I Ghosted My Own Mother

by Elisabeth Lighty
Originally Published: 

As a little girl, I felt anxious and confused most of the time. I didn’t understand that the way I felt wasn’t normal, and I figured it was my fault.

Years later, after lots of therapy and expanded self-awareness, I connected these feelings to my relationship with my mother. Thus began my attempt to negotiate what had always been a relationship fraught with tension and unease, a relationship I thought was supposed to be easy.

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I know, I know: The mother-daughter relationship isn’t easy for many people. But ours seemed particularly hard.

In my 20s, when I started therapy and began to see the dysfunction in our relationship, I did the only thing that made sense at the time: I cut my mother out of my life. It was hard—really, really hard. It was hard pretty much every day, but especially on holidays and birthdays. I wrestled with huge amounts of guilt and grief as I worked to make sense of the situation. Was I a horrible person for not talking to my own mother? Why did everyone else seem to get along great with their moms? What was wrong with me?

Over time, as I worked on myself, I eventually was willing to re-enter a relationship with my mother. But I did it with my eyes wide open, knowing what I was getting into, purposefully setting boundaries and approaching every interaction mindfully.

Being back in touch with her definitely assuaged my guilt, and it helped me feel more normal. But when I was honest with myself, I realized that I was emotionally exhausted. My guard was always up, and even though things seemed “better” from the outside, I was once again trapped in a constant state of hypervigilance, the one I knew so well from childhood.

But, I told myself things were better. Right?

Last summer, we traveled to visit with my family, and I suddenly found myself in the unexpected position of feeling completely trapped. As our trip went on, I felt worse and worse. It wasn’t anything new to me, but I was a different person than I was in my 20s. I had a family who needed me. I couldn’t just shut down and check out. So instead, I took a stand.

I ghosted my mother.

I’m not going to say it was easy, but it was a lot easier than when I did it in my 20s. Honestly, it was an enormous relief to finally let go. I let go of trying to set boundaries just right. I let go of trying to force a healthy relationship. I let go of trying to make her into the mother I needed. I just let go.

There are definitely days when I feel sad about it, but most of the time I have a deep acceptance of the situation. When I am sad, it’s feelings of loss around not having an emotionally available mother for most of my life, especially now that I am a mother myself. But it’s not easy dealing with a toxic relationship that’s emotionally draining and potentially detrimental to your own mental health. I’m not a confused child anymore; I’m a responsible adult with a family of my own.

When I found myself in that situation last summer that felt overly familiar—a situation that left me feeling confused, crazy, ashamed and broken, even though I had done nothing wrong and it really had nothing to do with me—I knew it was time. I blocked her number. Spammed her text messages. Unfriended her on Facebook. I don’t respond to cards or gifts.

In the last year, my self-esteem has skyrocketed. I went into business with my best friend. I’m writing again. Without my mother in my life, I feel lighter and free to be who I really am. I feel like there is enough room in the world for all that I bring to it—big emotions, fierce loyalty, deep empathy, strong business sense and even some sparks of creativity.

Since ghosting my mother, I’m free to truly be me.

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