely happens. I will have to ask 3 times a day if he has time to give me my injections and sometimes he has and other times he doesn't. But taking responsibility for that part of my treatment like he told my dr, no that's not going to happen. I once tried to discuss this problem with my dr and his first words were that it couldn't possibly be this bad. So now I am what? A liar as well?

I think these feelings that his behavior generates contributes to me not making any progress in what kind of treatment we are trying. Sometimes I just lie here for days wishing death would come soon, anything would be better than this feeling of not being worth of care or interest in how i am feeling. I am trapped, he is my only caregiver, no family or friends around and hiring someone is not something he wants to do because he is home and can do what needs to be done. But after I ask 3 days in a row if he can help wash my hair and it doesn't happen there is something inside me that shuts off. There is no way out. Sorry for the long post but I needed for one time tell this.

Hello Flo

Your story and your circumstances just break my heart. I'm so sorry. The fact that your husband said he's willing to learn give me a glimmer of hope. I'm hoping there's some way you could have a therapist help, someone who understands his lack of empathy and how to overcome it. I don't know if this is feasible but his willingness may be worth pursuing. If therapy isn't an option, there may be some books that could help if he'd read them.

My heart goes out to you and I hope things will change for you.

Warmest wishes to you,
Toni

HI TONI, IT HAS BEEN

HI TONI, IT HAS BEEN SUGGESTED MY HUSBAND GO FOR COUNSELLING. HIS ANSWER? ''NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.'' THESE PEOPLE DON'T SEE THEMSELVES AS BEING IN THE WRONG--IT IS ALWAYS THE OTHER PERSON. WE'RE THE ONES WHO NEED HELP. I ASKED HIM YEARS AGO TO READ ABOUT CFS. HE IS NOT INTERESTED--IT IS SOMETHING TO BE OVERCOME BY THE POWER OF OUR MINDS--NOT TO BE UNDERSTOOD. THEY WON'T READ!.. THEY ARE NOT WILLING TO LEARN--THEY ''KNOW IT ALL''. MY HUSBAND HAS SAID MANY TIMES THAT HE DOES ''UNDERSTAND''--I DON'T BELIEVE HE'S DELIBERATELY CRUEL, I JUST DON'T THINK HE KNOWS ANY BETTER. THE STRANGE PARADOX IS THAT THEY DO STAY--GIVES THEM A SENSE OF POWER, I GUESS. NARCISSISM IS SO SIMILAR TO ADDICTION & THE BEHAVIOR THAT GOES WITH THAT. AS MUCH AS I WANT TO STAY IN MY HOME, AS MUCH AS I ENJOY THE GOOD PARTS, ALL THE TIMES HE DOES DO THINGS, LIKE DOING DISHES, SHOVELLING SNOW, GOING TO GET ITEMS AT THE STORE, I'M NOT LIVING IN A ''NORMAL''WORLD & IT'S NOT A HEALTHY ONE FOR A CHRONICALLY ILL PERSON. AS FOR INTIMACY OF ANY KIND, THERE IS NONE. SEPARATE BEDROOMS ONLY LEAD TO MORE DISTANCE. I'M VERY WILLING & WANT THAT VERY IMPORTANT PART OF MARRIAGE, HE DOES NOT. WE ARE SIMPLY ROOM MATES, SHARING A HOME. TONI--YOU HAD NO IDEA WHAT YOU'D START WITH THIS TOPIC, DID YOU? I'M SO GLAD YOU DECIDED TO ADDRESS IT, THOUGH.

