Enmeshed with a Toxic Mother

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    July 28, 2023 at 8:40 am #1124031

    From a LW:

    “I’m 26 years old and stuck in a very enmeshed relationship with my toxic mother. I’m miserable but I am afraid it is largely my own fault. I’m struggling to make sense of everything and feel very conflicted and confused.

    I am a 26-year-old female, but I live with my mother as an adult, due to screwing up and being immature and lazy in the past. I’m trying to make up for my failure at life by being more responsible. At the same time, I’m also hurt and conflicted.

    After taking two “medical leaves of absence” from a prestigious university and repeatedly failing several classes (while excelling and winning awards in others), and eventually being hospitalized for depression, I was finally kicked out of my college. I moved back in with my mother, who coincidentally did not have a home of her own during this time, and was staying (rent free) with her best friend and their family until eventually SHE was kicked out after two years of not paying rent.

    We spent the past few years, until recently, when we started renting a small house, moving between states and staying with various friends and family, as well as in a commercial store front that my mom had bought to keep her things in.

    Anyway, now we are renting a house, well she is, and I pay a share of my (part time) salary toward financing that store front I mentioned earlier (about 500 dollars a month). I have taken several classes over the past several years since dropping out, trying to finish out my degree, or get enough credits to be accepted back by my university (which they said they would do), but it’s slow and expensive and I’m struggling to stay motivated. I feel like a failure.

    Anyway, my relationship with my mom has always been complicated. She has bouts of mean behavior punctuated by being fun, attentive, warm, and loving.

    When asked to think of upsetting events in my past in therapy I recently told my therapist about an incident when I was first going through puberty where my mom asked me if I had pubic hair (I didn’t share this specific detail just said “my development”) yet and I was embarrassed so I said “no” and then she said to show her and I said I really didn’t want to and begged her not to have to, but she yelled and yelled and forced me to undress in front of her and then lay on the bed. I actually did have pubic hair and she was furious and screaming. Afterwards, she forced me to get in the shower and washed me while yelling that I was dirty and couldn’t even wash myself, and that I was a liar.

    I am worried when I share that that you will have an incorrect perception or overly negative perception of my mom. That was one of her worst moments, but it didn’t happen again and she wasn’t like that most of the time by any means. When I share things to explain how my mom can be, I worry I’m only telling some things and maybe I’m not seeing the whole story and maybe that’s why people sometimes tell me she is not good for me, but they aren’t seeing the full pic or all the irresponsible stupid things I do, including lie, steal, etc.

    A few weeks ago, my mom got really mad and started kind of hitting and kicking me and told me I ruined her life and I disgust her and that I was “demonic” and on and on. It happened in between sessions so I told my therapist about it. I honestly did something awful to deserve it though (I lied repeatedly and elaborately about being in school when I wasn’t).

    When I was younger, in early high school (i’m embarrassed to admit I was so old), my mother used to make me say things to my dad when they fought. She used to text my dad from my phone pretending to be me and say things like “I hate you! Why are you so cruel to mommy? why can’t you just love her?” But this was during a very stressful time for her.

    When I was in college she secretly lived in my dorm room for a semester which was awful and humiliating. She said she was sacrificing for me but really, I think, she was homeless (kicked out of her long term arrangement with her best friend) and wanted to be with me/get free rent/companionship, etc. It wasn’t ideal for either of us, I hated my life so much during it, but what hurts more is her using this time when she is yelling at me nowadays as an example of how much she sacrifices to me and how ungrateful I am. It’s so confusing.

    For over ten years until a few months ago she did not work and was living entirely off money from my dad even though they both date other people and have been living apart many years.

    My mom is nice to me too and has done so much for me. She cares a lot about me. But she is also very controlling and doesn’t really let me do anything but I can’t complain because I’m living with her and I’ve messed up my life so I can’t complain.

    She seems to resent me and be very disappointed in me not reaching milestones she expected of me but also depends on me for a lot (I do her laundry often, grocery shopping, her homework for a college class, stuff for her work). I also used the remainder of my inheritance from my late grandfather to pay for her college class. But I thought it was the least I could do after failing college and messing things up and lying repeatedly about it, etc.

    Like I mentioned, she recently got a part-time primarily work- from-home job as an administrative assistant for a local nonprofit. It’s more work and hours than she expected and she hasn’t worked in a long time, so it’s been hard.

    I was helping her in the beginning but ended up doing a lot of the big tasks myself and she is busy herself and is also dating this guy who loves doing stuff and she is always very busy with him even though she tells me she doesn’t want to and is exhausted but feels she has to hang out with him.

    Truth is, I end up doing hours of work for her a week, making spreadsheets, etc. And helping her do all sorts of things on the computer. I write emails, schedule meetings, run reports and create mass mailings and all sorts of documents and spreadsheets.

    The past two days I was off from work and I worked 6-8 hours on mailings/reports/spreadsheets for her job. I’m not getting paid. Id rather be paid but I feel like I can’t just stop or tell her no. And I feel good about myself for helping my mom.

    My therapist seems to think she is not good for me but I am worried he is overreacting or over sensitive due to his line of work or the way I’m portraying her because she often hurts/bothers me. But there are two sides to every story and I am very irresponsible. When I’m independent enough and responsible enough I do plan to move out. She would never let me move out now.

    What complicates things is that I have a really distant and uncomfortable relationship with my father. He has always been kind and supportive and tried to protect me from my mother but for some reason I have always felt a million times more attached to my mother.

