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Toxic Mom Toolkit: Kathy Wants to Know

21 Sep

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I get a lot of letters asking questions. First of all, a person, who is suffering, has to be pretty brave to ask the author of a book for advice. That’s what I always think. So, I do answer and I really try to offer something helpful.

 

Recently, I got a note from a Friend of Ours, Kathy. Here’s what Kathy wanted to know:

 

HI,

 

I’m curious how you got beyond your toxic mom symptoms?

 

I have C-PTSD from my childhood experiences and am looking for a counseling method that will ease the pain, symptoms, triggers, etc.

 

So, I’m looking for ideas, remedies, and a counseling method.

 

It’s been suggested that I do EMDR, but something is holding me back on that.

 

Any advice, suggestions, guidance will be greatly appreciated.

 

 

I have to confess, this note from Kathy, sort of threw me for a loop.

 

Whoever said I’d “gotten beyond my toxic mother symptoms?” was my first thought. Which I took to mean, that whatever trauma, whatever PTSD, whatever emotional hangovers I earned from my childhood, were all taken care of – erased – or healed.

 

I drove up to my cabin thinking about this the whole way. Had I really given the impression that I had it all together? That I am completely healed and have no TM problems? It seemed to me that I confessed regularly to being an odd duck, full of social ticks and issues. Maybe I laugh at myself too much over my fear of doorbells; my dread of all things social? Could it seem that I’m so over it?

 

The truth is, I have done my healing work sufficiently to be able to offer a vocabulary and storytelling to lead others who grew up with super toxic moms – towards healing. Not that I’m so healed. I suffer. I just choose to focus on my own healing work – and to rise above what happened. A big part of my healing work is waving my little lantern over my head, showing others the way.

 

Do I have all the answers? Nope.

 

But I do know that you are not alone in your experiences. I know that we can help each other. I know that storytelling is part of healing.

 

Do I still have C-PTSD? Yep.

 

Do I know exactly what you should do? Nope.

 

Am I more than what happened to me? Yep.

 

 

EMDR? It helped me. I hope it helps you. Sometimes people are resistant to the very thing that will move them away from being stuck in their suffering. You have to ask yourself, if you are resistant without a clear objection, if you just want to stay in the suffering you know.

 

But suffering is like grief. It’s a journey. You’re not supposed to sit in it. I would say, try EMDR once and then think about it.  Then maybe go back for a second session. You control the process. You can start, stop, or rest. You can even heal. But healing rarely happens when we are frozen.

 

I hope this is helpful to Kathy and to you.

 

 

 

 

 

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Toxic Mom Toolkit On Finding Common Ground

6 Jun

6794709c192ca56931b7fc339f512ec3How many times has a well meaning friend or colleague, after hearing a sliver of a story about your toxic mom, offered advice to find “common ground?”

 

The common ground comment is usually followed by comments like these:

 

“She’s the only mother you’ll ever have.”

 

“You’ll miss her when she’s gone.”

 

“You may regret cutting her off later.”

 

“Other people in your family can handle her, why can’t you?”

 

“Maybe if you tried harder?”

 

One of the quickest ways I know to nip this suggestion in the bud is to offer the suggestion that your friend replace ‘toxic mom’ with ‘boyfriend who beats me.’ This usually flummoxes them a bit. But it’s a valid suggestion. Your friend can’t quite imagine a mother starving her child, or abusing or neglecting her teen. Harder still to imagine a mother who uses a child for sexual predator bait (meaning, she’s tired of being raped or abused, so she lets you have that job for awhile), or a mother who steals your after school job money you’ve hidden, or even a mother who does all that – for years – and then one day kicks you out for, Oh, I don’t know, being too pretty, or smart, or ambitious.

 

But a friend can imagine a boyfriend or spouse abusing you. If you told your friend that story, you’d probably be offered a spare room, a spare car and lots and lots of help.

 

But if you are trapped by your toxic mother and confess to a close friend the depth of the situation, they might look at you like you’ve lost your mind. And the talk goes on. Your friend suggests that, yes, you may not like your mom’s parenting style, but certainly she wants what is best for you. Surely, there must be some common ground?

 

It’s sort of like when you go to the dentist and the dentist blames you for plaque like you’re the bad person, the non-flosser, the one who couldn’t manage your own mouth. Sometimes because of abuse or neglect you grow up without regular dental visits. Sometimes you are trained by your toxic mom to be afraid of medical professionals because, you know, they see things. So you don’t go to the dentist as often as other do. Dirty plaque – like dirty family secrets – builds up.

 

Sometimes friends with kinder families can’t imagine the cat-clawing-up-the-curtains fear that a terrible mother can inspire. They think finding common ground, as an adult is as easy as flossing. You just decide to do it and it all works out.

 

Your friend, this lucky person, has no reference for what you experienced – (maybe read some Dave Eggers?) – and the best you can offer them is to wait until they catch up. You could loan them your copy of Toxic Mom Toolkit. Remind them that many successful people rose above their rising, just like you are trying to do.

 

Maybe the two of you can try to understand each other’s point of view when it comes to family history, family dynamics, generational pathology and making peace with all that. That conversation might include the shocking news that yes; an abuser is an abuser, even if that abuser is your mom. Maybe the best common ground you can shoot for is creating common ground between two friends.

 

 

 

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.