Toxic Mom Toolkit on the Art of Lies

22 Feb

I’m reading Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolks, The Body Keeps the Score, and wow, is it an eye opener!  I’m having lightbulb moments in every chapter. It’s SO interesting to me that I’m furiously skipping whole big swaths of info on soldiers with PTSD (I can go back) and brain chemistry (I can go back) and just following his trail of crumbs on why I have so often felt lost and frozen.

It also got me thinking a lot about how we accept lies – really, really OLD lies about who we are and how we are. So I’m taking a rainy afternoon to create a little art journal to document the lies I’ve been carrying around. Lies like: I’m bad at math. I AM bad at arithmetic and I know why. My brain was too busy in third grade trying to survive my embattled home life that I had no room for memorizing my times tables. I have however, managed to make a good living (since I was 17) and save a decent amount and create financial security. (So, no, you’re wrong mother, I’m not bad at math.)

If you’ve read or are reading my book, Toxic Mom Toolkit, you know that you’re allowed to do creative things to process your feelings about growing up with a super toxic mom. I think combining scientific reading with art journaling will be transformative. And I wanted to mention it to you in case you have been looking for a creative way to process your feelings, too. 34ba5db3b512b172222c4865bce4080a

 

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit on Grief: A Passage or a Prison?

10 Feb 5fb0d993b21a0d3f542d5ed760e74f20

A dear church friend of mine died this past weekend and I’m grieving. She was a Sunday school teacher for many years. She loved to sing and taught so many children their hymns. All the children, teens, even the kids away at college, were devastated by the news of her passing. I find my eyes filling up with tears while I’m driving. I have to grab a tissue 20 times a day. For the past few days, any thought of my church family carries a sad weight. And yet, I know that in a few weeks or months, I will reflect on her life and think only good thoughts. Her memory will very likely inspire me to do more for our church and I’m sure there will be many times that I quietly, anonymously do things at church in her memory. Grief is a sad dark tunnel, but eventually you walk out into the sunshine again.

As children, our goldfish introduce us to grief. A few hours or days of remembering our pet naturally morphs into appreciation for all animals and our role in caring for them. If we forgot to feed our fish, we may suffer longer. But if a good old fish turned up floating, it was simply sad. We get through it.

And then our hearts are broken in puppy love, re-introducing grief. Perhaps one of our grandparents passes. Then a beloved teacher is suddenly swept away and our families and friends talk about loss and grief and introduce the idea of respecting each person’s unique life and our personal timetables for grief.

In adulthood, the loss of a child or a spouse or sibling is a great grief and the sympathy we receive never seems to outlast our grief. But there is an understanding that even in the worst grief, there is a turning point. Even a widow is allowed her long grieving and then we are happy for her should she remarry and rebuild a happy life.

And yet, for the adult children of toxic mothers, the grief over existing with an unloving mother is indefinite. As long as your toxic mother is living, you can feel that you are in a state of perpetual grief. When she is cruel to you, you may experience periods of deep, low-functioning grief. Or your mother grief may feel more like a low-grade flu that never ends. Grief often includes a feeling that you need to stop in your tracks; that you shouldn’t make plans; shouldn’t plan fun things. It can become a foundational feeling of great sadness that keeps you from feeling you deserve happy plans, fun trips or get-togethers with friends.

That’s why it’s important to ask yourself: When do I decide to trade in grief — over my childhood, over the stress of my current relationship with my mother, over the pervasive feeling of being cheated of a mother’s love — for hope? When do I leave my sad, dark mindset and walk into the sunshine of living my life?

If a Sunday School student had come to my late friend and expressed deep grief, she may have pointed to Matthew 5:4, Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Are you ready to consider comforting yourself regarding your toxic mom? Is your grief about your toxic mom a passage or a prison? Could you imagine the luxury of giving up your toxic mom grief?

