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Stronger for the Breaks – How to Heal from a Toxic Parent

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Stronger for the Breaks - How to Heal from a Toxic Parent

It’s one thing to be dipped in venom by those you don’t really care about, but when it’s by the person who is meant to love you, hold you, and take the sharp edges off the world, while teaching you with love, wisdom and warmth how to do it for yourself, it changes you. There is a different kind of hurt that can only come from a toxic parent – someone who is meant to love you. Kind of like being broken from the inside out.

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The scarring and hurt that comes from a toxic parent probably isn’t something we talk about enough. None of us are perfect, including our parents, but there is a point at which imperfect becomes destructive, taking away from children the love, warmth and nurturing they deserve and replacing it with something awful.

When children are raised on a diet of criticism, judgement, abuse and loathing, it’s only a matter of time before they take over from those parents, delivering with full force to themselves the toxic lashings that have been delivered to them. 

Toxic parents come in many shapes. Some are so obvious that they can be spotted from space through the eye of a needle. Some are a bit more subtle. All are destructive.

A toxic parent has a long list of weapons, but all come under the banner of neglect or emotional, verbal or physical abuse. Toxic parents lie, manipulate, ignore, judge, abuse, shame, humiliate and criticise. Nothing is ever good enough. You get an A, they’ll want an A+. You get an A+, they’ll wonder why you aren’t school captain. You make school captain, your sister would have been a better one. And you’ll never be pretty like her. They’ll push you down just to criticise you for the way you fall. That, or they’ll shove you off a cliff to show the world how well they catch you. They oversee childhoods with no warmth, security or connection. 

Any negative behaviour that causes emotional damage or contaminates the way a person sees himself or herself, is toxic. A toxic parent treat his or her children in such a way as to make those children doubt their importance, their worth, and that they are deserving of love, approval and validation. If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘Well yeah, my parent/s did that, but only because it was true – I’m pretty useless at life,’ then chances are that parent was a toxic one. The truth is that you, like every other small person on the planet, deserved love, warmth, and to know how important you were. You’re not useless at life – you’ve bought in to the messages that were delivered by a parent too broken to realise what they were doing. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. 

It is possible to heal from by toxic parenting. It begins with the decision that the legacy of shame and hurt left behind by a toxic parent won’t be the way your story will end.

How to heal from a toxic parent.

Here are some ways to move forward.

  1. It’s okay to let go of a toxic parent.

    This is such a difficult decision, but it could be one of the most important. We humans are wired to connect, even with people who don’t deserve to be connected to us. Sometimes though, the only way to stop the disease spreading is to amputate. It doesn’t matter how much you love some people, they are broken to the point that they will only keep damaging you from the inside out. You’re not responsible for them or for the state of your relationships with them, and you are under no obligation to keep lining yourself up be abused, belittled, shamed or humiliated. Healing starts with expecting more for yourself, and you’re the only person who can make that decision. 

  2. And it’s okay not to.

    Don’t be harsh on yourself if you stay in the relationship. The act of returning to an abusive relationship can set trigger self-loathing. ‘Why aren’t I strong enough?’ Know that loyalty is such an admirable trait, even if it gets in the way of your capacity to protect yourself. Own where you are and give yourself full permission to be there. Accept that for now, this is where you’re at, and fully experience what that’s like for you. You’ll never love yourself enough to change your expectations if you’re flogging yourself for not being strong enough. It takes tremendous strength to keep walking into a relationship that you know is going to hurt you. When you’re ready, you’ll make the move to do something differently. For now though, wherever you are is okay.

  3. Be honest about the possibilities.

    If you’re going to stay, know that it’s okay to put a boundary between yourself and your parent. You can act from love and kindness if you want to – but don’t stay in the relationship unless you can accept that the love you deserve will never come back to you. Ever. If it was going to, it would have reached you by now. See their behaviour for what it is – evidence of their breaks, not evidence of yours. Put a forcefield around yourself and let their abuse bounce off. Love yourself and respect yourself enough to fill the well that they bleed dry. They might not be capable of giving you the love and respect you deserve, but you are.

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  4. Be careful of repeating the patterns with other people

    You might find yourself drawn to people who have similarities to your toxic parent. There’s a really good reason for this. All of us 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. They will look to receive what they didn’t get from their parents in others and will often be drawn to people who have similarities to their toxic parent. 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. The pattern often does repeat, but because of the similarities to the parent, so does the unhappy ending.

    The decisions aren’t conscious ones, so to move towards healing, the automatic thoughts and feelings driving the choices need to be brought more into awareness. If this is something that’s familiar for you, it’s possible that you are being drawn to the wrong people because they remind you of your toxic parent, and somewhere inside you where your wanted things stay hidden, is the wish that you’ll get from them what you weren’t able to get from your parent. Look at the people in your life and explore the similarities they have with your own parents. What do they do that’s similar? What do you do that’s similar to the way you are in your relationship with your parents? Which needs are being met? What keeps you there? The more awareness you have, the more you can make deliberate decisions that aren’t driven by historical wants.

  5. Own your right to love and respect.

    One of the greatest acts of self-love is owning your right to love and respect from the people you allow close to you. You’re completely entitled to set the conditions for your relationships, as other people are to set the conditions for theirs. We all have to treat those we love with kindness, generosity and respect if we want the same back. If those conditions aren’t met, you’re allowed to close the door. You’re allowed to slam it closed behind them if you want to.

  6. Be careful of your own toxic behaviour.

    You’ve been there, so you know the behaviours and you know what they do. We’re all human. We’re all going to get it wrong sometimes. Toxic behaviour though, is habitual and it will damage the members of your own little tribe as surely as it damaged you. You don’t have to be a product of the inept, cruel parenting that was shown to you, and this starts with the brave decision that the cycle stops at you. People who do this, who refuse to continue a toxic legacy, are courageous, heroic and they change the world. We’re here to build amazing humans, not to tear them down. How many lives could have been different if your parent was the one who decided that enough was enough.

  7. You’re allowed to make mistakes and you’re allowed to do it on your own.

    You may have been lead to believe that you’re not enough – not smart enough, beautiful enough, funny enough, strong enough capable enough. The truth is that you are so enough. It’s crazy how enough you are. Open yourself up to the possibility of this and see what happens. You don’t need to depend on anyone and making mistakes doesn’t make you a loser. It never has. That’s something you’ve been lead to believe by a parent who never supported you or never gave you permission to make mistakes sometimes. Make them now. Make plenty. Heaps. Give yourself full permission to try and miss. There will be hits and there will be misses. You don’t even know what you’re capable of because you’ve never been encouraged to find out. You’re stronger than you think you are, braver, better and smarter than you think you are, and now is your time to prove it to yourself.

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  8. Write a list. (And get yourself a rubber band.)

    Write down the beliefs that hold you back. The ones that get in your way and stop you from doing what you want to do, saying what you want to say or being who you want to be. Were you brought up to believe your opinion doesn’t count? That parents are always right? That you’re unloveable? Unimportant? Stupid? Annoying? Incapable? Worthless?

    Now beside each belief, write what that belief is costing you. Has it cost you relationships? Happiness? Freedom to be? To experiment? To explore? Then, rewrite the script. Thoughts drive feelings, behaviour, what you expect for yourself and what you expect from relationships and world. How are you going to change those beliefs? Just choose one or two to start with and every time you catch yourself thinking the old thoughts, actively replace it with a new, more self-nurturing thought – then act as though that new thought is true. You don’t have to believe it – just pretend it is. Your head will catch up when it’s ready.

    If it’s difficult to break out of the old thought, try this: wear a rubber band (or a hair band) around your wrist. Every time you catch yourself thinking the old thought, give the band a little flick. This will start to train your mind to let go of the old thoughts that have no place in your life anymore. You just need a little flick – you don’t need to hurt yourself – your old thoughts have been doing that for long enough already. There is no right or wrong on this. All the answers, strength and courage you need to do what’s right for you is in you. You just need to give yourself the opportunity and the reason to hear it.

  9. Find your ‘shoulds’ that shouldn’t be.

    ‘Shoulds’ are the messages we take in whole (introject) from childhood, school, relationships, society. They guide behaviour automatically and this can be a good thing (‘I should be around people who respect me’) or a not so good thing (‘I should always be ‘nice”). Take a close look at your ‘shoulds’ and see if they’ve been swallowed with a spoonful of poison. Our ‘should’s’ come from many years of cultivating and careful pruning, so that when that should is fully formed, it direct you so automatically that you don’t even need to think.

