As I start 2019, I am having my usual feelings of dread. My mother is nearly 80 and going very strong. I can sense she is determined to outlive me. Unlikely I admit but that’s the sensation I get.
Of course I could try new year resolutions to improve various aspects of my life like losing a bit of weight, taking more exercise and cutting down on eating chocolate, but they are pretty insignificant and never touch what is really wrong.
The problem is I feel badly damaged by my mother and despite my best efforts my feeling of hurt is always there, sometimes in the background, sometimes in the forefront. I have fought hard and managed to find a career I enjoy and work for a charity that helps people who have lost far more than I have. I am on my second marriage, which is working well and have one child I adore. But it’s a full time battle to convince myself that I deserve happiness. If I have a disagreement with my husband or daughter, even over something trivial, I feel waves of panic in case one or both of them turn against me. It’s irrational I know but it’s the same if someone criticises me at work although at a lower level. As for friends, if we are not in contact for a while, I think they have gone off me. I have to brace myself to make contact to find out if I’m right, but so far their absence has been nothing to do with their feelings for me. Please can you suggest ways that get to the core of the problems that might help me.
At the start of a new year we are encouraged to take stock of ourselves, to review our progress and set goals. So this is a great time to start to learn how best to manage your complex feelings about your mother.
Despite your upbringing you have done well to have a successful marriage, a child you adore and a good career, so start by giving yourself credit for these achievements.
Deep hurt lingers but there are ways to face the pain and accept what has happened. One way is to make a note of your recurring thoughts about your mother and your scary feelings about your family and friends. For example your thought that your mother is determined to outlive you is just that, a thought. Nonetheless it has the power to derail you.
Include that on a written-down list of all your scary thoughts, go through them carefully asking yourself if there is any supportive evidence to any of them. If there isn’t try to erase the thought from your mind by imagining you are putting a line through. Or write it down, screw up the paper and throw it away. This might help free yourself to look realistically at your pain.
Do talk to your husband about some of your anxieties too as he may be able to reassure you. Our website has many more suggestions to help you manage better, and you could also consider counselling. Above all remember you are not alone, it is not your fault, and you didn’t deserve this.