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Is that how toxic mothers are made?

(20 Posts)
failedmother Wed 22-Jun-11 15:07:23

Name changer because this post makes me so ashamed.

I am coming off anti-Ds atm. It's going OKish considering and I have accepted I will feel pretty rough for a month or so. My mood has dipped a little but that's to be expected and I am keeping it together. I am a bit panicky and have found myself snapping at the DC for no reason. But again, I can deal with it and get it under control.

Worst of all are the weird flashback (for want of a better word) I keep getting of the past 10 yrs or so. I keep getting these images of me yelling at DS1 when he was quite young (he's 14 now) and him cowering in fear sad. I know that I struggled at times - I had PND after DD was born (DS1 was 2 then) which was only diagnosed when she was a yr old but looking back I can see that the only time I wasn't depressed or severely anxious since then was when I was pregnant with DS2 and since then when I've been on ads. But I am confused as to whether these horrible memories are real or not. It feels like I have been in a fog of stress and confusion or a different fog of prescription medicines.

DS1 is very protective of me. He always steps in if he thinks I am getting stressed and I am beginning to wonder if that is because he thinks of me as this unreliable screaming madwoman who has to be treated with kids gloves.

I clearly remember worrying that I didn't love DD enough. I don't feel like that now but I know there were years when I couldn't feel for her as much as i felt for DS1. Then just as things were beginning to get on an even keel, I became pregnant (accidentally) with DS2.

Looking back it feels as if I have fucked up motherhood royally. Could there be anything worse than thinking your DC are scared of you?

Is there anything I can do? To say sorry, or even to find out if these things really did happen? At least the fog is clearing but I don't like the things I am seeing.

totallylost Wed 22-Jun-11 15:18:42

We all mess up sometimes. I am sure there is no-one, if they are honest, who thinks they have been a perfect mother. We do our best and sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes we get it right.

I think a 'toxic' person is someone who cannot and will not admit that they may not be right about everything. You sound like you have had a lot to deal with and that you have made sure it is dealt with. Would you be beating yourself up so much if you had a different illness which may have stopped you from being the very best mother you would have liked to be? My guess is no.

branstonsandcheese Wed 22-Jun-11 15:29:30

Agree with totallylost. What made my narc mother toxic wasn't her breakdowns, her bizarre behaviour when having episodes (unmedicated bipolar, alcoholism, eating disorders), the emotional abuse, the scapegoating, any of that. It was the insistance that I was the problem and there was nothing wrong with her. My dad backed that up.

If my mother had admitted she had MH problems, taken her medication, if she'd admitted she was fallible and had her own raft of insecurities etc, things would be very different. What made her a toxic parent was making it my fault.

It doesn't sound like you're remotely like that and the fact you're desperate to right any 'wrongs' you may have committed bears that out I think.

Also, it really is never too late. Okay, your DC's early childhood wasn't easy for you. They are your children forever, you can always make new bonds. They clearly love and value you so it sounds like you weren't anywhere near as bad as you think you might've been - and now the fog is clearing for you, you can concentrate on the future rather than worrying about the past.

FWIW I have many of the same concerns - I am terrified of ending up like my mother and like you I have parenting memories I wish I didn't, including bonding issues with one of my DCs. We'll be okay though, promise, and so will our DCs smile

failedmother Wed 22-Jun-11 15:32:22


Your kind words are much appreciated.

branston - my mother was far from perfect but I can at least see that she meant to be. I feel hugely protective towards her but i don't want my DC to feel like that about me - once they are grown and gone I don't want them to worry about me at all. How do I make it better?

failedmother Wed 22-Jun-11 15:33:15

The worst of it is wanting it to be perfect. Because i have never loved anyone like I love my DC. Why is it so easy to make a mess of it?

suburbophobe Wed 22-Jun-11 15:43:41

You are NOT a failedmother!

We all make mistakes bringing up children, that's what makes us human.

It's not like childbirth comes with an instruction manual....

Like the others say, you are only a toxic parent if you refuse to look at your own faults and project them onto everyone else.

You can make it better just by being there for your kids every day to the best of your ability and letting them know that whatever happens, you love them for who they are.

dollius Wed 22-Jun-11 15:45:18

We all have parenting memories we wish we hadn't, I promise it is not just you.
My mother is toxic and what makes her that way is that she would never in a million years talk about it the way you do. Nothing is ever her fault, it is always someone else. No-one else has "real" feelings in her view - only she does. She is not capable of facing up to her own shortcomings in the way you have. I have never heard her apologise for anything, ever.
To me, you seem the opposite of that.

HairyWoman Wed 22-Jun-11 15:46:56

My parents are/were toxic and you already have the one thing they have never had - honesty - they don't seem able to see or hear the truth of their behaviour.

