Tag Archives: depression

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 on Holiday Grief: Wrap It Up

2 Dec

6ce69635b117aa3126a380c6757e240cI was talking to my friend, Vicki, about this weird sort of malaise, I’ve been feeling lately. At first it was hard to put my finger on the source of my sadness, but eventually I recognized it for what it was: grief.

At this time of year in the U.S. we are bombarded with television, film, magazine, and social media images of big happy families gathering to celebrate the holidays together. Everyone is hugging. Everyone is laughing. Everyone is getting along and thrilled to be together, it seems.

But what if you don’t have a huge, loving family? What if it’s just you, or just you and a very small circle of family and friends? What if your dog just died or someone you love is far away? I find myself further isolated from these images due to elder loss over the past few years. I was saying to my friend that I miss the fun of trying to find something really special for my stepmother Robbie. And I can cry when I think of the trouble she went to, to wrap up the craziest things for my husband and me, including the computer mouse with the tarantula frozen inside, or her constant additions to my fashion passion, anything cashmere.

For many reasons, including my husband being on cop call, we celebrated Thanksgiving solo this year. We created a fun day, starting with delivering pies to my husband’s law enforcement briefing room and then we took a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge on a breathtakingly beautiful day. I was actually taking the advice I often give to others; that when you are a little blue, stay busy and think of others.

I confessed to my friend on the phone that one of the things I’m really going to miss this year is literally just the fun of wrapping up presents. I’m really good at it and I enjoy it — maybe too much. I have so much wrapping paper stored in closets and crawl spaces, I could open a store. During the year I search for little vintage toppers and I have so much fun customizing the gift wrap.

fd1b0fcd976877d154d8cbe7e26515fdAnd what my friend said next, confirmed what I should already know; that talking about our negative feelings to others is an important part of overall mental health. First my friend, acknowledged the feelings I was expressing; then she told me that she sort of felt that way too. Then she made a suggestion. What if we set up a table downtown and wrapped presents for donations to our local animal shelter?

Instantly we swore a pact to do it! And now I’m excited about Christmas because I found a way to turn off sad feelings and turn on happy feelings. All we have to do is find a spot, pick a date and wrap up the holiday blues.

Toxic Mom Toolkit: Learning to Listen

3 Jun

2f47959ee768d9be5c2be2cef5b7664dI was at a lovely Sunday afternoon engagement party in a garden and yes, I had a few beers, when two friends sat down at the shady table, one on each side.

First one and then the other started telling me how great Toxic Mom Toolkit was, how it helped them and will help so many people.

“Not only are you a good writer. Not only have you captured something that nobody else has. But you did it in such a way that it invites the reader who has spent a long time being hurt and confused to focus on what happened to them. Then you give them a path to a better way of living,” one friend said adding. “And that’s pretty amazing.

If you know me, you know I was slumped down in my chair with my hands over my face.

Com-pli-ments. They-kill-me.

If you’ve read my book, you know a fear or inability to accept compliments is a classic sign of someone raised by a drunk. Compliments fly when a drunk is getting his or her drunk on.  The flip side is being torn down in a drunken rage.

And despite all my work and thoughts and experience on growing up with a toxic parent and knowing I should listen with an open heart and take in some compliments for once, it nearly killed me to listen. Had I heard my step-father (who has been dead for eons) laughing his evil  crowing laugh, that wouldn’t have upset me. THAT would have felt normal to me.

3cc525fb05bfa957221cc2f5c4862a06My other friend, whose dog ate my book, but only the cover and first chapter that she had already read, pulled my hands away from my face and said, “I want you to HEAR this. Really HEAR this.”

“You’re a good writer but it takes a really special person who grew up in this sort of situation to go back and relive it and then put it all on a page for others. And what I loved about it was that some writers write up here…” she said holding her hand up high, communicating a level of intensity. “And other writers write down here,” she said holding her hand down low, indicating and sad and slow style of writing. “But you write the way life is, like waves. We go up and down and we want to ride it out with you. After your book, we are brave enough to ride it out ourselves.”

