The Wound from Cutting out a Toxic Parent Never Truly Heals

“I think she is killing herself to please you. She worships the ground you walk on. She didn’t do this for herself.” – Meredith Grey

I had never really watched Grey’s Anatomy until recently. I caught the odd episode here and there, back when it was on the air, but that’s about it. I saw it on Netflix while I was looking for a new background show a few weeks ago and decided to give it a try.

The quote above came from the episode I was watching today. There it was: the trigger. All the feelings that I’m able to suppress, for sometimes months at a time, came rushing back. I was thinking about my mother whom I cut off for good (for the 4th time) about a year ago. I’m more confident that this time around, it actually is for good, but that doesn’t stop me from having days where I yearn for the maternal relationship I haven’t had since I was 9.

One thing I’ve learned from the multiple attempts at separating myself from that psychologically abusive relationship is that, the pain never really goes away. Even though these days are becoming less frequent, when you lack a parental relationship, you tend to still wonder the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘whys’. Social media posts about how people could never live without their mom make me wince. TV shows where you watch the psychological effects destroy the sons and daughters of absent parents cause feelings of empathy to surface because you know what that’s like. Three years ago these things would make me pick up my phone and reach out to her because “it might be different this time. Maybe she’ll realize.” but this time around I won’t be drinking the koolaid.

Sometimes all it takes is a little karaoke and dancing in the kitchen

My go-to when these triggers happen is to drown myself in misery. I listen to the music that got me through my teenage years. I watch shows like Shameless and Jessica Jones so I can relate to the characters and continue to grieve over the maternal relationship I lost at a young age.

Today was different though. My partner and I came home and cleaned, alternating what music we played while we did so. During one of his songs, knowing full well what kind of day I was having, he grabbed me and danced with me in the kitchen. When The Black Parade (my song) came on, I ran into the living room and sang passionately (horribly) into my daughter’s LOL karaoke machine.

The pain never goes away, but coming to terms with that knowledge makes it easier to cope. Being aware that triggers will happen and bad days are normal reassures me that I made the right choice to sever that relationship. I would rather have a bad day from time to time, than be living my life striving to be someone I’m not, for a maternal relationship that I’ll never have.

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There’s No Point in Arguing With Those not Willing to Listen

No matter how good of a person you are, and how much you do for people, there will always be someone who perceives you, and your point of view, negatively. Even if you do everything you can to look at things objectively and offer calm, viable solutions to problems or issues, if it doesn’t fit their narrative, they won’t listen. Even if you carefully live your life and watch every step to make sure you follow what’s deemed acceptable by society, there will always be someone who will create their own image of you to make themselves look better. Even if you try to make things as fair as you possibly can, and offer the ability to discuss and negotiate situations, they will not always care to listen or offer the same respect that you offer them.

I spent a lot of years caring about what other people think, and living my life to maintain my image. Openly stepping outside of the comfort zone of what’s viewed as ‘acceptable’ by society would cause incredible amounts of anxiety and panic. This worsened when I became a mother, as I mentioned in my post about how I refuse to sacrifice my life to parenting.

When I left one of my past partners due to an extended period of emotional abuse, I had lost almost all of my confidence. They became vindictive and attempted to pit everyone we knew against me by manipulating stories to make it seem as though they were the victim. It used to bother me so much, and they knew it, which made it worse. They created an image of me, from small pieces of scattered information, to make it seem as though I was something that I’m not. Communicating and clarifying the actual situation to my ex partner, or defending myself, never made a difference. Every time I would try, they would cut me off and claim that it wasn’t worth an explanation. The accurate telling of events would only make it more difficult for them to be angry. It would only hinder their ability to spin the story how they wanted to tell it.

After multiple attempts to maintain and protect my image, and attaining the same result, I started to question why. Why was I trying to defend myself to someone who was clearly so unhappy with their own life that they’re trying to destroy everyone else’s perception of me? Why do I care so much? Explaining the truth won’t make a difference because they don’t want to hear it. I know I’m a good person with the best intentions. I know that I’m capable of empathy and understanding. I know that I can acknowledge my flaws, and apologize when I’m wrong. The important people in my life know this as well. So why do I need to try so hard to impress those that choose not to believe these things?

The answer? I don’t. I’ve learned to live my life for me, and that I’m not responsible for other people’s perception of me. Whether I live life to the epitome of perfection, or I live it the way I want to, they will always have something negative to say, and that’s on them. How they talk to, and about me, is a reflection of them. How I react is a reflection of me.

