I ran across an interview after reading a very old blog post (from 2009) regarding a book called Mean Mothers: Overcoming the Legacy of Hurt, by Peg Streep. I found an old blog post (Check out the Breaking the Taboo of Mean Mothers Post here). After looking for more information on this book and its Author I discovered an interview done with it’s author on ABC News by Robin Roberts. (See Interview Clip Here)
After reading the dated blog and watching the interview I had some strong reactions.
First, I can’t tell you how I struggled with the relationship I had with my mother until I had a proper label. I wanted to call her abusive, but I had no visible scars. I wanted to call her neglectful, but I was fed, clothed and educated. I wanted to call her mean, but she was covert and always really good at being sweet and loving to everyone else, just not me. I wanted desperately to have a label to put on it. As you can see in the interview, Robin Roberts begins the interview by telling the Author how wonderful her own mother is. The line of questions that followed clearly told me Robin didn’t understand. Just like the rest of the world, I thought and representative of something I think we all feel. Society as a whole just doesn’t accept that I am wounded by what my mother has done to me and I am in need of healing.
Mothers Day is excruciating because it reminds us that this is way we are SUPPOSED to feel, the popularity of the holiday lends us to believe everyone else has a mother to revere. What’s wrong with us? I remember visiting my mother in Florida and after a week and leaving her home I couldn’t drive fast enough and far enough to get away. I talked my poor husbands ear off until I heard him use the words abusive. And we had a 16 hour drive ahead of us. It still wasn’t enough and just didn’t sit well, I didn’t know why. With no visible scars, abuse just didn’t seem to be an “acceptable” description.
Unless you’ve NEVER lived up to your mothers expectations (even though I was successful at many things), you’ve NEVER looked good enough to garner a compliment (You know, Barbara if you had a full length mirror that wouldn’t happen to you!), you’ve NEVER been told you were valued for who you are (instead of what have you done for me lately) and unless you’ve grown up with such little self esteem you have no idea of who you really are or what you’re truly capable of, you won’t understand the monumental damage mothers can do. Robin Roberts really had no understanding and (I felt) really tried to goad the Author into reaching a point of admitting her mother was just a “good disciplinarian”. I agreed with Robin, our mothers are not supposed to be our friends, but she clearly was out of her empathic zone. Walking around with this relationship on my shoulders was always like wearing an oversized wool coat that was weighted with the rain that fell continuously out of the big black cloud that seemed to be over me. Society didn’t understand it, there wasn’t anybody I could talk to about it because I couldn’t define it and I was always under the impression (as are most abused women) that if I could just do more, my mother would see my value. Well, she never did and it wasn’t until she died and I was completely worn out that I begun to look for answers. I had the energy to do this after her death because FINALLY the black cloud was gone and I could see brightness to my life with the realization of not having to ever have to engage with her again. I was FREE!
So I became curious, why was she so mean? My research led me to Dr. Karyl McBrides Book, “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?” I read every page with an absolute wonder, How could this Dr. describe my mother to a perfect tee AND understand the damage it can do to you? I finally had my label! My Mother wasn’t abusive (but she did abuse), she wasn’t neglectful (but she did neglect) and she wasn’t just mean (although the things she said were mean spirited). My mother had a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, no other therapists had helped me come to this description and rationale.
Why was this so helpful to me? It removed the stigma of this bad relationship and all the weight I carried as a result of it and put it directly on my mothers head. It made the problem with my mother about HER and not about me. I no longer had the drive to prove myself worthy of her love, or even wonder when I was going to get it….. There was something wrong with my mother that prevented her from loving me in the manor “normal moms” do. She had issues just like everyone else, and hers prevented her from being a good, kind loving and supportive mother. This label has allowed me to package her in words people understand and this allows me to read, write and talk with people about the relationship…..it brings so much clarity. I am worthy of love….she just couldn’t love. I am worthy of belief and support…..she just couldn’t verbalize it. HER problem…..not my problem.
Now my mission is to surround myself with the right people in my life. People that will form my “manufactured family” instead of my biological family.
When I think of all the women (men & children too) that struggle with this same relationship I can become a new support system and offer empathy and understanding.
Final two thoughts:
Some people are never going to understand how damaging our parents can be if they lack the empathy for someone who hasn’t been as lucky as they were to be born into “TV Land” with perfect supportive parents. There is a sense of responsibility I have to better articulate the damning effects of a Narcissistic mother and I need to educate myself so that I can.
I am SO LUCKY to have found the “root cause” of my mothers behavior. I don’t have to wear this heavy rain soaked coat of despair any more and I must remember to FEEL lucky! I am healthy, humorous, smart and well loved. I did that for myself!