Writing an account of your experiences as a daughter, writing your story, can be a powerful healing tool that allows you to come to terms in a safe public environment with what happened in the confines of your biological family walls. Writing your story demonstrates how you coped/survived and affirms how you have transformed your pain and the limiting messages you were given by your birth family into a life of wholeness–although this is an on-going process. Writing your story can help you process what happened to you–it can help you make intellectual and psychological sense of your experiences. It can help your logical mind come to terms with things that are illogical and irrational. Writing your story gives daughters full permission to say what needs to be said for their own healing. Naming something is powerful–it brings the hidden into the open–it brings the secreted into community! Writing it out can feel very much like releasing it into the world for your experiences of trauma and loss to be acknowledged, witnessed, blessed, and ultimately released from you.
Please feel safe and welcome to share your story on this page, and I will post it. Do not be concerned about a web visitor writing a negative comment–I vet all comments before they are published and will delete any un-compassionate statements pronto. This is a community of love and healing–that’s all that will be published on this page–promise!
I extend my respect and gratitude to those daughters who shared their stories below.
Personal Story #1: “From Used and Confused to Awake and Joyful!”
My mother did not want to have me and blamed me for becoming pregnant and being “forced” to marry my father. But the story does not begin there–not hers or mine. Coming from an enmeshed birth family, my mother was psychologically assigned to be the scapegoated child and her younger sisters alternatively functioned as helpless or idealized/sainted and my mother was expected to be responsible for them. Constantly looking for flaws in her, the family blamed my mother for anything and everything that went “wrong” and punished her in profoundly wounding ways.
To my mom, the Family Script reigned supreme, and I was expected to follow her rules to the letter, rules that did not apply to my sibling who was never required to help her. When I figured out I was groomed to be her slave and she routinely dumped me the minute I was no longer needed, I felt rage. I tried to talk about my feelings with her, but she would explode and curse me.
In childhood, mother never bonded with me as she had never bonded with her mother. There was no hugging, no warmth, no looking at me with love, appreciation, or real caring. There was no healthy attachment. At times, but not always, her hatred and disdain were palpable. Mother was deeply depressed and in my adult years admitted that she “probably had borderline personality disorder” when I was growing up. She was particularly focused on my siblings’ needs. This is the scapegoated-child/golden-child paradigm. Her behavior was indeed perverse in its extremes. This is classic Borderline Personality Disorder behavior.
In childhood I was abandoned, invisible, unloved by my mother, alone, and very frightened. I coped by spending all my time on the holy Earth and dancing to music I loved. I have an ancient, resilient soul.
In our last years together when mother was in her sixties and had been a psychiatrist (yes, she’s a professional and a feminist) for many years, she routinely spoke about the “great time she had with all her children this weekend” (meaning my brothers and their families) and I would say naively “but I wasn’t there, Mom.” But in my thirties, I was not yet ready to accept the level of my mother’s mental illness and how devastating it had been on me. I would be constantly upset, confused, sad, and angry about our relationship and try desperately to reach her intellectually, but I was not yet psychologically prepared to see the truth: she did not care. She wanted me to shut-up and follow the script. I was physically ill a lot.
During my thirties, mother telephoned me once per week from her work, calling me between her clients, so she would have an excuse to speak to me for only five minutes. Before we hung up she would say, “I’m really busy this weekend, so I’ll talk to you next week.” Meaning? –she was visiting one of my brothers or having their families to her house and I was not to bother her–unless of course she called me in a meltdown and needed help babysitting grandchildren (I would not go). Even her basic levels of politeness began to deteriorate during this time because I began to say “No.” This is what she was “sick” of–sick of my boundaries, sick of me gaining a sense of self, sick of me saying “No.”
As I moved through my thirties and then turned forty years old (the Age of Non-Compliance!), I began to routinely restrict visits and holidays with my mother and mother’s family. Her family expected birthday cards, telephone calls, gifts, holiday meals, and personal counseling for their problems from my mother and me, while doing nothing in return. In between holidays I never heard from them, unless someone was having another nervous breakdown. When I graduated from university, mother’s second sister telephoned and asked me, “Do you want a gift?” This nonsense went on for years and escalated. By the time I was forty and mother was sixty years old, I said, “Enough! This is insane! I will attend no more holidays and be your sisters’ slaves!” For saying “No” and for setting boundaries, I was shunned. One by one, they turned on me, like an evil cult. At my grandmother’s funeral, mother’s sisters would not look at me or speak to me.
