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I need insight and advice on coping with my mother!

Tagged as: Family, Health, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (27 February 2018) 6 Answers - (Newest, 10 March 2018)
A female United States age 36-40, anonymous writes:

I don't even know where to start...

I just want to know if I'm crazy and overreacting or a horrible daughter. And what I can do to fix things or make things better, or at least regain my sanity.

So the most recent event is that I got an amazing promotion to a position which I'm pretty much going to keep until I retire. When I first got the job about a month ago, my mom told me that she was so happy and that she never wants anything else from me anymore because she is so proud.

But just today, after being on the job for about a month, I was given my name plaque, which I took a picture of and sent to my mother. To which she texted me, "I've given up everything for you to be at this point, and now I have nothing."

I ended up calling her because of this, and I wanted to know what she meant etc.

A little background here: as far back as I can remember I know she's been very unhappy and depressed at times. I have sooo many stories growing up about this, except when I was little I didn't understand, so I always thought I was the problem and therefore I grew up with very low self-esteem, developed self-mutilation habits, and have tried to kill myself many times throughout my teens and into my early twenties. Then, somehow or other, I gained some insight in my twenties and realized that it wasn't me at all...it's taken a lot of work, but I'm at a place where I can see my mother from the "outside" and I can be patient with her and understanding without taking it personally when she gets like this.

By the way, she's never physically hurt me, but I grew up listening to her tell me I'm stupid, and saying awful things to me; I used to get bullied at school as a child, so I had low self-esteem, and when I told her about it back then, she told me that I was annoying so that's why the kids didn't like me and bullied me, etc. Like I said I can go on and on with these stories.

I mention things like this because every now and then I am NOT such a patient person with her and I lose my temper - I think it's because of this baggage.... I'm not sure why I just lose it sometimes. This happened most recently right after I got married because she got upset that my husband and I hosted his relatives at our home. She was so angry with me that she wouldn't speak to me and if she did, she was very nasty and short with me. I admit at some point I lost it because she kept repeating and repeating how stupid I was, so I ended up screaming and yelling and walking away. When this happens I think suicidal thoughts, unfortunately, I just have trouble handling it. I went straight to my husband, and he was very loving and supportive, so I was able to just forget it and move on.

My father, in the meantime, is mostly silent on these matters. Though he supports her at times. There was one time when I was applying for college, where my mother got really upset with me and I got angry back, and my dad went and ripped up my college acceptance letter telling me I don't deserve to go to college. There was another incident where he was soooo mean to me when I came home from college because he said I was fat. He actually looked like he hated me when he said this, I was shocked. By this age, though, I had already started getting insight about my parents, so I was patient and understanding without taking things personally. Actually, I was and still am confused about why my dad was so angry about it... But oh well.

Both by parents, by the way, are the type to eventually get "back to normal" after some time. So I know that after some time, we'll all be nice to each other again.

So back to the present day. I called my mom to ask why she would say this, that she has nothing now, and she just told me this is her feeling, that she has nothing now and gave it all up for me to get this job, taking care of me, putting me through college. I AM very grateful to them, and I have even told them this many times. I try to do my best to take care of them, I take them out to eat, I buy them expensive presents for birthdays, valentines day, father's day and mother's day, and the holidays (my mom's language of love is gifts, so I try to get something really nice). I recognize my parents weren't perfect, and to be honest, I don't think they realize where they messed up. I actually believe they had good intentions, they just didn't know better about how to build a child's self confidence. And I DO feel lucky that they were my parents because they did help me get to where I am.

I tell them this often. But with my mom saying this now out of the blue....I don't know what else I can do.... Am I supposed to give them money? Am I supposed to send them on a cruise? I'm actually being sincere in this question, not sarcastic. What else can I do? I actually asked my mother literally in this conversation, please make me a list of things you want and I will do EVERYTHING I can do to make you happy! I told her just the fact I WANT to do this is how much I love her and my father.... I don't know if that was the right thing to say. I really don't know anymore.