New & Improved 20 Questions

29 Sep ed5d7b34695af4947c17d8a8f5b726ff

646519fd86182814bdd38313fe33cb3fOne of the very first things I did when I started writing Toxic Mom Toolkit was to design a brief questionnaire to help me collect real stories of growing up with a super toxic mother. Many of the mini-memoir chapters in my book started with an email from someone brave enough to take the survey and then send it back to me.

Right now I am collecting surveys from men for a book crafted specifically for male survivors of toxic parenting and I still need more stories. But I was also recently reminded of how therapeutic it can be for people to fill these out — so I decided to mesh the original and the men’s survey and fine-tune the original 20 Questions and re-issue it. It is important to me to keep learning about our community and these questionnaires capture so many things that would never be included in a quick conversation, email or Facebook post.

If you would like to fill one out, I would love to read it.  They are for my eyes only and are confidential. If I decide I’d like to use yours to create a chapter for my new book for guys, I will ask your permission. As a writer, I need to know who you are really, but you can remain anonymous and we can change names, locations, etc. to protect the guilty parties.

So here is the 2016 edition of 20 Questions Every Adult Child of a Toxic Mom Should Ask Themselves:

20 Questions for Adult Children of Toxic Mothers

Your name:

Your age:

Contacts: Email & Phone:

Your location/Country & City:

Please email your completed survey to newsyrayne@gmail.com

ed5d7b34695af4947c17d8a8f5b726ff

Your Story Matters!

  1. Tell us about you. What year where you born and where does your birth fit in among siblings? Please provide a basic description of your parents/family. Did your family grow through adoption or foster placement?
  2. Tell me the story of how your parents met.
  3. Tell me about each of your parent’s teen years and what their parents did for a living. Include any unusual relationships within the family that are pertinent to your family life today.
  4. Describe the arc of your academic and professional life to present. What is your current occupation? If you volunteer in your community, how often? Doing what?
  5. Describe the relationship with your mother in three segments: as a child, a teen and young adult.
  6. How old were you when you first realized your mother was different than other mothers?
  7. What is your biggest criticism of your mother?
  8. What would she criticize about you?
  9. Describe any significant periods of estrangement. How easy (or difficult) was it to limit (or cut off) contact?
  10. How has your relationship with your mother affected your relationships with others?
  11. How many friends can you really talk to about your mother?
  12. Describe your current family status. Do you have children? If not, why not?
  13. Tell me about your occupation, why you chose it. Tell me about your hobbies.
  14. How many siblings do you have? Are you close or estranged? Why?
  15. Describe your current relationship with your mother. Given your current levels of contact how are you viewed within your family?
  16. Have you ever talked to a therapist about your mother? Was it helpful?
  17. Moving forward, do you anticipate any changes in your view of your mother?
  18. Do you experience personal guilt, social guilt or remorse about decisions you’ve made regarding your mother?
  19. As your mother ages, do you see yourself having more or less contact? Why?
  20. Tell me what your ACES score is/just the number. Please make a note of your ACES score at the top of the first page. Here is a link to the test:   http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/02/387007941/take-the-ace-quiz-and-learn-what-it-does-and-doesnt-mean

Thank you!

 

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit Crowns “Uninvited” by Lysa TerKeurst

24 Sep

205876Yes, Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times best-selling author and President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, and she’s funny, but I like her and her new book, “Uninvited” anyway. Her latest book, written from her sticky kitchen table in North Carolina, focuses on that particularly odd – hard to put your finger on – feeling of being less than, left out and lonely.

Not that she doesn’t have some fun with it.

Yes, she wants to be a bigger person about those feelings but sometimes she will admit her jealousy of the other author chosen over her for conferences. That the other author has a thigh gap on her book jacket cover and Lysa’s own shots are always of her sideways… well… maybe that’s just a coincidence. Her most successful way out of the crummy feeling pit she often works up a sweat digging, is through careful study of the Bible. Won’t work for every reader – I confess to flapping past earnest pages of verse – but there were moments when her broken heart fit perfectly into a line from Psalms and my eyes teared up with recognition.

Her strongest chapters focus on recognizing, and therefore, not letting one past rejection bleed into the rest of your life. Sounds easy, but I hungrily read that material several times.

