Sasha Answers: What to do about my mother
Dear Sasha, My mother has always been dramatic. She grew up in an unsupportive, emotionally and physically abusive household until she was 19. She’s also been prone to abusive outbursts all of her life. During the first outburst I can remember, she hurled my toys at me screaming about how ungrateful I was. I was 6. I had no idea what was going on but in that moment I clearly remember becoming the parent by having to comfort her and calm her down. Fast forward 25 years. I receive my graduate degree as a first generation college student and move to London to start a new, higher paying job. Due to the move, I only see my parents once a year by the generosity of my father who purchases my plane ticket to the US every Christmas. During the visits, everything goes perfectly until one evening (conveniently while no one else is around) she comes into my room, tells me I’m ungrateful, disrespectful, that I think I’m better than everyone else and that she no longer wants to speak or see me again. My step-father normally comes home after these lash outs, calms her down and forces her to apologise to me.
This has happened every year for the past 4 years, ever time my mother and I are face-to-face. This time, Christmas 2013, she wakes me up at 3 in the morning, tells me I treat her like a dog, I’m ungrateful, disrespectful, etc. and that she wanted me out of the house. She actually told me no one wanted me there and I should cut my trip short and fly back to London. She then held my hand, looked straight into my eyes and said, “We will no longer support you, we will no longer see you, we will no longer even talk about you to anyone we know.” I didn’t cry. I dressed (it was 3:00 am), packed my bags with no money (my money is in a UK bank account), no transport and no where to go. My step-father wakes up and begs me to stay. He also forces my mom to apologise to me. Her apology was, “I apologise that you took what I said the wrong way” followed by “I apologise for being strong woman.” Really? WTF.
As soon as dawn hit, I was out of there. I stayed with friends until the day before I left when, magically, everyone pretended nothing was wrong. I kept the peace for 24 hours until I arrived back in London and went no contact with her. Honestly, I didn’t mean to go no contact, I only wanted some time to think because when someone says the same thing to you every year for 4 years, it gets to you. My birth father stopped speaking to me when I was 21 and it took me years to get over the pain of losing him (though I hid it) and for my mother to use that pain and threaten me with the loss of another parent is cruel. I have not communicated with my mother for 2 months now (besides a Happy Birthday email) and I find out she’s told my grandparents (who I was very close to) that I am ungrateful user, that nothing anyone does is good enough for me and I’m just like my drug addict, girlfriend abusing uncle. Now my grandparents are refusing to speak with me saying that they know the truth about me. I’m an independent, educated, intelligent person who is gainfully employed. Never have I been on drugs, in rehab, or made any misstep in my life whatsoever. My grandparents won’t even let me tell them my side of the story. The only person I’m currently speaking with is my step-father who’s repeatedly told me that all of this would go away if I simply forgive her. I have forgiven her but I am no longer alright with her tantrums and outbursts nor will I pretend to be. The problem is that I feel myself starting to cave. I hate the idea of losing my family and the main problem is that when I tell them how she treats me, no one believes me. She never has tantrums in front of anyone but me. Now, one by one, each family member is slowing being sucked into a she said/she said debate where I feel I must defend myself against her baseless accusations. I’ve asked my mother to attend counselling (I am) but she refuses siting me as being “too sensitive.” Do I stand my ground or give in to save my family the pain? Any advice would help. Lx
Granted no parent or family is perfect, but L, your situation goes beyond what's considered normal or fractured or dysfunctional. The relationship with your mother is not only toxic, but seemingly abusive and it truly pains me to hear that this is what you’re going through.
While I’ve only heard one side of this story, it’s all I really need to hear to know that this is bad space for you to be in. I’m no expert, and this is of course just my opinion, but I do think your mother is extremely emotionally ill. And because of that, I sadly don’t think you can do anything about it – it really is up to her to seek and get the help that she needs.
When it comes to family I'm always looking for how it can be salvaged – it’s important to do, say and make whatever sacrifice to protect the relationships in it, but if one half doesn't have the mental stability to take part in that, then again, it’s futile.
So L, the most important thing right now is for you to restore some inner peace and sanity, and remove yourself from this situation for a while. I would however try and continue to reach out to your grandparents and step-father to see if you can independently carve out relationships with them, but as for your mom, I don’t think it’s in your best interest to continue the relationship the way it is because as of right now, the abuse is greater than the love can withstand.
I know this must be incredibly painful and difficult, but my hope here is that through your continued counselling you can heal from this and reduce the years of stress and disappointment this has caused. I really also hope that your mom gets the help she needs, however in the meantime, I’m here for whatever you need and if any readers have stories to share that could be helpful to you, I’ll be sure to pass it on.
Thanks for writing in and keep me posted! xx