Anyway, I'm sorry if this question is all over the place. But we ended the conversation badly because my mom brought up my in laws again saying that now I'm THEIR family and not hers. But I don't know why she would say that. My husband's family lives in a different state, we see them maybe once or twice a year. But we see my parents almost weekly. Well we try to meet them weekly, otherwise, at least every other week. I'm not sure what else I can do here.

I recognize my mom might just be going through her depression, but I'm reaching the end of my rope where she is just bombarding me with put downs in this conversation and talking over me so I can't talk or explain or make her feel better. It makes me feel like I did when I was a kid, and she would just shame me (she would literally tell me that I should feel shame and be ashamed to be me). She just kept telling me that she has nothing, that I'm giving my husband's family too much. So at first I was patient and understanding, and letting her speak, and trying to understand why she was feeling sad, etc.

She then started accusing me of making her feel bad by always complaining about having to pay for gas to go to her home, and if this sounds ridiculous, just between you and me, yes it is! I've never said anything about gas, and gas has never been an issue (she lives thirty minutes away, it's really not a big deal). After I told her that I've never complained about that, she then accused my husband of complaining and making her feel bad about gas, and that makes me laugh too! My husband was not part of this conversation by the way, this is still the phone conversation between just me nd her. Anyway, she has no idea that my husband tries really hard to to make my parents happy too because he knows this whole background and knows how important it is to me that my parents are happy. He HAS told me, just me, that he gets upset on my behalf when he sees how my parents treat me sometimes, but like I said, I think that my parents just didn't know better, and now they are elderly and set in their ways so why make their lives difficult by expecting them to change now. So he OFFERS to take them to places and pick them up, and bring them food. I've NEVER heard him EVER mention something as petty as gas, etc. But my mom wouldn't let me explain and kept talking over me loudly. Again, this makes me remember being a kid with her being angry and ranting and yelling while I just had to sit there, she would always talk over me and not let me speak...and that frustration makes me feel like I'm going to lose my mind, but writing this is making me feel better.

Long story short, my mom ended up cutting me short saying that she is busy, so we didn't resolve this matter and she hung up.

I don't know what else I can do at this point. A part of me feels helpless, like she'll never be happy. I try and try and try, but then I wonder if I should give up. But I can't, I would feel guilty and...I just can't do that. What can I do? I feel like I've come a long way from when I was a kid blaming myself...and then here I am again hating myself and feeling like some horrible ugly idiot who deserves nothing. And then I feel ridiculous because I'm too old to be feeling like this...

Thank you for reading this, I'm sorry it's so long. Any insight would help me a lot, really, just because getting to the end of writing this...I"m completely lost now.

View related questions: bullied, confidence, depressed, money, move on, text

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (10 March 2018):

I'm the OP. I just wanted to say thank you to you all, it really just made me feel so much better being able to vent, and then reading your responses. You have no idea how much your advice helped me get through the week after the incident.

To give you an update: after I posted my question, my mother then completely ignored me and blew me off for a week, which made me feel horrible. I know I shouldn't encourage her behavior, but I did reach out to her, but she just ignored me. My sister then came for a visit, and I think that helped cool the air between my mother and me. So my mother started speaking to me again. Like I said, she is the type of person who doesn't talk about it when things get like this, she's just suddenly back to normal.

The reason your responses helped me is that for whatever reason I don't see my mom as a horrible person. I know things happen and she has certain tendencies and she has at times what I will agree are abusive behaviors, it's just hard for me to see her as abusive herself. My husband has told me what he thinks which is similar to all your advice, but I guess hearing more people say so makes a different. So all this advice really helped me open my eyes more.

Honestly, my mother has also been great to me. But yes at times she gets like this. So that's why it's hard for me to accept it may just be her and it's not acceptable.

The advice you all have given me...it's funny because I thought I already KNEW all that...but apparently I didn't really... Otherwise I wouldn't be so affected. So I am grateful to hear your advice.

