What would you have done differently?

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kaizen

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What would you have done differently?
« on: September 10, 2019, 12:38:44 PM »
My husband posed a question over breakfast this morning-- looking back, what would I have done differently over the years as far as dealing with my mother. I guess to prevent us from where we've ended up.

And it's really hard to say. I didn't know then what I know now.

For example, my father died when I was in my 20's, newly married.  My mother seemed to be overwhelmed and couldn't deal with getting a very necessary repair done on her house. She said she couldn't move forward on it because it meant moving a bunch of furniture and other things out of the room where the soft, rotting floor had to be replaced. I took unpaid time off from my part-time job to go over to the house and move everything, by myself.

I really couldn't afford the smaller paycheck. But it seemed like what you do for family. I'd seen two college friends go through losing a parent, and had observed how things worked in "normal" families. I was just trying to do the right thing.

However, my mother still wouldn't go ahead with the repairs, for five whole years. It wasn't for lack of money. My effort was a complete waste. I did draw the line and tell my mother I wouldn't visit her at the house anymore because seeing it deteriorate was too depressing.

I got a lot of pressure over the years from family and friends, to do something to help her in various ways, so I kept trying and failing. Back then, I'd never heard of hoarding or personality disorders. If I'd known, or anybody had suggested my mother had one or more mental illnesses, sure, I would have done things differently. I might have seen I was just throwing my time and energy away into an infinite black hole. And that it was ok to say no, I've tried enough and I'm finished. We reached that point with my BIL, who had bipolar disorder. But nobody suggested my mother probably had a personality disorder until I was getting her moved into Assisted Living at age 99. Previous to that, I felt like everyone was just blaming me for being a bad daughter.

So, I just wondered how any of you would answer the question...

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StayWithMe

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Re: What would you have done differently?
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2019, 01:02:43 PM »
I wish I had become independent of my parents when I graduated from high school.  I realise now when I graduated from high school universities were free in europe.  I imagine I could've waitressed and would probably have learned a lot about human nature that way. 

I had pretty much forgotten and had wanted to forgive all the mean things that my parents visited upn me in high school.  so it was only in my 30s when my parents became meaner (mother) and wierder(father) that I stated to explore wherever I could the why's, how's and wherefore's of my parents behavior. 

Two friends who also had less than positive relationships with their mothers gave me same advice:
1. Don't assume that because someone is your parent or spouse that they're going to be playing on the same team.
2. Don't ever let any of your friends be in direct contact with your parents / family.  That was especially important for me because my liked triangulating.

If only we had known, been of different temperament, so on......

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1footouttadefog

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Re: What would you have done differently?
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2019, 01:04:33 PM »
It's hard to say.  I has elderly twin mother in law's who were PD.

I was wrapped up in being a good family member, a good person in general and being kind and helpful to elderly. 

Looking back I should not have tracked to their house with ODH every weekend.  I should have gone half as much or less. 

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Andeza

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Re: What would you have done differently?
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2019, 01:09:18 PM »
Trigger warning...

I should have gone home the minute I realized her suicide attempt was just to punish enD for leaving.

I definitely should have left her in the mental health care facility...

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Thru the Rain

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Re: What would you have done differently?
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2019, 01:14:12 PM »
It sounds like what you did was to be true to yourself. You acted in the way you wanted to be treated yourself - you helped you M when you saw she needed help.

What she did with that help was out of your control.

I'm sure that was one example out of probably years of frustrating interactions, but if she has a PD, if she's a hoarder - there is NOTHING you could have done differently that would have changed any of that.

As far as wishing you knew or understood these things earlier, I think of the Maya Angelou quote: ďDo the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.Ē

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kaizen

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Re: What would you have done differently?
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2019, 02:23:30 PM »
Thru the Rain - Yes, I've gotten to the point where I realize nobody could have changed my mother's behavior, i.e. "fixed" her.  I guess what I'm wondering is, what could I have done to protect myself and my marriage better from the whole situation. Without becoming a monster myself.

I like the quote.