    It’s likely that the should that’s keeping you stuck has come from the person who wanted to keep you that way. Were you brought up feeling indebted to your parents? Like you owe them? Like you’ll never cope if you separate properly from them? Were the messages delivered to keep you small? Quiet? Hidden? Believing the messages may have worked when you were younger, steering you way from their foul mood or toxic consequences, but it doesn’t have to be that way now. Don’t pick up from where they left off. You’re older now, with different circumstances, and in a different environment. Bring your ‘shoulds’ out in the open so your actions can be more deliberate. If your ‘shoulds’ are working for you, love them up and keep them, otherwise let them go. 

  10. Nobody is all good or all bad. But don’t be guilted by that.

    One of the things that makes ending any relationship so difficult is that there will be traces of exactly what you want. Even toxic parents can sometimes be loving, warm or nurturing, though it’s mostly, if not always, done to further their own agenda. In the same way that being ‘a little bit bad’ probably isn’t enough to sever an important relationship, being ‘a little bit good’ isn’t enough reason to keep one. Zoom out and look at the big picture. If you feel miserable in the relationship more than you feel good, question your reasons for staying. If it’s because your toxic parent is old, frail, sad or lonely, that might be all the reason you need to stay, and that’s okay. If it is, own the decision in strength and put limits on contact or how much you will give to the relationship. You’re entitled to take or give as much to the relationship as you decide. Just whatever you do, do it deliberately, in strength and clarity, not because you’re being manipulated or disempowered. The shift in mindset seems small, but it’s so important. 

  11. Build yourself up.

    Toxic environments are toxic to the brain – we know that with absolute certainty. The human brain is incredibly adaptive, and in response to a toxic environment it will shut down so as to protect itself as much as it can from the toxicity. When this happens, as it does during prolonged periods of emotional stress, the rate at which the brain produces new neurons (neurogenesis) slows right down, ultimately making people vulnerable to anxiety, depression, cognitive impairment, memory loss, reduced immunity, loss of vitality, reduced resilience to stress, and illness (research has shown that migraine and other pain conditions are more prevalent in people who were brought up in abusive environments, though the exact reason for the relationship is unclear).

    We also know, with absolute certainty, that the damage can be turned around. Diet (omega 3, green tea extract, blueberry extract, reduced intake processed sugar and unhealthy carbohydrates), exercise (anything that increases heart rate), and meditation (such as a regular mindfulness practice) will all help to rebuild the brain and heal the damage done by a toxic environment. Increasing neurogenesis will help to build resilience, cognitive function, vitality and protect against stress, anxiety and depression.

Healing from a toxic parent starts with deciding that the lifetime of messages that have left you hollow or scarred are wrong. Because they are. It means opening a heart that’s probably been closed for way too long, and receiving the love, approval and validation that has always been yours to own. Sometimes, it means realising that parents break too, sometimes irreparably, sometimes to the point of never being able to show love to the people in their life who deserve it the most. Sometimes it means making the brave decision, in strength and with the greatest self-love and self-respect, to let go of the relationship that’s been hurting you. 

Breaking free of a toxic parent is hard, but hard has never meant impossible. With the deliberate decision to move forward, there are endless turns your story can take. Brave, extraordinary, unexpected turns that will lead you to a happier, fuller life. It’s what you’ve always deserved. Be open to the possibilities of you. There are plenty.

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476 Comments

AM

I would be interested in hearing from anyone whose parents are still living on how they have dealt with them. Whether you have found any healthy way to interact with them, or how you have cut off communication. To date I have remained in touch and visit my parents, but I am in the process of writing them a letter telling them why I cannot do that anymore. I will be asking my mother to enter therapy if she wants to remain in contact, so as to understand my need for empathy and validation. I don’t have any expectations. As my mother is in her 80s now, I know this will be very painful for her. Any suggestions are welcome.

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Mel Greer

My mother is still among the living and I have not spoken to her in almost a year- one day she just sent me a scathing fb message and I had had enough and I just sent her a reply telling her I was done. That she could remove herself from my life or I would do it for her. I waited 24 hours and she didn’t unfriend me so I unfriended her, sent emails to a few of the family members explaining that I was done and that I didn’t mind if they still spoke to her and things like that but I would not be any longer- I stopped going to her home and stopped inviting her and the other family members to mine for social gatherings so they wouldn’t feel obliged to pick a side. She has sent me emails like happy birthday or merry Christmas and I don’t respond. I don’t talk bad about her either: it’s just like she doesn’t excist and my daughters and husband still talk to her but I don’t ask about what or anything because I don’t care. It’s been the best 12 months I have had in over 30 years.

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AM

Becca: thank you so much for sharing your experience and your wisdom. I am sorry to hear about your childhood wounds. I, too, know my life would have been very different, but I tell myself I can’t change my past, only my future. I don’t have the presence of mind that you do: I don’t have expectations, but despite decades of therapy and good intentions, I still am in so much pain when my mother makes mean remarks. If I reply with words about my feelings, I just get more abuse and defensiveness and yelling, and in every future instance I will be reminded of my words that she hears only as criticism, so I have no incentive to share my feelings with her and nothing has ever improved. I dread having to talk to her, because it fills me with shame and self-hate, and never see her, and then have guilt about that. But, I will take your words to heart and keep trying to be stronger on my end. Thank you again for sharing!

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AM

Mel: thanks so much for sharing. Your experience is inspiring and I am so glad you have found a way to have relief!

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vev

My mother tells ne things like my kuds are the worst kids if all. I grew up by my parents belitelung me. I had a horrible childhood only bad memories it affected my life badly and cintinues to.

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no narcs anymore

Dear Vev, I’m sure that your children are the best of all, you mom uses all she has to bring you down, lying and lying and lying.

My mom used the same with me, always telling how much better my sisters would have raised my son.

Their children were always all over the place, shouting and misbehaving. Even the guys from the store complimented me, saying they have never seen such a polite and wellbehaving child.

Mom used to call and ‘cry’ how I fed sleeping pills and beer to my son. She really used everything she could come up with.

By then her words were white noise to me, I used to giggle when listening to her ‘truths’.

Now she is claiming that she practically raised my son, lol.

Vev, all you need to do is immediately tell yourself that she is lying. Period.

You can’t beat her, she will drag you down to her level and beat you with her experience.

That’s why it is important to just determine if she is lying or not. No justifications. If she belittles you, then she is lying.

The time will come when you don’t cry anymore, when you giggle at her stupidity and evilness plus even feel sorry for her.

Someone gave birth to your mom, she gave birth to you. Now you have given birth to your children, which means that you don’t owe her anything anymore.

Question to all of you:

I am not going to attend any social gatherings anymore, meaning events where mom and her husband is.

Some already know why not, they also know to be quiet if mom asks why I am not there.

Soon she is going to find out that it’s not an exception, it’s a rule, and wonder what has happened.

Yesterday I talked with an ex-boyfriend, he knows her behaviour towards me and he has always wondered ‘how can a mother talk so evil about her own daughter?’ – he doesn’t understand how she can do it.

Anyway, he adviced me to stay silent and let my mom and stepdad explain to the other guests again and again where I am.

Should I do it? Let her do the explaining and later on hear how much crap comes out of her mouth?

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Ash

Thank you for sharing your experience!! I have a toxic mother….. She always neglects my emotions for her… She has even made me feel like an object which she can keep whenever she wants to and throw it away when she is done with…. She even tried to defame me in the society by telling her own perception to everyone about the fights that took place between her and me….This made people judge me… Infact some people even tried to insult me in public…. This all together has affected me to a great extent…. I keep on losing hope and interest to do anything in life….
Things have stopped giving me the pleasure that I loved to do…. And I want to get out of this… i want to develop the same attitude for my mother that you have towards your mother. … I am not able to even concentrate on my studies…. Please help me out..

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ashlee

Ash… you should send me your contact info! My mother is quite the same. I have been through therapy and during that she told me I was lying to my therapist about her, that I was always a lier and she has even turned quite a few of my family members against me. Let’s chat!

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M

Hi

My father has passed over but mother still alive. My situation led me to stop contact. I just had enough when she done something that pushed me to my limit. It was a decision I didnt even have to think about, I just done it. That was over 6 years ago. After a about 4 years of no contact, including my children, I decided to try to speak to her. Was like banging my head against a brick wall and I am not able to forgive her for what she done because she denies what happened and comes up with different reasons each time I confront her about it. On top, she has no compassion on how much it hurt me…she is, like i side, a brick wall.
I have gotten on with my life, yes I would be happier if things were different between us, but I know now that I am better being away from her as when Im in her company I get so angry that I dont like who I become. I still think sometimes though…maybe if I done this, said this etc It could be better….but who am I kidding is also thought….
Other scenario…I pretend everything is alright and try make a go of the relationship ? Dont think I can to be honest….she has fallen out with my brother and a couple of her sisters…she hasnt changed..
I wish you well on what decision you make…go by your gut…its not easy what ever decision you make and I guess you will also think a lot of what ifs either way…..just go for your happiness

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AM

M: thanks so much for sharing. Don’t be hard on yourself. You are correct when you say that there is nothing you could have done to have made it better- you are only half the equation! Thanks again for sharing. Glad you found some peace.