I will accept there is nothing I can do to change her and for that reason I don't have any reason to engage her or let her get to me. The only things is, I can't remove her completely from my life, I just can't. But I will do my duties and treat her well, be good to her, take care of her when she gets older (and take care of my father). I don't know if this is what you meant to convey to me, but I'm going to just assume she is wrong when she gets like this, and not engage her. AS soon as she tries to draw me in, I will tell her, okay and then walk away. She does try to push my buttons, I never realized it...although I don't know if she does it on purpose.

Thank you again. It was so hard these past few weeks but I kept holding on to all this advice. Please continue with all your wonderful and insightful advice!

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A male reader, WiseOwlE United States + , writes (1 March 2018):

When you're an adult, and the victim of abuse from a parent that continued their psychological-abuse from childhood to adulthood; the only remedy is separation. Keep your distance. You don't have to answer all their phone calls, you don't have to listen to their crap, and you don't have to submit to her abuse as a full-grown woman. You're not a helpless child anymore.

Usually, this dysfunction stems from mental-health problems that were never diagnosed or treated. She was abused. Some people are naturally-born evil! Their victimized abused-child was never removed from the dysfunctional-home; therefore, the child carries trauma throughout life. Constantly being reminded or victimized by the abuser. Maturity brings you a major advantage. You get to handle it like an adult. You have your own home, your own income, your own family; and you make your own decisions.

When you submit to your abuser and make the decision your situation is hopeless; then life never gets better. I've seen survivors of severe-trauma, war, and victims of atrocious calamities flourish; and enrich the lives of others. They didn't live on somebody's leather couch and give-up life; they took their lives back. They found God, or something they could hold-on to, to improve their quality of life. They save others, and they turned the pain around.

They empowered themselves; because they wanted to survive and enjoy God's gift of life! Not suffer for all eternity; because sometimes things just don't go our way. Never seeing beauty or joy in anything; and always a slave to their suffering. Not all victims stay victims! God bless them!

You longed for a mother. You love your mother; but you can't accept that you cannot change her. It's deep-rooted, and if she is in fact suffering from mental-illness; you cannot wish her into changing who she is. It's permanent. Back in the day, there was a stigma for being "crazy;" if you got treatment for mental-illness. It was shamefully hidden in the closet. You don't admit you need help, or you're admitting you're some kind of lunatic. You'd be scorned or avoided. Nowadays it's chic to say you see a shrink! Mostly for godforsaken stupid or outrageous nonsense; while the people who truly need it, avoid it!

You cannot reprogram her personality for the want of doing so. You want a good mother; but such is not the reality. Most often the spouses of people who are narcissistic, abusive, and cruel; simply adapt to their situation. They just become tone-deaf to the dysfunction; because in many cases, it's the same environment they grew-up in. They grow a thick-skin, and become determined to deal with it. Oh, the hell with it!

You love your mother, but love doesn't have the mystical power to make bad or evil people good. For the love of God, being one exception! That's different. We're taught about the magic of love through our childhood story-books and bed-time stories. TV shows us idealized fantasy-family shows that flaunt what a family should or could be. So, you find yourself stuck trying to make these situations materialize in your own family-situation. I'm afraid my dear; it is what it is. Some do have the best parents, but some don't!

If your mother seeks no professional-advice, it leaves you to seek it to help yourself. It leaves you to find your own peace. If your relationship with your father is better; then allow him to compensate for her shortcomings. Evidently, time has shown you there will be no change in the person your mother is.

I'm sorry to say, everyone who is able to birth a child is not cutout to be a mother. Just because you can make a baby, doesn't make you a good parent. You do get a choice. You swear on your life to be better parents than the people who bred you. It's what you should do in spite of it all!

Sometimes aunts, older-sisters, and grandmothers make great surrogate or second-mothers. Some people have mentors.