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If you enjoyed what you read, head over to the Links page. Let’s connect.

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Whose pain am I really carrying?

I have always been expected to listen to other people’s stories of pain, because in comparison to the worst cases out there, I was told I didn’t have any of my own. I was taught I needed to give my all to those who did. I was raised to be a martyr, and it has taken a lot of conscious effort on my part to end this pattern.

I was trained to be capable of listening to the graphic, tragic stories of others, to touch what no person should have to touch. I was taught that I was weak if it was too much for me to handle. We didn’t know there could be repercussions being surrounded by so much secondary trauma, let alone the term secondary trauma. We didn’t know that it wasn’t weak to feel these stories in our own being.

I can still handle these stories. I can still sit with those as they speak of their experiences, be them old, or brand new. Instead, I choose to offer support in other ways when possible. I choose to place boundaries around what I listen to, and how many stories I hear (which is hard in my line of work). I choose to denormalize the amount of trauma in my life, just as I have chosen to work on healing my own so that when I do share my stories with those who consent to hearing them, they hear a history, and not just my pain.

Once I realized I did have my own trauma, I began looking for someone to sit with me while I told my stories- to listen and hear me. I wanted someone to understand that I too have my own pain that deserves to be acknowledged. I have worked to grow to a place where instead of bottling up, or pushing my pain onto another as had been done to me, I am continually making the choice to acknowledge it for myself. My own acknowledgement is enough. Sometimes I slip up, and have to remind myself I am unlearning decades of ingrained behaviour.

If another is willing to listen, bonus. If someone isn’t capable of hearing my story outside of needing to “one up me” (as was more often than not the case when I would gain the confidence to speak) it does not mean mine didn’t happen, nor does it diminish my experience. This need of theirs just means that their ability to perceive another’s experience is outside of their current reality. And that is okay.

Growing Up With a Narcissistic Parent: Explained with Disney’s ‘Tangled’

I’m sitting here with my daughter and partner watching Tangled for the 83rd time since it came out. I’m not complaining. This has now become my favourite Disney movie, beating out The Lion King (my favourite since I was 3). This movie resonates with me on so many levels. It wasn’t until the second time I watched it that I noticed quite a few similarities in the relationship between Mother Gothel and Rapunzel, and the relationship I have with my own mother. Specifically when listening to the lyrics of “Mother Knows Best”. Rapunzel’s mother is a shining example of NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) which can have tremendously horrible repercussions on the children they raise.

Mother Gothel keeping Rapunzel isolated from society is an example of one of the many ways she abuses her daughter emotionally. Although I was never locked in a tower, I was however never allowed to have any sort of freedom unless I skipped school. The room I had when I lived with my mother was an unfinished box the size of a storage closet, where I spent most of my time. I wasn’t allowed to go to my friend’s houses or have friends come over. Forming bonds and relationships was a threat to her due to the fact that I could be easily influenced by individuals other than herself. Developing opinions and views on my own could disrupt her ability to control me.

Another form of control used by Mother Gothel was fear. In the song ‘Mother Knows Best’ she describes the world outside of the tower in such a distorted way in an attempt to dissuade her from ever leaving. My own Mother would push post secondary on me as if it were the only way to succeed using similar tactics.

“Do you want to spend your life working at a gas station for $8 an hour?”

To her, those that didn’t complete college or university were doomed to a life of failure, which would, in turn, equate to a life of unhappiness. To me, I could never justify thousands of dollars on a program I may not actually enjoy.

In an attempt to make me resent my father, my mother would give me false information about him, much like when Mother Gothel would talk about how Flynn would let Rapunzel down or break her heart.

In addition to this, Mother Gothel would play the martyr, claiming that she was sacrificing herself for Rapunzel’s sake.

“I only bathed, and changed, and nursed you. Go ahead and leave me, I deserve it. Let me die alone here, be my guest!”

She implies that because Rapunzel wants to go off and experience the world for herself, that all the ‘sacrifices’ she’s made for her are in vain. The sacrifices being basic human necessities that a child needs when they can’t fend for themselves.

When my own mother would lecture me if I stepped outside the confines of her expectations, she often said things like

“I carried you for 9 months and didn’t smoke (she did), didn’t dye my hair, didn’t walk into rooms where there was fresh paint. Now you’re covered in tattoos and dying your hair crazy colours.”

