An Open Letter to My Toxic Mother

Subject: An Open Letter to My Toxic Mother
Date: 28 Oct 2018

When I was 7, you told me, likely in a frustrated moment “you don’t need to tell me everything about your day, just give me the highlights.” And my fragile 7 year old self took that to heart. It also was said to me several more times over the years. But as I got older, you also told me “You never tell me anything. You keep your life such a secret.”
How am I supposed to know what you want to hear when you told me throughout most of my life that you “wanted just the highlights” … makes total sense.

It’s been almost one whole year since we have spoken. I’m sure you aren’t too phased by this though, as your mother had gone a year without speaking to you before. You’re sure I’ll come around, because you always did with your mother. But this is different. I’m no longer going to be the one who “comes around.” I will no longer be coming back saying “I’m sorry” to get scolded by you and told I’m a selfish person and all you’ve ever done is love me. It turns into you telling me all my “faults” and me just nodding and promising to bend to your will to make it easier and apologizing some more.
The times I dared to speak my piece left you in tears and the guilt worse than before. Never has an apology been uttered by you to me. I am to accept you as you are, because you gave me life, damnit. But, I am to be molded into what your idea of a perfect daughter is. Even though your idea is constantly changing. Never am I enough for you.

My therapist says she thinks you are jealous that I went out and accomplished some of the things you didn’t get to- because as your parents always joked with me, “you know you’re the reason your mom didn’t finish college, right?”
That’s one of the many “jokes” I heard growing up that I started to believe.
Yes, because my unborn self told my mother to quit school to be a stay at home mom.. completely rational thinking, right?

Things only got worse once I got married- how dare I spend time with someone else’s family. How dare I try to get to know another family, when you are the perfect mother and no one can be better than you.
My mom by marriage has been more of a mom than you were my whole life. And I know that if you ever read this, you will shout through fake tears “I gave her everything! A roof over her head! A bed to sleep in! Food in her belly!” But those are things you as a parent are legally required to do, if you wanted to keep me, anyways. The part I didn’t get from you? Love. Compassion. Feelings of warmth and comfort. Someone who said “You’re doing a good job. Keep going. I’m so proud of you. I’m here to help how you need me to.”
It’s not like I never got those things from anyone- I’d get those needs met by dad all the time. He and I are are just more “emotional” and “sensitive” I guess.
From you, I received more of the disapproving looks than smiles. I received lectures instead of praise on the things I did right. I was supposed to do those things correctly, but making mistakes was not allowed.

Living in constant fear is unhealthy. Changing who I am as a person just to try and please you is not healthy. Not learning to express my emotions properly is on you- because it was please you or be told how terrible I am.

Is this why I wasn’t allowed on many sleepovers? Why you were constantly up at my school? Why you would pit me against anyone who deigned to challenge how “strict” you were? Maybe you were afraid people would see the truth- see that you were emotionally abusing me and neglecting my emotional needs.

I read an article recently and a woman said she felt such a strong need to please her mother that she even tried to have all the same favorites as her. Their favorite color was the same. Their favorite food. Favorite store. Favorite movies. But it was still not enough.

I have re-discovered who I am more in the past year. I had buried her under all the fear and doubts you implanted in my brain. I’ve been retraining my brain to think that there is actually nothing wrong with me at all. All those things you conditioned me to do, say, believe, are not true. I can just clean a bathroom with Clorox, it’s fine. I can use non-stick pans, it’s fine. I can let myself get overly attached to my class each year, I will emotionally survive. It is okay to show emotions, you don’t have to suppress them. I get to be ME. Without fear of “what will my mother think?” Running through my brain.

You are my mother. Of course I will always care for you in some way. But I don’t have to have a relationship with you. And I will not have a relationship with you until you realize you have made mistakes. The reason I had anxiety was you. The reason my anxiety is practically gone is because you are no longer in my life to cause that suffering and continue providing my brain the fear.

I don’t blame you 100%- I know you felt you were doing better than your mother- which in some ways you were. But, you never got the help you needed to truly break that cycle. But I am. I am strong enough to do so. I have Jesus in my side, and I am not afraid to say I listen to K-Love and I go to a contemporary church regularly and I love worshipping God. I wouldn’t have those things without my husband you mostly shunned - and I am so grateful. I know choosing my husband and his family over the “family” you gave me was the right path- because God is on this path.

I pray you find a way to heal your soul everyday. And if that happens, I am here, and willing to build a new relationship with you. But until then, you are the woman who gave birth to me. And to that, I am grateful. But I am not required to be around your lies anymore.