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I Think Mom Has a Mental Disorder

I have spent years of my life trying to figure out why I was destined to live the childhood I did, why my mother relished beating me up mentally and physically, and who in the world made the woman I called “Mom” snap to the point that she could such horrible things to me and still be able to sleep soundly at night. I’ve written six bestselling books about my childhood, I blog weekly about who I blame for my abusive childhood, and I battle the demons left over from my childhood on a daily basis.

But even though I put so much work into trying to figure my childhood out, I still didn’t have any answers as to why Mom abused me the way that she did. I couldn’t explain why she enjoyed not only hurting me, but everyone around her. I had no idea why she enjoyed shoplifting so much. I didn’t understand how she could have so many boyfriends while she was married. And I could never understand why Mom never hugged me, kissed me, or told me that she loved me.

I let Mom back into my life right after my first son was born. I hadn’t laid eyes on her in over ten years, not since the night I hit her back for the first time in my life and moved out of my abusive home forever. I had accomplished quite a bit in my life since I moved out of my house; I graduated high school, I graduated college with top honors, I got married and became a homeowner. I was doing everything in my life that she said I could never do, becoming a somebody when she was positive I would turn out to be a nobody, and living the life that she swore I would never have.

I had so many reasons to try and let Mom back into my life. I wanted to let Mom to see what a success I had become. I wanted to show her how strong I had become even though she had tried so hard to knock me down and defeat me all of my childhood. I wanted to show her that I was a mother now and that I would never hurt my child the way that she hurt me. And believe it or not, I truly wanted to try to put the past behind me and see if there was any chance of Mom and I having an adult relationship.

But most of all, I wanted answers.

It didn’t take me long after letting Mom back into my life to realize I was never going to get the answers from her that I was looking for and that something was very, very off with my mother.

It was so different “meeting” Mom again as an adult. When I was a child, Mom was huge and scary to me; she was an enormous green-eyed monster who controlled every single aspect of my life through fear and intimidation. But as an adult, Mom was just a small, meek woman who I towered over and whose arm I would break in a second if she tried to lay a hand on me. Her eyes were the same; still piercing green, still filled with judgement and hatred, and her voice made me cringe and took me back to a time in my life that I would rather forget.

But I wasn’t a child anymore, she wasn’t a big scary monster who could hurt me anymore, and I had promised myself that I would give Mom a chance as an adult. So I did what any normal adult does when they want to get to know someone; you sit down and have a conversation with them. And it was during those conversations it hit me that something was very wrong inside of Mom’s head.

If I had to describe what it was like talking to Mom as an adult; the closest thing I could equate it to is that it was as if I was having a conversation with a nine year old that had a very active imagination. You know how nine and ten year old kids are; they are pretty selfish, everything is about them, they love to be the center of attention and talk about themselves, and sometimes you are positive that they are stretching the truth to make their stories more exciting.

But I wasn’t talking to a nine or ten year old. I was talking to a fifty-five year old woman.

A fifty-five year old woman whose grand stories she told made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Timelines never matched, facts never added up, somehow in every single situation she emerged as the hero or savior, and you know that feeling you get in your stomach when you just know someone is lying? I had that feeling every single time I spoke to her.

She told me “stories” about my childhood; one of my favorites was the one she spoke of rather gleefully, recounting the time I went to church with her when I was 4 years old, pulled a red Sharpie out of my pocket and drew the picture of the devil all over the back of the church pew.

Stories like that; stories that I knew weren’t true, but she had made real in some fantasy world in her mind. And all of her stories were like that; they just didn’t make sense and you knew in your gut that she was lying. I ventured into the topic of my childhood with her just once, and as far as she was concerned; my childhood and my sister’s childhood was all lollipops and rainbows.

I could see it in her eyes; she didn’t live in the same world as everyone else around her did. Mom lived in a fantasy world in her head and I think that she truly believed the absurd things that came out of her mouth. I began to remember the stories she told me when I was a child; she had slept with rock stars and country stars, she was an alternate on the Olympic team for horseback riding, and her godfather was a famous boxer. It hit me that Mom had lived in a fantasy world her entire life.

So what does Mom have? What would a therapist diagnose my mother with? Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Schizoid Personality Disorder? I don’t know. Mom would have to be forced by a court order to attend a therapy session as she believes psychiatrists and therapists were the devil.

And does knowing that Mom is highly likely to have a mental disorder help me at all? Not really, but it does make some of my childhood make sense. It helps bring order to some of the chaos in my head when I’m struggling to find answers. But it doesn’t help me forgive her for what she did to me as a child and it doesn’t make me feel sorry for her now.

I just hope that someday she gets the help that she needs. That’s the nicest thing I can do for her is just hope.

I Think Mom Has a Mental Disorder

Sarah Burleton NY Times bestselling author

Victoria Gigante Writes For Psych CentralSarah Burleton was born in a little town in Illinois to a very emotionally disturbed woman. Her first book, her child abuse memoir "Why Me," spent 26 weeks on the New York Times and the print version is endorsed by David Pelzer, author of "A Child Called It." Sarah is now realizing her goal in becoming an ambassador for abused children and adult survivors and is currently conducting workshops and seminars throughout the state. Her message of strength over adversity and her story will help counselors, teachers, and other professionals identify signs of abuse and learn ways to establish trust with an abused child.

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APA Reference
, . (2017). I Think Mom Has a Mental Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Jan 2017
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