When you grew up with a toxic mother, compliments are really hard to hear. You’re waiting for the negative verbal slap or the other shoe to drop. But at some point you have to decide to sit up and warm up to others who are offering you encouragement for something that is a big, important part of your life.

All of which I heard. I promise, I heard it.

 

 

 

The Happiness Plan for Adult Children of Toxic Parents

19 May

649b484de9e3863bdeb5ed543f6b7120I receive a lot of nice mail. But, I can’t remember a more interesting or thought-provoking message in a long time.

A Friend of Ours wrote:

Hi Rayne,

We spoke about 1.5 yrs. ago by telephone. I was a complete disaster on the phone so angered and teared up barely being able to focus whilst speaking with you. Since that time I had allowed the toxic and abusive relationship to continue until recently when my Mother created another ‘fairy-tale’ to which she fabricated stories to a family court that I absconded my child from her Father in Australia over five years ago.

Of course this story she told was simply nothing more than a story to which I, as with my ex-husband, was able to quickly clarify and provide evidence that no such thing had occurred. So without further ado my heart and mind quickly went into estrangement mode and stronger than ever before.

The only way I can describe to you in a metaphor about how this time it is for sure, is it is kind’a like getting really mad at yourself that you have made a huge mess in the kitchen and all of a sudden you start tearing through your kitchen doing what I call ‘Gorilla Cleaning’ to get through it all quickly and if anyone there is to witness this ‘Gorilla Cleaning’ they sure do know that you mean business and they wouldn’t dare stand in the way of your mission… of your Pinesol!

So now that you know I mean business I need your insight on how I might be able to structure a successful estrangement. Maybe it is my intense need to always have a plan or a map but I feel like I need a game plan of sorts. I can’t find a book or site on the web to help me and this is why I suggested that perhaps you could write a book on it?

For me, I simply cannot see myself sitting in a therapists office reciting my last 39 years of crap delivered by my Mother – I don’t want to talk about it anymore – I would like an actual Toolkit of Complete Estrangement.

I want to learn how to be REALLY happy and create more moments and loving opportunities with the abundance of friends I have because I know I don’t know how to do this all that great because I have never been taught. I do not have any other Family other than my Mother and a few distant cousins, aunts, and uncles so my estrangements make it pretty easy. I really need to find a supportive and humorous way to walk towards the future I see now that sadly I never saw before.

My only fear is that I will not know how to just be happy, Rayne, and that is such a crazy thought to get your head around unless you lived it yourself. 

0df2a3e3c3e819f3b804a305cf75c4a2Anyway, I have posted an ad on Kijiji today seeking a psychotherapist to assist me in creating a network of women that share in Mother estrangement; members will want to define their ‘happiness map’ after estrangement. I have a vision that the psychotherapist could guide and facilitate a positive approach for a group of women to create their own ‘Toxic Mom Toolkit’ so that each and every woman in the group can define boundaries, goals, and finally create what they deem to be their successful happiness destination. This is all I feel I can do until you’ve published your book Rayne 😉 lol Here is the ad link…. maybe you could share it on the FB page?

http://london.kijiji.ca/c-community-activities-groups-Support-Group-for-Daughters-Estranged-willingly-from-Mothers-W0QQAdIdZ485398538

I love following your page but admittedly I have done so in privacy not wanting to broadcast it to my friends and associates… this has started change for me though 🙂

Thanks Rayne!

*     *     *

 Wow! That’s quite a communication! My first reaction is that I’m flattered that Toxic Mom Toolkit has been a part of this person’s personal journey and that since cutting contact with her toxic mom she is glad of it and doing well.

My second reaction? WOW! Does she really need such an elaborate system and network to feel confident in that decision to cut off contact with a truly toxic mother? Well, apparently, Our Friend does, and so I support her 100% in seeking what she needs to stick to her plan. I also applaud her for putting herself out there and welcoming others to create a safe environment for mutual support.

