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how to reverse more than three decades of low self esteem? Toxic mum. Sorry long

(13 Posts)
sameshitdifferentname Sun 14-Apr-13 01:23:17

When I was growing up, I had three siblings. Youngest was a 'monster' would probably be diagnosed with something now. Foul temper.

In the many arguments/fights that happened, my dad got angry, mum invariably sided with little db. Victim-blaming ad nauseum, any time an argument occurred (daily) the other would be blamed for 'provoking him'. I fought with him the most, still have scars from horrible scratches he put on my face. Neither parent could cope. They never dealt with it and family life was horrible.

In my sister's words 'in our family you were rewarded for bad behaviour'.

Sister cut herself off and escaped at the earliest opportunity, and stayed escaped. She has family relationships entirely on her own terms.

Middle brother (younger than me) wet the bed and pooed himself until he was about 11. He has a normal happy life now however.

I'm a people pleaser and sensitive and got deeply fucked up. Looking back it makes me sad how much time and energy I spent seeking love and approval from my mum. If someone, anyone didn't like me, I never thought it was their problem, always my fault. I've had years of MH problems, on and off meds.

Youngest is also fucked up and deeply low self esteem (resentment from his three siblings based on mum's favouritism no doubt a huge factor). Teasing, goading, rivalry were the norm between the four of us.

I was a big academic high achiever (we all were) but little acknowledgement or praise. Being a 'bighead' was the ultimate crime. We were raised to have low expectations.

I married the wrong man - ea - didn't value me. It was what I was used to. Now separated.

Had a pretty unsuccessful career despite my educational achievements giving me every advantage.

I've always been considered fairly attractive (by others, not myself).

Mum never told me I was beautiful, always made me feel inadequate.

She still does.

Have done my best not to replicate this with my own children (girls - groan, thrilled with them but easier to make the same mistakes).

Marriage break up has been rough, and I feel low about it, though it was my choice.

The happiest times in my life were when dc were small. Now they are pre-teens and often cross/rude. I can't cope with it, I haven't got a strong enough sense of myself/self worth.

I know I was lucky to be born with lots of gifts and advantages but I feel I didn't ever appreciate them or make the most of them because I had such a low opinion of myself.

A few years ago I found out a huge family secret which has explained in many ways why mum was the way she was. But feel hugely betrayed that it was kept from me.

I feel so inadequate, still - in my 40s. I look back full of regrets for bad choices and missed opportunities. I am very self absorbed and negative, often suicidal.

I feel huge anger towards my mum, but have had to turn to her for support after separating. She still undermines me, will always try and argue with me, will never say 'I understand'. She's not doing me any good but I still need her. My sister is toxic and my mum refuses to condemn her appalling behaviour towards me.

I can't talk about the past with my mother, she gaslights and gaslights and accuses me of rewriting history. She minimises it all, even says my brother's encopresis and bed wetting was because 'he couldn't be bothered and just didn't care [if he messed himself]'. But it usually happened on family outings.

I'm desperate to reverse all of this but don't know how. There's been so much pain in the past, I don't know who I am any more, hate that the optimism and hope I once had has been ground out of me, feel so inadequate. Only the kids have kept me from the railway line sometimes.

What can I do to change things?

Sorry this is so long, I'd love to hear from anyone who has managed to turn things around. I fear it's impossible.

Aussiebean Sun 14-Apr-13 06:22:51

Hi op.

Sounds like you have been through the mill and well done on deciding to make it better.

I too have a toxic mum but lucky that my brothers and I are a united front.

My number one suggestion is stop engaging. Keep all conversation about them or about the weather, price of bread, petrol etc.

Don't tell her anything personal about you or your children.

Number two. Get counselling. Shop around and find one who understands and has experience of toxic mothers.

Number three. Have a look at the stately homes thread on here. That really opened my eyes to the toxic script and the realisation that it wasn't me.

You are about to embark on an incredible hard road, that may even lead you to cutting them out of your life, or just being able to let their crap roll over you like water off a ducks back.

It will be really hard but my god it's worth it.

TheRealFellatio Sun 14-Apr-13 06:44:28

OK first of all you are being unrealistic if you are waiting for your mother to condemn your sister's behaviour towards you. The whole family sound a bit fucked up and it's hard to know where to start to unravel it all and apportion blame, but your siblings all have their own issues arising out of this mess, and whatever your mother may or may not have done to cause it I don't think you can expect her to start taking sides and against her own children. Even if she secretly thinks one or other of you is at more at fault than the others in all of this, she is unlikely to say it out loud as for fear of being disloyal. Especially if she is being made to feel pulled in all directions from her other children.

TheRealFellatio Sun 14-Apr-13 06:55:30

But I completely agree with Aussiebean - stop engaging. Detach yourself, emotionally if not physically and geographically. Stop expecting some kind of big thing to happen whereby you get the apology or the vindication or the admission of guilt that you are hoping for, because I don't think it's ever going to happen. The lot of you all sound so deeply damaged and self-absorbed and atrophied by misery and dysfunction that you are all at stalemate with one another. I'll bet all of you each think you are the victim in this, and not without at least an element of truth.

Take control by saying you can't change what happened then, but you can completely control how things go from here, and they do not have your permission to make you feel like that any more. You can spend the rest of your life trying to move the huge boulder that you think is blocking your path, or you can stand back, get a clear view and see that it's perfectly possible to just walk around it and leave it behind.

