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Old 10-17-2010, 09:46 AM   #1
Felicity
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Daughter of Codependent, tried all ways to break free

Hello, forgive the rant-ish post. I was raised by this codependent mother, since my father was around (he was mentally ill after a certain point, and before he was very self centered and megalomaniac) she didn't pay me too much attention, because she was concentrating on him. When I was twelve he left (they both blamed me for that) never got any cures because he was severely depressed and paranoiac and he thought he was fine, and my mother never dared to have him committed and never even admitted that he had a mental problem, until maybe ten years later, under my insistence.
After then, she devoted herself to me, (I can't tell you how I cringe at writing this); when I was a teenager and until maybe 10 years ago (I am 37) I had this violent rejection of her, and she offered me all the money she had, was always present in my life without actually helping or doing anything, but she was very obedient, she refused to have a new man or any friends, and just was working all the time to give me money, really all of it, while she was living like a bum. I was young and until maybe age 26 I didn't see the pattern, so I was just taking all that she was giving me, and feeling like a monster - thank god I am kind of hardworking and not lazy or into drugs, so I was just using the money to get a career started, while feeling extremely bad about it. She would say that money for new clothes was "necessary", and I knew that was deeply wrong, but didn't have the courage to just refuse.
This relationship got even more complicated when I had an accident that hurt my central nervous system and was basically homebound/wheelchair for 4 years and a half; she never came to help, actually for the first year or so she didn't believe it was so bad, and she never came to help with the excuse that I reject her (that was her excuse for being completely passive and without independent will since I was small; the other excuse was that I "would get angry", which I did only until maybe 26/27, but, I mean, I wasn't threatening her with a knife or anything, it is my right to get angry even if I love the other person, and they should get angry too (she says she is incapable of anger, which is NOT true); I still feel very irritated by extremely passive people).
At some point I refused to get any more money from her, and the codependency was clear: she broke down, I told her to go to therapy and try and get some friends; she is doing that, but always without much drive, she says she is happy to be completely alone and to have a couple of phone calls every week and see somebody once a month; since one year she is retired, and she is spending her days in the most useless ways, going to the food market 3 times a week, buying clothes that don't fit so she has to spend days fixing them, this fills her days. (she used to be a teacher at university, but that also without much dedication or interest, it was just a job to give me or her husband money). She has no interests of her own, only those borrowed from her ex-husband (they are still in touch, he is also completely alone, still mentally ill and refusing any cures), and she is extremely closed to others, and most of the people alive are not good enough for her to talk with, which is contradictory, because with me she has very low self esteem, making jokes about how ugly or stupid she is.

At periods I try to call her less (between chronic illness and periods of depression I tend to call her very often, maybe one hour every other day), and whenever I feel that gasp in her voice, where she worships me, and I know she has been waiting all day for me to call, I tell her to back off, but what else can I do? Any suggestions?
I have problems in creating new relationships, and I feel bad about having a life because I think of her, so fragile, so alone, so lost (she likes to get really exhausted with stupid errands, after which she can't even talk coherently, and she gets low sugar crisis but refuses to eat regularly), and I feel so guilty. Consciously I know it's not my fault if she doesn't want to get a life and take care of herself, still I feel awful.
Let's be honest, it's not so easy for me to get a life either (I moved recently, and it takes time to have friends, boyfriends is yet another problem), and i am looking for therapy to understand why it is so difficult for me to make new friends.
Any suggestions for this family wreck?

Last edited by Felicity; 10-17-2010 at 10:29 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 10-17-2010, 10:26 AM   #2
Chewi
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If I were you, I would definitely get into therapy myself. I was raised by an alcoholic father and codependent mother. My mom has lived with us for 12 years and about a year ago my husband and I finally woke up to her manipulative ways and have been trying to change things.

I did go to therapy which helped a bit. I just read an absolutely wonderful book called "Boundaries" which is from New Life Ministries (you can find it online; they also have "Healing is a Choice"). The book is written from a Christian perspective, but even if you are not a Christian, the psychology is the best I have read anywhere.

The book explains that you are responsible for yourself and to others. Your mother is an adult and is responsible for her own situation and circumstances. You are not responsible for changing her, healing her, making her happy or whatever. You are responsbilbe for yourself as an adult.