I kind of chalk this up to how sometimes we need a lot of structure to follow our bliss and other times we just GO. It’s sort of like leaving home, embarking on your life journey. Sometimes, you are so done that you buy the ticket, call the taxi and get on the boat and you never look back. Other times, you have to take a bus ride around the block, but come back home. You might have to practice longer and longer trips until you get your emotional feet under you.

My goal in founding Toxic Mom Toolkit and writing my book was to tell my story and gather others and present them with an open heart and let readers sort out what they can use. I tend to be an either/or type of personality. I CAN walk out and never look back. But I understand that every person’s situation is unique and each person must navigate the waters only they truly know.

317181e6155a7322320318d9c334c88cOur Friend wonders if she can be happy and have friends and a normal life?

My feeling is that you get out of life what you put into it. I also know the cringing self-defeating impulses that can limit adult children of toxic moms, who may have suffered abuse or neglect and have a hard time trusting others.

I love her idea of calling this journey a Happiness Map. All I can say is do what makes you happy and while you’re doing it, look up and see who else is happy doing what you like. Smile at them. Offer to help them or ask them for help. Suggest coffee or just a five-minute break and discuss your mutual passions. Friendships are built one smile, one conversation, at a time.

I was always taught by my father that love is reflected in love and took that to mean that kind relations will grow, but you have to be kind first. You have to get the ball rolling. Little by little, your social circle will expand and you will be leading a life that is lighter and happier. And for the people you know who are struggling with Toxic Mom issues, you will be a shining light.

While a group led by a therapist may be helpful I think that should only be a small part of your efforts to live life to the fullest.

1efd518489872782aa82ced329ce0a99So, what do I think is the perfect formula for No Contact? I think the formula’s solution is simply personal peace and how you get there is your job to figure out.

I hope that people find strength in knowing that they are not alone and that there is respect and mutual support available 24/7 at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook and that our YouTube videos and the blog might also be helpful.

And always know – It’s not you. It’s her.

Ten Reasons Adult Daughters Stay Connected to Toxic Mothers

4 Sep

Some adult daughters…

  • Feel that limiting contact or cutting off contact with their Toxic Mothers will somehow reflect badly on them. They worry that others will wonder what’s wrong with them if they can’t even maintain a relationship with their own mothers.
  • Hold onto the hope that their Toxic Mothers could “get better” or suddenly become more loving towards them.
  • Fear retaliation from their mothers for limiting or cutting off contact that could include being barred from family activities and holidays.
  • Figure that even a negative relationship is better than no relationship at all.
  • Maintain contact in order to monitor younger siblings and intervene when necessary.
  • See their bad relationship with their Toxic Mothers as the only conduit to a father they still love dearly.
  • Can’t let go of a shared history, even if it’s mostly negative.
  • Hope that their Toxic Mothers might miraculously make wonderful grandmothers.
  • Wonder deep down if their Toxic Mother’s aren’t right about them.
  • Can’t see their Toxic Mothers simply as other adults. They can’t see their Toxic Mothers as people. And because they can’t judge their Toxic Mothers as they would any other adult they stay connected.

Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Project – Are you really my mother?

31 Mar

Toxic Mom Toolkit Journal Project – Are you my mother?

Remember that children’s book that had the little bird that fell from its nest walking around asking every animal “Are you my mother?”

Sometimes, being the daughter of a toxic mom can make us feel a little bit like that fledgling bird. Some of us even wonder if we are our mother’s real daughters and begin searching for family secrets like adoption or cross-generational parenting.

When I was a private investigator researcher specializing in identifying the birth parents of adult adoptees it amazed me how many times a woman would discover something she felt all along: that her actual mother was her aunt or much older sister, or the family friend who stopped by every fifth Christmas.