This is a very personal book. Many authors attempt to “talk” to the reader, but TerKeurst speaks to you WHILE holding your hand AND straightening your hair out of your eyes AND finishes up with a too-long hug. By the end of the book it all feels very natural. I’m pretty sure that if I met her at a conference — me standing alone in one corner — and her standing alone in the other – I might actually end up going over and inviting her to an empty table where we could both make jokes about who is the dorkiest loner.

I’m happy to award this book a Toxic Mom Toolkit crown. I hope the people who would be helped by this book, find this book. You can find it on Amazon, ChristianBooks.com in print, Kindle and audio editions.

images-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You a ‘Bad Mom’ or a Toxic Mom?

1 Aug

7de9027451431f2f45269a6605b75693   This week it’s all about the new movie Bad Moms, in which suburban mothers gleefully go off the rails – giving their kids sugar, throwing wild parties and guzzling rot-gut booze.

My Mister reports that at restaurants and bars near the theater in our little town, groups of dressed-up girlfriends are gathering to have Bad Moms movie parties. They may even be smuggling in flasks to spike their root beers when the lights go down.

As the author of Toxic Mom Toolkit, a book that helps adult children of super toxic mothers rise above their own horrible childhoods, it got me thinking: Most women do strive to be good mothers. They do cook healthy meals, pack non-sugary snacks, and shop for ethical toys and clothes for their children. And yet, when a teen slams the bedroom door or another mother looks askance at your contribution to the bake sale, they wonder: What if I’m not a good mom?

So many people ask me if their mothers were toxic. My answer? If you say she is, I believe you. And later, if they have their own children, they’ll ask how not to repeat the pathological patterns from their own childhoods. My answer? If you’re worried about that, you’re not a toxic mother.

So what is a “toxic” mom? By toxic, I mean a mother, who for a variety of reasons (mental illness, immaturity, strange family patterns, or even jealousy) make it a life mission to be unkind to children in her care. Many times toxic mothers appear to be wonderful mothers to others, but behind closed doors they can terrorize siblings or single out one child for a lifetime of bullying.

With Bad Moms we’re introduced to the idea of great moms rejecting the obsessive restrictions that come with modern motherhood. Does that make them bad moms? Actually, I view it as super human to thumb your nose at the constant one-upping and ever growing rules of mothering. In Bad Moms it’s not only good to delete the PTA emails, it’s also fun to dance, drive a bitchin’ vintage car and soar with Whip-Its without a trip to the dentist.

Are bad moms toxic? As an expert on toxic mothering I say absolutely not. In fact, these movie bad moms will probably help a lot of wonderful mothers to focus on what really matters: to stop worrying about what others will make of your mothering and just love your kids.

 

 

 

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit on Mother’s Day Aftermath

11 May

I plan for Mother’s Day about six weeks out, give or take, and this year was no different.

And then I saw an email from a big newspaper columnist, Aisha Sultan at the St. Louis Dispatch — a REAL newspaper, as my late stepmother Robbie would say.

So I prepared for an interview, not expecting too much and not reading too much into our very nice conversation. (I try not to get ramped up, or wonder if someone thinks I’m crazy, or angry, or…you know.)

And then it seemed that the conversation was so interesting to Sultan that her column became focused solely on Toxic Mom Toolkit, the book, the Facebook community, and the blog and that was a very, very good thing. (And scary.)

At the same time, Mother’s Day led a lot of newbies to our sites and I started receiving Questionnaires from Guys, from far-flung places and full of juicy stuff, and that was a really good thing.

So I started thanking Guy Friends of Ours and printing their stories out on paper and highlighting lines while I watched Game of Thrones. With a yellow highlighter and a six color pen I drew comparisons and found common threads and that got me very excited about the book I’m doing for men about surviving and thriving after growing up with a toxic mom.

