“I’ll never forget the day they stole the last shred of my childhood innocence from me. It was an ordinary day for me. I was 7 years old, bright and cheerful, despite being born into a broken world of addiction, neglect, and abuse.
It was another cold and cloudy New England day. It was finally Saturday and my stepfather was having band practice that night. I always loved those nights because I could count on safety for a few hours while he was consumed with his blues band. Maybe it was the reason for the extra pep in my step that day. Maybe I was just still enjoying my childhood, something that would soon fade away. What was left of my broken childhood forever changed, only a few short hours later.
I decided I would do some extra chores for my mother. She was still sleeping after a long night of drinking, drug use, and partying with my stepfather. It wasn’t anything unusual for me, as it was all I knew. I tried to find comfort and security in my world whenever I could. It didn’t matter that my mother abandoned me constantly to party or allowed a violent, disturbed alcoholic to abuse me physically, verbally, and emotionally. I felt nothing but empathy towards her as a child. I felt empathy towards everyone and everything. All I wanted to do was make the world and the lives of those around me better. After seeing a massive pile of laundry on the floor, I decided I would be brave and just do it myself.
‘Mommy will be so happy and proud of me,’ I thought to myself. ‘She will be so surprised!’ I said aloud.
Unfortunately, I found out I really didn’t know how to use the washing machine. Suds started pouring out of the machine shortly thereafter, and I panicked. I tried everything I could to fix it, but all I did was make it worse. Ashamed and fearful, I reluctantly and meekly asked my hungover mother for help. The image of her face in those moments are forever burned in my brain. Her eyes seemed to turn to the deepest shade of black I have ever seen, and her mouth clenched down in anger. Filled with rage, she shoved me into the wall and directed one of the most hateful barrages of insults towards me I have ever experienced. Spit began collecting at the corners of her mouth from the screaming, turning into a foam, as she resembled more of a wild animal than a human being. The names they called me that day, no child should never even hear, let alone be the target of. They are too explicit and intense to even put into writing.
They say words are just words and there is some pride to be had in having a ‘thick skin.’ I can’t tell you how many times my stepfather justified their abuse by screaming, ‘Toughen up.’ I disagree. There is energy in everything we do, and we put energy behind our words and our actions. The words themselves were hateful, but the energy of pure hatred behind her words cut me to my core, creating a storm within my mind, and leaving me with permanent scars that sometimes bleed out on those around me.
My mother’s toxic behavior only worsened over the years. As I got older, she became increasingly more hateful towards me. She would treat me as if I was her competition in her marriage to my stepfather. The more mature my looks became, the harder she tried to break me. There were days when she withheld food and days when she called my stepfather to tell him to come home and beat me, for no other reason than to just be able to watch me suffer. There were days she would try to be a good parent for a few hours, only to give up when she realized there wasn’t enough in it for her. There were many days of her using guilt as a weapon to force me into submission, even well into my adulthood.
The worst came when I was in my twenties. That’s when the harassment became incessant and relentless. She would text me constantly to insult me and attack my character. If I didn’t do it on her terms, I would hear about it. At one point, she called the police on me while I was living on my college campus, because I didn’t text her back soon enough. It didn’t change when I had my daughter, either. The volume of angry texts only increased, hoping to steal all my attention away from my child.
I never really knew what to expect or when, but I knew I could count on a piece of myself being taken from me with each character assassination, thrown into the fiery wrath of a narcissist, nothing more than another trophy of the mounting pain and suffering she was creating.
After a particularly foul display of behavior at my wedding in 2015, I finally committed to cutting her out of my life for good. I had tried to cut the cords so many times before, but always failed. No one wants to be without a mother or a family. Every time I tried, I would get sucked back in by my guilt and her gaslighting tactics. There was no getting around it this time, though. She had crossed a serious line by asking my 8-year-old daughter to take pictures of her nude backside. We had paid for her flight even though she didn’t need us to, provided her a place to stay, and catered to her every need. I stood by calmly as she made my wedding day entirely about her, changing into different gowns throughout the day. We held our wedding on our beautiful two acres of land and only about 10 guests, with a menu of pizza and beer. It wasn’t the kind of wedding you would wear a gown to, and she knew that.
Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. She sat back and watched everyone struggle to keep the day together, while it was falling apart at every turn. She didn’t lift a finger to help and went on a very intentional mission to tarnish my reputation to every person connected to my husband, including my mother-in-law. What my mother didn’t know is what an incredible person my mother-in-law is. She was unknowingly showing me what a good mother looks like. If it wasn’t for my mother-in-law’s presence in my life, I probably would have never even realized how it feels to have a mother. I am forever grateful to her for that because it helped make cutting the cord easier, even if just a little.
My mother is a textbook narcissist and the model by which I measured every person I invited into my life thereafter until I fully healed. While she had a dark childhood herself, she never broke the cycle. She continued to bleed out on everyone and everything around her, until she became a pathogen herself, poisoning the environment of all those around her. I feel genuine empathy for my mother and everything she went through as a child, but we all can make our own choices. Mistakes are inevitable, but when we continue to make poor choices, we have no one else to blame for our plight but ourselves. That is something you will never see if you had a toxic mother or parent because they are professional victims. Everything is always someone else’s fault and never their own. They assign blame to their children for their own poor behavior and actions, feeding off the pain and chaos they are causing.
I have forgiven my mother, but as the old cliché saying goes, I will never forget. It was those years of abuse and psychological torture that forced me to bleed out on those around me, which led me to a path towards healing, giving me renewed purpose and the ability to become the woman I was always meant to be. Not because of my mother and everything she did to me, but despite her.
My mother showed me everything, with extreme clarity, I do not want to be. She showed me where I need to heal, so I don’t repeat the same mistakes she made. She showed me I can be a strong, independent, and successful woman without a mother’s support or love. She showed me how to be a loving, caring mother with all the sleepless nights I laid in bed crying, wishing I had one myself.
For all of us who have toxic mothers, hold your head up high. You can forgive, but you don’t have to. You can stay, but you don’t have to. Because you can also find the strength, you never knew you had in cutting the cord and find the wisdom in a goodbye that will finally set the wounded child in you free.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Christina Feldermann, 35, of Michigan. Follow her journey on Instagram here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories from Christina here:
‘I’d get married at Taco Bell and wear a piece of string around my finger if it meant spending the rest of my life with the person I adore.’: After abusive relationship, woman says marriage isn’t about material possessions.
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