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no narcs anymore

To AM:

Don’t send a letter, since they will use it against you.

Here’s how I have dealt with it – now that my inner voice finally is “working”:

Wait until you are strong enough and know that you won’t fall in their guilt traps.

Become aware of the guilting methods, because you have to close every single door that they use.

Love and respect yourself just the way you are.

Keep it as simple as possible, just think “It’s not my problem” – instead of starting mental processes where you defend to your decisions and actions.

When they come to mind, think “It’s not My problem”

Do not start to defend your actions, only become aware of them.

Don’t fall for their crocodile tears, they are not your problem!

Do they think about your feelings? Nope. So you don’t have to think about their feelings either.

“My parents have feelings too, but who cares?!” A good joke 😉

When all injustices pop up, tell yourself that you are aware of them. Period.

They come from your subconscious mind, so by just acknowledging them, without any analysing, they stay in your conscious mind. Which is good.

A Psychiatrist once taught me a lot of wisdom:

He said, “There are people who are incapable of seeing anything wrong in themself or their actions, so they reflect all their negative traits into you, because that’s the only way they can deal with their negative traits, placing them on someone else.”

He continued: “Become aware that they use you as their trash can, that you are always left with the task of dealing with Their crap, while they have taken in all of your energy. Problem is that the positive energy from you, turns into negative energy in them – so the next time you see them, the same cycle continues. It’s neverending, unless you stop it. And my advice would be to move as far as possible, unless you are’nt able to cut the strings completely and not see them anymore.”

“The reason why this is so important, is because you can NEVER let them see you children, you have to keep them away from them, otherwise they do the same to them as they did to you. Remember that when they define you, they are always defining themself. You serve as a mere mirror, the risk is that you start to think you are the mirror. Remember that they won’t ever see You for who You are, they only see a reflection of themself, not you.”

Just inform them that you are not going, if you need excuses then make them up. Like meeting a friend. Period. No names, no explanations.

Think that the ball is in their court. If they contact you, then you are allowed to throw the ball back.

When you don’t feel guilt anymore, that’s when you have gained your strenght to deal with your parents.

Guilt comes from the outside, never from within. Say “not my problem” to all guilty feelings and thoughts.

Hope this helps xx

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AM

Dear no narcs anymore: Thank you so much for sharing all of your insight, and the excellent advice from the psychiatrist. Yes, I have to get stronger and not feel guilt. I have a new therapist and am working on it. You have all convinced me not to send a letter, so that has been extremely helpful! I love this: “Do they think about your feelings? Nope. So you don’t have to think about their feelings either.” Thank you!

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Becca

I can empathize with you. My mother is also in her 80’s, and I’ve always had ambivalent feelings towards her. I’ve realized at this point in our lives that I will ALWAYS have ambivalent feelings about her. The trick is not to feel shame about it. This IS how I feel and it is not my fault for feeling that way. I have good, valid reasons for feeling as I do. However, feelings are feelings. I do not have to act towards her in negative ways because of my feelings. In fact, I can react in ways in which I simply insist on keeping healthy boundaries I’ve set for myself. These include giving myself “permission” to leave being with her if she insists on yelling (something I regularly experienced from her while growing up). I do not have to take her yelling and verbal abuse like I did as a child. I couldn’t leave as a child, but I certainly can now! I can tell her, “I won’t listen to your yelling. If you don’t stop, I am leaving”. You’d be surprised – I’ve got her “trained” now to stop yelling and converse at normal decibel levels. I do not have to wear my hair the way she insisted on (and for which I was made fun of by other kids numerous times while growing up). I wear my hair and dress the way I want to! I wasn’t allowed many choices in how to think, act, dress, feel etc. while growing up. In essence, I wasn’t allowed to be myself – and on those rare occasions when I rebelled, trying to be the person I wanted to be, I was severely criticized and/or punished for it through one or all of these methods: physically, emotionally, verbally (through shaming) or in other ways. As a grownup, I can express my OWN thoughts and opinions. I can do what I decide I should do in any given situation. And if she doesn’t like it and starts in again – I can tell her to leave, and I have done so! One time I expressed – NOT THROUGH A LETTER – but through a talk, the ways I believed I had been damaged by her. I didn’t expect her to think she’d done anything wrong, and she didn’t accept that she’d done anything wrong. But you know what, that was okay! I had gotten things off of my chest that had been troubling me for a long time. I expressed those things more for MY benefit than I did expecting anything back from her. Because I had this attitude before talking to her, I was not so disappointed as I might have been had I had unreasonable expectations of her before talking to her. It was cathartic. It put the choice on her to understand and take responsibility for actions she had done. Now, I will finish my response by stating that there WERE some good things my mother did during my upbringing. Since most people are not all good or all bad, we must acknowledge the good in them as well. I did learn some good things from my mother that helped me get along in life. I try to remember that. However, I also know that I have lived a life that has been “crippled” in ways that it need not have been. It is difficult to look back on my life and regret that, had I been raised in a healthier environment, who knows how far I might have gone in a career and how much better my marriage and other relationships could have been. However, I also think of the progress I have made in being able to overcome some of the negatives. They may look like small victories to outsiders, but each time I assert my right to be my own person, even in a small way, I become healthier step-by-step. My advice to you is to keep the connection with you mother, (unless she is truly a monster), but to set boundaries and to LEAVE when she won’t listen to or respect you, but continues to violate those boundaries! If she is reasonable and sane at all, she will understand that she has no control over you now that you are an ADULT, and the choice to RESPECT you as an adult with boundaries now lies with HER – not you! You just might be surprised at how you relationship actually improves.

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AM

Becca: thank you so much for sharing your experience and your wisdom. I am sorry to hear about your childhood wounds. I, too, know my life would have been very different, but I tell myself I can’t change my past, only my future. I don’t have the presence of mind that you do: I don’t have expectations, but despite decades of therapy and good intentions, I still am in so much pain when my mother makes mean remarks. If I reply with words about my feelings, I just get more abuse and defensiveness and yelling, and in every future instance I will be reminded of my words that she hears only as criticism, so I have no incentive to share my feelings with her and nothing has ever improved. I dread having to talk to her, because it fills me with shame and self-hate, and never see her, and then have guilt about that. But, I will take your words to heart and keep trying to be stronger on my end. Thank you again for sharing!

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Diane51

Thank you so much for this comment. I have recently come to the conclusion that my elderly mother has Asberger’s Syndrome, and it is of enormous benefit to read how others deal with their toxic parents. You have given some excellent tips, which I must now attempt to follow.

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Melanie

I started noticing my mom’s BPD when I was about 11. She woud rage at me over the smallest things and physically and verbally assult me and then just before it was time for my Dad to come home she would apologies and promise me trips to the mall to buy whatever I wanted, so as long as I would not tell my Dad. She also lived in a fantasy world where she had big crushes on guys, be it the neighbour or the pharmacist at the store or the pastor of our church. She would envision that they thought she was beautiful and amazing and she would bad mouth my “loser” dad. I even found myself answering her silly questions if I thought those guys thought she was beautiful, I would lie and tell her “oh yes mom! I am sure they think you are the most beautiful woman ever!” which was a total lie and I was so mad at her and so protective of my Dad, whom I loved so much. As an adult woman, I suffered 5 pregnancy losses. She wrote in her diary with much spite and venom on how she was happy I lost them so she wouldn’t have the agonizing job of raising my snot nosed brats. As if I would have had her “raise” them… only help me out while I worked my job, something she never had to do, was work a job. Now I am a mother myself and at times I have had an angry, ridiculous outburst on my 3 year old, must be so imbeded in my brain that when it happens I am so wracked with horror I don’t know what to do. The only thing that helps is to be completely honest with myself about the disorder she has. We only have a surface relationship, talking only about her and what makes her happy or sad or etc. She has never been there for me in my life and I am always the one to reach out and make phone calls or take her to nice places for dinner. She shows no sadness when I go through challenges in my life, in fact it excites her that there are issues going on and I always do feel contempt and competition from her. I have my whole life! I have just tried so hard to master being nothing like her. My mom weighs close to 300 pounds, therefore I work out religiously. My mom is a social shut in, I have those tendencies as well because of how I was raised and not allowed to have friends or a social life as this affected HER, however, I have pt myself into a career that I have to be social and serve the public so it forces me to be nothing like her and when I lose my cool with my baby sweetheart, I just try and see a little me and my mom lashing out at me, and that stops me in my tracks. We might all be a little damaged in some way by a parent like this but we can learn and master as well and by golly, I am trying

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Jessica

My mother is in her late 70’s and as the saying goes – haven’t been able to learn new tricks . Inspire of all my prayers and positive interactions on my part , it has come down to just phone calls wishing her well and sending her love packages via amazon . I feel that it is best to keep it short , and ever since I chose to live and let live I can put the once exerted energy to good use .