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Amadahy

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Re: What would you have done differently?
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2019, 10:59:50 PM »
I wish I had accepted the truth of my Nmomís illness and that her inability to love me has nothing to do with me. The idea that something is wrong with me has pervaded my life, causing me to make decisions that weíre not in my best interest.

Even though it might sound silly, I deeply regret letting Nmom dictate my life after high school and into college. Of course, she hated my BF (now DH, for 30+ years) and I spent wayyyy too much time trying to appease her. My younger days were traumatic, with none of the carefree time that a young couple in love should have. We married, had a family, have done great considering my former enmeshment, but now, on the cusp of being empty nesters, I find deep sadness for the young woman who has only known struggle and sabotage, when if I had focused on myself and DH things could have been so much better!

I only began coming ootf at age 47. So, if I could have chosen differently, I would have told Nmom goodbye when I fled home and avoided (or lessened) heartache, trauma and c-ptsd. Most days I really wish I had loved myself enough to do this.
Ring the bells that still can ring;
Forget your perfect offering.
There's a crack in everything ~~
That's how the Light gets in!

~~ Leonard Cohen

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Thru the Rain

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Re: What would you have done differently?
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2019, 01:27:20 AM »
I guess what I'm wondering is, what could I have done to protect myself and my marriage better from the whole situation. Without becoming a monster myself.

I've had that question with my own uPDM. She's both intrusive and neglectful, self-centered and completely un-self-aware. She's both parentified and infantilized me.

It took me until I was 50 to see all this clearly, and for me the final straw was seeing how she treated my DH. More accurately, being told by DH how he felt about how she treated him. And to be even more accurate, hearing from DH's therapist (via DH) that he had a right to not be forced to deal with my toxic M.

I'm still in contact with my M (fairly low contact at this point), and our relationship is in a much better place due to skills learned here on OOTF over the last few years. Mostly limiting information I share with her, recognizing that I'm not responsible for her eternal victimhood, and that I can't fix her. She wouldn't want me to fix her anyway, she likes the way she is.

The one big thing that was accidentally VERY helpful was moving away in my early 20's. My DH was in the military, and we moved all over the US and spent a few years in England. This was long before the internet or cell phones or inexpensive long distance. Calls "home" were few and far between, and I was able to achieve a separation from my M that I don't think I could have pulled off if I interacted with her more often.

After DH left the military, we moved back to our hometown. With dysfunctional family on both sides, we decided to move away from our home town again after 5 years. Best move we could have made.

I truly believe physical distance has saved my sanity and my marriage. And in an odd way, I think it saved what's left of my relationship with my M.

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Spirit in the sky

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Re: What would you have done differently?
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2019, 04:30:37 AM »
Thank you Kaizen for posting this question, reading the replies has helped me understand I am not the only person who has sacrificed their happiness to please their mother.

I wish I had the courage to stand up to my mother 20 years ago, Iím 47 now. When I was 27 I realised all of my life choices were either to please my mother or because my self esteem was so low I didnít think I deserved better. At 21 I married my motherís best friends son, even writing this is sounds so ridiculous, I didnít even particularly like him but my mother did and he was a Ďsafe choiceí.

Of course the marriage was a disaster and I repeatedly asked my mother for help only to be told Ďyou made your bed, you lie in ití. Eventually after a nervous breakdown I found the courage to finallly leave him, he wasnít a bad person but I resented him ( he was a mommyís boy and heís mother was a nightmare).

My mother didnít support me at all, she judged, critsied and took his part thoughtout the separation. Thankfully I found a therapist and she helped me understand the enmeshment issues with my dominating, controlling, manipulative mother who I was afraid of. The biggest mistake I made was explaining to my mother what the therapist said, I thought she would understand and accept responsibility for her actions and help me find myself.

Big mistake, she was furious,  how dare anyone call her a bad mother. She cried she raged, she sulked and punished me with the silent or distant treatment and because I had no one else to support me (emotionally absent father) I fell deeper into the enmeshment trap and tried twice has hard to win back her approval.

