“Do not put me in a nursing home, or I will haunt you.”
Little did my mother realize, she would haunt my spirit my entire life. I wouldn’t dare go against my mother’s wishes.
On April 13, 2020, my mother passed away in our six-generation family home per her request. For the last 10 years of her life, I felt this was my chance for her to approve of my existence.
I left the life I built in downstate New York to relocate back to my family home in 2014.
All I ever wanted was her acceptance and unconditional love. Instead, she tortured my spirit. But no matter what, I took care of her and loved her unconditionally despite it all.
Caregiving & Grieving in Traumatic Relationships
As caregivers, grief warriors, and empaths, we often talk about navigating the loss of healthy relationships…but what about when you care for and grieve someone who wasn’t good to you?
How do we process trauma when our abusers and hurtful family members or friends pass away?
I’ve grieved relationships that meant the world to me—and I continue to move with that grief, letting it strengthen, inspire, and guide me to honor my loved ones.
But I’ve also endured the rollercoaster of caring for and losing a loved one who hurt me. And I’m here to talk about it because I’m 100 percent positive someone needs to hear it. To hear they’re not alone—that you’re not alone.
We’ll start at the beginning: growing up with a mother with Histrionic Personality Disorder.
What is Histrionic Personality Disorder?
Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) is a mental health disorder defined by:
>> There is an intense need to be the center of attention (and extreme reactions if this need is not met).
>> Dramatic behavior and beliefs affect relationships and everyday life.
>> Over-sexual behaviors and inappropriate communication with others.
>> Frequent changes in emotions, remarkably self-centered emotions.
>> Dramatic claims with little to no evidence.
>> Warped perception of relationships (thinking relationships are closer than they are).
>> Almost theatrical emotional expression.
>> Being extremely impressionable and prone to making impulsive decisions.
>> Hyper-fixation on one’s appearance; using looks to take advantage of others.
>> Extreme defensiveness to criticism.
>> Manipulation and the need to control or influence others.
How Common is Histrionic Personality Disorder?
Histrionic Personality Disorder is one of the lesser-known mental health personality disorders. Still, it affects about four million people and their families in the United States. Interestingly, most diagnosed are women.
What Causes Histrionic Personality Disorder?
The cause of most personality disorders is unknown. It often comes from their environment and experiences—aka trauma.
How Does Histrionic Personality Disorder Affect Lives?
Histrionic Personality Disorder affects how someone views themselves and others. It often warps their worldview, making them see themselves at the center of the universe.
This, of course, affects your social life and relationships more than anything. Those with HPD can fall into a cycle of manipulating, sabotaging, and overestimating relationships, especially when they’re not in the spotlight. This often includes embarrassing loved ones, inappropriate public displays of affection, extreme emotional reactions, and spreading lies or dramatic information.
HPD wedges distrust and trauma between a parent and child. I can attest that rash decisions and inconsistent affection provide an unstable emotional environment. Shallow emotions, self-centeredness, and manipulation can prevent the development of secure attachments and mental health.
Studies show that women with HPD were more likely to have an affair due to sexual boredom, extreme emotion, and intense impulsivity. Relationships are also perceived as closer than they are, pushing connections faster than they should.
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard
I’m sure by now, you’ve heard about the tragic Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard trial.
Long story short: Johnny is filing a $50 million lawsuit against his ex-wife, Amber, for false abuse claims and defamation. In 2018, Amber told the world Johnny was abusing her. This cost him multiple major blockbuster film roles and, more importantly, mental health. Now, Johnny denies these claims, sharing how Amber abused him during their relationship.
Amber’s Histrionic Mental Health Diagnosis
A clinical psychologist met with Amber for a psych evaluation and determined she has Histrionic and Borderline Personality Disorder—another Cluster B personality disorder defined by intense emotions and unstable relationships.
It’s tragic to think about how this connects to the entire situation: extreme claims, self-centeredness, manipulation, and an obsession with one’s image.
What It’s Like Having a Mother With Histrionic Personality Disorder
My Childhood: A Lack of Caregiving
I ran away at 14. I moved in with my stepmom, which lasted six months. My mom was determined to keep me nearby. But why did she give up my brother at 25 years old? My brother Michael was left to foster care—he committed suicide a few years before our mother died. He never got over the abandonment. And I will never get over his suicide.
Living with someone with this condition and view of the world was hurting my mental health. As a child, you need consistency. You need to know that you matter and that your reality is objective. Growing up with a mom like this didn’t give me that. I married at 19 to a man 16 years my elder to get out of the house and get away from her. That’s another nightmare!
50+ Years of Painful Experiences
I’ve lived with my brother’s same feelings of abandonment for 54 years. Except I had to endure our mother’s verbal, emotional, and mental torture. All the symptoms we talked about earlier? They described her to a “T.” Amber Heard reminded me of my mother—observing her antics as an empath confirmed what I knew had taken place in the relationship.
It was a horrific experience. A cantankerous mother can impact you in ways you might never fully grasp. I felt Johnny Depp’s pain so much that I started sharing my own experience.
Becoming Her Caregiver
For 10 years, I took care of her as a caregiver. She had dementia.
The attic was my safe place in between the sh*tshows. I managed, through deep reflection, to return to childhood—doing the shadow work while talking to my ancestral spirits.
As a caregiver for my histrionic mom, it wasn’t easy not to have a drink. But avoiding alcohol, practicing breathwork, and journeying toward acceptance is essential as a caregiver.
Still, the last five years with my mother were life-changing because she became nicer. My partner made a perfect point because, with dementia, you lose your memory. So, maybe, she lost that memory of how she was back then and had no other choice but to be excellent.
Remember: HPD stems from someone’s past and the trauma left there. Her dementia seemed to erase this. She had moments of kindness when she was healthy, but the histrionic personality disorder still often made her mean.
So…maybe Amber Heard will be nice if she gets Alzheimer’s. (Joking, but who knows!)
Grieving Her Through Storytelling.
Amid a global pandemic, the inspiration to share my story at my dying mother’s bedside encompassed my being. There was an untapped faith beneath it through all this pain and grief. The courage to share what matters most, the raw emotion within us, is called hope. This rare glimpse into how we can change our perspective surrounding grief brings about an opportunity for a spiritual renaissance—from heartache and despair to reconnecting with ourselves and each other through healing and gratitude.
The day she passed away, I sat in the Starbucks parking lot writing a letter to my son. This empowering story is about pivoting pain into purpose and building resilience in the face of grief together as we embrace a timeless love of a mother and her son when humanity needs it most. You can take a listen to this magical song that will be a part of my 15x award-winning screenplay, A Son’s Gift. This inspiration is a blessing that will change people’s lives, one moment at a time.
This brings us to a complicated, unique experience: grieving someone who’s caused you trauma. It’s been such a relief for me to understand this unspoken disorder. It helps me process my trauma while my heart still hurts and my soul still aches.
The Seven Stages of Grief Alignment
Grieving in this light further challenges the outdated “Five Stages of Grief.” It’s okay to have mixed emotions. To feel relief and remorse. To feel loss and love. Grief alignment is about making space for all of your emotions so you can move forward with your grief.
This is precisely what we gain in the Seven Stages of Grief Alignment: EMBRACE! Instead of focusing on denial and bargaining, we aim to align our grief and mental health:
- Be Present
- Eat Healthily
Let’s embark on this journey to EMBRACE together, no matter your grief story, trauma, or pain. It’s time to pivot with purpose!