Reading for thought.

Started by

So many of the posts here I think of in term of a set of books by a psychologist, one Susan Forward. Toxic Parents, In-laws. I would highly recommend reading these books. Very highly recommend.
So many here are caught in situations with completely toxic family dynamics. How many could just leave for their own health and sanity is unknown: however, there have to be limits and a line somewhere. It is one thing also to realize that other family members are toxic, almost lethally so. It is also another to have the courage to state (as one part of the serenity prayer) 'I cannot change this, I will not let myself be consumed by toxic relatives and the elderly who caused much of the toxicity, exonerate it, make excuses, abuse the one seemingly decent individual in the picture, etc. Take a step back and look at yourself: you probably are continuing the dynamic of 'why won't they like me, love me, accept me, why is what I do not sufficient.' All the actions, undeserved self criticism all because a sh**ty parent (or parents)is/are a piece of excrement. And the siblings are likewise: kissing butt gives them power. Many of these situations I think the poster is best off walking away even if it means living in a car, tent, etc. which I have done in the past to survive. The peace I had was the best reward.
some back story, some current events
I faced a long time ago (although my mom was only about 55 at the time) the decision to leave for my own health and sanity which was finally slipping under the barrage of 'moomies' range of problems. I have no idea what to label her actions other than to say it ranged from paranoia to uber-control of my life, passive-aggressive manipulation to get her own way or to get me to do what she wants. (Narcissist is the closest appellation). I walked out as i could definitely feel my sanity flying away. Best decision I ever made. It took a long while for the cobwebs to clear. The damage done by b....d parent was difficult to circumvent, overcome. I don't think I have ever ever completely become 'normal' or recovered. I still react the same as I did in my teens. I finally realized mom was a nasty, vicious, controlling, paranoid sob on wheels. The maddening aspect to this all is the fact that most of the time she behaved ok. My little stunt of leaving did more to take the gas out of her bag than anything else. What she did in response was unforgivable and I was unable to circumvent it. The b**ch took all the cats to the shelter (or so she said). The last time I spoke with her on the phone she said this with total pride and self satisfaction. Unfortunately, I wasn't recovered enough to tell her to go to hell or similar. Just remained silent so she did not get the satisfaction of a negative reaction.
I am back with now 92 year old mom and I think she has never forgotten that lesson I dealt her back in 1977, always at the back of her mind is the thought that I could walk out again. and let her deal with her own garbage. I also have gotten better at getting in her face and telling her where to go. Like the true coward she always was, she shrivels, shrinks, starts whining and crying, sniveling, and 'oh my heart, I can't take this.' Doesn't happen often but I have established the boundaries as far as that kind of behaviour. She doesn't dare. When I returned in 1998, I said something that displeased her and she got up and leaned across the table with her hand raised. Before 1977 I would have cowered back. THIS time, I looked her square in the eye and stated 'you hit me, and I'll hit you right back.' She sat back down, said nothing, and continued as if nothing had happened. First time I realized the power was now in my court. I just make sure it stays that way.
I don't abuse her, I just don't let her abuse me. anymore. ever.
Now, if I was more ambitious, more successful the fact remains is I would not be here at all. I would never have come back, she would have been left alone to cope as best she could. (She has sufficient income where she probably could be in a good facility somewhere.) I am sure some here would and do not like my attitude or behavior. Mom is taken care of as best I can, I do not let her engage in the past destructive behaviors (I tell her off or walk off). Works very well as it is now.
But again, read the 'Toxic' series. It may help shed light on other situations here.
Best of luck all. Sometimes thankless positions we're in.


By your story I'm surprised you ever came back much less still care for her. Given what mom put you through I think your attitude is healthy and more of the children of crappy parents should take head and stand up for themselves. You must be one tough cookie.
Most of the time she was ok, but I have worked on trying to forget some of what went on. Looking back the pattern was as I got older, she got more controlling and verbally abusive. Again, the nastiness was not constant, but she would have episodes. She taught me the valuable lesson, at around age 3 or so, NEVER TO TRUST YOUR OWN DAMNED MOTHER. There was an open suitcase and I was wondering if I would fit in it, so asked dear old mom to shut me in, but let me out right away. Instead this piece of.... locked it and I could hear her footsteps walking away. I have no idea how long I was in there, I don't think it could have been much more than 2 minutes. Heard someone coming back down, the suitcase opened and it was my grandmother (alcoholic btw). She took me back from the bedroom, into the kitchen, where mom was working at the sink. She did take mom to task about it. This is where observation comes in: mom was doing something at the sink, but her movements were jerky. She would NOT turn and look at either of us but kept focused on the sink. She told me and grandma that 'that teaches her never to let anyone get her into the same situation.' I found that she would always act like that, doing something with jerky motions and refusal to make eye contact when she knew she was wrong. Nowadays that b would have been in jail if it had come out, but far too many 'famblee' covers up for bstrd parents.
This is not a recovered memory: I never forgot. Came out about 10 years ago in a shouting match I had with old moo: I said, point blank : 'I DON'T TRUST YOU.' didn't seem to register.
Like I said, if I was more successful, competent, and less indolent I would not even be there.
just an addendum: I do remember I was screaming my head off by the time grandma got there.
I read both of those books awhile ago, very validating. She has a new book: "Mothers Who Can't Love."
The crap that went on wasn't constant: however, it got more frequent as I got older and into my teens. Once I hit my 20's, towards the time of graduation, I was coming home to a person I dubbed 'b**chmouth'. Fueled by alcohol to some extent, she would start chatting normally, 'how areyou?'.. etc but the comments would start getting more sarcastic, more barbs, and she would work herself into a rage. This was becoming an almost daily routine; I hated going home. I graduated, mom went to a class reunion in Baltimore, I packed my stuff and left before she came back. And she had the audacity to have no idea why I left.
I do not know if she really comprehends what true love really is. Even now.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support