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Robin

Both of my parents are still alive; I have very limited contact with my mother and none with my father. It was a long process of giving myself permission to set boundaries and then owning how much energy and time was appropriate to engage with them (visits, phone calls etc). I worked to accept them for who they were – which ALSO meant letting them have the consequences of their choices. Their choice to act in toxicity did not mean however that I had to engage in it also. They have the right not to change and not to own the past, present and future – but I have the right not to participate in it. I’m now 60 years old… and choose not to play games and dance around my parents anymore… There are way too many positive persons, activities, hobbies to engage in without getting sucked into the black hole.
Having sad that – Everyone has to find their place of peace and what works and is right for them… My answer may not be yours. That’s OK. Good luck in your journey.

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L A E

I am three years into no/ limited contact (I only see them at my brother’s occassions) with my parents (in their 70’s). It is VERY painful to realize how little your parents care about you. Just because you limit contact doesn’t stop your pain. I wish I knew how to get comfort for me and my children. My parents are in an enabling, toxic relationship with my sister and never see the hurt they inflict on me and my children. I tried to step back gradually, but my mother is loud and dramatic and lashed out making it impossible to do gracefully. Even no contact is painful, because you grieve the relationship you wish you had. You’re hurt, and being a parent yourself, you don’t understand how they can do this to their own child. Initially, I tried to remain civil, you know honor your mother and father, so that I would not have regrets later. My parents chose to lash out at me instead (leaving anything I had given them dumped in my driveway etc), never missing an opportunity to bad mouth me. I am proud of my life, the family I raised, and my accomplishments. I will not let them curse or abuse me anymore. That said, I wish I could have found a way to just ignore them, limit visits to family events, and continue with my life. If I could have bowed out gracefully, it may have been a slight hurt instead of a gaping wound that I can’t seem to get past. They are not mentally healthy enough to see past “saving” my sister, at the expense of everyone else. When they hurt my kids, that was my final straw. If anyone has advice, I am open to hearing…and if anyone is contemplating no contact, think about the best way to do it. I wish I could have taken the “invisible fence” approach where I decide what is acceptable without voicing it to them- leave when they become nasty, have other plans when I don’t feel like seeing them, etc. Please think through your next step. The way you cut ties will impact you and any children. Good luck.

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Josh

My mother, for better or worse, is currently alive. I came across this page because I have completely cut off all contact with her as of a few hours ago and was looking for advice. More on the catalyst leading to that decision later…
First of all, it has always been my mom and I my entire life. My dad wasnt in the picture. I’ve spoken to him briefly a handful of times over the years and that’s about it. Since as early as I can remember (4-5 years old) my mom has been both verbally and physically abusive. One of my very first memories is spilling water on a carpet and being absolutely terrified of how my mom would react. Sometimes she would get angry for no reason at all, leaving me frightened and confused as any toddler would be. At one point when I was 6 years old she threatened me with going to live with my dad, who was a stranger to me. She had threatened this before but this particular time she went a step further. She packed me in the car and began driving to the airport while I was crying uncontrollably due to the fact I was 6 years old and being sent to a man who she had always spoke very negatively about and a man I didn’t even know. Even at this early age she did what I consider to be unforgivable things that have left me emotionally scarred well into adulthood.
My adolescence was much of the same. Random verbal abuse. I remember one particular time when her favorite football team lost a game and she didn’t speak to me for over a week. That was also a common occurrence. She would frequently get upset over things that had nothing to do with me, yet direct it towards me.
My teenage years is when it got particularly rough. I will admit during this time period I myself was no saint. However, this is when I was old enough to begin defending myself and spewing back the hatred she had unleashed on me all the previous years. During this time we tried attending therapy. She always made me about to be the problem. While I admit I did have my own issues at the time, her part was always left out entirely. She always assumed the role of the victim and most of the time it worked for her. However, on a few occasions during my teenage years, she was called out by formal professionals; two counselors of mine, and my juvenile probation officer (underage drinking). All three formally apologized to me saying “We didn’t realize what the situation was.” Basically, anytime her issues were brought up in front of one of these people, she reacted in a spectacular manner by throwing a fit and leaving the room. I would later use this as “ammunition” during heated arguments to validate that she was, in fact, the problem.
I moved out of her house when i was 20 with a girlfriend. She was absolutely in no way okay with this, nor did she support it. By this point, my teenage angst had subsided and I had reverted to trying as hard as I could to keep things on an even level with her. She would make me feel guilty, and it absolutely worked. My mom has never really had any friends or been very social. She had always relied on me. As an older and more mature adult, I felt as if I could fix the relationship. Looking back now, I wish I hadn’t of wasted so much time.
There are other countless examples of the abuse I’ve endured from my mother over the years. While I have tried to pacify her well into my mid 20’s, yesterday I finally reached my breaking point.
My girlfriend of 3 years and I are currently expecting a baby due in November. While my mom has tried to play nice with my girlfriend, they have a troubled history. For instance, on Christmas day my girlfriend texted her thanking her for her present and my mom texted back “fuck you I hope you choke on it.” My girlfriend has some of the nicest parents I’ve ever met, so she was not at all used to this. She had seen how my mother had treated me (while I never once instigated anything) and was obviously not a fan of her. My mother has also made remarks about my unborn child. Such as the fact she doesn’t even think it’s mine and it’s “fucked since it has you and your dad’s DNA”
Anyways, the other night I went to eat with my mom. I finally gathered up the courage to tell her how I truly felt and asked her to apologize to my girlfriend. I said I wanted everything to be okay with everyone, especially with a baby on the way. This was a bad idea. She became emotionally defensive, claimed it wasn’t her fault (she literally never takes accountability for her actions and rarely ever gives sincere apologies). My mom, without me ever asking, had bought me car that she still made payments on. She also paid for my car insurance (She could afford it.) After getting angry, she threatened to take it away and cancel my insurance. She had done this many times before but I would soon find out how serious she was this time…
After leaving her, we continued our argument via text message. She said hurtful things and I admittedly did too. We agreed I would give the car back to her on Sunday seeing as how, while its not ideal currently, I can afford my own.
The next day I walk into work to my co worker saying ” your mom is worried about you.” Apparently she had called wanting to know when id be there. Shortly after, police were in my parking lot. They came in and asked for the key. I was embarrassed in front of several employees and my manager. I also now had no ride home from work, which is a 45 minute drive from my house. This was the final straw for me. No longer could I endure this abuse.
Today, my girlfriend and I purchased a car together. Since I did not want to talk to my mother, I had my girlfriend message her. We had a ton of stuff in the other car she took that we weren’t able to get since the officers confiscated the keys. She refused to give it back to us, even though we threatened to call the police. Later on this evening when we got home we found her and her friend dumping our belongings in front of our apartment building. Her friend, who I’ve never met, proceeded to yell at me to “stay away.” And that she was “calling the police.” I responded, “uh, okay? Me too.” So the police came and it was a whole issue. My mom and her friend were making things up trying to get me arrested. Too bad I did absolutely nothing wrong. However, I did find out that earlier in the day my mom filed a protective order against me. So that’s hilarious. Always playing the victim despite being the sole instigator in our relationship.
I apologize because I’m aware this more than likely comes off as incoherent babbling. It’s 330am, I can’t sleep and I’m feeling emotional from everything that’s happening. I feel pissed off, hurt and depressed. However, I feel relieved the most. Relieved that this will finally give me the opportunity to rid myself of her negativity. It’s without a doubt one of those significant turning points in my life.
Thanks to anyone who attempted to read and understand my situation.

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DC

Josh: Congrats on the awesome kids! I struggle with the emotional toll also. I have started going to ACA meetings, which is for Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families, and that is helping me, as is my therapist. I think it will always cause sadness for me, but I am working on reducing the hurt and guilt. Hope that makes sense.

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Alexandra Lejeune

You are better off without her. Good Luck to you and your beautiful family.

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Teresa

People don’t change unless they want to change for themselves. Save yourself from heart ache.

