Tag Archives: toxic parents

New & Improved 20 Questions

29 Sep

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

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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!

 

 

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Blogging 101: Who is Rayne Wolfe And Why Is She Blogging About Toxic Mothers?

6 Jan

cropped-4-up-on-2011-04-15-at-17-47-4.jpgToxicMomToolkit.com, the blog, was started in 2009 as I began to write my memoir, Toxic Mom Toolkit. I started the blog as a place to be found by others who also struggle with having super toxic mothers. I needed a place to ask questions, create community, and a platform to conduct Totally Unscientific Surveys, like how many others survived the wooden spoon. (No way! You too?)

 

With a lot of author friends, I knew that writing a book can be isolating. What started as a one- or two-year project grew into a three-year slog that taught me why so many writers drink. I put on weight. I chopped off my hair. I took four months to write two pages on sexual abuse. It was a laugh riot at my kitchen table in Petaluma, California, let me tell you.

 

By 2013, after a year of editing and listening to Test Readers, I decided to self-publish on Amazon. A very famous New York City agent, (who hadn’t spoken to her own mother for over 30 years) told me I’d be crazy not to. She pointed out that I had grown my own readers by letting people peek at the process through Facebook, Pinterest and this blog.

 

Along the way, I haven’t always been on track with blogging. Not that it’s hard for me; it’s just one extra thing. I was looking for a way to improve my attitude about blogging when WordPress.com offered an online course called Blogging 101. Lesson Number One? Introduce yourself.

 

Dec Jan 2011 roof bathroom dogs 317And since I’ve been blogging for a long time, that seemed sort silly until I remembered something I learned in the newsroom.

 

When assignments are being handed out, there is sometimes a real “groaner” story on an annual bake sale or the fire station blood drive, or deer hunting season. I forget the specific story, but I remember letting out a long groan once over a story like that. An editor took me aside.

 

“Write it for the person who moved here yesterday,” he said with a pat on my shoulder.

 

Newspapers cover small town parades, hunting season and blood drives every year and if you see it as a reporting opportunity instead of a drag, your story will be richer.  When I blog, I should always remember the new person who just Googled: “terrible mother” or ” toxic parent” while crying over the keyboard, who landed here.

 

So, if Blogging 101 said introduce yourself, I’m going to do that – and more. I’m also going to tell you what I’m working on (in addition to blogging) – next.

 

photoI am currently at work on a second book about going no contact. The working title is Toxic Mom Toolkit: The Final Plan. I’m guessing it will take about six months, which probably means at least a year and certainly another bad haircut just when it’s grown out long enough for a French twist. In the New Year I would also like to do some work to produce something for the sons of toxic mothers. Hint-hint: I’m looking for guys ready to tell their stories to me.

 

Through my blog I know that there are so many people out there just waiting for an opportunity to contribute to the collective knowledge on this topic. The first brave story contributors (all women) led the way, and I hope that the 7% of our male community feels ready to tell their stories this year.

 

And I’ll be blogging about it – more often that usual – so please sign up to get email notices when new blog posts go up.

 

 

 

 

 

Start the Presses!

2 Aug

recite-31416--1810382206-1qccpnfI have been having so much fun with a new website called http://www.recitethis.com.

It’s a very simple, FREE method for creating, crisp, clean, poster-style images, perfect for getting the word out about Toxic Mom Toolkit.

recite-16792--1807316811-9nn439I also think when things look more professional, people looking for help, take us more seriously.

recite-16792--1806477120-fcgf7wSo, take a look at these and tell me what you think. What should we do next? Do you have a favorite line or sentence from Toxic Mom Toolkit that I should use? Let me know.

recite-23943--1807432334-16re802

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.

 

 

 

Toxic Mom Toolkit: New and Improved Healing Affirmations

3 Jun

287526757430934790_tSMRwp6b_bMy friend Jen says affirmations are kind of dorky.  I know what she means, but I’ve compiled a long list of my most often repeated thoughts that protect me from toxic mom fall-out. They could you last a month, although I really hope nobody ever actually needs one for every single day. A rougher version of this list was posted previously, but this is the new, improved, reorganized and edited list that will go in my book, Toxic Mom Toolkit, which is nearing completion.

I do hope this version of healing affirmations, sane thoughts, and defense tactics for daughters – and sons – of toxic mothers is helpful to you.

