If any of my readers have been with me from the beginning, they know my battles with own mother. They’ve gone on for as long as I can remember. It’s been quite sometime since I’ve posted but today I felt compelled to do so. Why? Not necessarily because of recent events, but I’m certainly not discounting them. Because I’ve hit a threshold in life. I have to care about ME enough not to let someone poison my life, cause drama or bring me down. Some people thrive on hurting others yet step back to look like a victim. I also believe there is a name for that too. It’s narcissistic behavior.
I am a co-dependent person by nature so it’s a constant battle that is inside me. Those traits are not always a bad thing but when they allow you to be hurt or you take on too much emotional damage and drama from others then it is a bad thing. When it has come to my mother, it’s been a long time coming for me to see this. But when the day came, it’s almost like I heard the flick of the switch and the light came on.
The morning of May 24th, 2016 was no different than the others. I got ready for work and at the same time every morning I got in my car and headed toward the interstate. Sitting at a RED light…not moving….I got rear-ended by a commercial truck. I was hit hard enough that my sunglasses came off and ended up in the floorboard. For a moment, I couldn’t even figure out where the brake pedal was. Certainly, that was some kind of concussion even if a mild one. I’ll jump to the part where I’m ok….had a neck sprain and sore back for a week and was out of work on Flexeril but I survived.
Here’s where the “collision” really happened with regard to my mother/daughter relationship. My mother and I had a disagreement the week before and hadn’t spoken. Not unusual. I thought nothing of it when I dialed her number with shaking hands to let her know I’d been in an accident and needed her to call me. It went to voice mail. I pictured her sitting back, smirking as she listened to my cries knowing she was punishing me by not answering. I hung up after I left the message. As the seconds and minutes ticked by I knew she wasn’t calling back and panic and disbelief started rolling around in my thoughts. It was SURE she would not abandon me at a time like this. But my Dad called. He said my Mother had called him and said I’d been in an accident and he needed to call me. Unbelievable! But was it really?
I’m sure those of you that are mothers probably are reading this in shock. Or maybe you have a mother of your own that would do this. I don’t know. Either way, when I got home I remember sitting down and crying uncontrollably for a mother I realized didn’t care. She didn’t know the extent of my injuries but she still didn’t care enough to find out. That was my threshold. The point that I knew something had to change. It had to change within me. And it did!
You see, I’ve spent my entire life seeking the approval of a narcissistic mother and feeling as I’ve failed each and every time. Always sending the Mother’s Day cards, the Birthday Cards, the Christmas Cards….because it was the right thing to do. AND because I didn’t want to regret doing the right thing or doing EVERYTHING I COULD DO without leaving any stone un-turned. But where was the threshold? When was enough enough? I thought I’d never run out of hope.
If there was ever a proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back….that was it. Those closest to me think it’s just another fight…I will send another card or make another phone call to apologize for….apologize for what? Getting into an accident and wanting my mother? Wasn’t sure what I’d be apologizing for now. Her birthday was August 1st….the first time in my life I didn’t stand in Hallmark looking for a card that fit my situation for how I felt about her. Cards like that don’t exist quite frankly. I guess I loved her because if it not for her I wouldn’t be here on this earth (although there are times I question that too) but I certainly don’t like who she is and I don’t have to be around it anymore. It’s MY decision. They are MY boundaries. And I won’t LET her hurt me anymore. Why would I purposely continue going to the same dry well looking for water when there is none. She is void of maternal love.
On August 1st I’m sure she waited on a call from me….or checked the mail hoping for a card because that’s her power and control over me. I call….she ignores. I send a card…she doesn’t acknowledge because the ink wasn’t in blue or black or whatever she could use to say I failed in some way. She’s in control and I’m made to feel belittled.
But now I realize at 41 years old I’m the one that’s in control. I shouldn’t have to beg my mother to love me or be there for me. I know have my boundaries and for the first time I do not feel guilty for not buying a card or calling.
What is insanity? Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome. It’s time to stop the insanity. It was my choice all along.
I have learned that I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve just put myself in situations that continually hurt ME. I’m not allowing it anymore. Do I wish it were different? Sure. But a very special woman said to me that day on my accident “any woman is capable of having a child….but it doesn’t mean they are capable of being a mother”. I will never forget that because it’s so true.
I know there are more like me in this world. Although I used to feel so alone. There should be support groups for adult children of narcissistic parents who are incapable of loving their own children. But at this juncture I have God and he’s my ultimate parent.
So that’s my threshold, my friends. Everyone has one and there isn’t anything wrong with loving YOU or taking care of YOU!
I really got a lot out of reading this post tonight so I wanted to share it on my page. I know I can certainly relate. You don’t always see it when you are enmeshed in the situation but once you find the strength of self-love then you know how much greater your worth is than being abused. A trauma bond can happen to anyone but give yourself grace and spend time healing.