    I feel tremendous guilt about what I did to him and that I refuse to see him despite him being kind to me. I feel very awkward around my father and uncomfortable. Just talking to him is so hard and uncomfortable. Part of it is that I remember when I was very little he used to french kiss me though he denies it and I believe my memory might be distorted so I’m not sure.

    Please help me. “

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    July 28, 2023 at 11:21 am #1124034

    Wow. I think this is way beyond the scope of what an online forum can help with. Normally I’d suggest therapy, but you are already in it. I don’t disagree at all with your therapist that your relationship with your abusive mom — who probably has underlying mental health issues — is unhealthy, problematic, and not good for you. I’d suggest listening to your therapist, who is not overreacting.

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    July 28, 2023 at 11:37 am #1124035

    Hi, I agree that this is a far bigger issue than folks on an online forum are prepared handled, but I posted it here because I am hoping we get multiple voices echoing the importance of listening to your therapist.

    What you’ve described about your mother’s behavior isn’t normal. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you and has doesn’t good thing for you, but you’ve described a level of abuse that would affect anyone’s ability to function well. That you’ve made it to where you are now – able to do work, attend therapy, take coursework, care for your mother – is a testament, I’m sure, to your strong spirit and your drive to create a better life for yourself. Please know that any challenges you’ve faced are not your fault. But you will need to work to overcome them. Your therapist can guide you through that work, which I know will and must involve setting strong boundaries with your mother (and father), and living independently of her.

    I just read a book that might resonate with you and I recommend it to have some better understanding of the situation you’re in. It’s called “What My Bones Know” and it’s a memoir by a woman who experienced a very toxic relationship with both her parents and has overcome many of the challenges that toxicity created in her life. It’s a story of resilience and home and the determination of a woman to find peace and meaning. I suspect you share similar qualities. We’re wishing you all the best.

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    July 28, 2023 at 11:58 am #1124037

    Since you have the means/ability/desire to work with a therapist, maybe booking some sessions with a new therapist would be helpful. I can’t imagine any mental health professional hearing this story and not saying something similar to what your current therapist has already told you. A “second opinion” may help you see more clearly that your current therapist is not too sensitive or overreacting.

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    July 28, 2023 at 4:09 pm #1124050

    Ok, 100% your mom’s behavior is abusive. It may be exacerbated by mental health issues. But you have to understand that abusers can be loving and charming and fun in between episodes of abuse. And Wendy is right, like of course you haven’t learned how to be an independent adult when you’ve been raised by someone incapable of being a functioning adult herself. There could also be codependency going on as a result of the mental health issues and the whole extremely unhealthy dynamic. You need to listen to your therapist and understand that you can love your mom but not accept abusive behavior. You’re employable and have skills. You want to work on yourself, and get away from your mom. You could be using that $500 to rent a room with roommates maybe, or get another part time job to earn more money and afford rent. Focus on yourself and therapy and building a foundation for yourself. Your mom is a disaster and you don’t owe her shit. Boundaries, both emotional and physical, are what you need.

    Btw I think that puberty episode was sexual abuse.

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    Anonymousse
    July 29, 2023 at 11:03 am #1124053

    I don’t think you’re seeing this clearly, at all yet. Your mother is very, in various ways abusive to you and clearly the cause of a lot of your issues, especially all this “failure to launch.” It’s almost a self imposed dependency on this monster who abuses you physically, sexually, verbally and emotionally. You could get a job, rent a room and live on your own right now if you wanted to, probably. What is actually stopping you from doing that?

    She has mental health issues, but that’s not your problem to handle. You should listen to your therapist. You need to consider yourself, your mental health and your well being before anything else, especially dear old mom, who’s been the cause of much of your stunted growth and pain.

    It’s time to dedicate yourself to becoming independent and moving out. Your therapist is itching to help you do this.

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    Anonymousse
    July 29, 2023 at 11:03 am #1124054

    I don’t think you’re seeing this clearly, at all yet. Your mother is very, in various ways abusive to you and clearly the cause of a lot of your issues, especially all this “failure to launch.” It’s almost a self imposed dependency on this monster who abuses you physically, sexually, verbally and emotionally. You could get a job, rent a room and live on your own right now if you wanted to, probably. What is actually stopping you from doing that?

    She has mental health issues, but that’s not your problem to handle. You should listen to your therapist. You need to consider yourself, your mental health and your well being before anything else, especially dear old mom, who’s been the cause of much of your stunted growth and pain.

    It’s time to dedicate yourself to becoming independent and moving out. Your therapist is itching to help you do this.

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    ron
    July 30, 2023 at 1:56 pm #1124068

    Your life will continue to be horrible until you totally separate from your mother and live an independent life. You can’t fix her, you can’t help her, but a few more years with her and she can destroy you. Listen to your therapist. Just leave, don’t tell her you are going to leave, sneak away, make no contact, block her on everything, don’t return to places she expects you to go, which means a new therapist. Hard at first, but you can do it and your life will gradually improve. Your mother may have been homeless when she lived in your dorm room, but this was also a nasty attempt, unfortunately successful, to prevent your independence.

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    LisforLeslie
    July 31, 2023 at 6:36 am #1124087

    Please consider working with your therapist and a domestic violence support group to make a plan to get your vital documents, move your bank accounts, protect your identity from fraud & credit issues and other measures to protect yourself. Your mother sounds absolutely unhinged and the loss of her target will likely result in escalating behaviors including trying to use your SSN or other personal information to destroy your credit.

    Nothing that you’ve written above about your mother is normal. You are not a failure. We all fuck up sometimes. A good parent helps us when we fail, encourages us to succeed and doesn’t hold our failures over our heads.

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Enmeshed with a Toxic Mother

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