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Elisa

Some resources that have either helped me already or which I think could, are…

joining Codependents Anonymous group
reading these books:

“Leaving Home
by P Celani
– excellent book for describing more about why it is hard to psychologically break away from being affected or otherwise trapped by your negative upbringing and parents

“Children of the Self Absorbed” by Nina Browne

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Sue

Hi My story is complicated. In a nutshell my brother passed away 5 years ago in Cambodia. He has a daughter now 10 years old & I have have Guardianship of her as her mother was unable to care for her due to mental illness. My niece has settled into our family & is a happy loved & contented child just enjoying an Australian childhood. My Mother & my Older Sister have absolutely nothing toxic relationships with me , with constantly being told how inadequate Iam. Needless to say this has always been the way… I was never quite good enough for my parents& my sister 2 years senior never embraced me. Anyway the family seem to think that my niece , well she’s our third child! is some type of commodity ! I hear others say I’m done & Iam & honestly can t do this anymore the abuse & degretation of my character is breaking me. My husband & 2 adult children are overwhelmingly supportive & involved in our 5 member of our family. I could type my grievances forever but any advice is appreciated. Sze

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Kathy

I moved out at 19 and lived blocks away from my parents throughout 6 years of university while I suffered from severe depression and tried to support myself. During those years I was invited over to their house once. After graduation I moved an 18 hour drive away. I had no contact for 10 years while I went through intensive therapy. After that my Greek husband, who did not understand the estrangement, forced me back into some sort of relationship with my parents. It remained very minimal, based on what I could cope with. They did not attend my wedding, or send me flowers when I had twins who died after their birth due to their prematurity. The hardest part throughout my life has been the extreme amount of love and kindness that my mother showed to others-even sponsoring young women from other countries and doing anything she could to support them. My mother died very suddenly a few weeks ago at 80. I had tried to get close to her for the 15 years after my son was born-but she would never allow it. Only in the last 2 years of her life did she show lots of affection to my son. I am now left with my father. He has continued to be hurtful and toxic since my mothers death. I am back to realizing that I again have to minimize my relationship/contact with him. I don’t think that it is ever possible to resolve these relationships. I had proposed family therapy many years ago, but my daily were unwilling to even consider it. I think that the focus always has to be on self -protection, and only allowing what you can handle/tolerate at any time in your life, which may vary from year to year. There is no understanding it, and I think no communication is more painful than a minimal amount.

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Nita

I lost my toxic father in 1997 who was physically abusive. He never ever spoke to me and only beat me black and blue. His death was a relief to me.

My toxic mother passed away last month she was emotionally abusive and clingy. I had to take care of her due to her ill health. But only their death can bring relief as morbid as it sounds as they will never admit to their wrong doings and no amount of therapy or councilling helps. They will never say anything to validate your efforts even on their deathbed

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THerm

I am an adoptee that had emotionally abusive adoptive parents. We fought constantly and I was devastatingly heartbroken all of the time. I’m a brave soul, so it took me a long time to finally break free from them and tolerate it for so long. They were manipulative enough to slip love in there enough to make me feel like i somewhat mattered and i am a very positive and resilient person by nature so i think that helped. After a huge fight 3 years ago they sent me a horrible letter and we didn’t talk for about a year. We gradually sent small messages back and forth, I was living in Korea during this time) and I was able to do a lot of healing living over there for 6 years (i visited them only once). I had always thought of breaking free from my parents before then, but i was always fearful and by nature very loyal, so it was hard.i think i also had narcissistic parents so it was that guilt thing going on. And i think my whole abandonment adoptive issue played a huge part in that. so i stayed in our abusive relationship. but after that fight, they actually did me a favor and set me free. i was able to develop the identity i desperately needed that was free from all their judgement and unkindness and criticisms. i also realized how much over the years (im in my 40s now) that i had healed on my own(consciously) and i knew that there were good qualities about them that perhaps because of my own abandonment issues i was not able to fully emerse myself in those positive qualities growing up. of course it was their job to make those insecurities go away but i gained perspective as an adult and knew that they had their own issues from their childhoods and they were acting out on those. They didn’t and aren’t able to or don’t want to gain a different perspective. that is their decision. i understood i am not like them and i can choose. i can choose to purposefully love them unconditionally or completely forget about them. i knew i couldn’t die knowing that i had given up on them. i looked at myself and saw that i was not giving them unconditional love. even though it was their job first, as an adult i can choose. i could easily say well they did this or that, but how does that help me? i want a good and happy life and if i focus on all the bad i wouldn’t be happy. this may not work for everyone but i realized i wanted to love them . i wanted to try to unconditionally love them. and forgive them. i know myself enough to know that i have that capacity. i also made a deal with myself that i would try and of course if it wasn’t working out then it was okay to not continue but i needed to try as an adult. as someone that has perspective on the ideal way i want to be loved and to love in my relationships. when my parents found out i was returning they started sending me loving messages and the issues with my father i have are healing. i think we both realized how llittle time we have left with those close to us. he is more loving and considerate than ever and i too have become more loving than ever.accepting and tolerating both the good and bad. luckily i live across the country so i don’t see them actually ever. but i talk to them on the phone more than ever and i see them trying to be more loving and caringand considerate of who i am, was and have become and where i want to go. that’s my experience. the one thing i would say that was the biggest problem but essentially was sort of the biggest reason we were able to possibly keep and maintain a better relationship is our lack of communicating our needs and wants. i know that if i did that it would bring up old heartaches and issues and at this point it’s best to focus on the positive and the future. it works for us. ideally i would be able to share the hurts and try to get my parents to understand me. i know i deserve more love and kindness than they’ve given me, but i also know they love me in their own way. its the most mature adult thing i’ve done, is to just accept the amount of love, the way they love, just to accept it for what it is. and trust that if they knew what to do they would. that if they weren’t so afraid themselves or so conditioned themselves that they would. i have found the love i crave from them in other people, relationships, hobbies. and there comes a point, at least for me, where u need to just give love to yourself. no matter what that takes or what sacrifices you make u deserve it. i know it’s given me the capacity to then go back and have a better relationship with people who just don’t know how to love the way i do.

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AM

THerm: thank you for sharing your story. Your insight and advise are very helpful. My therapist has advised me to join a support group and I think that will help. Also I am trying to be more social, which helps my self-esteem.

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AM

I have been going to and recommend Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (it used to be called just Adult Children of Alcoholics). And I would definitely spend the $20 to buy their big red book. You will see that you are not alone, and there are answers to our challenges. It’s my understanding that it is one of the only 12-step programs that focuses on issues that stem from childhood with difficult parents. (You don’t have to do the 12 steps, but I am thinking it will be helpful). You can find a meeting at: http://www.adultchildren.org/

Good luck! If one of your symptoms is “isolation,” it is particularly good to go to a meeting.

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John

I was a child. A child who wanted love. The humiliation, the “your a dumb bell”, the “we’re not laughing with you, we’re laughing AT you. I was a child. I looked and searched for the ‘hole’ to hide in, to seek refuge somewhere in my mind and or soul. WORDS at a young age mold and shape the person you turn out to be. 52 years old and The effects of your hurtful and humiliation haunts me every day. BUT, there is love in my heart. I know from a higher power that love can help. My dad passed almost 4 years ago. My wife and I made the decision to move 2000miles to watch over and make sure that the person that caused so much hurt would be safe and not alone. Feelings can be supreesed, to a certain point. Scares heal but leave a defining mark on ones heart. The guilt I have and I’m sure others known the guilt I speak of is something we live with and cope with every day. She caused the pain in my heart, she caused me to be the perfect one, never making mistakes. She caused me not to fully love or be loved. But every day I/we do the best we can to prove I will not be the victim, I will rise above and take that extra step to prove to MYSELF that I am better, that the guilt I have was not my doing and I will refuse to repeat that process with my loved ones. Continue to seek the love and return the love to people. Never stop dreaming of what could be just be cause your told your to stupid, follow your passion. Love, care and most of all, believe in your self no matter what a toxic person/parent tells you

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Robin

Hi! I have toxic parents. I used to say toxic parent but now I realize my enabling father is as bad as my narcissistic borderline mother. I have done alot to heal including read and post to this amazing article. I am now starting to realize that my restrictive diet including my food allergies is due to stressful mealtimes with my mother. I am going to try intuitive eating. Does anyone else have food allergies that they have connected to stressful childhood mealtimes?

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AM

Robin: there is an excellent book called “The Body Keeps the Score” about trauma and its treatment, and the author mentions the link between trauma and auto-immune and immunity, which might be related to food allergies or other symptoms.

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no narcs anymore

AM, know that you are loved by every single victim of toxic parents. We all know what you have been going through and empathize strongly with you. Nobody who hasn’t had toxic parents can be of much help, because they don’t understand your feelings.