The 5 “NO” Mantras

  • No, I won’t be doing that. No, don’t count on my being there. No, I’m done subjecting myself to your drama. No, I choose not to accept the stress. No, I have more positive things to do.

The 5 “I Cans”:

  • I can take everything negative about my mother’s life and flip it in my life. I can create a welcoming and warm home life. I can express love and encourage others daily. I can extend myself to those in need without expecting anything in return. I can prove that a life well lived is the best revenge.

34480753366585731_PbtGR1Ps_b-1When Every Day is a Toxic Day: Thoughts to Get You Through

  • My toxic mother can’t kill me. If she could, she would have already.
  • Any guilt I feel regarding my toxic mother was planted, watered and tended by my mother.
  • If my toxic mother was a co-worker or neighbor and I moved away, I’d never visit or call her again.
  • Family secrets instill guilt and shame. Am I being paid to keep family secrets? Then it’s not my job to keep them.
  • Next time I hear my mother’s voice in my head belittling me I’ll tell her out loud she’s wrong. (It’s okay. Other drivers will think you’ve got hands-free.)
  • Any mother who could be cruel to a child is not going to apologize to that child when they’ve grown up. Stop waiting for an apology that will never come.
  • As I’ve matured I’ve developed a better understanding of the choices my toxic mother made as a woman and mother.
  • My toxic mother can only intimidate me if I let her. While she’s busy trying to bully the child me, the adult me can reject her, ignore her, correct her, or report her to authorities.
  • I can’t fight crazy with crazy. Crazy is my toxic mother’s ‘hood.
  • Repeat: My toxic mother does not live in my head. She lives in her head.
  • When my relatives and friends say they can’t understand how I can treat my toxic mother the way I do, I’ll tell them the truth.
  • My toxic mother is an unnatural disaster.
  • I can laugh or I can cry. I choose to laugh.
  • I will never again hand my toxic “mom bomb” the match again.
  • On Mother’s Day, and other family holidays, I’ll focus on the positive women (and men) in my life. I’ll thank them for their caring, kindness and encouragement.
  • The cruel rule of RSVP is that the one person I hope will decline always comes. I won’t extend an invitation to my toxic mother to any event where I’d hate to actually see her.
  • Mother-daughter time is precious only if it’s positive.
  • My toxic mother deserves the one gift she never gave me: the truth.
  • My toxic mother won’t rob me of rich friendships with women who on the surface remind me of her. What are the odds my mother had an even more evil twin?
  • I will calmly stare down my toxic mom until she fears me more.
  • That which is most personal is most universal. People will understand if you simply say, “My mother is not a nice person, but I sure try to be.”
  • Whose little girl am I? I can be my own little girl. I can care for and nurture myself.

a2c4eeb15a56d43030ddd050cc04d9865 Soothing Thoughts:

  • Remember what my dad said, “Nobody can resist a joyous woman.”  Then allow yourself to feel and express joy.
  • Consider that your toxic mother may have been treated even more badly as a child than you were. (It could keep you from throwing something.)
  • There is no dishonor in retreat. Refusing to enjoin battle is a small victory when it comes to toxic mothers.
  • Amuse yourself to avoid getting sucked in. Keep an egg timer, a paper pad and pencil near the phone. Tally the lies, the guilt trips and the demands she can make in three minutes. Then hang up.
  • Keeping your children away from your toxic mother is a no-brainer. Introduce them to kind, responsible elders instead. Don’t know any? Consider visiting or volunteering with your child at a senior center or veterans home for an hour a week.
  • Honor thy mother and father? You can honor them by respecting yourself first.

Five Tips To Save Your Siblings From Your Toxic Mom

17 Nov

So many adult daughters of very toxic mothers struggle with the challenge of blocking or breaking contact with their mothers at the risk of losing contact with their younger siblings.

Yesterday, in the comments section of an earlier Toxic Mom Toolkit Post entitled “Ten Reasons Adult Daughters Stay Connected to Toxic Mothers” I told someone this:

You are not the first to face this problem. So many daughters of toxic mothers struggle to be good daughters and sisters. It’s just natural to want to help your family. Of course, you are concerned about your younger siblings and no doubt your Toxic Mom will use them as pawns to keep you close. If she sees you doing well she may say you cannot contact your siblings – another power play to hurt you.

