I have a great deal of contempt for my mother, which fills me with guilt. She has had serious psychiatric problems for her entire life. Although I know that she loves us, she is quite mentally ill, and I don't know how to cope with it. I need help learning how. (This is long, I apologize.)
I'm a 30 year old woman in the United States.
My mother subjected my brother and me to intense emotional abuse for our entire childhoods. Sometimes, physical abuse. Her rages were unpredictable and unstoppable. The themes of the abuse were “You betrayed me”, “You're worthless”, "No one will ever love you but me", “You're a whore/you follow your dick around”, and “You aren't allowed to love your father or his family.” The first time she ever physically punished me, she pushed me down our front stairs because I came home late after playing with a cousin.
My father's side of the family is pretty stable, so no problems there. My parents divorced when I was 7, and I don't believe he or his family were aware of the abuse.
As a result of my mother's insanity, I developed my own psychiatric issues as a child. Depression, anxiety, OCD, self-mutilation, suicidal gestures, and selective mutism. I was punished for my illnesses, and told to "quit doing this" to her. As an adult, I have anxiety, OCD, and PMDD. I was in therapy several times when I was kid, but none of them believed me when I told them about my mother's behavior. Worse, they would tell my mother what I said, resulting in extreme punishment for “embarrassing” her.
The funny part of all of this, is that my mother made her career intervening in abusive households, and rescuing other children. So we've had to spend our lives pretending she didn't do all these horrible things, and that she's not crazy. Because she's an Upstanding Member of Society.
As the years have passed, she has improved a lot. But she's still not a healthy person. Here are some examples:
1) She flirts with my husband, and boy, is it terrible. She's always blurting out how it's “not fair” that he's “so beautiful”. A few weeks ago, during one of her patented hysterical phonecalls, she sobbed apropos nothing, “I think I'm falling in love with him!” He is not alone in receiving her inappropriate flirtation. It's kind of a way of life for her. You should see her fellate a margarita glass. She also shit-talks me to my husband, and tells him I'm irrational and incompetent. But she's done that with everyone I've ever dated, so.
2) She's not afraid to act like a total child in public, if she feels betrayed in any way. She threw one of those most bizarre tantrums I have ever seen, because I hugged my stepmother at my brother's college graduation. She approached me at our wedding
to concoct a tale that my father and father-in-law were badmouthing us. Because she hates my dad, and can NEVER let that be forgotten, even 23 years after their divorce. This sort of thing is a regular occurrence for her.
3) Pressurized speech
, all of the time. Incredibly exhausting to deal with.
4)She has a coughing issue. The illness that causes the coughing is real, but the way she deals with it is a power play. She refuses to cover her mouth when she coughs, and seems to get a kick out coughing on people or their stuff. She gets offended if we aren't willing to ingest food or drink after she has coughed on it. If you've witnessed this kind of thing, you know what I'm talking about.
5) She doesn't view me as a real person. She thinks I'm an extension of her. Example: She told me for years that I was going to develop her heart condition because, in her eyes, I AM her. And that thrilled her. She WANTED me to be sick. I had to have an ECG to put an end to that,
and she was disappointed as hell when it came out clear.
As a consequence of her lunacy, she knows very little about my life. She is the main reason I don't think I can ever have children. And I deeply fear the time when she can't take care of herself any more. I think having to care for her all of the time would break my will to live.
I have contemplated calling her doctor to explain my concerns about her psychiatric health, but I don't know how well it would go over. She's pretty good at snowing doctors into thinking she's just the most delightful, warm, harmless person ever.
My husband pointed out yesterday that my OCD/health anxiety issues flare up dramatically when I have to deal with her for any length of time, in any capacity. He's right. It's been a long, hard slog to being my own person who views myself as powerful in my own life, but I'm almost there. Except no, because one visit can short-circuit me for a week.
I have been very direct about most of these issues (except the flirting with my husband thing), but it doesn't make a whit of difference. She's not going to change. I can't cut her out of my life, so I must learn how to manage my reaction to her. I was in therapy, but we had to stop because we can't afford it. I don't want to take medication, either. My anxiety/OCD issues have always responded best to therapy, sadly.
I want to learn coping mechanisms. I would deeply appreciate anyone's suggestions about how I can make this situation tolerable, and how I can keep it from causing me such intense meltdowns. Thank you in advance.
I'm terrible with throwaway emails, but let's give it a whirl: firstname.lastname@example.org