There’s a void in my life — one that has become increasingly apparent since I had my first child eleven years ago. A void that is still present, but never seems like it will ever be filled. It’s the place where my mother should be. When you become a parent yourself, you crave the bond you should have with yours, but I’m not sure I ever really had that. She had adopted me right when I turned six years of age and it has been bumpy since. I remember at such a young age, maybe about eight years old, she told me we would never have a mother daughter relationship. Those words lingered in my head till today. Words I will not ever forget. I craved her attention, her love, her compassion, that mother daughter bond I had seen with my friends and their mothers. It was something that I knew would never happen, but could not bring myself to accept.
I will be honest, it was not all bad. I always had birthday parties, provided everything I needed, food on the table, played sports, but those were all materialistic things. What I needed most, what I craved more than anything, was love. There was no emotional connection. There were no, as my daughter puts it, "tight hugs and lots of kisses". There were no "Girls days" with just my mom and I.
I could not understand what was so wrong about myself that my mother, the person whom adopted me, could not truly love me. During my childhood, I never once received an "I am proud of you". I would immediately call her with a job promotion, the start of my photography, or some great news searching for validation and approval. Waiting for the "Great Job I am proud of you". It was something I needed. Maybe it was due to not feeling that connection, that I just needed to hear her say it, but it never came. Not once. I was starving for that emotional connection and feeling that love. It begun affecting my self esteem and ultimately how I saw myself. I told myself if I was better, more behaved, happier, more obedient, that she wouldn't criticize or yell at me. That if I fix myself that, Ill finally be loved. That she would finally see me for who I am and love me for me.
Over the years, I was always on alert when in her presence- waiting for another putdown. She was always critical about my weight. Growing up she constantly told me that no guy was going to want me if I ate junk food. This caused me to have a eating disorder later in high school. When I graduated, I weighed 95 pounds and still felt like I was too fat, but that is a topic for another time.
I left home the summer of 2005 when I graduated high school. I did not tell anyone except my best friend, whom helped get me a plane ticket to a friends house in Kansas. I left a note and left with only a suitcase in hand. I knew it was a selfish decision, but I felt like I had to in order to have the life I wanted. I realized it was not a healthy situation and felt that it was toxic for me to stay there. The word toxic may sound like this horrible word, but it simply just means it was not a healthy situation.
After leaving home, I met the father of my children (my ex-husband). With having a toxic parent, you might find yourself drawn to people who have similarities to your that parent. This is because we are driven to find an ending to things that remain unresolved. Because love, warmth and nurturing are such an important part of child development, yet so elusive for the child of a toxic parent, it’s very normal for those children to be driven to find a resolution to never feeling loved, secure or good enough. I was looking to receive what I didn’t get from my mother in someone else, but drawn to people who have similarities to my mom. With similar people, the
patterns will be easier to replicate, and the hope of an ending closer to the desired one – parent love –
will be easier to fulfil. That’s the theory or so I have read. The pattern often does repeat, but because of the similarities to the parent, so does the unhappy ending, which explains why I divorced. I believe I was drawn to the wrong person because he reminded me of my mother and somewhere inside of me where I wanted things to stay hidden, is the wish that I'd get from him what I wasn't able to get from my mom. I was doing this without even knowing I was. It makes sense.
Our relationship wasn’t healthy and wasn’t adding anything positive to my life, I realize this. Worse, it was making me miserable. To me it feels as if she has done her job raising me and feels that she has the right to criticize me whenever she feels like it. I, on the other hand, am not allowed to blame her for making me feel like crap. She is not responsible for her actions or how she makes me feel. She says the ugliest things to me, but she expects me to be quiet and accept her abuse as absolute truth. When she makes a mistake, however, I am not allowed to say a damned thing about it. I am forever biting my tongue around mom and just feel like just have to sit back and take the criticizing and belittling.
I have ended all contact. It was a hard decision, but one that is much needed. I still cry and agonize over whether it was the right thing to do. In order to have made this decision, that the lifetime of messages that have left me hollow and scarred are wrong. No child should feel this way. No parent should ever make a child feel this way and be okay with it. I have realized that maybe she is broken inside, possibly to the point of never being
able to show love to the people in her life who deserve it the most. It is what brought me to the decision, in strength and with the greatest self-love and self-respect, to let go of the relationship that’s been hurting me all of the time. I know my brother probably believes I should forgive her for what she’s done because she’s our mother. However, I simply don’t believe that because someone is family, you should forgive them over and over. Family is more than blood. My mother-in- law is a great woman and I enjoy spending time with her. She’s been wonderful. I’m not gonna lie, I’m envious of the relationship that she and my husband have. She was an amazing mother for him while he was growing up. She supported him no matter what decisions he made and always offered him helpful advice. Something I wish I could have had growing up. However, that is the past and that is not something I can change. I can however make sure I do a damn good job being there, showing unconditional love and support to my children.
Breaking free of a toxic parent is hard, but hard has never meant impossible. With the deliberate
decision to move forward, I see there are endless turns my story can take. Brave, extraordinary, unexpected
turns that have already begun to lead me to a happier, fuller life. It’s what I've always deserved. I now know after all these years, that I do not need her for validation, approval, or her love. It has always been mine to own, its been within me all along. I just had to free myself to finally see this.
If you are in a similar situation, I want you to know this. Please be open to the possibilities of you. There are plenty. Know that you do not need approval from anyone, but yourself. Accept the fact that person will never change. Accept the fact that you can not change your past, but you can control your future. YOU ARE WORTHY. YOU ARE STRONG. YOU just have to believe it. It is within you. Release it.