Trying to understand this type of human behavior is difficult. Is it mental illness? Human hatred? Evil? Narcissism? Does it matter? The only appropriate response is to GET AWAY from it because it is destructive and poisonous. Practicing non-attachment, “rising above it,” asking God to intervene–all of these very popular cliches do not work. They are not the healthy response to abuse. No human being can flourish in an abusive environment, and no matter what tools I used, they only failed over and over again (thus making me feel worse) when living routinely with abuse. Many yoga, meditation and New Age communities sell this line to women (“just practice non-attachment and once you are successful their abuse won’t bother you…”) and it is rubbish! Unless you are in a prisoner of war camp and have to cope with guards and torturers from whom you cannot escape, the only rational action is to GET AWAY from the poison! Do not keep going back to the monster just to practice your mindfulness skills–it’s violent and nutty.
The years immediately after the split up and fall out among every member of my maternal side of my biological family were difficult. My brothers were very dear to me. I thought we were all very close. We spoke on the phone weekly and always said “I love you” before hanging up. I will miss them forever.
A cousin once told me that my mother and her family constantly review “what happened” in an elaborate, ever-growing, ever-twisting narrative about me and my husband. She said it is the on-going, heated focus of their conversations and “the story” gets re-told and re-told. I asked my therapist about this and she said, “The tiny sliver of humanity left in them has to come to terms with this horrible thing they have done, so they need to invent and reassure themselves collectively, over and over again, that they are justified. But since there is no justification because you have done nothing but set boundaries with extremely dysfunctional, needy, selfish people, they have to try to develop reasons to assuage their guilt, reinforce those invented justifications continually, and band together more strongly because they reinforce each other’s reality. It’s total textbook! This only reinforces the appropriateness of your setting limits with them. Now that you are out of the Family Script, they have revealed their true selves and it is indeed very ugly.”
And here is a very important point: I have some loving, good memories with my mother and her family. No dysfunctional family is cruel 100% of the time; indeed, the cruelties are only meted out when someone isn’t following the script or their role in the family. The price I paid to receive basic human kindness from my biological mother–not mothering, not a rich loving bond of trust–was the poisoning of my deepest self. I have older women in my life now who are deeply loving to me and I often think, “Oh, is this what it’s like to have a mother?” I am out of the hurricane; I have swam to the shore of my own life and feel the warm sunshine and cool air at last. It is beautiful!
It’s been years since the shunning, since the last person on mother’s side of the family spoke to me. Since then I have healed profoundly. I had EMDR Therapy for Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder and it helped me move forward quickly–I was ready in every way for this intense treatment. I also have a community of love around me, a loving husband with whom I have a soul-level bond, and a large biological and chosen family. It took me a long time to not feel like an odd-ball because I come from such a sick family, though. I deliberately spend time connecting with the generations before these people, with my grandparents, and remind myself of their love and guidance in my life today. I had a fabulous therapist, and beloved animal companions, from the Highest Realms of the Galaxy!
Finally, I have turned this human experience into spiritual practice, a way to open myself to deeper compassion for every living being, a way to love more deeply, to connect more profoundly. These experiences have generated gratitude in me–gratefulness for life as wide as the sky! I have committed myself to helping other women now. From pain comes service to love; loving is the purpose of my life. I bow to all of it and to all my “teachers,” even to my mother. I bow to myself at seven years old. I bow to myself at twenty. I bow to myself every day and every night. I made it. With love from every corner of the Universe and an uncountable contingency of human, animal, plant, and angelic support, I made it.
At long last, I found the intricately-carved, exquisite door in my own being that was ready to open. Since I was born and recognized the desolate human landscape around me, she has been calling me towards beauty, singing the song of wholeness as I slowly, painfully danced awake.
PERSONAL STORY #2: “Time to Divorce That Person Titled ‘Mom'”
The Holidays showed me- The time HAS REALLY COME for me to divorce my mother. She has hurt me so many times for so long, and I am 60 years old (almost). I must divorce her or I will become deeply depressed. I am already on antidepressants and going to weekly counseling. Why does one person have so much power over me? I am not going to harm myself, so don’t worry. I know I have so much to be thankful for- a loving husband of 36 years (amazing I didn’t screw that up considering my family of origin). We have two sons who know they are loved and are supported by US. They are emotionally stable and have healthy female relationships. I thank God for that.
It is not just HER, it is my siblings too. Why do people get delight out of emotionally and physically harming someone? They are all sick people.
To divorce her, I have to remember and feel the pain of the negative messages that keep coming back. I’ve cut her too much slack for way too long. What precipitated it was Christmas. Surprise! She has been mad at me for a few weeks after I tried to please her by flying back east to empty and clean her house of 20 years so she could move into a retirement home. No help for the siblings, of course. Now she is living in VA with my sister, who told my husband (because I am shunned), that I am not to contact mom anymore because I upset her. She will call me.
