The Teen Doctor

Answers to your questions about adolescents

My Mother Is Destroying Me

My mother is completely confusing

Dear Dr. G., 

My absolute best friend sent me an article you wrote about a girl who had a mom who was the ”daughter” of the relationship. That article hit the nail on the head with my relationship with my mom. I love my mom with all my heart but it’s coming to a point in my life where I don’t want to talk to her because she has become such a negativity in my life. I’m not sure when or where or who it happened to first but it’s gotten to the point where I’ve become depressed and angry whenever I talk to her.

I moved out to Los Angeles when I just turned 20 from a small town in NJ. It started around then I think. I was living in a whole new world and going to college for my dreams. I was happy that I was finally able to have some independence and start my life the way I wanted. Then my mom started. First it was the end of the day phone calls, everyday saying ”don’t forget to lock your door, I want to hear you lock it”. And I would literally lock the door with the phone next to it. I had no problem at the time with this, if it gave my mom a sense of safeness for me then I figured it was ok. It got much worse after that. Over the next few years if I didn’t talk or text my mom on a daily basis she thought I was dead in a ditch somewhere. After I graduated college I wound up having to move back home for a while to get my head on straight and save money to move back to LA. I felt like a failure and cried often. My mom and I argued over everything and anything. It got so bad that my dad had to separate us one day (my parents are divorced but still close friends, my mom remarried). I understand that having a 23 year old daughter living at home without a job hating her life can’t be easy, but she wasn’t making it easier. She would be so over the top with things it was crazy. I was afraid to tell her anything. She’s criticize me for sleeping too much then sleeping not enough then not trying hard enough to find a job that I wasn’t applying at the right time of day. She was a hypocrite and said she wasn’t. It finally got to the point where I just felt like a failure and decided to take a big chance and apply for jobs in LA again. I asked a friend to stay on his couch until I got back on my feet and he said ok. Well once I told her that she got even more neurotic and would get really quiet and just ok me to death on things. I told her the day I was leaving numerous times and when the day came she screamed at me for not telling her. But then she gives me her credit ! card incase I need something.

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Fast forward two months and I finally have a great job and I’m saving up to get my own apartment. My roommates and I went out for one of their birthdays and my phone had died on the way home. I have this iPhone app called find my friends and I figured again, as peace of mind hoping she would lay off me, to add my mom. It was 4 am PST when I got the text message asking where I was because find my friends said I was on the freeway and hadn’t moved. I was drunk and trying to sleep and told her I’m home on the couch sleeping. She called me a liar and said no you’re not. I said yes I am. Then we got into another argument with her ending it ”I’m calling the cops to make sure”. Granted she didn’t but still that’s when I realized it was getting bad with her. If I didn’t immediately reply to a text message she would start with ”helllloooo?” And they’d get nastier until I got back to her. She’s start saying ”fine I guess you don’t want to talk to me. Bye”.

Fast forward almost a year and I finally have my first boyfriend. I was trying not to be rude and be on my phone all the time and so I’d leave it in my purse or just out of site when I would be with him. And again the hateful Facebook messages and status would start. If I didn’t talk to her for one day she wouldn’t sleep and the she’d get mad at me. Then I’d continue to ignore it hoping it would go away and she’d apologize. I’d talk to her and tell her how I felt and how my boyfriend would be a bit upset when I was constantly on my phone.

It’s now gotten to the point where she keeps telling me she’s a bad mom and an asshole and all this self hatred stuff. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t want to talk to her and if I say I that then she turns it around on me and starts a pity party. 

I love my mom but I can’t get it through to her that I’m an adult before she takes these drastic measures and says these hateful things. In fact as I wrote this I’m bawling my eyes out at work because of a text message she sent me saying this

Sorry I’ve disappointed you as a mom. You’re even now. You’ve broken my heart. You don’t have to talk with me anymore. I’m leaving jimmy taking my dogs and I’m gone. Life is one big fuck up. You were right. I love you. Bye

Because I’ve been going through a rough time and just needed to talk about things. 

There is so much more to this and I appreciate any time you have spent reading this. I’m hoping to talk to someone soon who can maybe put our issues into a perspective that I can understand. 

An Exhausted Daughter

 

Dear Daughter, 

I am really happy that you wrote to me. You have endured a very difficult set of behaviors for way too long. It sounds like you are extremely loving, patient and flexible.

It also seems quite clear that your mother has a difficult set of issues that are clearly impacting your relationship with her and how you feel in general. To me it sounds like there is some role confusion going on. Your mother appears to treat you like someone who should be taking care of her needs. The problem is that you are the daughter and she is the mother. 

Clearly, your mother has difficulty with emotional control, anxiety and anger issues. Your mother does need to get therapeutic help. Perhaps her current husband can be encouraged to recommend this to her. I am reluctant to suggest that you recommend therapy to and for her because I am concerned that this will backfire and she will get angry with you.

You can't please your mother. Nor can you predict how she is going to react to you. This must be crazy-making. I suggest that you decrease the frequency of contact that you have with your mother and that you set clear limits with her. If she becomes intensely emotional or critical on the phone then put an end to the interaction. There is no need to feel guilty about this. The hope is that by terminating the conversations she will understand that her harsh and critical behavior is unacceptable. Additionally, I would like you to feel like you have some control over your life and relationship with your mother.

Sadly, we get the mother that we get and sometimes we get a tough mother. Please recognize that your mother has issues and limitations and despite this get on with the business of enjoying your life. 

Good luck to you. 

Dr. G.

For more articles like this see my website:

http://drbarbaragreenberg.com/

Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents.

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