Very few people know I had a horrid mother and despite it I think I’ve managed to live my life quite well. My eyes were open to her nasty sides when I was eighteen and realised that her aim was to put me down, destroy my confidence and belittle whatever I achieved.
I told myself repeatedly that I was made of sterner stuff and worked hard to see how others lived and turn my miserable childhood into something positive. I also chose not to talk about my childhood experiences as I felt it could turn me into a victim. Nor did I want anyone to feel sorry for me.
By the time I had a satisfying career in medicine and got married in my late thirties I believed I had left my past behind me. I had told my husband that I didn’t get on with my mother but rarely related examples of her vile behaviour. It was important for me to move on. I never got pregnant which I thought at the time was quite a good thing as I was worried in case I became my mother.
I managed to maintain a very loose relationship with her. I was relieved when she died about fifteen years ago and have never once visited her grave. My father, who was a kind man, died some time before her.
But it hasn’t been as straightforward as I thought. Waves of resentment sometimes overwhelm me, particularly when I see two or three generations of a family together enjoying themselves and accepting each others’ faults. My mother fell out with both her own and my father’s family and my husband was an only child so we don’t have other relations to turn to. I also resent that I had such a tough time when I was young. I hate feeling like this and don’t want to bring it out into the open.
I came across your great website quite by chance and wonder if you could offer some suggestions to help me deal with them. Please don’t tell me to go see a therapist. I don’t want to dig everything up from so long ago. I am strong and would like to manage this on my own.
Well done - you have succeeded in your aim to survive and have a positive life on your terms. It must have taken great courage and determination. Unfortunately coming to terms with having had a horrid parent who made your childhood so unhappy is never easy. The families you observe tolerating each others faults are unlikely to have suffered your sort of pain. It’s much easier to cope with everyday ups and downs within a family if each member love and respect each other enough. Sadly it is not something that underpinned your childhood.
It sounds as if you have stored away your mother’s hurtful comments and behaviours but not been able to resolve them. It means they can at times spill into your current life and make you feel very resentful. Some people benefit from talking to a therapist but this option is not for you. However the pain you are experiencing inside suggests that you need to find a way of dealing with it as it won’t go away of it’s own accord. Otherwise you remain stuck within your relationship with your mother.
You could try to help yourself by making several lists. One: of your achievements big and small. Two: your personal attributes and the names of any role models who have supported you over the years like teachers, mentors and friends. Three: the names of your loved ones who value and appreciate you. This should help you realise you are a good person and have moved far away from being like your mother. Try to accept this reality.
Next you need to look at painful episodes you experienced. Jot down, as slowly as you like, every one of her unkind comments or nasty behaviour you can remember. It should not only help you see the extent of her bullying, but also begin to free you from the hurt. If this works for you try to make your story into a more coherent whole. It may help you gain some understanding of why she behaved like as she did. This will help you get some perspective.
If you feel strong enough after all this try to have an imaginary conversation with your mother telling her exactly what you think of her and why. You could even role-play an apology. Alternatively jot down examples of her bad behaviour and release your pain through physical exercise. Hitting a punch bag hard with a particular memory in mind can help.
Meanwhile do use your strength to move on and find the fulfillment you deserve.