You have to stay away from toxic-people. They don't care about how they hurt your feelings. People who are narcissistic or extreme passive-aggressors; do not see their own faults. They can only see your weaknesses; and figure-out ways they can attack you. They feel powerful in knowing their actions or words can destroy or manipulate you. That's how their minds work. Your suffering lasts as long as you permit it. Your suffering supplies them negative-energy to feed on. Shut it off, and they shrivel and dry-up!

Love your mother for who she is. Keep your distance and learn how to detach your feelings when you see her evil displayed. Learn to ignore the things she says and does; because the reality is, you have no choice. You cope by dealing with her in doses; and just allow time to age her and take the sting and evilness out of her. She'll weaken as age takes hold!

Very old people can be grouchy or ornery; but time takes a toll on them more-so than anybody else. There is no rest for the wicked. Their past catches-up with them. They've spent too much life-energy alienating everyone around them; causing everyone to flee their wrath and poison. Pushing everyone away, will leave you all by yourself! That's your reward! To die and be buried, hated, and your grave spat on!

They become frail and sickly; because the weight of loneliness from that alienation and estrangement often softens their ways; because no one really likes to be forgotten or ignored. When you see yourself closer to the grave, sometimes that is the only time mean-people decide to change their ways. A bout with potential death scares them out of their hateful ways. They don't want to meet the devil any sooner than they have to!

Perhaps you'll just have to wait until that time comes. Meanwhile; take the higher road! Be a better person than your mother; learn to love and forgive those who hurt you, in spite of their ways. You'll live longer and happier! God will smile on you!

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (27 February 2018):

You me mother is MY MOTHER and I am I. Therapy - I am ur age I am 33 so around the same age as you and the same scenarios you describe it has happened to me - I have argued with her - I have played her games - I have tried and tried and battled depression and rejection from her and all sorts of destructive things

Bottom line and this is 15 Years in therapy that has just clicked in the recent years- your mother is not a happy women - ur mother is not capable of being a fit mother - and whatver she does u can not control

You can control how u see her and how much u let her in your life though- it’s been proven that this women is not fit and there comes a time where u can change ur attitude towards it( meaning stop fighting for her to be something you probably always wanted or needed)

The woman you describe in ur post is my mother and there are many sad moments where I get frustrated that she is who she is BUT if u separate yourself and those thought and understand that she will

1. Not change

2. Will not be who you want her to be

3. Will not understand

Once u align these thoughts and understanding then she will become just someoen that u deal with without emotions

Sadly that’s the way it has to be to be healthy

Good luck

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (27 February 2018):

I come from an abusive background and I relate strongly to your post.

I'm 50, now, and - on paper at least - a very high achiever.

I have had a lot of counselling because of my background and it is something that I still struggle with on a daily basis. With time, and a lot of thought and effort on my part, I have a very strong intellectual understanding of why parents abuse their children, but I have not been able to form the kind of life that would help me to put their abuse behind me. I see glimpses of this life, yes, and I hope that, with time and further understanding, I can overcome the abuse entirely.

Some of the things I have learned - either through counselling, or thinking by myself, or research in books and online - are this:

1. Abusive parents lack the necessary intellectual and emotional development to raise a child in a way that will allow the child to develop a healthy sense of self love which they can take into adult hood. This self love provides the ultimate buffer against the hardships in life. You can be strong, resilient, high achieving and incredibly giving to others and this will get you a long way. But without a sense of self love and self nurturing, you will always end up undermining yourself. For the record, I think this is what you are doing as a pattern and it is what has caused you to write in.

2. Abusive parents abuse, ultimately, through a mixture of lack of the above skills and due to their own fears. Their anger, insults, degrading and humiliating behaviour all come from their own under-development and also a huge amount of fear. At basis, this is fear of how to behave in the adult world. The fear can mean that they do all sorts of things to cover up the fear - pick arguments, hurt you physically and emotionally, avoid operating healthily with others in society eg. by avoiding work or avoiding making friends or by taking a combative approach to all relationships. It is incredibly difficult to see that a raging, sadistic parent is full of fear. And this is NOT a reason to excuse what they do. But understanding that they are fearfull can help you to see that, if it was not YOU they had chosen to pick on, it could be someone else - in other words, they need a target and you happen to be it.