What’s hilariously baffling about this is that I didn’t ask to be born. This wasn’t a favour I begged her for. Just because she made the decision to have a child, does not mean I owe her for the entirety of my life. This is what narcissistic parents do though. They manipulate you and control you into thinking that you live your life for them. I believed it too. For a significant amount of time.

I spent nine years feeling guilt and seeking approval from my mom after ‘leaving the tower’. Rapunzel’s inner battle following the freedom is something I experienced often in those nine years. She had groomed me into thinking that her opinion of me was more important than how I felt about myself. That if I was doing something that made me happy but that she didn’t like, I should feel guilty.

Mother Gothel plays the role of the ‘Perfect Parent’. She acts as though everything she does is for the sake of her ‘daughter’. When in reality she lies to her, mocks her, puts her down, isolates her and only allows her select literature that she has approved. According to anyone that had spoke to my mom, she was the perfect parent raising the perfect child. She failed to mention the sometimes unattainable expectations she would set for me or how she would continuously move the goalposts. When I told my mom I was getting married, I asked if she would be interested in contributing at all. She said she would on the condition that I go to college or university. When I continued on to get married despite her lack of help, she spent the majority of the wedding complaining about guests, the size of the wedding, etc. This life choice didn’t follow the path she had laid out for me therefore she made it about herself.

Her children’s happiness and actual wants and needs are never important to her. Much like how Mother Gothel treats Rapunzel’s hair, the only interest my mother has with her kids is what they can provide for her. What sort of bragging rights can she use in order to attain validation from her family and peers. When she lost control of my life and I began following my own dreams, I was no longer valuable to her. She had nothing left to brag about. The path I had chosen was not the one she had selected therefore, she had no interest in even acknowledging my existence. If you ask her now, she has 2 kids, not 3. She has no idea what type of person I am, what I like, what I dislike; nor does she care. My choices are sometimes unconventional and she wants nothing to do with that.

Tangled is one of those triggers for me. A reminder of how emotionally destroyed I was for so long. It doesn’t matter how many times I see it, I always break down at the end. She escapes the crushing, controlling grip that Mother Gothel has on her life and is finally happy. Free to live her life how she wants, with who she wants. It’s difficult to cut ties with a narcissistic parent, however you can’t begin healing in the environment where you got sick. It took me years and I’m still recovering from it. In fact, I’ll probably be recovering from it for the rest of my life.

Despite all that, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. And like Rapunzel says:

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If you enjoyed what you read, head over to the Links page. Let’s connect.

You can also Ask Me a Question. This helps me with topics to write about. Polyamory, relationships, attachment parenting, feminism, communication and mental health are just some of the topics I read a lot about and have formed quite a few opinions on.

Thanks for reading!

No One is Immune: Realizing Your Own Toxic Traits and Trying to Overcome them

“Everyone is the hero in their story, according to them.” my dad says to me while we’re in the car on the way to the gun range this morning.

I look over at him, intrigued. “Elaborate.”

“Everyone thinks that they’re the hero. Even the bad guys think what they’re doing is right, in their eyes.”

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My dad and I don’t always get along. Not in the way my mother and I don’t. He’s always been there for me. He’s supported me through every heartbreak, career change and every other life changing event. He’s held me when I’ve cried, rescued me (on multiple occasions) when I’ve locked my keys in my car and walked me down the aisle on my wedding day.

We get into disagreements over nothing sometimes. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re both fairly stubborn or if it’s strictly a generation gap (or both), but we can sometimes easily transition from a small debate to a heated argument fairly quickly. Regardless of what it is, we are mature enough to know when to back away from a topic when we’re getting too frustrated with each other. However, this time there was no arguing. He wasn’t wrong.

At what point do we stop thinking that what we’re doing is right, and start questioning what behaviours and traits need work? How can we identify those behaviours and use necessary means to correct them?

Generally, like I mentioned in my first post, toxic traits stem from traumatic events and childhood environment. Depending on the situation, it can be a continuation of a cycle, a trait learned as a reaction to certain behaviours, or even a defense mechanism.

I was a young teenager when I was living with my mom. Once I had hit high school, I had lost my virginity fairly quickly. Due to the lack of positive attention I would receive at home, sex became my vice for validation, love and attention. This has carried on into my adult years.

