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by Abigail Van Buren

Mom's Paranoia Damages Her Daughter's Self Esteem

DEAR ABBY: My stepmother -- the only mother I have ever known -- has been clinically diagnosed with a paranoid personality. This means she is suspicious, a martyr in any situation and flatly denies anything she thinks would cast her in a negative light. She can be very convincing. Once or twice she has even convinced me that my memories were wrong, although the facts were later corroborated by other family members.

People who can't see through her "act" consider my mother to be a saint. Those who see her clearly know that she's spiteful and vindictive. She has, for years, refused to take her prescribed medicine and won't explore any other treatment. She insists the problem is with everyone else, especially me.

You have told others about the need to cut toxic friends and relatives out of their lives, but how does one do it? I know there will never be closure or a good relationship, but I can't help wanting one. I'm in my mid-30s and feel if my mother doesn't love me, how can anyone else? -- NEEDS A RESOLUTION IN GEORGIA

DEAR NEEDS A RESOLUTION: You have more than one problem. Removing toxic individuals from one's life is as easy as refusing to go along with their behavior. Once you draw the line, those people will "help" you by cutting you out of theirs. Your mother's mental illness may prevent her from loving anyone -- not you specifically.

I hope you realize how important it is to discuss your feelings with a licensed psychotherapist. You have an entire upbringing by a woman with a damaged personality to overcome. The fact that she couldn't love you does not mean you are unlovable. And the sooner you are able to accept that, the more lovable you will be because you will like yourself more.