3. Abusive parents do not understand normal, healthy intimacy. They are unable to do this because they have no sense of healthy, family ground rules. I mean basic things like treating all of their children equally, not allowing children to stay 'fallen out' with one another for extended periods, offering to children a healthy amount of choice over things like how to spend leisure time, which chores to tackle first, which hobbies to develop, which groups and communities to get involved in. Abusive parents almost always do not have these things for themselves in a good balance and for good reasons. They don't know how to help their children to have and develop these things and, when their children do, they kick off because they feel frightened underneath. Intimacy in a healthy way is simply not on their radar. It's like trying to ask a blind person to see different colours.

4. Abusive parents can seem like a fathomless, endless, cryptic mystery that you have to solve and resolve. I have a PhD and I can guarantee I have spent hours and hours and hours more trying to understand my parents' behaviours than I have doing my PhD. It can, quite literally, go on forever. If you like thinking - I do - then you can probably handle more thought about it than most people. But if you don't enjoy thinking and don't want to think about them so much, then it can seem impossible to switch off. One thing I learned is that it can be as complex and / or as straightforward as you like. there can be as much mystery or simplicity to the situation as you need there to be. It's a bit like sitting thinking, "Oh, I feel really awful, I don't know what's wrong with me" and spending a week researching various health conditions - physical and psychological - on the internet and coming to 20 conclusions, all of which may have some truth. But one day a lightbulb may go off and you think "Oh, it's actually simple, I can resolve most of these issues by changing my habits and doing 20 minutes of exercise every day, and then I won't feel so ill as before". What I realised with my parents is that lack of educational opportunities (being forced to leave school at a young age), lack of their own parental guidance (and abuse from their parents, including abandonment) and, in my mother's case, possibly being on the autism spectrum, meant that they did not develop into mature adults. They therefore could not help me to do that and felt frightened when I did and terrified when I held up a mirror to their own abuse towards me and my sister. This doesn't make their abuse okay, but it helped me to understand it.

For myself, at this age, I am now trying to put into practice the concept of 'self love'. This phrase initially baffled me. There was a complete blank and, if I'm honest, fear about how to do it. It sounded corny, but it also frightened me. I am starting simple - healthy food, exercise, a clean home, good routines, noting when I get upset about something and taking time to sit back, maybe do a bit of yoga or reading to help me to re-align. One thing I have huge difficulty in is valuing my achievements. Another is difficulty in relaxing - it's like I have to make an appointment to consciously relax, using a DVD to help. I am trying to treat myself like I would a dear friend, and like I have treated others in the past whilst neglecting myself.

I had to cut off from my family to be in this position. One sister learned to mimic their abuse and continued the cycle of abusing me. My other sister literally went mad. The pain of separating from them is always there, but I know without doubt that I can't stop their abusive behaviours - they are all too angry, and too fearful underneath. Every day I look in my memories for evidence that they loved me somehow. Every day I find tiny fragments to show that they did, but that it was a very limited form of love, and it could never grow into something more trustworthy and dependable. The thing is, I had also attempted suicide when younger - cutting myself off from myself, so to speak. Either I cut communication with them, or I would end up cutting off from myself. Every time you fall into the trap of trying to please your mother, you are hoping she will turn into the adult you need her to be, and you are hoping that, if she does, you will then be allowed to be an adult too. It doesn't work like that. She is effectively a child that is frustrated in herself, and won't grow up. You'd be a fool to fall into the trap of mothering her - this would allow you to avoid loving yourself, which is a much more daunting task.