I think therapy for you will help you to find your own identity and independence. That is what I came to understand I had lost myself. Pleasing my mom, fearing her anger and rejection and even her reactions had made me lose my own self. Now I know I can be myself and she can react however she likes; that is her problem, no longer my problem. I no longer have guilt over everything!

You have done the right thing by examining the relationship and asking questions. I hope you find the hope, support and healing that you need. I wish you the best on your journey!
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Old 10-17-2010, 10:45 AM   #3
Felicity
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Thank you Chewi for the reply - I was in therapy for years already, only for other issues, and the manipulation wasn't really clear. The worst part is that she (my mother) is not a bad person, never gets angry, she hurts people only by omission, and she really doesn't understand how bad it is to rely only on me like that. Actually, she is a good, only not really a person (! how bad is to say that).
So, "I" have been working on my boundaries a lot, but still can't help feeling deeply guilty because I don't agree to the game she wants to play, although I don't play it anymore.
Didn't know the book you mention, i am fond of "Women who love too much" and "Better Boundaries" :-)
Wow, having your mom at your home for 12 years, that must be quite an experience :-)
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Old 10-17-2010, 11:34 AM   #4
Essex
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I'm unsure why therapy was only about "certain" issues, normally therapy is circular it takes in all of you, perhaps you would be well advised to find a better therapist, other then that I'd look for your own advice and counsel as you are recreating the relationship you describe with your mother with everyone else??
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Old 10-17-2010, 01:38 PM   #5
Felicity
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The therapist was honestly the best, but the focus was more on how I was recreating the relation with my father with other men ;-) and you can only talk about so much in one hour. I honestly have no wish to recreate the relationship I have with my mother any time ever, and when I feel an abnormal "need" in somebody else I run away (in a non-pathological way). The question is: how to maintain a distance with a codependent person without cutting her/him off completely? And: how to stop the GUILT? Even without acting it out, it hurts..
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Old 10-17-2010, 04:33 PM   #6
Chewi
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The book I mentioned above, Boundaries (by Cloud and Townsend), talks about guilt not really being an emotion. It explains that sadness, fear, anger are true emotions that elicit a real response, grieving, fleeing, confrontation, but that guilt is really a false emotion; it is something that makes us feel bad. But it is not necessarily a valid bad feeling.

They explain that doing wrong to someone should elicit "Godly sorrow," rather than guilt, and that we should apologize and make amends for true "guilt" for doing something wrong.

BUT we also have "guilt" when we should not have: we may have it when we start setting proper boundaries. We may have it when we say "no" to someone, even if we have no more time to give, etc.

We have to learn to not have guilt when we should not have it. You do not have to have guilt over your mother's state. She is an adult and makes her own choices, so you have to learn to have a healthy detachment from the consequences of her own actions.

And, just because she is a "good person" doesn't mean you have to feel quilty for not doing exactly what she wants you to do all the time.

That is sort of the drift of it. I hope I am explaining it well enough. It is still difficult to establish the boundaries, to meet the resistance and eliminate the guilt, but with a support system in place and with practice it does start to get easier.

Yes, living with my mom has turned into a nightmare. We truly regret our decisions of the past. But just because we did certain things in the past does not mean we have to continue in the future. We have begun establishing our boundaries and as soon as we are able to buy another house, we will be separating households.