Of course I am hurt and outraged. AFTER ALL MY HUSBAND AND HIS BROTHER DID. IT TOOK us A WEEK. The siblings only orchestrated the half day move by the professional movers. And mom told me how hard they worked. Ahh- We cleaned out junk, every day a trip to the dump, or Goodwill, I bought her new clothes (She had lost 60 pounds and was wearing clothes with safety pins.) No thanks there. They live 45 miles away, I live 3,000.
Now I realize I fell into the dysfunctional behavior of ‘fawning’. I went overboard trying to be helpful so that I would be accepted. Nope. They were glade to have me ‘slave’ for them. (Once again and they were probably amused). Reminds me of Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football.)
So what broke me- I sent her a nice Christmas present to my sister’s home. My children, husband and I didn’t receive our annual $75 gift or a card. No phone call on Christmas either. My husband was proud of me for not calling her. My own Christmas was good and enjoyed with people who love me- one son was able to get away with his girlfriend and her mother. We talked to our other son who lives in Europe. We were in CA at a resort, enjoying sun and good food.
So how am I going to divorce her? By being angry. No longer sad, hurt, depressed— Angry over life long wrongs when she preyed upon me as a scapegoat. (My counselor will be so pleased- she has been trying to evolve me to this stage for four years). Where will my anger start?- by being mad (not) sad over mistreatment from pre-school age. Like my dad taught me how to drive a boat at 5 years old so he could waterski. I didn’t know how to swim or even wore a life jacket. I was scared. Why, because of fear of drowning? No, I was afraid I wouldn’t ‘whip the rope close enough’ for him to pick up and he would be very angry and I knew what that meant. (I actually just remembered this about 10 years ago). My family had a boat. My husband said- When did you learn to drive a boat? I said- I’ve always known. Then it came back. Wow.
These are the thoughts I am substituting for hurt and sadness.
1. No, I wasn’t fat and ugly growing up.
2. Yes, I was sick a lot (which made them mad) but I was rarely taken to the doctor and have a broken eardrum due to untreated ear infection.
3. Yes, It was wrong for my parents to buy almost all new furniture for our new house and I got ‘hand me downs’ from relatives. My sisters got that matching girly everything, my brother got Captains set. I got my Uncle’s bed, grandmother’s discarded dresser, a crappy bookcase built by my dad and a kitchen table with legs shortened to use as a nightstand. My counselor said that incident is where sides were chosen- Siblings were taught that it was okay to treat Carol as a second class citizen.
4. Yes, it was wrong for me to be beaten by my father with my mother watching. My supposed wrong did nothing to justify that. And it was wrong when my siblings said they laughed in bed while it was happening. (I kind of doubt it at the time. They were probably scared.) Many times a sister said- “I was just glad they (parents) don’t pick on me.” I guess that was suppose to be comforting.
5. I am mad, no longer ‘sad’ that my child molesting grandfather was given free access to us. I am sure that it happened to my mom, but so what? A parent protects her child. Along time ago I talked to my sisters about it. Our husbands were there. It was our first acknowledgement. I told my mom a few years ago. She denied it. When my husband said he was there for the conversation, she replied- “I don’t like to remember bad things.”
6. No, I did not get support for my accomplishments. Many years later, my mom told me they sent me to college to get a husband. I graduated and was successful. Was that comment necessary?
7. My parents wouldn’t allow me to get a driver’s license because I wouldn’t be a good driver. They also bought my 3 siblings cars. Not me. At 20 I insisted on private lessons when my 15 year old sister had her learner’s permit.
8. Of course, My parents wouldn’t buy me a college class ring because ‘they couldn’t afford it.’ But they could afford their Mercedes, Corvette, and second home at the lake. Yes, they bought my sister one when she graduated. Other two siblings didn’t.
9. It figures my brother would say after my engagement to my husband- “We made a family pack to say nothing bad about you until you are married because we want to make sure he takes you.” He was 15 at the time. Isn’t that crazy?
10. Probably not unbelievably, they started the same treatment on my husband and sons. And one of my sons was in Special Education due to a severe learning disability . They would mock his actions and speech patterns. He did graduate from college on time and is in Information Technology with an international firm in Amsterdam.
FYI, when their mistreatment of my husband and children became repetitive, we minimized contact. Then cut it off all together with siblings 10 years ago.
But one of the best things that happened was that we did not invite any of my siblings to my son’s wedding. They were furious. Mom decided not to go in order to show solidarity with them.
Now her ‘silent treatment’ begins, again. But I am not going to apologize for something I didn’t do wrong. The good news is my sons and husband are on my side. As adults, they now know my family of origin is bad because I had the guts to tell them about my abuse. I have now stopped ‘playing nice’ to appear to belong to that fake ‘happy’ extended family. The good news is that I really do have my own happy family. Whenever we leave each other or get off the phone, we say ‘I love you.’ I never heard those words growing up.
Now I just need to come up with a different term for ‘Mother’ as I channel my rage. It is going to be a process to get divorced.