Be brave, learn the long process of loving yourself first. No one taught you to do this and it isn't easy, but it's not impossible. Bit by bit, tiny moment by tiny moment, you can put your self together; this is what will give you the buffer from the abuse that your mother continues to throw your way.

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (27 February 2018):

Honeypie agony auntI'm sorry OP This must be hard to deal with.

But from the outside this is what I see in your story.

Your mother has a history of abusive behavior towards you that stems ALL the way from when you were a child.

Your mother is a toxic person.

Your mother doesn't want to take responsibility for herself, her words or her actions. Which means she has AS LONG AS you can remember BLAMED you for HER shortcomings and her "lot in life". Unfairly blamed you.

You mother MOST likely have either some kind of personality disorder or mental illness. Probably un-diagnosed. I'm not a expert or have any education in mental health but it seems the most logical given the behavior you describe.

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What I think you have to ACCEPT and realize:

NO MATTER how badly you want her approval you will NEVER get it. NOT because you are not good enough, but because SHE isn't capable or willing to GIVE that to you.

YOU DO NOT NEED her approval to be successful - YOU have proven that already. You are NOT where you are at in life BECAUSE of her, but DESPITE of her. OK?

YOU can not BUY her love with expensive gifts and dinners. Because she doesn't LOVE anyone. Not even herself. Which in a way is pretty sad.

NO MATTER what, you can not CHANGE who she is. You can not CHANGE how she thinks or feels or what she says.

WHAT you CAN change is how you react to it. You know she LOVES to push your buttons and for decades YOU have played along (unknowingly) - now that you DO seem to get that there IS a pattern of behavior with her, maybe YOU can work on changing HOW you react to what she says.

As to WHAT you can do:

Firstly, I would try the "ignore path" - that is EVERY-TIME she JABS at you with some or other "seemingly innocuous" - (but definitely MEANT to be hurtful) comment. IGNORE it. Shake it off with a inner monologue of well, that is mom to a T to say something like that. This is EASILY done when it's over a text or FB post. It does take having a thicker skin when it comes to her.

Secondly, STAND up for yourself. If you are visiting and she does the same, JAB JAB at you for whatever "fault" or imaginary "slight" or "offense" she has decided that you have done - DO NOT get into a fight. Tell her TO HER face calmly that you are not going to sit there and take that kind of treatment from her. Then you GET UP (make sure hubby knows the plan) and then you LEAVE. NO yelling, NO drama, NO screaming and ABSOLUTELY NO defending yourself for things you HAVEN'T EVEN done!

Now if that means she will start to REFUSE to see you, she will TRY new tactics to get you to join in screaming matches and drama - ANYTHING to show you that YOU are to blame for everything. My guess she might go with silent treatment of you and when that gets "boring" she will try and create havoc and drama in your life again.

If she tells you that she wants NOTHING to do with you because you are an ungrateful "child" - then take that as a "It's OK to take a break from your mother".

THERE IS NOTHING you can do to change who she is.

THERE is NOTHING you can do to change how she interacts with you and others.

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THAT is what I see in your post. Does it make sense to you?

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A male reader, DarrellG United Kingdom +, writes (27 February 2018):

DarrellG agony auntI have to be honest and you probably wont like to hear this but there seems to be a deeper problem than depression here. It is often the case that depression is a symptom of a deeper problem. The reason I say is that there seems to be no logical connection between her two positions and her shift in attitude makes no sense unless there is something you are not telling us here.

She doesnt seem to have taken the logical course even in changed circumstances which would be to ask for your help. I think you have to accept that your mother could be seriously mentally ill and that, as I said, the depression is actually a symptom rather than the actual disease.

However, you can't actually force her to to go for a wider check up or to consider the possibility that there is more too this. In that sense I don't think there is much you can do. Even pushing your Dad is unlikely to be fruitful as he has probably adopted the keeping strategy as a survival technique and just wants the quiet life. Perhaps the only thing you can do is minimise the damage it does to your life and grit your teeth and get on with it.

Good luck x

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