All along I was putting up pre-Mother’s Day warnings on Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook to get enough sleep and said eat your vegetables like I always do. I know the drill. I’ve helped our community brace for Mother’s day since 2013 when Toxic Mom Toolkit hit Amazon a few days before Christmas.

Did I take my own advice on sleep and vegetables? Not much.

Did I have other big things going on in my family at the very same time? Oh yeah.

But isn’t that the way life always is? Everything at once. And then someone from a big metropolitan city in Canada, messaged me, saying, hey, did you see this American newspaper column all about you? Oh, you mean the one I thought was running on Mother’s Day, but was actually a Thursday column?

So that was exciting – to think – I have this big surprise for Mother’s Day Sunday. Oh wait. No, Thursday, three days early. It’s like a plot change and it’s all good and happy and wonderful for me – not to mention possibly reaching people who really need Toxic Mom Toolkit – so I just got up early and stayed up late and responded to every single comment and watched my Facebook data swell and crest at about triple the normal activity.

And then the personal emails started. Like this one from a blogger I featured:

“Thank you so much for what you do at Toxic Mom Toolkit. It’s so nice not to be alone. Especially as Mother’s Day is approaching! So much of what you say speaks to my situation.”

Mother’s Day came and we all survived by posting supportive messages and images and sticking together. I only had to ban one toxic mom all day.

And just as I was about to turn off the laptop late Sunday night, this came in from a Friend of Ours in London, sent to me privately, to be posted on Facebook:

I finally walked into a police station yesterday and reported historical physical and emotional child abuse at the hands of my TM (toxic mom) yesterday. The investigation is going to be quite long but I’m interested to know if anyone here has ever done the same?”

Which reminded me that this isn’t a hobby blog for me. It’s not about pushing book sales (although, please do buy one or ask your branch Librarian to order it for you.) This is about real people’s real lives and family relationships and it’s important.

As I said, I plan for Mother’s Day about six weeks out, give or take, and this year was no different.

Until just this evening, while checking my email when I saw a note from a very cute guy I dated for five minutes decades ago. (I wish it had been longer.) He’s known me from 35 to 60 and my stomach still flutters when I see his name.

His mother had just died. Did he ever tell me she was really toxic, just terrible? Could I send him the Guys Questionnaire?

And then I thought I better mail him a book. In a plain brown wrapper. First thing, tomorrow. Right after the I finish the bi-monthly bracelet mailing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit Pen Pal: Dear UncleAuntCousinJudy MomsBestFriendSinceThirdGrade:

18 Apr

0df2a3e3c3e819f3b804a305cf75c4a2DearUncle,Aunt,CousinJudy,Moms’

BestFriendSinceThirdGrade:

 

Thank you for your recent letter inviting me to reconnect with Mother.

 

I appreciate that you are writing out of concern for reuniting the family and spurred by concerns about time running out as mother ages.

 

I read your letter carefully. It reminded me that you have a very kind heart and I appreciate that about you.

 

But here’s the thing. I’m a grown up now and I have choices that I didn’t have when I was a child. Since you knew me as a child, I’ve educated myself, created a peaceful and loving family home, and I’m active in my community. I’ve also developed the perspective to understand my relationship with my mother. That you adore her and worry for her is sweet and kind. That you would extend yourself on her behalf shows what a good friend you are – and that’s a good thing. Mother needs her friends.

 

But I’m her adult child who suffered many forms of abuse while in her care. She has never explained or apologized for the trauma she inflicted upon me, despite the sun rising each morning. Although you’ve known her since before I was born, you are not informed on how she treated me in private.

 

I have built a life that I am proud of and happy with. It must seem sad that it does not include my mother. I can only assume that her past behavior is the best predictor of her future behavior towards my family and myself. My first priority is to protect myself (and my family) from her.

 

I have chosen peace over chaos, love over hate, and contentment over deep emotional pain.

 

As I would wish for anyone, I do hope she finds her peace one day. I cannot deliver that to her and I don’t choose to be near her. I ask that if you choose to stay in contact with me that you not “plead her case” or give me updates on her health or wellbeing.

 

Best,