Growing Up With Toxic Parents Can Leave Scars That Never Heal
I switch back and forth between anger and gratitude. I have so much to be grateful for, but I can’t ignore the anger.
I am often angry for this lot I have in life. I have a mother who doesn’t have the capacity to truly love me and an absent father. Set up for a life of low confidence, feeling like I’m never enough, feeling like I don’t deserve to be loved. I carry terrible shame of coming from people who didn’t give me the love and tools I needed as a child or now as an adult. The shame of the emotional and physical abuse. The shame of being damaged, coming from a toxic home. The occasional nightmares. The questioning my ability to be a good mother because of how I grew up. The awful fear of not being strong enough to break the cycle of abuse.
The shame of cutting off my mother … what will people think of me? If you haven’t experienced it, you can’t understand my emotional turmoil. You can try, but without experiencing it first hand, you’ll never fully understand. You may nod your head and offer a word or two of support, but secretly you judge me. How can someone shun their mother after all she did for her children? What kind of person does that?
She did all she could, as she too was set up for failure. My father ran, but my mother did sacrifice. Please understand that I know she did. As a mother now, with much more than she had, I get it. I really do. It breaks my heart to think about how much she sacrificed. But a lot of people sacrifice. And a lot of people don’t have toxic relationships with their children. They don’t take away their love as fast as they give it. They don’t threaten to abandon their children, they don’t take out their anger on their children. They can handle important life events without punishing their children for their happiness. They actually revel in their children’s happiness instead of being jealous and angry and lashing out.
You may think, maybe you don’t do enough to show your gratitude. Maybe you could do more for her. Show your love more. Maybe you could reason with her! But I can’t. I’ve tried. I’ve read all the books, I’ve gone to therapy. I’ve begged. I’ve pleaded. I’ve sacrificed. I have made myself sick trying to make her happy, to show my love. The migraines, IBS, depression and anxiety. All a result of trying to please her. But it’s never enough. I’m never enough. I’m always wrong. I’m always ungrateful and selfish. I’m always horrible things that I can’t even repeat because it hurts too much to write.
But amongst the anger and terrible pain, there is the immense gratitude. I have so much to be grateful for. Mostly, the gift of my amazing, loving and patient husband. He was truly sent to help me heal. To show me what love should really be. Not conditional, not manipulative, not controlling. He may not always like me, but he always loves me and is always there for me. And when he’s not, when he falls short, he expresses his remorse and learns from his mistakes. He stays and fights to make us the best we can be, to make us strong. To support me in changing the terrible patterns of my parents and their parents.
And my children. I am so grateful for my children. I’m not always a good mom–I struggle to break the toxic cycle. But I now know I am not my mother. I love my children unconditionally, and when I make mistakes, when I am not the mother they deserve, I apologize. I talk to my husband and my therapist to vent and figure how to be better. I show my children the kind of love and affection I never received. And I am beyond grateful to them for slowly helping me heal. My gratitude goes beyond their health and happiness; I am so grateful that I can raise children who will not carry the kind of pain I have. They will be stronger, their relationships a little easier. Their lives will be better than mine.
When I slip back into anger, it’s because sometimes I feel like I’m not strong enough. Not strong enough to leave the pain behind and just be happy for the blessings in my life. After all, it takes so much effort not to break. To be happy, to see the good. Therapy, exercise, medication, prayer, and sheer willpower. It takes so much time and effort not to cave to the looming depression hanging over my head. Not to cave to the pain I carry around even with all the good in my life. Not to decide it’s too hard and just give up.
But am I not strong enough? Maybe I finally found the strength my husband and therapist say I have by cutting off contact. By finally reclaiming my life and focusing on the good. I may slip back into the anger and sadness, like right now, when I’m crying while writing this. But more often than not these days I can see the beauty of my life. I can appreciate all the goodness even more. And for that, I am grateful.
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