By Lauren Paige
For as long as I can remember, my *mother* has struggled with her mental health. For as long as I can remember, my *mother* has also been mentally, emotionally, verbally, psychologically, and – on rare occasions – physically abusive to both myself, my younger sister, and her significant others. Much of my childhood is a blur; I seem to have repressed a lot of the memories, maybe as a defense mechanism. My earliest memories of the abuse begin around eight, and it continued until I left home at the age of 17. It was absolute hell for me. I always downplayed the abuse we endured by telling myself that we were fed, clothed, had nice things, and had expensive extra-curricular activities. And there were kids who had it so much worse than us, right? Kids who had so much less than us. Kids who went hungry or didn’t have a home. So I should just shut up and be grateful, right? It was still abuse and my trauma isn’t any less than someone else’s. It has taken me years to say that – and believe it.
My mother being unable to get the professional help and support she needed played a big part in our abuse, I believe. She alienated herself from her own family, and I don’t remember her having many (if any) friends. She didn’t have a support system. I can’t imagine how lonely she felt and is probably still feeling. And the resources were not there for my sister and I either. We knew something wasn’t right at home, we knew moms weren’t supposed to say or do those things, but we didn’t know how to ask for help. We also didn’t know who to ask for help. It was simply our “normal” and we wouldn’t realize just how wrong things were until years later. Of course, as our abuser, she also made us believe we were not being abused – and I’m sure she believes that to this day. She made us believe it was normal and always presented herself differently to the public or in the presence of others. It’s scary what goes on behind closed doors. People knew some of these things were happening to us, so why didn’t someone speak up? Why didn’t someone help us or get her the help she needed? Is it because we did not always bear the physical marks of our abuse? Resources that prevent violence and others which remedy or support those affected by it are scarce, and the mental health system, in general, remains severely broken. I experienced this first hand, not only in my own childhood, but also as an adult trying to remove my younger sister from the abusive home. There was blatant evidence of the abuse, yet the system didn’t want to let her leave our mother’s home or grant me a restraining order to ease the fear I felt, knowing the retaliation that was to most certainly come. I fought tooth and nail for my sister. I got an attorney, and I won. Finally, we won her freedom, too.
Despite all of this, I tried over and over again to maintain some sort of a relationship with her, even after I left the home, only to be subjected to further abuse. The abuse continued until I was 21 and that is when I had to cut off all contact with her after getting my little sister out of the home, which was very traumatic for both of us. I am 26 now and I have not seen or spoken to my mother since. It has been nearly 7 years and it’s still the best decision I have ever made. I have no desire to ever regain a relationship with her. Nothing will change that.
In the last 9 years, I have had to go through so much on my own. I have done so many amazing things which she wasn’t there to see. I will do so many more amazing things in my future that she won’t get to see or celebrate either. Those realizations were hard in the beginning – but over time, it gets easier. It is purely primal to long for your mother, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t have that longing sometimes. But I long for the mother I wish she was. I have come to realize I don’t need her or other family members to fully heal myself from these traumas. I was constantly told, “But she is your mother,” “She is your only mom,” or “ You really should fix things with her.” Fuck that. Was anyone telling her these things? That I was her daughter? Who innately deserved her love? I was no longer willing to put up with her abuse and the toll it took on me as a deeply sensitive and empathetic person. The decision to cut ties with a family member, especially your mother, is a deeply personal one and it doesn’t come easily. It is considered very taboo to be estranged from any family member–again, especially from your mother. It takes a great deal of strength to follow through with something like this, and for years my decision was not supported by many of those around me. I didn’t deserve what happened to me and, despite the public’s denial, I knew my mother was purposefully making me and my life miserable and challenging. Why would I continue to allow those behaviors to dictate my wellbeing? I was the only one who had the power to stop the abuse, since she clearly had no intention of holding herself accountable (and neither did those around us who saw the warning signs) and I did so by cutting her off completely. I had to stick up for myself because no one else was going to. That was clear.