For the next 20 years my life evolved around Ďkeeping my mother happyí. Within this time I met my new husband, who she didnít approve of and made her opinions very clear. I learned to balance appeasing her and trying to make a life for myself with my husband but it was never easy and mommy always came first. It was easier than facing the punishment of rejection.

I had another breakdown at Christmas this year and all the old trauma came flooding back, triggered by my husband coming Out of the FOG with his own narcissistic mother. Finally I am finding independence at 47 years ago, itís difficult for me to emotionally detach myself from my mother now because sheís 86 and actually needs me more.

But I have to chose to put myself first at last, I have to see myself as an individual and not allow my motherís issues to swallow me up. She loves defining me as Ďher daughterí as if that all I am, not a person in my own right, she thinks she owns me. I have the knowledge now not to raise any of these issues with her, but to change myself, recognise the old conditioning and reprogram myself.

Iím being extremely kind to myself and understanding this was emotional abuse by mother, some of it unintentional and some not, itís my fault.  Iím not beating myself up for making bad choices because I didnít know any better, I lived in fear, constant fear of upsetting her or being rejected by her. I donít have that fear now, I can see her for what she is, a sad, damaged old woman, emotionally unstable, full of self loathing and living in fear herself.

Now I see all this, Iím trying to be kind. I have forgiven her and I donít feel the need to judge or punish her anymore. I donít need her to see my pain anymore, because she never could, she was in too much pain herself. Itís actually really sad she never found peace with her own childhood, even now she continually blames her mother for every mistake sheís ever made.

Iím one of the lucky ones, itís not to late for me to love and value myself. I can learn from my past and take control of my life choices and feel free. Iíve also learnt I can fix or rescue my mother, which I have tried to do my whole life until now. I can hold space for her, Iím learning to observe and witness what is happening with her and my father without the need to feel responsible. Itís difficult but as I sit with the discomfort it gets easier and I feel compassion without the need to feel other peopleís pain. Iíve learnt to protect my own energy and surrender and release all the old negative stuff that no longer serves me.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2019, 04:33:54 AM by Spirit in the sky »

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p123

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Re: What would you have done differently?
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2019, 09:32:13 PM »
Me - Realised years ago that Dad did not care about me only himself and started backing off then. He almost cost me my marriage and my kids with his selfishness.

Grateful that I'm "Out of the FOG" now before it got too late but its hard because hes so used to getting his own way for years....

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Sidney37

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Re: What would you have done differently?
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2019, 10:26:45 PM »
I wish I had set serious boundaries in college as recommended by my therapist at the time and lived with the consequences.  I just wasnít strong enough and so afraid she really would have stopped helping with her small portion of my tuition and I would have had to quit. 

I wish I had gone NC 15 years ago when I was pregnant with my first child.  The therapist at the time recommended  it.  I was afraid of the consequences.

I wish I had gone NC 4 years ago when she walked out on me when DH was in the hospital and gave me the silent treatment for months.   

I sent my NC email today.  I just delayed the inevitable.  I could have been healthier so much sooner.

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Gaining Clarity

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Re: What would you have done differently?
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2019, 02:07:14 PM »
This post is sad. Sad because we can't go back. Sad because many of us are still wracked with guilt and regrets. Sad because things can't be different/better with FOO. Sad because many of us were too young to understand that FOO's behavior wasn't normal. Sad because we didn't deserve that treatment. Sad because our FOO struggled/still struggle themselves. Sad because we had to do what we had to do to survive.

I've often thought of what I would have/could have done differently. I wish I hadn't exposed my child to this dysfunction. But the truth is, I didn't have the awareness of just how unhealthy the situation was nor the ability to pull myself out of it sooner, much less him or DH. I could beat myself up over things I could have done differently. However, I've been beaten up enough as FOO's scapegoat for 50+ years.

In my journey to getting healthy, I am working hard to stay focused on the here and now. It's not always easy, and I do sometimes find myself ruminating about what happened and what could have been. But the future is in my hands. So I'm doing my best to live the remainder of my life - happy, loved, supported and in my truth. Hopefully, I will leave a better legacy for my own child.