HI FLO---I THOUGHT I WAS

HI FLO---I THOUGHT I WAS READING MY OWN STORY! I'M NOT AS ILL AS YOU BUT HAVE HAD SO MANY WEEKS WHERE I WAS VERY SICK. I WOULD HAVE STARVED TO DEATH IF NOT ABLE TO STUMBLE OUT LATER IN THE EVENING--MY BETTER TIME, & MAKE SOME SOUP. I HAVE AN EXTRA PROBLEM IN THAT BECAUSE I HAVE SOME ''BETTER'' DAYS, I'M ABLE TO MAKE A MEAL. HE IS THE ''OLD FASHIONED'' TYPE; HE'S 73 & HE EXPECTS THIS AS HIS DO. HE DOESN'T EVEN FEED HIMSELF, SO I FIND MYSELF HAVING GUILT ON THE MANY DAYS I DON'T COOK..HE MAKES ME FEEL GUILT--INTENDED OR NOT! HE IS NOT A ''COOK'', SO IT'S NOT A NATURAL THING FOR HIM. AS U SAY, IF I ASK OR GIVE INSTRUCTION, HE IS QUITE ACCOMODATING. HOWEVER, WHEN YOU LACK ENERGY & MOTIVATION & ARE SO FATIGUED, HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO CONSTANTLY GIVE INSTRUCTION, ESPECIALLY TO SOMEONE WHO SAYS THEY CARE FOR YOU? HE SIMPLY DOES NOT UNDERSTAND, OR BELIEVE THIS IS A SERIOUS ILLNESS! I DO HAVE FAMILY, BUT NOT CLOSE BY. I, TOO, HAVE NOONE ELSE NEAR-BY. WE HAVE SEPARATE ROOMS, ALSO--SO I'M GUESSING YOU HAVE NO INTIMACY OF ANY KIND-- NO HUGS--NO CUDDLING! ONLY A COMPUTER TO KEEP YOU COMPANY. I FEEL SO INCREDIBLY SORRY YOU HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY, DAY AFTER DAY. I KNOW HOW U FEEL. SENDING YOU LOVE & PRAYERS & ''EMPATHY''! BONNIE.

I find the discussion about

I find the discussion about narcissism and insecurity very interesting. As others have pointed out, I didn't realize that connection.

Kristin

I didn't realize the connection either. I learned so much from the interview myself. Thanks for reading and commenting. My best, Toni

caregiving, narcissists

What a fascinating interview. It's bad enough to run into a narcissist or two when you're not dependent on them, but their serving as a caregiver is the stuff of nightmares and Stephen King. Thanks for such a provocative piece.

You're welcome Ruth

Yes, a caregiver who's a narcissist is the stuff of nightmares. I learned a lot from the interview myself. Warmest wishes, Toni

There is a website I highly

There is a website I highly recommend that has made so much sense out of my troubled life:

http://daughtersofnarcissisticmothers.com/

This site would still be useful to understand narcissists other than mothers- like anyone in a mothering type role like a caregiver.

I grew up in a family of narcissists, and my whole life I have had the hardest time putting the abuse I've endured into words. Narcissists rewrite history to put themselves in a favorable light, must be dominant in every situation, and become offended extremely easily. At their core they do not have a solid sense of who they are. They must constantly seek sources of "narcissistic supply" in the form of affirmations and reinforcement of that fake mask personality. They are often like Jekyll and Hyde- much loved in public but monsters in private. If you call their bluff and say they are hurting you you will receive their wrath. Considering they seek a constant supply of your energy, they are probably the worst person to be around if you are energy deficient as with chronic illness.

My mother works as a caregiver, and used to "help" me before I was able to qualify for state services. The "help" is a ruse, because they are doing it entirely with the hope for a constant stream of praise from you, and from other people who witness them "helping" you. Don't be fooled for a minute. Anyone who cares more about what they get in return, than about what you actually need, is not a good caregiver. A little known fact is that if they can't get praise from you they will try to engage you in arguing because from their point of view at least they are getting your full undivided attention, which is another form of "narcissistic supply."

Best thing is to learn how to protect yourself, learn how to identify narcissists or narcissistic tendencies, and stay an arm's length away. Unfortunately, by definition they are incapable of the kind of self reflection it takes to change themselves. It has been very sad and lonely for me to accept this about my mother and other family members, but I am currently enjoying more peace and joy, and less stress triggering my illness now they are not around. I'm creating a family of choice, of friends who genuinely care, instead.

off-topic...can you maybe do a blog on...

Chronic illness and sexuality?

Michael Castleman broaches the subject here:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-sex/201212/great-sex-despi...

Hi Anonymous

I saw that post when it went up a few days ago and it also made me think about this as a subject to write about. I'm not sure I can though because I write from personal experience and this may be too private for me to write about. I'll think about it though. All my best, Toni

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Toni Bernhard, J.D., is a former law professor at University of California at Davis. She wrote the award-winning How to Be Sick and, recently, How to Wake Up.

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