You probably ‘know’ my story – but I got out of it (only to be dragged back into it by my stepdad, but dealing with it):

Until 30-yrs old I was an excellent listener, because of not being able to express myself. I had been told that I’m stupid, this was repeated through my upbringing and even after that. If someone asked me to even repeat what they said, I went into pieces and could only think “I’m stupid”. Never mind that I did extremely well in school, my sisters always repeated like parrots ‘you are so stupid’ and laughed.

By then I had decided to cut mom out of my life.

– in my mind I started calling her by her first name, since ‘mom’ was emotionally loaded like a cannon.

– when she called, I never told about my stuff, only commented ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ to her stuff. (she used to end the phone call when I talked about my stuff, so I was NOT going to give her that chance anymore).

– I was aware that she will never give me what I need, so I didn’t even expect anything positive from her. It did wonders, deciding that you will never hear the words you need from her and being completely okay with it. No expectations, absolutely none.

1. Calling her by her first name.
2. Never telling her about own stuff.
3. Knowing that she will never change, but I can change.
4. Forgiving her, without her knowing about it.

A week later she is on my doorstep, crying “what have I done to you” and crocodile tears.

I was calm and said ‘nothing’. She cried and cried but stopped eventually, absolutely certain that I had nothing against her. She had felt that all strings were cut off, without me saying one word to her.

She tried to get personalized information from me for months and months. Every time she called it was my chance to become stronger, until she didn’t affect me at all.

She had her temporary insanity -moments, spilling out the most worst things she could say about me. By then the only affect her words had, was me silently praying “I hope she never remembers what she just said”.

My sisters never had the same problem, because they were the Golden Children. She made all their shortcomings to my shortcomings, and all my successes to their successes.

The inner change was radical. For the first time I actually took part in conversations and expressed myself. Friends told each other that they never knew how wise I was.

But before that all old thought patterns had to be broken down, voices in the head like “you are stupid, you are ugly, you are evil, you don’t do enough etc. etc.”. This was done by becoming aware of them.

Lol, I never even knew how beautiful I was, always pondering why guys want to date me, can’t they find better-looking girls. I had to be their ‘last chance’ before they meet The Girl. In pubs guys told my friends how “your friend is the most beautiful girl here, but she must know it”?? Once a Canadian guy said to me: “You are beautiful, don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re ugly, because that is not true!” My interpretation was: “you are ugly, but don’t let anyone trash you for that”.

Becoming aware of all the filters (thought patterns) helps a lot. It doesn’t matter if the world screams to you how loving, beautiful, wise and good you are, if you have been told the opposite by toxic parents and if you still believe in them. The toxic parents effectively try to destroy your life, so that you are not able to live a normal life.

Whatever mean things your mom says to you, always think the opposite of yourself and refuse to believe her definitiohs. He definitions are all lies and have nothing to do with You!!!!!

AM, how is it with you, can you easily express yourself to other people?

Only now do I understand why getting so tearful every time when there is a loving and healthy family on TV. There is also an ad on TV, giving a lot of ‘good’ tears, it is about orphans and how every child is entitled to grow up in an encouraging and loving atmosphere. …. except for us victms of toxic parents 🙁

An Astrologer once told me, without having any information of my life, that:

“It wasn’t your fault that you were born in your family, but it is only thanks to your own efforts, that you survived. Only thanks to yourself.”

People, keep this in mind. Toxic parents try to drag you down to their level, but if you rise above them, then you are free and only thanks to your own efforts. No thanks to toxic parents, who try to do the opposite.

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AM

Dear no narcs anymore, thank you for this inspiring and supportive note. I just saw it, so I apologize for not responding sooner. Thank you for all your solid insight and advice. It is very helpful!

I love this:
“always think the opposite of yourself” — when I tell my Mother things that I am doing, I never get positive feedback. Maybe now I will tell myself things like: that is so cool that you are doing that. Good for you for taking that risk. That sounds really smart! I am so proud of you!

LOL. You sound very strong and it’s so great that you have left the negativity behind you. For some reason it is harder for me to avoid all the emotional traps, but I will take your advice to heart.

I was never good at expressing my feelings, but I am trying to do so, and I think I am getting better at it. That is one of the hardest things to do. If you never had any role models to show you how to express feelings in a healthy way, then you can be at a total loss for words. When I do try to express my feelings, I feel like the words never come out right. But I am taking all possible steps to free my brain of my emotional chains.

It is so true that we have to support and love each other. People either don’t understand, because they did not experience the same thing, or they are not self-aware enough to know they too have issues, and are in denial and their own emotional prison. I am working on empathy in particular, both for myself and others.

So glad you have come so far. You are wonderful and an inspiration!

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Robin

Hi AM! Yes, at one time a doctor thought I had rheumatoid arthritis at my young age of 37! Once I did somatic therapy and started having an emotional released in regards to my mother all the pain left my body. I know it is the same with my allergies. I can not wait to check out this book! Thank you for the suggestion! I love this online community and are grateful for it! Now more than ever because I have received guidance in meditation that my family is what is blocking me from thriving in my life and to completely cut them off. Whenever I am tempted to be in contact I am going to read this article and post instead. My mother pretends to love me because mothers are supposed to love their children but she does not really love me. I am simply a pawn in her game of life. For all of you out there who want to cut their toxic family off but feel guilt or something like that, do not feel guilt. It is ok to cut them off. It is ok to be visible. It is ok to have a happy healthy peaceful harmonious abundant and prosperous life!! You are strong and you are deserving and you can do it!

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Marz

I suffered as the ‘close’ child in the relationship with my toxic mother- always going behind her and cleaning up her social messes and smoothing ‘misunderstandings’ out. No one knew how much of a toll it took on me, and I accepted it all because I knew her past and I knew she was, un-diagnosed, but mentally unwell.
We had a wave of death in the family starting with my twins suicide. She lost her second husband and the man I considered to be the closest thing I had to a dad 7 months later (there was a lot more, but these two followed 2 years after she lost her mother and these losses changed her). The plethora of insanity that followed each loss and the vultures in the family took center stage, and her drama and feelings were the only thing that mattered.
On a stormy night, when my kids and I were visiting from out of town, everything came to a head when she had a psychotic break with her loaded gun in her hand.
It was the longest night of my life.
I left when I knew she was with people she could trust, (she made calls to have ‘her’ family throw me out), only to have to be the one to turn around (we were already out of state) and sign her into a hospital a few hours later when everyone realized she wasn’t actually okay and convinced her to go.
They told her later that I signed her in to get rid of her because my mother does not remember what happened.
The drama continues- but that event was what started my grieving process. That night I knew that I could no longer afford to put myself or my family in harms way. I learned who wasn’t my support system and family isn’t always blood. That night was what I needed to know that I could never fix her- I will die if I continued to try. It has hurt me every day. There have also been times that I have been haunted or had to overcome ‘tapes’ running in my head about my value as a person- and I get angry at her for planting those seeds.
My older brother keeps in contact with her and he is going through a tough time now as the last child she has a relationship with. It breaks my heart to hear him hurting- and it breaks my heart over our loss of a relationship all over again. She even continues to make choices she knows will hurt me- this is her lashing out.
This isn’t something that will ever feel easy. I want you to know these things- but I also want you to know that it is 100% worth it to walk away. People will give you a stigma about what kind of a person they think you are because of it- but YOU know what walking into that lions den is like- they don’t. People will always get away with what they are allowed to, and if you have an established cycle of abuse going- it will always be considered okay if you continue going back for more.
You want different? DO different. If you walk away and learn how to set healthy and safe boundaries, try again if you want. If you decided that this is really enough and you just need to heal, go for it- I’m almost 4 years out and I promise you, life is better without that emotional terrorism.
Stand in your own strength and decide what’s best for you. Tell yourself you deserve better than what they are offering. They will either value a relationship with you enough to make the changes you need to be healthy, or they wont- but don’t kill yourself emotionally trying or holding your breath- it’s already proven, they can’t set the pace in a way that benefits you.
You’re strong enough and valuable enough to get through this and your not alone. – All the Best

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Norma Jimenez

It’s nice and sad to know other people share the same toxic memories with in there own family and your not feeling horrible on your own

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Jessie

When I was 7 years old I was given a Blood Initiation. I was at the birthday party of a classmate who lived a few streets away from where I was at the time living. For the party, my parents forced me to wear a white lacy toddler dress, white tights and black Mary Jane shoes. However, when I got to the party I immediately saw that everybody was wearing hoodies, jeans and sneakers. Since we were going to the movies and out for pizza, I had to go out dressed like that in public. When the party was over and all the parents came to pick up their kids, my dad got out of the car to greet me. Before I could say anything, he punched me so hard in the face that I fell over backwards. My nose was gushing blood so hard that there was blood all over my dress. The ritual of pouring blood over the white dress of a seven years old is the Blood Initiation. And to add insult to injury, when I returned to school on Monday, everybody in my class announced that I was retarded and nobody would ever invite me to their birthday party ever again.