My parents would not want to hear how I felt either, they would either try to persuade me I was wrong to feel that way or make me feel guilty about feeling that way in that it was upsetting them.

I'm not sure about how to find out what really happened and what is in your imagination but maybe you could begin in some way try and talk to your DC about your past behaviour, how sad you felt and how this might have made you angry and that that anger wasn't their fault but a problem that was yours. Maybe you could at least start that way and see how it goes.....

HairyWoman Wed 22-Jun-11 15:47:48

What I am trying to say is that maybe honesty could be very healing for you as well as your DC...

failedmother Wed 22-Jun-11 15:49:29


BTW I apologise if what I have posted seems to belittle what some of you have been through.

I use the word toxic in the sense that the things I have done have added a poisonous taint to my DC lives. But not terminal (I hope) But I am perfectly prepared to believe that any fuck ups are my fuck ups - no-one else's.

failedmother Wed 22-Jun-11 15:52:47

hairy - when I last tried to come off ads i got irritable a lot. In the end I spoke to my eldest 2 and told them why I was like this and said I was sorry. DS1 said he was releived as he thought 'it was him' sad

Perhaps a quiet chat about it all would help. Difficult as DS1 is at the age when he's rather poke his eyes out with a sharp stick than talk to mummy about how he feels...

Playdohinthewashingmachine Wed 22-Jun-11 15:57:19

Don't know how old the other two are, but deffo with the 14yo you can say "I'm sorry I used to shout at you and make you scared, that was wrong and I shouldn't have done it. I love you totally" and then be prepared if you need to change the subject cos you've completely embarrassed him.

He thinks you're perfect. He thinks anything you did wrong was his fault. So you need to put that right. And then he can go on thinking you're perfect smile.

You're not toxic if you can think like this. I'd forgive my mother anything if she'd only admit she'd got it wrong and try to change.

dollius Wed 22-Jun-11 15:57:21

We've all added a bit of "not-niceness" to our children's lives. I have shouted unecessarily at my DSs from time to time when I am stressed. I have got visibly angry when I should have hidden it because things are not their fault. Everyone does it (except perhaps Mary Poppins). To some extent it is part of growing up to see your parents are humans. It is about what sort of human you show you can be. An honest one who loves them and listens to them and cares enough about them to get help for her own health problems is what you are and, I would say, a very good parent.
Self-awareness is not something that toxic people have. You appear to have plenty of it!

Playdohinthewashingmachine Wed 22-Jun-11 15:57:35


failedmother Wed 22-Jun-11 21:08:03


I am feeling more positive. Had one of those evenings when everyone was nice to each other. Doesn't happen often so I am prepared to take it as evidence that I must have done something right...just this once grin

Saffysmum Wed 22-Jun-11 21:44:39

Hi - can I ask if it was your decision to come off the ADs? If so, I hope your GP is aware, and that it is a controlled and slow withdrawal. Just that I work with patients who often think they're ok, and stop without our assistance, or decide with us to withdraw, and then decide to proceed up the process. But really, the slower you withdraw the better. Hope you don't mind me asking.

inatrance Wed 22-Jun-11 22:07:47

I just wanted to say you sound like a great mum, don't beat yourself up over things that are in the past. You were ill and you obviously love your kids a lot. I don't think toxic mothers worry about whether they are hurting their kids.

FWIW I remember cowering from my mum who was sometimes quite fearsome... It doesn't mean she didn't love me and we are very close now.

piranhamorgana Wed 22-Jun-11 22:42:39

Agree with all of above - you don not sound like a toxic mother.
FWIW, I am 43,and,like playdoh, if my mother were ever to sit down in front of me and take any responsibility for the effects her behaviour has had,apologise,or simply acknowledge MY reality as valid at all,ever.It would go a very very long way towards my healing and recovery,and would seriously challenge if not entirely repair my view of her as toxic.

It'll never happen.

Your dc are demonstrating their love for you.I've never known how to do this for my m.She didn't show me how.They have learnt how from you.

failedmother Thu 23-Jun-11 09:51:35

Thankyou all.

saffy - I don't mind you asking but I'm afraid you won't like the answer. I am coming off them straight. I have made 2 previous attempts to withdraw - once cold-turkey and it was dreadful, and once with the GPs assistance, gradually and that was equally dreadful just slower. I am doing this with my eyes open to the risks and so far (23.5 weeks) the worst physical symptoms are gone and my mood is relatively stable and positive. I went on them initially for anxiety rather than depression so that is what I am waiting to hit me like a train full of hyperactive monkeys - but nothing yet. Thankyou for your concern though - looking at it from outside I'd think I was an idiot too!

failedmother Thu 23-Jun-11 09:52:06

Sorry 3.5 weeks not 23.5 weeks!

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