It can be very difficult, but we have to let other adults in our lives be adults and make them responsible for their own actions and decisions.
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Old 10-18-2010, 04:33 AM   #7
notsure
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Oh Felicity, I really feel for you! What a guilt-inducing mother to have! My own was a bit similar, although the situation was different. She was the one who was mentally ill, and we were never told. My father "protected" her from us, her children (the beginning of non-specific guilt) and she was also into self-sacrifice, I think because she felt guilty.
Thank God she remarried after my father died, and re-married to a progressive man who has changed her take on things. She still falls into bad habits, but is not SO reliant on her children to give her a sense of meaning.
The one thing I always wished for in my life was that my mother would be pro-active and seek her own wellness because I, like you, do love my mother and wish I could have a healthy relationship with her.
It's healthier than it was, and there has been some admission on her part, but I still don't think she gets the effect it had on all of us.
One of the effects was that it was really hard for all of us in relationships. There was some sense of abandoning our mother we all felt, and some feeling that it was selfish to form other bonds.
I'll never forget the first time I told her I was in love and she responded with, "How selfish! I don't even know this man."
sigh. I let that first man go in a confusion of emotion, thinking I'd somehow done the wrong thing. I wonder why she never questioned her reactions!
My mother is also a "good person", she wants to help everybody. But she could most help those close to her by getting help herself!
Don't take on your mother's burdens! I don't know if it's "good" to make another feel so bound to them and so guilty for living their own life!
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Old 10-18-2010, 06:46 AM   #8
Felicity
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Notsure, thank you, it is so good to hear somebody with similar stories...
And how the sick have to be "protected" from the healthy, I felt exactly the same, bad and dangerous to my father, at age 9... (but he was the one making threatening scenes, so things didn't add up correctly).
Thing is, my mother never ever said things like that I was selfish, she never asked for anything, that is why she could be mistaken for a saint who sacrificed herself to others - then other things happened, like she was in the same hospital room with a man who raped me (!) and called him "Sir" and was rather nice to him, instead of destroying him, or never actually helped my crazy father in a consistent way, or never took a decision in 40 years, and is not interested in knowing people, much less in helping them.
At least your mother was capable of finding herself a second husband :-)
Anyway, it is so great to be able to talk about this, and see these things with a tiny bit of distance, because when one is too close, everything is confused...
And it is really sad that until my ripe age I still had the taboo of talking about this, because on the surface there was no problem, and there were (are) no other relatives who could bring some objectivity.
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Old 10-18-2010, 09:07 AM   #9
Chewi
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Codependence issues are very hard to deal with and very hard to get understanding from others because the control is often covert and very subtle. It is a lot easier to break the bond when someone is physically beating you up. Then everyone runs to your help and helps you break free.

When it is covert, emotional abuse, no one from the outside understands. It all may look so pretty and normal on the outside and everyone wonders why would you be so mean to mom? That's because they don't understand the constant emotional control and manipulation the constant guilt we feel. It took me a long time to understand it myself. Luckily for me, my husband said, what your mother is doing is emotional abuse, and we woke up on this journey together.

Making the codependent change is no different than making an addict change, in fact, I think, more difficult, because it does not have such ugly consequences on the surface for everyone else to see.

My counselor told me that my mother has serious issues and needs to get her own help. The book "Boundaries" says that any victim of sexual abuse (my mother was) HAS TO get into therapy to deal with those problems in order to ever establish normal and safe boundaries and relationships.

My husband and I have just begun establishing better boundaries. Right now my mom has no idea what is going on and probably thinks we are mad at her or something. I wish and hope I can get to the point I can lovingly tell her that she needs to get help. I don't know if we will get that far, but I do hope. Before getting that far, I jus need to tell her what I want--that I want and need more space and privacy, that my husband and I want to live in our own, separate household again.

I understand why she has the issues she has, but she has to get her own help to deal with that and be able to have normal relationships. All the problmes we have stem from her insecurities and fears. I can forgive her, but complete reconciliation depends on her getting the help she needs. And only she can decide to do that.
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Old 10-18-2010, 01:05 PM   #10
Felicity
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Yes, it is really difficult to spot, and not only from the outside but even from the inside. But congratulations, you did it :-)
Anyway, today for the Nth time I told her that I will speak to her on the phone only once a week (usually it's once a day) until she gets help; and now I have to get help for MY problems :-) (loneliness, depression, for several years a terrible chronic illness, now better, many moves, I did appreciate the listening, even if that was reinforcing the codependency) - and I found a codependent group near to where I live, I hope they let me in even if I don't speak the language. (I don't live in an English-speaking country). Only I am not sure if I qualify for codependency, I do have this hole inside my soul hurting all the time, but I never (I mean NEVER) do something just to please others, don't control people, actually I should do that a bit more, that perhaps will stop me being alone like a dog half of the time; have to admit that the old self esteem is often in the dumps.
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