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Karen Young

Jessie I’m so sorry this happened to you. I hope you have been able to find strength and a way forward, and know that none of this should have happened to you.

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AM

Jessie: I am so sad to hear about your childhood violence. You deserved so much more. I also hope you have found a way to heal. If not, please ask for help.

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Ambre

My mother wants to have complete control over me. I want to cut contact with her completely, there is only one problem, I love my Dad and he has a terminal illness. She uses that against me, tells me I don’t love him or spend enough time with him. He is too sick to stand up to her. I was leaving the hospital one day from him being transported by ambulance and she made the remark it must be nice to go home, I wish I could go home but I would have to kill him somehow. What the heck? She is currently upset with me because I said that God and your husband should be before all us to which she replied HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER. She is a complete nut job. She is always emotionally abusing me and I am almost 30 years old. I want to cut contact but my Dad is very important to me even though he never defends me, I think he is also emotionally abused by her. She has turned one of my older sisters against me, speaks badly about my dad’s daughter who passed away and my oldest sibling has no contact with either one she just got tired. Any advice for me? I really want to be around for my Dad but it’s getting to the point where she is affecting my health, I have been hospitalized from the stress.

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Suzanne

I am right now planning to get out of a toxic relationship with my mother. My father died, self inflicted in November of 2014. My mother has five children (two with first husband and 3 with my dad)and only two of us have most interaction and connection with her. It’s my oldest half brother and me. Growing up was horrible. It was hard to keep friends because she was so controlling, my self esteem was always so low. Anytime we went shopping if I even picked up something that I thought was cute, she would snap at me and tell me I can never wear that, it won’t fit my “body type”. She’s accused me of having abortions, which I never have. She says that I always leave messes for her to clean up and if I would just get married and have a baby, all my problems would be solved. Really? I admit I’ve made some bad choices and gotten myself into messes before, but really? She is squandering away all the money she has, and she’s getting older and having physical and some cognitive issues, I specialize in geriatric healthcare and I see where she is headed, which probably is making this harder on me. She just allowed the pastor of a NEW church she just started going to move into my parents house the day after my half brother and SIL had her completely downsized to her smaller home ( in April) and I just got them out this week. It was a nightmare and has cost her SO much money. Because of what I do, I warned them that this was shady and things better be in order, I didn’t know them and just because your a pastor doesn’t mean you can be trusted. They’ve even had the audacity to tell her that her children could have her declared mentally incompetent and take over her estate due to what they did!! She keeps changing her will every three months reflecting which child gets the “most”. I keep telling her to stop, every attorney visit cost money and 0 divided by 0 is ZERO no matter what. I am right now secretly getting my things in order so nothing that belongs to me is in her possession so she can’t hold it over my head, like she always did. Heck, I even had a charity coming to her home to pick up a bed that belongs to me, to get it OUT of her way, she freaked out and wouldn’t let them take it because it was my college graduation present from my parents and she just couldn’t “let it go”. OMG!! Let’s not mention the four pieces I purchased to match it, and she sold all four at a yard sale for $10.00/piece and I had over $400.00 in those pieces. I am going to stay with my Aunt, my father’s sister in South Florida. My mother is going to visit my youngest brother tomorrow to see his little girl in a dance recital. I told her she better go since they know I’m here and if she doesn’t they’ll never let her forget it. At least I will have an opportunity to get the rest of my things in storage and my car packed. AND I don’t speak to my full brother or sister. It’s a mess, but I will go to counseling and get past this. I’m also secretly trying to get things that belong to me through my father because every time I ask for my set of china, she yells at me that everything belongs to HER until she dies. It’s not hers, it is mine from my father’s mother. Sorry for the long post, I’m just sucking it up and trying to help her until I can get away. I feel bad because I am a Christian, but she has pushed “religion” on us for so many years I can’t let her continue to play that card on me. What I do is between me and God and he will forgive me. Should I leave her a note? Or just be gone? She owes me money, which I could really use right now, but I’m fine with writing it off too. I am expecting a check from my last consulting contract to come to this address, which I desperately need. I know this is going to kill her and it’s going to be hard on me too, but I can’t continue like this. Any suggestions?

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Aus_Woman33

Hi all,

I have posted prior and see so many people helping others. So I thought I would ask for help. My mother is narcissistic. I am 33, married with a 2-year-old son. I only realised she was narcissistic about 2 years ago after my son was born and he was unwell. We were seeing a psychologist to help with PTSD / trauma and the psychologist suggested, based on my mother’s behaviour, that she was narcissistic. It was like a light bulb!

I have reduced contact to very minimal levels and this has been working. At first she was clearly struggling to respect my boundaries and there were months and months of her calling and calling me, showing up unannounced etc. She says things like ‘you are restricting the natural love of a grandparent’ etc. She has no concept of how she is, a typical narcissist. She has however, gradually stopped harassing me but not completely.

10 mins ago, I received an email asking me to clarify and agree on how often we would be seeing her and how often she would see my son. I call it my son, because personally I don’t feel she has any rights to have a grandson particularly. However, yes it is her grandson.

I have been very close to cutting contact completely but my grandmother would be greatly affected by this. We moved further away to get some distance and see them maybe once every three months. My husband’s family are much more involved in our lives and I don’t feel my son loses ANYTHING by not having a close relationship with my mother. Only daughters and sons of narcissists understand this.

What should I do? Ignore the email? Respond to the email (noting that every time I respond and try to communicate, she twists everything and tries to win).

Thank you.

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Elizabeth

Seriously — my suggestion to you is to move as FAR away from your NM as possible. She’s trying to guilt you, and that’s one of the myriad ways she’ll try to control you. You must be strong and not let this get to you. Take your power back by moving away from her so that it would be very difficult for her to see your son on a regular basis. She is not “entitled” to seeing you or your son. I would respond to her by saying “I cannot guarantee when we can see each other.” Please keep in mind that your NM will gradually try to turn your son against you — so you must not allow her to have quality time with him. I had the worst case of GERD when I was in contact with my mother, and had no idea she was the cause of it. When I finally went NC with her almost 4 years ago, it went away completely. Good luck.

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Aus_Woman33

thank you, how wonderful you are for responding. We moved 2 hours away about 1.5 years ago, but I have told my husband, it’s not far enough. It certainly helps. Thank you for saying she is not entitled. It’s so hard to separate out my guilt from my head. I know she isn’t, but she has such a knack for making me feel guilty. You are right about my son and that is why I keep her at arm’s length. On one hand I feel like I’m setting a bad example if I cut her off, what does that say to my son, but then again, when he is older, I could explain. My son has GERD, it’s awful, I am sorry you went through that. Thank you <3

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AM

I am so sorry that you have to deal with this. The first thing I would say is that you don’t have to decide right away, and you don’t have to respond right away, and your decision doesn’t have to be permanent. Because your mother asks for a schedule, doesn’t mean you have to give it to her on her terms. You could write her back telling her you will think about it, and then you can respond whenever you are ready.

Are you close to your grandmother and is your love for her enough to establish a schedule or boundaries with your mother? Have you asked the psychologist? you might want to go back for a session if you haven’t been lately. Since that person knows your individual circumstances.

I am no expert. I only know what my therapist has told me for my situation, which is that I have to decide what is best for me. And that I have to be able to separate emotionally from my mother, which it sounds like you are already able to do (meaning her actions don’t affect you emotionally). On the other hand, if the fact that she twists things still upsets you, that may not be the case. My therapist did not advise me to cut off all contact, for various reasons, but that doesn’t mean it is not right for others.

I hope that is helpful in some way.