One way to decide who your mother really is can be solved by asking yourself who really looked out for you when you were growing up. In the 20 Questions Every Daughter of a Toxic Mom Should Ask Herself blog post at 8womendream.com, I suggested that you sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil and try to write down three wonderful things your mother ever did for you.

Giving birth to you doesn’t count.

Can you think of one but not two? Can you only think of things that were really rooted in your mother’s image of you like paying for a good school or buying you designer clothes you didn’t really ask for or throwing an over the top wedding.

After compiling your list, turn that sheet of paper over.

Ask yourself: Who has done the nicest, the kindest things for me?

In my case, a boss I worked for cared for me like another daughter. He paid me well, he established a retirement fund and made me contribute to it even if he had to loan me the money to do it. He told me I was smart. He paid for my early writing classes. He told me to write because he could see I was a writer before I did.

My husband constantly does so many kind things for me from handling all the stressful stuff involved in staying solvent and keeping a peaceful home – to always texting me positive and encouraging messages and scheduling time to just talk and listen.

My friends, who know more about me than any member of my family ever did, have regularly checked on me as I went missing during the two years I worked on my book. The coffee dates, phone calls, emails and small treats that arrived in my mailbox have really encouraged me.

So, who is my mother – the one who nurtures me and wants the best for me? It was never my mother, the woman who raised me. My life has taught me that the people around me who possess those loving impulses to encourage me are mother enough.

Look at your list. Who really is your mother/encourager? Who has the power to sustain you when you are discouraged? Mother’s Day is coming on May 12th. I don’t think Hallmark makes a card for this: Happy Mother’s Day to You – Thank you for being like a mother to me. Or maybe they do? How many cards like that could you send out? Write about this in your journal. Explore the idea of mothering and how it applies to your life.

And report back!

Visit us on Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook for daily humor,

encouragement, support and positive images and ideas. 

Toxic Mom Toolkit – Media Page

30 Mar

TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT

Addressing the last taboo: talking about unbearable mothers

 NOT EVERYONE IS EXCITED ABOUT MOTHER’S DAY

 Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 13, 2012

Is it possible that not everyone is excited about Mother’s Day? For some,  Mother’s Day is the most emotional and difficult day of the year.

TOXIC MOM TOOLKIT is an online support community established by journalist Rayne Wolfe for adult daughters of toxic mothers. Reaching 45,000 visitors per month and growing, it is a daily resource for anyone endeavoring  to rise above toxic parenting.

Purpose: Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook offers support through humor, positive images and quotations, video messages and links to news stories, books and other resources. A companion blog, ToxicMomToolkit.com, provides topics for independent therapeutic journals. A Toxic Mom Toolkit YouTube channel encourages frank discussion and mutual support.

Community: With over 45,000 visitors per month Toxic Mom Toolkit connects women from all over the world who face stressful issues concerning their mothers. For many, it is the first time they have ever spoken up about dealing with a toxic mother.

Rayne Wolfe is available as a media resource or radio and television contributor on the subject of surviving toxic parenting.  Her background includes ten years as a daily news reporter for a New York Times regional newspaper in Northern California. From 2010 to 2011 she was a lead blogger at 8WomenDream.com, which focused on encouraging women to pursue their passions. In the late 1990’s her business column, “What Works,” ran in the San Francisco Chronicle and Seattle Times and other papers. She has published in numerous magazines including Glamour Magazine, has taught creative writing at Book Passage, and has read her own short stories on NPR affiliates. She is also a contributor to the Chicken Soup series – Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul.

A former Sonoma County law enforcement chaplain, she has helped families deal with the trauma of sudden loss.

She has written and is preparing her first book Toxic Mom Toolkit for publication. It includes her own memoir of growing up in 1960’s San Francisco, the daughter of three mothers: a toxic birth mother, a toxic adoptive mother and a loving step-mother. Her book includes stories of other women who grew into loving, happy and optimistic adults despite toxic mothering.

You can reach Rayne Wolfe at 707.481.7180, newsyrayne@gmail.com or message her at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook. She is based in Northern California.