May I suggest that you sit down with a piece of paper and make two columns: What will happen to my siblings if I stay & What will happen to my siblings if I go.

Can we really make such an important decision based on a comparative list? I think so.

What’s important is being honest with yourself about what you are deciding.

I told this poster: It doesn’t sound like you are running away from problems. You sound like you’ve given this good thought and you’re not being super emotional about it (although I know it must be so hard to think of leaving).

The best thing you can do for younger siblings is set an example of how an adult deals with difficult family members. You can leave your mother’s home and still stay connected to your siblings and support them by talking on the phone, making time for them for face-to-face time, encouraging them with school and other commitments.

Your siblings will see that it is possible to live without the mamma drama. If your side-by-side lists make you really afraid for your siblings, you might consider talking to their school counselors or arranging for them to have mentors at school or other support. They need to know that it’s not them, that it’s your mother who creates problems. They need a mature adult figure to look up to for strength. That’s what you can do for them as you start building an independent life. You will be in my thoughts. I’m proud of you for figuring this out at such a young age. Be Brave.

I loved her quickly posted response:

Thank you so much for your reply, I will sit down and construct two lists. I’ll find a way to contact my siblings when I leave, I just hope they won’t be turned against me and if they are (at least) they might understand why I left in the future.

I also suggested that this young woman put that list in an envelope, seal it, date it and keep it. If down the road a sibling accuses this person of just disappearing and leaving them in their mother’s clutches, at least this list can be spread out on the kitchen table. It might be the platform for a healing discussion.

If you must cut contact with your Toxic Mom how can you let your younger siblings know you are there for them?

  • Encourage and support their dreams.
  • Find ways to communicate your commitment to helping them. You could give them a special token, visit them at school or sports events, or mail “no reason” cards to express your love for them.
  • Plan face-to-face time. Show your kid sister how to try new make up at a department store. Buy tickets for a sports event for your brother. Or take them both to a free concert.
  • Special outings don’t have to be expensive. Visit a library or take them out for cocoa on a frosty day.
  • If your contact is limited, never miss an opportunity to express your love and support. Look into their eyes and tell them you know how hard it is and that you are there for them.

If you show your siblings that they matter and that they deserve to be happy that’s enough. They may not understand everything now but instilling confidence and showing them they are valued is what you can do for them now.

Misery Defined: Toxic Mom Toolkit’s Top Five Tips for Surviving Seeing Your Mother after 20 Years of No Contact

19 Sep

If you are planning an oft-delayed trip to see your mother after a long no contact period, remember – it’s never what you worry about.

If you have had little or no contact with your Toxic Mother for five, ten, fifteen or twenty years, keep it simple. Just expect to be surprised.

Are you the same person you were last time you saw your mother? Probably not. So, expect your mom to be changed in some ways too. She may still be an irrational hater, an under-miner, a conspirator focused on annoying or hurting you, but her skills will have become rusty without you around to practice on.  In fact, she may no longer be able to upset you as she has in the past.

What would happen if you arrived at this dreaded meeting a whole, calm, optimistic and ready-to-laugh adult? What if this time she didn’t see the child-based fear in your eyes? What if at the first hint of old hurtful patterns you said to her, “You know what? I’ve got other things I’d rather do than go over ancient history” and you left her there with her mouth open to enjoy a matinée movie instead? So what if you flew two thousand miles to see your mother one last time and when she turned impossible you switched gears and turned the vacation into an antiquing trip instead?

Would anyone really blame you?

Here are my Top Five Tips for surviving a long-delayed Toxic Mom visit:

  1. Bring or enlist an old friend to be at your side. Toxic Mother’s hate outsiders, also known as “witnesses.”
  2. Plan to do something your mother loves even if you loathe it. Then pat yourself on the back and reward yourself with a massage, or some other treat, when you get home.
  3. Have a short list of other people or places nearby to visit.
  4. Have a short list of pleasant activities to transition to should you need to cut your visit short.
  5. Plan all mother/daughter meetings and activities in public spaces. Cops swear by it.

I hope this is helpful to you. If you have a specific challenge feel free to post questions at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook. But please post carefully on this “open” forum. If you don’t want everyone knowing your TM business feel free to create an alter persona or e-mail me directly at newsyrayne@gmail.com. I answer every email.