In past relationships, the men I would sleep with would want it all the time. There had been a few cases with some of them where, if I wasn’t in the mood, they would resort to emotional manipulation, or sometimes worse, to coerce me into satisfying their needs. I always ended up blaming myself because subconsciously I thought they were trying to show me love. They want me and are giving me attention in a ‘positive’ way, so, why didn’t I want it? Was I broken? That’s just how men express their feelings.

It was an interesting and somewhat bumpy transition to go from relationships where some men felt entitled to my body whenever they wanted it, to my current partner. He views me as an equal. Sometimes, much like myself, he isn’t in the mood after a long day of work or, dealing with his own mental ailments. During that transition, if my partner wasn’t in the mood or was too tired, my brain immediately jumped to thinking that I wasn’t good enough. I would question what could possibly be wrong with me. My immediate reaction was to get snappy. Looking back, that was not okay. The more I had time to reflect on previous relationships, the more I questioned why I dismissed some behaviours, both from myself and significant others, as if they were acceptable.

The way I’ve been attempting to identify toxicity towards myself is by asking the question “Would I feel comfortable knowing that my daughter is being treated this way by someone she loves?”. Alternatively, if I had a son, would I be okay with him to be spoken to, by his significant others, the way I’ve spoken to my partner in the past? Absolutely not. Then, why is it reasonable to allow myself to be treated or to react in these undesirable ways.

This method works great with many things, even parenting itself. I make a solid, conscious effort to avoid raising my voice. I do a fairly impressive job at it… most days. No one is perfect, I know this. While there is a substantial amount of pressure and expectations on mothers, we have to stop holding ourselves to such high standards. But, I digress.

When my anxiety is bad, I can easily get overwhelmed. Like a pot boiling over, the effects can spill onto the people around me. Mostly my partner, but sometimes (very rarely) my daughter. When I’m running from room to room, trying to navigate through construction, or when I’ve asked her to do the something for the fourth or fifth time, there will sometimes hit a point where I boil over and yell. I don’t like doing it. I feel instantly guilty on those days where I slip. Why? Because who likes being yelled at? I don’t. I apologize and explain myself in a way she can understand; something my mother never did. So now, because I’ve been able to acknowledge my toxic traits to my daughter, she’s learning from that. She’s learning that although we’re human and that we make mistakes, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work on them.

So yes, everyone is the hero in their story but, even heroes have flaws and toxic traits. Identifying and attempting to correct them is what will separate you from the villains.

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If you enjoyed what you read, head over to the Links page. Let’s connect.

You can also Ask Me a Question. This helps me with topics to write about. Polyamory, relationships, attachment parenting, feminism, communication and mental health are just some of the topics I read a lot about and have formed quite a few opinions on.

Thanks for reading!

How yelling can affect your children long-term

“What were you thinking?!” My mom would scream at me. The vein on the side of her head popping out, her face flushed red.

It didn’t take much to get her like this lately. This time around I was attempting to exit the room while my step-father was being his usual, egotistical self.

“I…” I start to force out as she seemingly waits for my answer.

I couldn’t get much more out past that because she interrupts me by screaming at me more. For what seems like hours. Actually, I think there had been times where this would go on for 2+ hours. Especially when I would do the slightest thing to cross her husband. See, his temper was worse than hers and she didn’t want to have to deal with his emotionally abusive tendencies. So she screamed and yelled until, in her eyes, I hopefully got the point.

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Fast forward to my adult years, I find a relationship with someone who would verbally express their pride about how they could “Walk up one side me and down the other”. To me, that’s what loved ones do. My partner at that time didn’t yell, or so they claimed every time I asked them to stop. Every time words would try to escape my lips to form a rebuttal or explanation, I would freeze. Shut down. The words I could get out were interrupted or overrun with more things my partner had to say. My words must not have been important.

This was different though. Unlike when my mother would scream, yell and lecture, when my partner would do it, I would hit a point of being interrupted that would cause me to need to take control of the conversation. By the 7th interruption in the span of 5 minutes, I would scream. Crazy levels of scream. I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to be heard. Once the adrenaline wore off I would feel embarrassed and ashamed. I hated getting to that point, but they always knew the right buttons to push to get me there. My partner would give me this look of amusement. Like they thought it was funny. Like they couldn’t understand why I would get to that point.