What does it mean to be traumatically bonded to someone and how does it affect someone?
I know this is a subject that has been well researched and documented, but I am trying to understand it for myself in the context of my relationship with my ex-husband. Although we are divorced, I feel a tug towards him. It was an unhealthy, abusive relationship yet I still manage to brush over the bad and focus on his good points to my detriment. I know that this pull runs deep, and I have been reading up about the deep emotional connection of a trauma bond to try and save myself.
First of all, from what I have recently read, a trauma bond exists with two important dynamics; a power imbalance and intermittent good-bad treatment. Trauma bonds are cemented with the fear of, threat of or actual violence. The trauma bond causes the…
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As my blog title states….I am a recovering codependent. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that this is not something that is cured or just “goes away”. It’s what really becomes engrained in us in our early years.
I struggle DAILY to keep my codependent nature in check. My personality traits can be viewed as attractive to most people. Along with being kind-hearted, generous, helpful, and loyal comes along with it my automatic drive to be a fixer and people pleaser. That’s all well and good until it turns into obsessive and controlling.
For most of my life, I’ve been a caretaker.
I can remember being a very small child….maybe 5 years old….and my mother was raising me single-handedly and struggled most days with alcohol. I learned at a young age how to get dressed on my own and find something in the kitchen to have for breakfast and sometimes dinner.
Other days, I took care of my mother…still at a young age. Making sure she had water beside her bed when she had a hangover, bringing her a basket to keep by the bed for the times when the hangovers got so bad that she was sick and in bed all day long and going to the 7Eleven when we ran out of milk for my cereal.
This was normalcy for me. From the time I could remember until….well, until today really.
My mother has been experiencing tremendous tooth pain for several weeks now. My father and I talked her into going to the dentist even though she is petrified (which is why the pain became escalated). She had a dentist appointment early this morning.
I woke up later than I usually do because this past week has been grueling and I honestly needed the rest. I called at 11:30 knowing my mother and father would be at the dentist but wanted to leave a message to call me when they got back to update me. Then I headed out to cut my grass….it took about an hour.
Came in, checked my phone…nothing. Found it slightly strange but realized if a root canal had to be done it may take a little while.
At about 1pm I decided to call their house again. Voicemail. I left another message. Slightly concerned but not panicked. Not yet.
3:15pm. I called again and left another message. Now I’m worried and my red cape with the letter “C” for codependent had now been put on and I was ready for some sort of rescue but I wasn’t sure what just yet.
4pm and still nothing. Now I’m going to drive to their house like a stalking ex-girlfriend. Why? I didn’t know why I just had to do it. They weren’t there. Then I drove to the dentist office to see if they are there. No cars in the parking lot because they closed at noon.
Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t just call their cell. My Mom is 73 and my Dad is 66. Neither one are interested in being attached to an electronic leash so they don’t own one. Sure would have helped my anxiety at this point.
Now I’m really a nervous wreck and my mind is in all sorts of places. I try to breathe and go back home. I wasn’t in control of this and I had no way to get answers. I don’t like how that feels one bit let me just tell you! I tried to tell myself….well, my Mom isn’t alone. My Dad is with her.
No sooner did I get home and sit down on the couch did I decide to call the nearest hospital. I got the operator on the phone and asked her if she could check the database for my mother. SHE WAS THERE! IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM!
OH MY GOD! Anxiety is in high gear. I couldn’t get out of the driveway fast enough. Once there, no parking space was close enough. My mind was going to the worst places. How do you go from the dentist to the ER…what could have happened?!? My brisk walk turned to a jog as the automatic doors opened to the ER.
The lady behind the desk confirmed what room she was in and I raced back there. I appeared in the doorway to my dad standing with two nurses and my mother in a wheelchair getting ready to be discharged.
The dentist sent her to the hospital for an antibiotic IV. Her abscess was that bad. She was on pain meds too. She was pretty much out of it.
Let me stop here and just say that whenever my mother is on pain meds it throws me back to when I was 5 years old. It emulates the same behaviors as being intoxicated. Slurred speech, stumbling, and argumentative. At 40 years old I have to take a mental note of how I’m reacting to it all.
My father gives me the duty of taking her home while he goes to fill her prescription. She’s wheeled out to my car and I help her in the passenger seat. She’s falling asleep in the car on the way home and I remember looking over at her when I stopped at a red light. Her face was so swollen and she was in pain. Tears filled my eyes momentarily and again, compassion stirred in my heart.
We pulled up in front of her house and I helped her out. She had to take more antibiotics when we got home and hadn’t really eaten anything. My Dad fixed her a sandwich and I helped her upstairs to bed. She gave me one of the biggest hugs that I can remember. I told her I loved her and hoped she got some sleep.
