Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

Guest Post: Sunshine & Hurricanes

29 Dec
5f09dc2d13904c4be56ef074b682891dI always say, Toxic Mom Toolkit gets the best mail and over the holidays, this gem flew in over the transom. It’s from a Friend of Ours and she hopes that it helps someone.
Hi there –
One dark day I stumbled upon your facebook page.  Over time and in moments paralyzed by pain, I have found solace in the posts.   And recently, I began writing.  As the pages filled, the heaviness lifted.  This morning I woke up feeling compelled to share, in hopes it would help someone. I am certainly not a writer by trade and hope it isn’t too awful!
Thank you for helping me gain clarity.  Happy Holidays – Noel
If a father loves his daughter, he would do the best for his daughter.  
On the eve of my 34th birthday, I find my self conflicted.  Feeling both free and trapped.   I have fallen from years of searching for purpose.   As I sit here tonight reflecting,  I find clarity.  I wasn’t searching for purpose, I was begging to be found, to be heard, and to be seen.
As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted more.  It is almost as if I swallowed an orb on the edge of bursting.  My dreams were restricted by a conforming confidence.  Studies show fathers give little girls self-esteem.  Instead, my father’s strong display of disappointment, instilled a constant need to be perfect.  In result, restricted my individuality and thoughts.  My differences were seen as difficult.  I was the unruly child, needing further restriction.
December 24, 1983 at 6:18pm my parents brought me into this world of both endless opportunities and many walls still needing to be broken.  And on April 28, 2016, after 32 years, I lost the will to fight for my parents’ love.  I had learn to love myself in order to fly.
For years, I hid behind others opinions, convictions, and dreams.  So much, for a period of time, I questioned my existence.  My so-called friends would always joke about my disappearances.  How can people find one’s self-destruction funny? Actually, society pushes woman to be quiet.  The first and last time I spoke up about the fear and loneliness I felt at home the response dug deeper than the abuse.  The society rationalizes and arms abusers with excuses.  In the end, it further confined me and gave me the belief it was normal.  Was it me wanting too much love and attention? Wasn’t it normal to want supportive parents on the sidelines? Were little girls not supposed to dream?
Then, I fell in love with a man who saw into my soul and fed my dreams.   He opened my eyes to new experiences, which started feeding an unknown passion.  Without me noticing, he took an interest far beyond his own education.  Others only saw his signature gift of diamonds.  To me it wasn’t  the diamonds, it was the first time I saw someone seeing me.  On our first anniversary, I found a book from my favorite author inscribed with a statement of love.  He didn’t read, I actually never read at home.  In fact, my personal library was in the home we didn’t occupy.  I will never know the lengths he went to figure it out.  Those years spent with him, where filled with moments like those.  It was the first time a smile came from within.  Those memories will forever be my treasures.
To much dismay, love does not prevail illness. I hadn’t even recovered from a recent car accident and now this.   A darkness fell over me.   At the time, I was certain a love that great would never find a way back into my life.  My father ignored it all together, my mother took care of me.   I know sounds lovely right? However, my mother has never done anything without a self-serving reason.   One day I woke up, realized she was happy.  She found purpose in my weakness and happiness in saving me.  Who would want their daughter to go through this?  Mothers shouldn’t need tragedy to love daughters.
Over time, even though the pain faded, I felt underserving of another love as such.  For a while, the ending outshined the love once shared between us.  From this point forward, the relationship with my parents defined acceptable relationships for me.  My allowance and enablement of toxic relationships continued to grow.  One day, the cost of hiding my truth was far too great.  The energy to consistently act  for the benefit of others was exhausting.  I was tired of experiencing full blown panic attacks before heading to functions, to then immediately become undone as the car door shut.  I was falling apart, and my personal life was suffering greatly.
In hindsight, I allowed many opportunities to slip away and took for granted blessings so freely given by many.  I hastily decided to change my life.  Even though it was the right decision, many people, my so-called friends, were collateral damage to my wake-up call  – with my quick good byes.  Actually truth be told, it was more like, get out of my life! For a while it was lonely.  Weekends would come and I would sit home feeling sad and isolated for not being invited.  I had to keep reminding myself of the truth.  You hate drinking, being a target for jokes, the surface level conversation topics, staying up until 2-4am, being unable to drive home, etc.
I had the freedom to define my new life  and even though finding new friends with my interests wasn’t exactly easy.  Filling the gap for my family was far harder.  Not only did I find myself grieving, I had a sense of guilt, uneasy to shake.   Here I had two healthy, living parents, while others would do anything to have one day with their late parents.
I will never understand the difficulty to love a daughter.  I did everything asked of me.
– I went to school were my father dictated.  Even though my fathers’ money centric values limited my education and aspirations, I excelled far greater than asked.  Yet, still not worth a “I’m proud of you”.
– Sacrificing my own happiness and passion to focus on the career my father choose for me.
– I moved home, when my father beckoned on me to help care for my ailing grandfather.  I will never regret spending the time with my grandfather.  I just with it didn’t come with such pain.  My father dealt with his feelings by blaming everyone.  I listened to his hateful rants about everyone (even when it was about the people I loved and looked up too).  Even though an adult with a promising career, he would still scream in my face for hours even with company over – “You are trash, you are mother’s daughter, you will never  amount to anything without me….”.  I never knew what mood he would be in and like the wind, it could change suddenly.   With him, I reverted back to a child.
Not only was it never good enough, my father’s advice (mind you unsolicited and consistently pushed) and constant criticism stifled my voice.  I struggle daily to find my voice and lend  others the autonomy necessary for growth.
But, I was grateful it was never about being married and having children.  The idea of loving and trusting another human that much came with too much pain.  Until one day, my father’s heavy expectations changed.  My career was no longer meaningful without kids.  I was struck by the irony.  I had just put myself through grad school and had new found sense of confidence and passion for my career.
To the father in capable of listening, yes, I defied your advice to ‘keep my head down and mouth shut in Corporate America’.  Because you know what, I got something to say and fight for.  So guess what, I spoke up and one day I found myself at the table.  Meghan Markle’s call to open seats at the table a few years ago, did not fall on deaf ears.  As such, I am proud to be a woman and a feminist.
This year, I found comfort being the outlier.  I am finally free from judgment and the unrealistic need to be perfect.  The truth is I will always live life with a sense of loss and sadness.  The greatest part is the truth can be multi-dimensional.  Therefore, I am choosing authenticity, happiness, and gratitude.  I am also choosing forgiveness.
I may be sunshine mixed with a little hurricane.  I will never be perfect, but always genuine.  I am unapologetic about my passion and open heart, I would hate to lose the future.  I will put every effort into making dreams into plans.  I will harbor the courage to cover the earth, before it covers me.
So for my birthday this year all I want is to do is cultivate the ability in others to love and appreciate each other.  This world can easily fuel hate and war.   Daily pressures can easily blur your ability to ‘be in the moment’.   Don’t let differences seem impossible to overcome.  Encourage future generations.   Last but not least, to all the fathers and mothers out there – please love your children a little extra for me.
Advertisements