With that being said, I was recently (against my will) made aware of her social media presence by mutual friends and family, as she remains blocked on all of my social media. In this social media presence, she talks a lot about “parental alienation” which is when one parent discredits the other parent to their kids. For example, perhaps a mom tells her child that their dad doesn’t love them or doesn’t want to see them, that dad is selfish and only cares about himself, etc. The same could be said with mom in place of dad…
However, she is and has always been the alienator – yet she plays the victim, as she always has in all situations, misleading the public into thinking that she is the one being abused. That our father has caused us to alienate her, which is entirely untrue. She is 100% responsible for our alienation from and discord with her. In fact, our father strongly encouraged a relationship between us long after the abuse ensued, again because, “She’s our mom.” I believe my mother takes this angle because she can’t possibly bear people knowing the truth of why both her daughters want absolutely nothing to do with her. Who knows, maybe she actually believes the bullshit she conjures in her mind. She has never once apologized to us for anything or admitted any fault. I know now that she never will. I waited so long for her to simply acknowledge and apologize so maybe we could move forward together. I think if she had, things would be different now, and maybe we could have upheld some sort of a relationship. But at this point, her chances of forgiveness are long gone. Call me bitter, but I am allowed to have whatever feelings I desire towards my abuser.
Upon further research into my healing, she is what is called a “narcissistic mother,” and there are many other women out there going through the very same things I am going through now. It has been incredibly healing to find solidarity in others, and that is why it is so important that we share our stories – no matter how hard it may be. I will never fully understand why she is the way she is. I have never been able to wrap my head around it. My best guess is that intergenerational traumas and mental illnesses play a part; but I am here, actively working to break the pattern my mother was unfortunately unable to. I am consistently doing the work to better my mental health and my overall wellbeing. I put my mental health first and I am working through my own mental illnesses, likely passed down through my mother and her parents before her and their parents before them. Likely, much of that went untreated and undiagnosed up until now. Mental health is incredibly difficult to navigate and seek acceptance around in this day and age; I can’t imagine what generations before us went through. That is why it is so important for our generation to take up space in this realm and own it proudly.
I am on a journey of healing myself and my “mother wound.” The amount of grief this has brought me over the years is inexplicable. Grief is a peculiar thing. I have experienced it in many different forms, but nothing like this. I am grieving the death of a woman who is still alive but who is dead to me and has been for a very long time. When the time comes for her actual passing, I will have to grieve all over again in a whole new way that I can’t even imagine at this time. I have faced judgement for this in the past, but I am here to say, unapologetically, that I long for that day so this nightmare will truly be over. I long to have some sort of closure. I do understand that the closure I seek may never come and that is something I will have to deal with when it arises.
I frequently fear that she will show up at my home or work, somehow trying to enter my life again to wreak havoc, as if she somehow knows I am happy and well. I have seen, I have known, and have experienced exactly what she is capable of. I shouldn’t have to live in fear of her unwanted reappearance. Yet still, the system won’t grant me the small comfort of a restraining order because she hasn’t done anything directly threatening. Only harassment, both verbally and on social media, that I see/hear secondhand.
The traumas I experienced have affected me well into adulthood. They have affected my relationships in good and bad ways. I try so very hard to not be like the bad parts of her. I try to be the independent part, the hard-working part, the resilient part, the frugal extreme-coupon-clipping part, the “bad bitch” part, the “fuck yeah girl power” part. Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t take anyone’s shit – I got that from her, too. She taught me how to cook real food, how to work hard, how to tinker and fix things, and I am thankful for that. Everything she put me through made me exactly who I am today and I wouldn’t change a thing. I am incredibly proud of who I am today. Yet, I try so very hard to erase her voice from my head, the devil on my shoulder presiding over everything I do. The voice telling me that I am not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, that the house isn’t clean enough, that I am not doing enough. The voice saying, “You’re lazy Lauren, you’re doing it wrong Lauren, you are worthless Lauren. You will never ever be enough of anything, Lauren.”
I had to rewire my brain after all the brainwashing and it was– and still is– fucking hard work. But I’m here to say it can be done. It is an intimidating process, but it is worth it. You are more than what happened to you and you can rise above your shitty parents. You do not have to continue living the intergenerational behaviors that got us here today. Break those chains and do good things. Be powerful. I believe in you, even as I’m starting to believe in myself.
Facebook Support Group: Healing the Mother Wound – Free Community with Bethany Webster