I left the house and drove home thinking about how I let myself get derailed today with the whole worry and anxiety bit but obviously it was warranted. I just know this is part of who I am and it can flip on like a switch. At the end of the day, however, I know I played a healthy role in “helping” not enabling. There wasn’t anything to enable this time.
Today I was a caregiver to my mother….not a caretaker. What is the difference, you ask?
Caretaking feels stressful, exhausting and frustrating. Caregiving feels right and feels like love.
Caretaking takes from the recipient or gives with strings attached; caregiving gives freely.
Caretaking creates anxiety and/or depression in the caretaker. Caregiving decreases anxiety and/or depression in the caregiver.
Caretakers tend to be judgmental; caregivers don’t see the logic in judging others and practice a “live and let live attitude.”
Caretakers start fixing when a problem arises for someone else; caregivers empathize fully, letting the other person know they are not alone and lovingly asks, “What are you going to do about that.”
Caretakers tend to be dramatic in their caretaking and focus on the problem; caregivers can create dramatic results by focusing on the solutions.
Caretakers us the word “You” a lot and Caregivers say “I” more.
Since that whole episode, I’ve snuggled in for the night and not called the house. I’ve enjoyed a couple movies on TV and had dinner. I have not allowed myself to worry or be anxious about how my mother is doing. I trust my father will call if something is needed. That’s a huge step for me and I recognize that.
I’m going to have my moments. But for now, the red cape that brands the “C” is put away for the time being.
Most people relate abandonment to the “leaving behind” of something or someone. The physical act of casting something or someone away.
It’s not just about that.
Abandonment comes in many forms.
We’ve heard horror stories of the newborns left in horrendous places after birth because it was an inconvenience to a young mother.
Some of us can relate to abandonment by a spouse because they just no longer care to be married or there was a better option outside of the home for them to pursue. Either way, they just walked away.
What some people don’t realize is that abandonment is not just the act of physically leaving or walking away. It’s also a FEELING.
The feeling of abandonment can come from those that may withdraw when they were once so imbedded in your life. It’s not a complete shut-down but it’s definitely different from what we may have been used to in the past. What you may have relied upon to be dependable all of a sudden is no longer the case.
Abandonment will often saddle up next to its second cousin, Rejection. Those feelings of abandonment often are coupled with the feeling of rejection. It’s almost like you can’t have one without the other. They are feelings that wash over us simultaneously.
For codependents like myself, these are feelings that have to be managed regularly. Because I have felt abandonment and rejection many times in my life, I’m quick to feel its presence at the onset.
Whether people intentionally or unintentionally leave us behind, this is a struggle for a codependent. Recovering or not. The key word being recovering. Codependency is a lifetime battle within ever fiber of our being. It’s managed not cured.
Being abandoned/rejected in the past will create life long psychological challenges of abandonment/rejection reoccurring, thus causing trust issues with anyone in the future along with feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness. And it causes even more damage when we do learn to trust someone and let them in only to face abandonment/rejection from those very people we trusted. This can be a spiral effect of anxiety and depression if not managed appropriately from a codependent’s standpoint.
These days, I have learned to communicate my feelings in a healthier way, keep a calm center when these feelings do emerge, and then realize who is “safe” and who isn’t. Learning that the past is the past and everyone is not out to hurt me. People are people. Life happens. And finally, I’ve learned I’m not in this alone. Others are in this same boat with me.
It has finally come down to the post that I think I was dreading even though it’s the catalyst of why I believe I have been codependent most of my life. It’s ultimately my story of my challenging childhood being raised by an alcoholic mother and the absence of a father until I was ten. I’ve been dreading this because I don’t want my story to come across as bitter or bashing my parents. In no way, do I plan to use this blog for that purpose. Only to express my experiences and looking to touch others lives that need to feel they aren’t alone. I know I’ve felt that way. My parents did the best they knew how and loved me to the best of their ability. I want to write about where I came from, what I lived through and how I’ve learned to build healthy boundaries through it all.
I grew up with a mother that struggled with alcoholism. After her and my father got divorced, we lived with my Nana. I watched my mother turn to alcohol to cover up the pain she dealt with in her life. In her defense, she lost her younger brother at 17 to a drunk driver, her father to emphysema and the ending of her marriage to my father. I’m not going to point the blame to her and say it’s all on her, she clearly had her own hurts that were buried in a bottle. But either way, it wasn’t a picnic growing up around it.
Because we lived with my Nana, I became increasingly close to her. She was the stability that I held onto during the rough patches. She was a saint in my eyes. Unfortunately, I only had her in my life for 10 short years. 30 years ago this year, we buried her after suffering a stroke which took her life. To this day, I grieve the loss of a woman who had such an impact in my life.