Salbertina Sun 14-Apr-13 09:46:35


Really sorry to hear of your suffering, Op. if it helps though, your clear awareness is a major first step..

Recommend counselling also, not cbt, something deeper such as psychotherapy with someone decent and insightful.

Good books- Children of the Self-absorbed, Toxic Parents, Radical Acceptance.. Reading psychological stuff esp Transactional Analysis has helped me be aware of family scripts and roles- to identify then accept and therefore step away from them.

There's also a good resources thread on here for those of us so parented, worth checking out.

Good luck, you are not alone smile

dawntigga Sun 14-Apr-13 09:57:25

Basically what Aussie and Fellatio have said. try giving yourself 1 day a week free from the toxicity, don't answer the phone/text/email etc for just one day and then carry on like you haven't ignored them. Don't answer questions about your unavailability or if you do you were busy. When that gets easier stretch it to 2 days a week, then put those days together. Eventually you'll have weaned yourself away from the toxicity.

Some hard facts about toxics and recovery from them:

Unless they decide on their own to change they are never going to.
They will always see things from their pov and their warped idea of what happened, this will not change unless they change.
You will never get what you want from them unless it's on their terms, this is almost never worth it.
Their problems are their problems, yours are yours. They may be root cause of your problems but they will never acknowledge them or accept their part in them. Make your own way to health without involving them and you'll get there quicker.
You decide how you will react to their behaviour and how much of it you will shoulder, once you realise this you can choose to reject everything you want to. Getting to this point is not easy but it is worthwhile.
You set the boundaries in your own life, if they cross them there must be consequences. They have had pretty much every chance they are ever going to and cocked up all of them, if you do not enforce your consequences this will never change. Expect to enforce a lot of consequences until it sinks in.
Watch the world for your triggers and avoid them until you can cope with them. I have a neighbour who reminds me of me when I was younger - it isn't pleasant. I limit contact with her because it brings out my toxicity, learned at my parents knee.
Nothing in this list is in anyway easy, you will backslide, you learned your behaviour in response to theirs from the moment you were born. Do not beat yourself up about getting it 'wrong' you haven't, you've learned you're just human like the rest of us. Pick yourself up, put your boundaries back in place and move forward again.


Salbertina Sun 14-Apr-13 10:25:51

The tigga is wise...

Sadly, the fact that you "need" your mum's support makes no difference. She sounds incapable of giving you what you need. It may help to grieve the loss of the mother you wanted/needed in order to be able yo accept/reject the one you have. Seek support from a counsellor/friend /your own reserves not from your family. They will not or cannot change. They probably will never acknowledge what you have said let alone apologise or try to make up for it. Accepting that does bring some peace but it can be a lengthy process of therapy/research/introspection to get there.

DeckSwabber Sun 14-Apr-13 10:36:34

Every situation is different but a big step for me was realising that I can't change the way things are in my family, the main reason being that the real issues lie between my mum and my one older sibling. This has had massive fallout for me which my mother and brother are almost entirely oblivious to and there is nothing whatsoever I can do about it. My brother and I are in our late forties!

This had caused me another bout of depression this winter so I got some help in the form of some ADs and some counselling. This has really helped me to separate my sadness about not having a proper 'mum' from the reality of having an elderly relative who needs my support (she's 81, and widowed). I limit phone calls to once a week, and don't talk about anything that matters to me.

This week my counselling homework is to write my mum a letter about how things have been for my, my perspective. It will never get sent but it helps me to put all this 'stuff' in my head into a safe place. I know I have made huge progress because writing it down is less painful than I thought it would be.

I think to get better you do need to process the pain and this can be really difficult. What helped me was thinking that every time it hurt I was making progress, releasing a little bit more of the pressure.

Good luck.

crushedintherush Sun 14-Apr-13 17:19:17

hi there smile

Here are 2 threads that I found helped as well as the 'Stately homes' ones.

1. Regale me with hilarious/ridiculous things that a narcissist or enabler has said to you.
This thread helped me realise I was not alone, especially the common phrases narcs use.

2 Parenting resources for those raised by narcissists. Useful site if you have children, and gives you titles of some books worth reading.

Both are in the relationship threads. I hope you get some answers, and some peace within yourself smile

Salbertina Sun 14-Apr-13 17:53:44

So true about the classic narc phrases. There was me thinking "no they're not really narcs" then "maybe a little" then finally dawning realisation that they're fully-fledged narcs in the extreme!

Over the years have heard classic denial, gas lighting , invalidation via the script and assigned family roles. Trying to be empowered and enlightened with this info rather than bitter & twisted as dm was.. Probably for v same reasons - "man hands on misery to man" and all that

crushedintherush Sun 14-Apr-13 19:17:39

misery being the operative word, salbertina.

I have read other posters experiences on the 'regale me' and 'parenting resources'. Simply shocking:/

I've added my own too:/

I feel empowered after realising none of it was my fault, and find myself examining my own behaviour.

notfluffy Sun 14-Apr-13 19:34:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Salbertina Sun 14-Apr-13 19:34:53

Glad you feel empowered, Crushed.

Am getting there, one step forward, 2 steps back and some horrible dreams atm. Not quite there worth not feeling at fault though and simultaneously beat self up for own poor parenting. Now sound like a victim which also trying to avoid!

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