When Someone You Love is Toxic

I cannot shut my brain off. With all the stuff I’ve been doing and thinking about, I still have my mom on my mind.

I haven’t talked to my mom in almost three weeks. When we spoke last, I told her that I never wanted to talk to her again. I told her to never call my house. I told her she was toxic to me and that I couldn’t deal with her anymore. Now I’m feeling guilty. I’m not going to get into what she said to me during one of her more disturbing delusions, but it was bad. And I snapped.

I feel justified in being angry with her. I also feel justified in having the pity party I’ve thrown for myself. That justification doesn’t make me feel any less guilty though. My husband wonders why I continued to have a relationship with my mom after I moved out of the house at 18. And my answer to that is why I am feeling guilty for cutting her off now: she can’t help that she’s mentally ill. She didn’t choose to swing a pendulum between depression and crazed delusions. She didn’t choose to have an illness that has a social stigma attached to it, that requires her to take heavy duty drugs with long term health consequences. She can’t help that when her medication levels aren’t perfectly balanced she thinks horrible thoughts and spews them all over the people around her. This is why I have a relationship with my mom despite the pain it sometimes causes me.

For a long time, our roles have been reversed. I have been the parent, offering advice and consolation and helping make decisions. I have been the voice of reason when she’s upset about something childish or when she’s being irresponsible. I have kept my own problems to myself so that she doesn’t have more to worry about. When I was going through miscarriage after miscarriage, struggling with the despair and worry and struggles with my faith, I kept my mouth shut. Because I learned a long time ago that when I share those things with my mom, she ends up getting so worked up, so distraught, that I find myself comforting her when I am the one that wants and needs to be comforted. But I still hold out for those rare moments when she is the parent. When she says something I need to hear or shares a legitimate memory with me about my childhood and what she did to calm the storm of my personality.

Deborah and Tamara

The only picture I have of my mom and me as a child. She had labelled the back: “Tammy and Mother, January 5, 1976.”

The other reason I have a relationship with my mom is that I love her. I can’t help it. She may be crazy, but she was a good mother too. She was loving and affectionate. She shared her love of art with us. She made brownies/cookies/cakes with us and let us lick the spoon or beater. She taught me how to make a daisy chain so I could wear a crown. She kept us well-fed and our house clean and homey.

I don’t truly want to cut my mom from my life. But I have needed this break from her. I’m surprised that she has respected my boundaries. She used to call me everyday, sometimes multiple times per day and has still managed to respect my wishes and not call once. I keep thinking about how I would feel if the last words she ever heard me say were the ugly ones that came out of my mouth in anger and disgust. Can I live with that? I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can live with the toxicity of our relationship right now either. I have so many emotions to work through about her. Talking to her brings them all up like a piece of bad fish and I’ll vomit my negative emotions all over the place. The place I share with my children and husband. And that’s not fair to them.

What do you do when someone you love is toxic? Do you hope the good of the relationship outweighs the bad? Do you make the allowance that you are willing to suffer for the possibility that the relationship will be worth it? Or do you end that relationship and gather up all the good memories to live off of forever? Is it even possible to end a mother/daughter relationship? I don’t think you can. But I haven’t really tried. Not really. I’m still not sure that I want to. Maybe that makes me a masochist. Or maybe just idealistic. I’m certainly conflicted.

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4 thoughts on “When Someone You Love is Toxic

  1. I can certainly see why you feel conflicted. I am sorry you are dealing with so much! Boundaries are key, you need to protect yourself and your family. I wish you the best and am thinking about you.

  2. Ugh. I don’t know. There is no good, final answer to this one, for me. I go with what I can handle. I think taking breaks is one fine answer. There are many. Be gentle on yourself.

  3. I am giving you hugs.xx. I don’t know if there is an answer and I’m sorry it’s painful and tough. My mother is also toxic (she is undiagnosed, but I feel she is manic depressive). So I know too that she is selfish, manipulative, judgmental and opinionated. Our relationship was off and on, hot and cold since about 15yrs., it’s been almost a year since our last uproar. Are you seeing a therapist? I have been in and out of therapy for most of my life and three times in the past 10 yrs. due to our relationship and how it effects other relationships I have, I am so tired of it, but I love my husband and daughter so I go so I don’t become who I don’t want to be. When I read your blog I thought of what has worked for me this past year and that’s making a “Deceleration of Independence”. It’s writing down everything I want and don’t want out of the relationship and sticking to it. I then wrote down what I will accept from her and what I will not and then what I will do/say when she crosses the line. She does not know about this “list” only my husband and I do. It’s been really helpful, because when I feel like you do now I want to take it back, because I think of the good and forget the bad, so I look at my list and I am reminded why and feel proud of myself. It has gotten easier and she has respected me more (she’s now moved on to my sister, which sucks but I have told her what has helped me and she can take it or leave it) Think of the good times and hold on to them.
    I think of what my therapist has said to me…
    -I’m sorry that you don’t have the relationship that you would like, go and make that with yourself, your husband, and your kids. Sometimes we have to give ourselves what we need, when others can not.
    I wish you peace and love in yourself.

    • Thank you for sharing that Marcy. I do see a therapist and it helps quite a bit. As much as I hate to see others suffering through what I’m feeling, I’m glad I’m not alone. It helps to know other women have conflicted relationships with their mothers and that I’m not just being a cruel bitch by keeping my distance.

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