Sick about split with mom

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My mom has 12 kids, she was a young mom.(17) I grew up with 5 different dads and a few boyfriends in between. As a kid I watched my mom take a lot of physical/emotional abuse from guys. She took a lot of that out on me, my brothers were in foster care. I had regular beatings, she had no problem letting me know I was an accident, not loved as much as my younger siblings, she’s beat me up while verbally humiliating me in public many times, to the point where my dad/her friends would have to pull her off me. I never fought back and I never disrespected her even when in my teenage years.

I was raped at a very young age by one of my “uncles” for 4 years. I always thought she knew but turned the other cheek. The thoughts of suicide started at age 7-8. As my younger sisters came along, I became the babysitter, I did not have much of a social life.

Most of my life I have justified my mom’s decisions/actions, because she was young and abused and just looking for someone to love her. I have not walked a mile in her shoes. I’m a survivor not a victim…Until recently. Me and 5 of my sisters were pretty close. We often complained about mom together, she’d tell our secrets and add her own twist, she would flirt with our husbands/boyfriends, cheat on my dad, “steal our thunder” at our important events, it always had to be about ma. Whenever I would get close to one of my sisters, she always tried to stir stuff up, that would get us fighting. She has never been supportive and even closed her door to me when I was a young mom in an abusive relationship. Through it all I have never confronted her.

She started saying some nasty, judgmental things about me to my sisters and I finally confronted her, she hung up on me so I had to write it in a letter. I explained to her that she was causing unneeded drama and was hurting her children and moms are not suppose to be like that, backstabbing, jealous, negative. That it was her job to provide trust, honesty and a positive light to her children. She wrote me back and got very nasty, instead of addressing anything I said, she turned it into a personal attack, saying I am sick, she been trying to help me since I was a kid. She pointed out all my mistakes in life and tore me down, It was obvious in the 3 pages she was really trying to hurt me.

I then told her that she didn’t protect me or my sisters from the men in her life and she has to live with allowing that, I wanted to hurt her back. We both got nasty and pretty much destroyed any relationship with my mom.

Ever since, a couple weeks, I have been sick with guilt, sadness and loss. How could I hurt my mother like that? It’s not my place to try and change her, I was suppose to accept her for who she is. I thought about calling her to apologize until my sisters let me know that she’s not so sad about it. She is trying to get them to takes sides, starting rumors about my husband trying to kiss her when we dating, telling people I am lying about getting raped and telling everyone how I wronged her. I got so mad when I found out, how could she actually tell people I was a liar, about something like that. How could she make up stories that could hurt my marriage.

I sent her another letter telling her if she didn’t grow up and stop trying to ruin my life and get my family to hate me, I was going to tell my dad she is cheating on him, in a round about way, I actually threatened to say so much her world would come crumbling down.

Now I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how I’m suppose to feel. I don’t know what I can do to fix things. I’m afraid my mom is going to lose it and come shoot me, I am paranoid when someone is at the door, but surely my mom would never kill me. She’s obviously sick, and this is how I treat her? What if she doesn’t stop with the trash talking? My mind won’t stop racing, it’s all I can think about. I really need help trying to decipher this. Please, I know you get a lot of questions and this is really long, but I feel so empty and alone and I don’t know what to do.

A: This is intense. No wonder you are so upset. I’d like you to notice that in your letter you go back and forth between being really angry at your mom for things you have a right to be angry about and then being apologetic and sympathetic and even scared. It’s as if you only have two ways of relating to her. You are either mad and nasty like she is or you are a scared little girl who feels guilty for only saying the truth.

I think you need to work on developing a third choice – one where you are confident that you deserve respect and courtesy and where you don’t have to be nasty to make your point.

You are not at all alone in this. Lacking that third choice is common among women who have been abused. Being limited to either being abusive or abused is how you were brought up. Neither place is comfortable. Neither lets you be the happy person you could be.

I hope you will consider getting involved in some therapy at this point. A letter isn’t going to give you enough support to make the kind of change that will lead to more happiness for you. There are therapists who specialize in helping people recover from a traumatic upbringing. Please do this for yourself and for your children who are looking to you to be their role model for how to manage in the world. All of you need to know how to take care of yourselves in that third way.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 May 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Sick about split with mom. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/05/01/sick-about-split-with-mom/