The Unedited Truth About Having An Emotionally Abusive Mother
I am never good enough for her. I can never make her happy.
I do not love my mother, the woman who has emotionally abused me my whole life. I never knew what it was, what she had been doing to me for 26 years, until recently. Society loves to talk about physical abuse. No one talks about emotional abuse. And no one talks about emotional abuse when it comes from your mother.
Emotional abuse is quieter. It is not visible, like most physical abuse. It feels like a rollercoaster. Emotions are very hot and cold. The highs are high and the lows are low. The good times are few and far in between, but when they do happen, you feel guilty for how you feel during the bad times — when you dislike her, when you may even hate her.
Growing up, I always looked to my friends’ moms and wondered why mine was not like them. I was jealous of the relationship they had with their moms. My friends could tell theirs anything. I could never open up to my mother for fear of the backlash. I could not share with her my fears, my accomplishments, anything. She would just push me aside. I did not know what was worse: her ignoring me or her telling me my hopes and dreams were no big deal, that they were nothing, that I meant nothing.
Emotional abuse often includes verbal attacks. My mother has called me many names — idiot (I’m the only one in my family with a graduate degree and my mom never went to college), whore (a favorite one when I was in high school before I had even kissed a boy), bitch (whenever I stand up for myself to her). No child should ever be called any of those things, let alone by their own parent, the one person who is supposed to love them unconditionally.
In public, emotional abuse takes a different form. My mother has always cared greatly about what other people think of us. We had to be the perfect children in public: polite, seen, and not heard. She would be doting and loving, but once home, everything changed. At home, she made me feel like I was a burden, that I was not worthy of her time or affection. Even now, I am constantly judged by the clothing I wear, by the foods I eat. Instead of trying to understand me, she puts me down. I am never good enough for her. I can never make her happy.
The worst part is that abusers never believe they are in the wrong. My mother always thinks someone else is to blame. When I tell her that she cannot treat me like this, that she is toxic, she cries and says, “Would a toxic parent send you to private school? Would a toxic parent spend all those years dragging you to and from sports practice? Would a toxic parent clothe you and feed you?” And the answer is yes. Yes, my mom did all those things for me, but she still emotionally abused me. She still made me feel like I was worthless. She made me feel like a burden. She is the reason I grew up with no self-confidence, the reason why I have crippling anxiety.
I feel ungrateful that I do not love my mother, despite what she has done for me. I feel guilty because it is not like my mother hit me. She did not leave my body in bruises, she did not do drugs, she did not try to sell me. But just because she did not do those things does not mean my experience is insignificant. It does not mean it was not abuse.
When I learned about emotional abuse and what it was, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. What is happening to me is not normal. I could finally put a name to the pain I have been feeling all these years. I have felt so much shame and guilt for not wanting to be around my mom. But I will not let myself think that anymore. Just because she is family does not mean she has a pass to treat me like this. She is the one who does not deserve to be in my life.
At this point, I know she will never change. And I am starting to learn that it is okay to walk away. Just because she is my mother does not mean I have to include her in my life. Just because she is my mother does not mean I have to love her.
I have found family in many other places: my college girlfriends, my best friend, my boyfriend’s family. I am slowly learning what it is like to be loved. I will no longer accept my mother’s abuse. I chose to give my time, energy, and love to those who deserve a place in my life.
If you do not love your mother, just know that you are not alone. Abuse is abuse, whether it be physical or emotional in form. Your experiences are not normal; they are traumatic, and it will take some time to heal. But at the end of the day, this is your life to live, and it is okay to walk away.
Originally published anonymously on Thought Catalog.