Dear Dr. G., 

My best friend, the only best friend I have ever had, linked me to a blog post which related to mother-daughter relationships, saying that she thought I would find it interesting, especially with how I interact and talk about my own mother. Reading it, it struck a chord in me, and I was unable to get it out of my head, especially with how my mother has been behaving in recent years. I think we started falling out after my parents got divorced when I was 7, and another man was immediately introduced into our lives, one I did not like at the time and still feel bitter towards sometimes. He moved in shortly after we had gotten a new house after the divorce, and in essence I think I felt like I was losing both of my parents in one fell swoop—though I was living with my mother. I was the younger daughter, my sister being 8 years my senior, and living with our father, but since she had been quite adventurous during her teen years, it was always stressed upon, that I not make her mistakes. As a result of this constant stressing I became what most would consider a 'good' daughter. I've never been drunk, though the society I live in more than encourages this sort of behavior, I've never smoked or done any kind of drug, or committed any kind of crime. I think I might have gotten too focused on being the daughter that she wanted me to be, but it wasn't enough, because I have since been berated for being 'odd' and 'weird', and to this day, with me being 24, it still happens quite often.

My mother has always been against lies, and keeps insisting that she is 100% for fair treatment and equal value of everyone in her life. That notion came crashing down a long time ago, when she got married to my, now, stepfather, while I was in school. I had no idea, and I remember sobbing as I called my 'now' stepsister and told her about it. After that I accidentally discovered that my grandmother, who was my everything and the only person I opened up to, had cancer of the terminal kind, and had been in treatment for 5 years. My grandmother was beyond shocked that I hadn't known at the time and she was the one to tell me that she was essentially dying. And I understand that it might have been kept from me for my own sake, but given how immeasurably important she was in my life at that age of 12, it was something I could not forgive. She passed away when I was 12. After that I just closed off, and the interaction between me and my mother was even further limited. I did not have any friends at the time and would usually just stay in my room with the curtains drawn and surf the web, where i managed to find people that I could talk to, people who were my age and understood me. At this time I was 16, and I cannot stress what a relief it was to have a place where people were happy to welcome me home from school and talk to me about anything and everything. My mother decided that I had an unhealthy addiction to the internet and cut me off for days at a time, just to prove a point. It was like cutting off my air supply at the time, and I don't even think she cared because my 'online friends', weren't 'real'.

Since then many things have happened, and it escalated around the time when I graduated high school. I essentially had a complete emotional break-down and called my sister, who had since moved in with her boyfriend, she told me to pack a bag and get the hell out of there before I did something I would regret. I never did tell her that I had excessive thoughts of just ending it, and had a plan for what would be in my suicide letter and how I would leave myself for my mother to find, she she could see what she had done to me....Yeah, wild stuff when I think back to it. Since living with my sister, and eventually finding my own apartment - that process being anything but smooth sailing either, we come to a point that is not so far in the past. There are two things I have not, and doubt that I ever will, recover from, in regards to my relationship with my mother; 

1. The complete and total disregard she has consistently shown for my emotions for as long as I can remember, in trying to push me into things I don't want to do, for her own peace of mind, and deeming it her right as a parent to strip me of anything remotely related to privacy.

2. The bitterness I feel whenever I see or hear about someone who has a standard run-of-the-mill family. It doesn't even have to be problem free, everyone has problems, but when i hear them talk about how they are looking forward to having girl-time with their mothers and how their mothers are actually interested in them, I get so bitter and so jealous that I want to puke, and i hate feeling that way, and I know it spawns from a deeply rooted wish that I could have had that.

Don't get me wrong, I've tried time and time again to give her the possibility of being a part of the things that I love, and letting her see the things that kept my head above water when she was the one pushing me under. I'm a big fan of Japanese anime and manga, because entering that world just allowed me to feel the pain of the characters rather than my own, and I'm not exaggerating when i say that that particular interest and the release that it provided for my emotions probably saved my life. All I have ever gotten as a response to that interest was condescending comments and derogatory ridicule. The same goes for my gaming habits.