911! – Who Do You Call When Your Mom is Toxic?

4 Sep

Recently, a Friend of Ours wrote this about going No Contact with her toxic parents on a Toxic Mom Toolkit post on Facebook:

 

“I literally have no one. I wonder what will happen to me if I have a health emergency. Trust me, I was alone with both of them any way, they wouldn’t help if I was on fire but it’s so definite now.”

 

I think this is a thought that has crossed the mind of just about every adult child of a super toxic mom or toxic dad or toxic family. Yes, what if you suddenly have a gall bladder attack, or a heart attack or a very bad accident? Who will be there for you at the hospital? Who will come to you? Drive you? Sit with you? Comfort you?

 

For a lot of us at Toxic Mom Toolkit, we already know, it’s not going to be our awful mothers. Of course, if she can make your crisis about her – about how she dropped everything for you, causing scenes, fighting with other relatives and hospital staff – then it might be worth the trouble.

 

But think about the conditioning behind this “Who will come when I’m sick?” scenario. Who came when you were little? There was ONLY your mom, so her coming, staying, being there for you had a huge impact. It would be so sad without her, you think, or scary, or you’d be ashamed to cry or have mobility issues in front of strangers, you think.

 

But now that you are not a child, and maybe you are low contact or no contact with your mom, it might have occurred to you that you will probably survive anything the world can throw at you. Even without your mother.

 

As a former police chaplain, I’ve seen it in action. A call comes into 911 and the dispatcher sends cops and medical to a person in crisis; the EMT’s run towards you; an ambulance waits. None of the first responders ask about your mother. You get to the hospital and nurses and doctors and X-ray people assess your condition. They might ask about your insurance, but they don’t really care about whether or not your mom is coming.

 

While you are navigating the Emergency Room you may be able to place a call, or you may be unconscious or not thinking clearly. It is actually the stuff of movies and television that wonderful people come running while you are in the ER. It doesn’t really happen as often as you think it does – unless you’re a cop or firefighter. Then you’ve got a lobby full of people worrying for you.

 

After you’ve been treated, given pain meds, put in a bed with cool sheets, someone will ask if they can telephone someone for you. Of course, you’ll be tired and maybe a little drugged up, and, yes, it would be nice to have someone come and hold your hand, console you; someone to see what you need in the hours or days to come. And you know what? Anyone you call will probably come – if not that day, then in the morning. You don’t have to call your mother if you don’t want to.

 

There are Visiting Nurses who can help you get back home and supervise your care. Yes, it costs money, but no Visiting Nurse ever told a patient they had only themselves to blame for their situation or that they looked like hell without makeup.

 

You really could call a friend from work or church or the gym. They’ll come. And when they get there they will be kind.

 

Or you can call your overly dramatic mother.

 

Any time anyone has called me, I pack a little bag with sweats, cotton underwear, socks, hand cream, a toothbrush, bobby pins and a hair scrunchy. (My girlfriends know that The Wolfes ARE the folks you call on your worst day, even if it’s 3:30 a.m.) If I’m your friend and you call me when you are in trouble, I’ll come and I’ll drive you home and I’ll clean your kitchen and make sure you have some easy to prep soup and orange juice and I’ll put the phone by your bed and fluff your pillows and tell you, you’re going to be fine. Just rest, and let me take care of things for a day or two.

 

Or you can call your cold-hearted mother, so you can be hurt, drugged up and forced to listen to her go on an on about your lousy housekeeping.

 

You may feel ashamed that there is no one “close” to call. Like, the nurses will judge you if your mother doesn’t come. But you know what nurses know? They know that families come in many forms. They’ve witnessed toxic visitors making everything worse. They are happy to ban upsetting visitors for you, because it keeps your blood pressure down. They totally get it. So, if the only person you can think to call is that older lady from yoga class that you had coffee with a couple of times – CALL her and be humble in your human need for comfort from a kind person.

 

I once had a girlfriend call me out of the blue and beg me to drive her to Kaiser to get a shot in the butt for a migraine headache. She was in so much pain, she couldn’t drive herself and we had to stop twice for her to open the door and barf. We still laugh about it. Facing a crisis with a friend is how friendships go deeper.

 

It might feel scary, but it could all turn out to be for the good.

 

Or you could call your toxic mother. Your choice.

 

 

 

 

 

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

10 Feb

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?

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,