My mother raised me as a single parent for ten years and then married my step father. I remember the drinking got increasingly worse as I got into my teenage years. Because of alcohol abuse, we did not have a close relationship. It has always been rocky and for that I’m sad. I’m not sure it will ever be the healthy mother/daughter relationship that I want to have but through that I’m able to realize that God is my ultimate Father and one that will never abandon or reject me as I’ve felt many times in the past.
My mother and I have gone years without speaking. Just recently we didn’t speak for 8 mos. over something that could have been worked out. My punishment is not only the silence….but silence on dates where everyone is celebrating. When families are gathering around the Christmas tree….I’m without my mother. My birthday has even come and gone without recognition of the day she gave birth to me. And finally Mother’s Day….the day that causes me the most pain because I feel such a void in my life. And the same question that rolls around in my head….what did I do that was so bad that warrants me being ignored. If no one has experienced it, let me please tell you from the bottom of my heart that it’s the most painful thing a child….even an adult child….can ever experience. No one can make that pain go away….no one can say the right words and unless they’ve been there….no one truly understands.
With that being said, my mother and I recently started speaking last week. It’s very strained and extremely awkward but I’m just trying to help rebuild the relationship and I never seem to run out of hope of it working…..because this time it might just work out. Maybe just maybe.
But if I’m not careful that rebuilding can be me doing all the heavy lifting and the hope can turn into walking on egg shells or saying just the right thing….not necessarily the truth….just so I can keep the relationship balancing on a tightrope that is high above a black hole. I’ve learned that it’s not my job to fix and rescue and people please. That, my friends, is a codependent way of thinking. And it’s unhealthy. So here’s what I’ve learned about boundaries. Let’s start with what unhealthy boundaries look like:
For myself, my healthy boundaries look more like this now:
I am putting these into place now and I’m hopeful that with the new tools I have with my Conquering Codependency course and the 12 Steps I worked hard on, that now I can use them in this next phase of trying to have a mother/daughter relationship.
I never stop hoping!
Whenever I heard the term “Codependent” I always had a misconstrued version of it in my mind. CO-DEPENDENT. What did that mean? Surely it must just mean depending on others. What’s so wrong with that? Well once I started taking the follow up class to “Making Peace With Your Past” and dove into “Conquering Codependency” I found out there was much more to it than my basic definition.
Codependency is a compulsion and addiction to control and rescue people by fixing their problems. This occurs when a person’s needs for love and security are not met. Codependents have an imbalanced sense of responsibility to rescue, fix, and/or help people who usually don’t want their help. People either consciously or unconsciously deprive the codependent of needed love and attention so the codependent rescues as a way to gain that love that he or she needs.
Wow! That actually sounded just like me. Finally, I could at least put a label on why I acted the way I did. I’d gone 40 years of my life with this type of mentality. Flashbacks on how I reacted to situations in my marriage and in my childhood with my alcoholic mother flooded my mind. I could finally start bringing the whole picture into focus that had been so distorted and work on managing the codependent part of me. It’s who I’d always been and what I’d always known but I knew it had to change. I don’t believe you are ever cured from this type of behavior but I think it can be managed. It’s something I have to keep reined in with each and every relationship that I have in my life.
In going through this 12 week course/12 Step Program, I was able to link my Codependent personality to my childhood and being raised by a mother that struggled with alcohol abuse for most of my life. Even today, although my mother has been sober for 22 years, there is a constant struggle to keep the relationship from derailing. It falls in and out of estrangement partially due to the fact that I’ve built boundaries and I refuse to agree to a distorted reality just so she is always right in her mind. Did I used to be that person? Yes. I was the one to pacify and agree just to keep the peace. Even if it put all blame on me. I wanted to keep my mother in my life but over time I was hurting myself. Feeling worse as a person the more I took on which was actually not my responsibility. Not speaking up. Not wanting to rock the boat. I just wanted to agree so she’d see me as worthy or loveable and keep the relationship in tact.
I’m so grateful for the 12 Step Program this course offered because it truly allowed me to sprout my wings and become a healthier person. Learning to identify and decide how to proceed with each situation that may threaten the boundaries I’d built. Healthy boundaries….not the ones where I’d completely withdraw and put myself high up in a castle with a moat complete with sharks around it so no one could reach me. I needed to create a boundary as in a quaint home with a white picket fence and a “Gone Fishing” sign out front where others would respect the sign and step back and not force me to go running up into a castle to get away from behaviors I protected myself from.
Also, learning to say “NO” was ok and not feel bad. Say what you mean…mean what you say! I was always the “Yes” girl. Agreeing to do things or commit to things that I really didn’t want to. I’ve done much better with being true to me!
The 12 week course was called:
Conquering Codependency – A Christ Centered 12 Step Process by Pat Springle
I share that with all of you because if you can relate to anything I’ve written about above you may want to look into this workbook. It was this course that I believe solidified finding out who I was, why my relationships were the way they were, and finally finding a good relationship with ME!
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