In recent time I have begun to express myself more creatively in making drawings and I'm even writing a book. When she came on one of her I'm-going-to-visit-you-so-just-deal-with-it -visits, I decided to try and go out on a limb and show her my drawings and ask her to read the prologue to one of my stories. She looked at the first drawing I handed her for all of 3 seconds before putting it down and refusedto receive any of the others I tried to show her, and continued to tell me that she'd read my book WHEN and IF it got published. Of course she will turn around in the same breath and tell me that if there's anything I want to talk about, to just come to her, but I get the feeling she only sees and hears what she wants and ignores the rest.

At this point in my life I'm tethering on a decision, and I would like a piece of advice on what I should do. In regards to the relationship itself I think a snowball stands a better chance in hell than this relationship getting fixed into anything that could even remotely be considered acceptableat this point. I'm so tired of her and a 5 minute conversation with her about her will leave me drained and depressed hours. I'm planning on moving away, far away once I graduate college, and I have this idea in my mind that I should just disappear, disown my family because they were never a family to me and start over with my wonderful and amazing boyfriend, who holds no love for my mother since he has listened to me cry myself to sleep after she has had a go at me for nothing in particular. He's saying that the decision is mine and that he will allow me to make it and respect my wishes, but I can't seem to decide.

Needless to say that the above examples of her behavior are merely examples of her character, the animosity I feel towards her runs so deep that it would take too long to explain, and you would have a small novel waiting for you here rather than this message. i just can't seem to let go of the past with her, the things she has done, they all leave a bad taste in my mouth...

Cheating on my father with my stepfather (then marrying him behind my back)

Lying about my grandmothers cancer

–Buying me the cutest puppy in the world and then having it put down at the age of 18 months because she decided she didn't like it anyway.

–Making my dream career out to be a joke in a public place making total stranger laugh at me for wanting to join the military and becoming a pilot.

–Forcing me to get contacts despite my desperate angst at having anything near my eyes (I passed out at the optician while she was holding my head and the clerk was trying to poke a lens into my eye). 

–Chasing me around the house with a vaccine I didn't want to get, causing me to develop a fear of needles. 

–Ridiculing my interests

–Belittling my boyfriend for 'not being real' (I met him online)

–Insisting that she's interested in my life, then spending endless efforts on dodging conversation so she can talk about herself.

I don't get it, I'm so tired. Why'd it have to be her, can I like, adopt a new mother out there somewhere?

Any advice would be deeply and truly appreciated.


Dear Dreamless,

I am so sorry that you have had to deal with such a tricky relationship with your mother. You give examples of many instances in which your mother has been both invalidating of you and dismissive of your feelings and interests. She also has a history of keeping secrets from you and we know that secrets in families leas to anxiety as well as to a lack of trust. You ask a very interesting question when you ask why you had to get your mother. You, like many other people who are disappointed by the mother that they got, wonder why they were paired with their mothers. While you can't trade in your mother you can look for other female role models and more satisfying relationships with older women. You describe feeling terribly distressed after speaking to your mother. Clearly, you would do well to limit the time spent interacting with your mother. I am not fond of completely cutting off relationships because I am concerned that it may begin a pattern of avoidance—where you start to cut off people that are problematic. Perhaps you can significantly reduce the amount of time you spend interacting with your mother. Work on establishing good, healthy and validating relationships with others so that your mother's opinion doesn't get to you as much. Clearly, you are unlikely to change your mother but you may eventually be able to change the intensity of your reactions to her.

At this point I am suggesting that you don't cut off your mother completely but that you do realize that she is limited in terms of how nurturing a mother she can be. Focus instead on being in relationships with people who have positive energy and who male you feel good. Does that sound like a plan to you?

Please get back to me and let me know how things progress.Good luck.

Dr. G.

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