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Aus_Woman33

Thank you, AM for replying, and so quickly as well. You are right, I always feel this urgency (guess where that came from) to reply and it is hard to overcome. I have come some way in separately emotionally, but not fully. I used to be extremely affected by her actions, now I am mildly affected, sometimes more, sometimes less. You are right, I can reply and say ‘I will think about it’ or like the previous poster said perhaps just saying ‘can’t commit to anything’ is better. One of the ways I’ve built boundaries is to say as little as possible. I saw my psychologist just two days ago and we did not talk about my mother but I have this wonderful book called ‘will I ever be good enough’ and it has a lot of guidance which is so helpful in these situations. Thank you again

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Jessica

I stumbled across your blog on one of those sleepless nights of mine. Could it have been luck or devinity ? I am now 42 years old and past many things yet I have been fighting with my guilt . You see ,I was raised by an abusive mother and alcoholic stepfather . Growing up I was hit , verbally abused and neglected . For my parents to tell me they loved me meant that a hidden agenda existed ;such ,as for my stepfather’s
sexual advances and my mother’s unwillingness to knowingly protect me . When I was 12 I chose to run away with an older guy that only took over where they left off . It wasn’t until I was 17 that I chose to run away from that situation shortly after surviving a failed suicide attempt and hit a scary life on the streets . At age nineteen I met a wonderful man that showed me acceptance with love and since have raised 3 children and have formed a loving home , all the while achieving a BSN in nursing for which I am now in the pediatric icu .The sad reality is that in my heart I thought that the longing to have my family (my mother aunts and uncles ..etc)would fulfill me ; yet, after associating with them I was left with a sense of emptiness. As for the feelings of guilt that I expressed at first , that is directly felt after I repeatedly have to explain my reasoning behind my decision to simply let go of a “mother ” to those that judge my actions and deny the harsh truth . The hardest part was escaping my own self punishment ! How could I ? God would want me to stay by my mother , right? Stumbling by your blog ( call it what may) clarified a lot for me. As I write this it is clear to see how one must cut away what is wrong in ones life to pave a better way for the next generation . More importantly one must change ones own perception of self . Thank you for taking the time to write about this subject . With tears of joy -I find myself not so sleepless after all : goodnight and God bless .

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Adriana

This article just might change my life!!

Im a 33 year old woman who moved 5200 km because my father contacted me saying he needed dyalisis and his health was deteriorating. I packed up my entire life and my partners to move back and help him. The whole thing was a lie. He does have heart issues but his kidneys are fine.
I don’t think I could even begin to explain the pain in knowing his blood runs through my veins. At 6 years of age I lost my mother in a car accident. As the youngest and only female in the family there was and is no care for emotions. This breaks me. To be told I was to young to even know what the loss of my mother felt like. Nothing I ever do is good enough. It’s such a strange relationship. He thinks that money is love. I would just like a hug and an “I love you” but that’s never to be offered.

Today was a breaking point for me. I lost my treasured pets. My mothers sperm donor . The best way I can think to describe him blamed their deaths on me.
Something broke inside me. I looked at him and thought why couldn’t it have been you that died in that car accident.
This article has helped me in ways that I can’t explain. Those toxic thoughts aren’t going to better my situation. Small steps and I think it will start with finding an elastic band.
Thank you for the words you wrote that may just change my life.

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AM

You have your own blood, it is separate from his. You are definitely enough and are entitled to your feelings and validation. I hope you can get some additional help from therapists or support groups. You deserve it!

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Jakki

This is so helpful. I cut ties with my parents (which actually means my whole family, because it’s a toxic matriarchal system) about 3 years ago after the birth of my 4th child. It suddenly became clear that any time something good happened in my life it was opportunity for my family to tell me what a crap person I was. This time it was all about how I badly I had ‘coped’ with the death of my 3rd child 18 months beforehand. There was much ranting about how I didn’t understand what it was like for them to loose my son and how all my other kids are going to grow up with “major psychological disorders” and are “deeply insecure” because I’m a terrible mother. So, yeah, that’s when I decided that I’d had about enough, and I cut things off. Now we only talk very superficially on Christmas and birthdays. The grief of it all took a huge toll on my health, I guess because it was compounding by my other grief. It’s been so great to have that toxicity out of our lives though. On a side note, my eldest child is school captain, top of his class, lead in the school musical and was selected to the rep regional soccer team just yesterday… and above all of that, he’s a happy kid, so I think he’s doing ok. All 3 of my living kids are happy, thriving and confident kids. But, I still struggle with guilt and letting go. How do I just stop thinking about what I wish things were and how sad and hurt I am that they can be a part of our awesome family without damaging it? I feel like I still give too much emotional and mental energy to this toxic relationship by constantly assessing and justifying the decision I made. It gets frustrating. Does anyone else struggle with that?

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Jess

Hi Jakki

I too very much struggle with giving too much energy to the thoughts going round in my head. I still worry that I am the problem (wasn’t I always told that?!) so I constantly revisit what has happened. I’m looking for definitive proof I guess that my interpretation is correct. I wish I could use that wealth of energy for me – there’s so much of it I’d be flying!!

I think the problem is exacerbated where the loss is not just of a parent but of a wider family too. My remaining parent is so convincing to everyone (everyone who has never seen or heard what happens when it is just the two of us) and so my whole family has effectively been turned against me as have the neighbours and family friends who were also part of my life. I’m the mad, bad one.The result of this is that there is noone who will listen to us and be on our side so we run it through our heads. I thought the problem might be easier if I’d got a family but clearly even your wonderful family doesn’t stop the thought spirals so I guess it is part of the process, maybe of grieving.

As you can see I don’t really have a solution, sorry, but just wanted to reply so that you’d at least know you are not alone in the struggle.

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Elisa

I am at a stage where I simply do not want much to do with ANY member of my family – the sole exception being having some regular contact with my mother and nephew and niece.

The rest can get stuffed.

I have simply HAD IT with all the expectation and pressure to be perfect whilst they get to act like a bunch of utter assholes. I am sick to all hell of their fucked up double standards -sick of breathing in this foul, lethal even, message that I am some unworthy walking mistake who must bend over backwards to change who she is, whilst they are somehow perfect human beings who are entitled to act aggressively and abusively.

I AM SO SICK TO DEATH that, even after having achieved some amount of perfection (or near it) that I have NOTHING TO SHOW FOR IT …that they are all still so much better off than I HAVE EVER been in over 15 years of constant struggle to be better to be accepted. And that they continue to enjoy a status in society that, if anything, I am much more worthy of having than them – quite frankly!!

All of this unfairness is so typical of their SPITEFUL vindictive behaviour -that is all about causing harm and sufferring. …This is the sort of attitude I am supposed to accept and be completely forgiving of in my father and any others in my family …but I am NEVER TO EXPECT ANYTHING OF THE SAME IN RETURN.
And I am to simply bare any cycle of misfortune and disadvantage that has, to a large extent, resulted from having been treated as if I was such a flawed and unworthy human being.
…when in reality, my only fault was to be a little too similar to my father.

I got the opportunity to be FORCED into the position of being a PARENT to him -an UTTERLY thankless role, since whether I succeed or fail in shouldering this burden, I will get little to no credit for it. And if being FORCED like I was to evolve to such a higher level of thinking and behaving resulted in DAMAGE to my mental health; and from this then, further disadvantage like long term unemployment and subsequent descrimmination because of never having established my self in the workplace as a young person …. well, what does my father care so long as he never has to look at himself as he actually is.

The same is true for my family. They have scapegoated me -even, more significantly in how I was labelled with a mental illness which they actually played a major role in creating. …Again, they get to pass the buck and hand all the burden of responsibility for SHARED PROBLEMS along with any shame onto the “weakest” member of their party …i.e., most likely young (since the older members get the right to be abusive now, just like their parents were to them) and most likely also female.

What a thankless, no-win role I have been dealt. Where I am given little option but to scramble to behave well above my age in terms of wisdom (and in fact, having to be wiser and stronger that her own parent ever managed in their 55 plus years to acquire) that even if I made/make it, gets little acknowledgement or reward.

I got shamed for in fact having an emotional vulnerability/struggle that my stupid inept SPINELESS father has himself.
…And if I can’t EVOLVE to a higher level of thinking, I will be the proverbial threatened species that goes extinct. …Such is trying to function in such a toxic environment.

I AM FUCKING OVER ALL OF THIS.
AND I AM FUCKING OVER FEELING LIKE I HAVE TO BE A VIRTUAL SAINT JUST IN ORDER TO MAKE SOME KIND OF HEADWAY IN MY LIFE. Watching all of my rotten, nasty, bitchy family go on holidays and buy houses and marry and have children. There I was like a sucker trying to better my self all the while it was a bunch of fucking assholes who had judged me.

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Debbie

I am 60 years old and it’s taken me this long to finally leave the relationship. It is a roller coaster of emotional abuse that is wretched. My parent is a narcissist and I spent my life in and out of therapy for this. They are ill, and they really believe their ways are normal. Making the decision to leave the relationship is hard, but for me, it has gotten easier at this point in my life. If destroys your own family for the pain that you carry as you try and stay in something that will never be. I had to mourn what I never had, and get strong enough to know I was worth more than this toxic form of love. I finally came to realize that i had spent more years in therapy leaning to become what I should have gotten from home LONGER than I lived with her from birth to 19. I am an alien to her as I have boundaries and a completely different way I view life and love. I spent a lot of time working on learned behaviors, because the cycle stopped with me and my children.

They did have some pain from this because their grandmother couldn’t be close or like “other grandparents.” It can be done if you really really work on yourself. I finally feel at peace with my decision and the guilt that was always ingrained, has been replaced with self love.

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