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I touched a bit on my confidence issues in my last post, which have improved dramatically in the last year. While there are many factors that can affect confidence, I feel as though having two of the most important people in my life (at the time) not care about what I had to say definitely contribute. I used to love public speaking. I would compete when I was in school. I used to get excited to do improv. I wasn’t amazing at it by any means but I thought I was pretty good. Then slowly after years of interruptions, raised voices and ridicule from the things that I would manage to vocalize, my confidence was shattered by the time I hit adulthood.

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I don’t want to say my problems were solved by a man, because even according to him, they weren’t. My long time best friend (and now partner) has been working on things with me. I have very strong views on a plethora of subjects that I generally keep to myself. If I attempted to discuss these things with people, I freeze up, can’t get my point across and then get even more anxious that I sound stupid. I subconsciously assume I’ll get interrupted. Yelled at even. While he never makes me have these debates with him, he strongly encourages it. When I start to panic, freeze, trip over my words and inevitably put my hands on my face, he doesn’t tell me his side. He doesn’t laugh. He tells me to pause, collect my thoughts, take a deep breath and keep going. He intently listens as I spit out my view on the things I’m passionate about.

I used to dumb down my speech too. I wouldn’t even try to use words that I wasn’t comfortable with. The times I did, specifically in arguments with one of my ex partners, they would tell me to “spell it”. This cut extra deep. I learned the majority of my schooling in French so my spelling isn’t fantastic.

My current partner will encourage me to use bigger words.

“From what I’ve been told there’s… speculation? Am I using that right?”

He proudly tells me that I did. Even if there’s a time that I don’t use a word correctly, he calmly explains how to use it properly by example.

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This has been one of the hardest things to overcome. I’m slowly and painfully pushing myself, with help from my partner, to undo 26 years worth of damage caused partially by being screamed at. I make a very conscious effort to not raise my voice when my daughter is misbehaving. I don’t want her to think that’s love. She’s a confident child and I don’t want her to lose that. She will have her own struggles, I know this, but feeling like she doesn’t have anything important to say will not be one of them if I can help it.

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Comment your experiences, if you’re comfortable. What are some of the ways you’ve tried to combat confidence issues?

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If you enjoyed what you read, head over to the Links page. Let’s connect.

You can also Ask Me a Question. This helps me with topics to write about. Polyamory, relationships, attachment parenting, feminism, communication and mental health are just some of the topics I read a lot about and have formed quite a few opinions on.

Thanks for reading!

Toxic personality traits tend to stem from childhood environment

Our first five years after birth become the foundation of our personalities and how we see the world. The years following shape who we are as people. While the nature/nurture debate has valid points on both side, environment plays a heavy role.

It’s never easy to spot a toxic person in your life, let alone a toxic parent. When you’re a naïve child with a rose-coloured-glasses-view of the world, your parents are like superheroes. They can fix anything whether it’s a broken toy, broken skin or even a broken heart.

Our parents will always be our biggest influencers. They teach us about relationships, manners, political views. A lot of these lessons stem more from example than actual communication. We watch how they react, how they interact. It isn’t until we’ve gone through a fairly substantial chunk of life that we can trace back our own traits to experiences that occurred when we were growing up.

I was at a seasonal family dinner at 16 when my maternal grandmother told me

“Wow Sam, you used to be such a confident child. What happened?”

I questioned that myself. Where did that confidence go? Was I the reason? Something I must have done that caused me to go from loving the spotlight to feeling like I’m drowning anytime there’s attention pointed my way.

It wasn’t until after extensive therapy and leaving an emotionally damaging relationship that I realized that one of my biggest influencers had a tendency to move the goal posts on me. I was always scared to try because it was never good enough. I was only ever given negative reinforcement. So what was the point in giving my all… Or anything for that matter?

It had gotten so bad that when we would have feedback sessions at work, I could feel myself grasping at the thoughts leaving my head until it was my turn to contribute. My mind would go blank, my face would get hot, my voice cracking as I try to get anything out. Anything I could manage to think of at the time would sound ridiculous and inadequate in comparison to what the others would say.

There’s a whole slew of toxic and negative personality traits that I’ve seen in myself recently once I stepped back and analyzed the series of events that lead up to the person I am today.

Just because we develop these tendencies, doesn’t mean we’re stuck this way forever. I’m not saying it’s easy to unlearn whats been ingrained in us since birth, but it’s 100% possible. Realizing what needs to be worked on is the biggest step. A step needed to ensure our children and loved ones don’t develop the same negative actions and anxieties that we did.