I received this comment yesterday on an article I wrote that was published by Thought Catalog on March 15th. It says, “Thank you so much for writing about your life and being so clear and grounded. Good Role model! x”
I was touched yet my first instinct was to think to myself, “Wow, if they only knew. Clear? Grounded? Me?” I touched briefly on my past. I come from a long line of alcoholism in my family as well as mental illness. Sadly, what also runs through my family tree is shame, blame, and denial. I lost my greatest friend. Someone that had been with me from the very beginning. My younger brother Brett who took his own life in March of 2012 after a long battle with alcohol addiction and mental illness. He was only 39.
Over the last two or three years, I spoke occasionally and wrote often on the topic of alcoholism (now known as substance use disorder) and mental health. It isn’t just that I didn’t see the connection back then when it came to my brother’s addiction and our childhood trauma, but unfortunately, the professionals didn’t either. Science has progressed in the years since the past, we know now that those traumatic early childhood experiences can cause alcohol and drug addiction, anxiety, depression, more severe mental health issues and even suicidal ideation later in life.
I could be bitter. I could be angry. But those emotions serve no purpose except to keep me stuck. That is not good for me, my own family nor would my brother want that either. So instead, I do share openly and honestly about my life’s experiences surrounding that time in hopes of helping others. I am as comfortable speaking of addiction and mental illness as I am any topic. I have watched firsthand how shame and silence keeps families in hiding, our loved ones sick, and patterns continuing generation after generation.
But on March 15th I went completely outside my comfort zone. The article I wrote was about my permanent estrangement with my own mother titled “I Never Want to See My Mother Again, And I’ve Never Felt More Free.” As someone that advocates being able to speak your truth without shame as a way to accept, learn and heal, I get completely paralyzed with fear when it comes to talking about what the relationship with my mother was really like and why I finally decided I had no other option than to go no contact.
I never write out of hate or spite. In fact, I am just not that person, because I believe everything is a learning lesson if we choose. I thought maybe my experience would help someone that wasn’t yet in this place of peace, so I began writing. And I need to emphasize, I am not a proponent of cutting off family members, especially your parents. I don’t think there is anything more important than family. What I do advocate for is that toxic, abusive (yes, emotional abuse hidden behind closed doors is still abuse) people have to go from your life. If the relationship wreaks havoc on you, your life, your spirit or the well being of your children, when you have tried all other options and failed, then the time comes to choose you or them. You have the right to choose YOU.
When I finished the article, I bet I re-read it over 50 times. I was terrified. Is it too harsh? Am I being mean? Will people hate me? Now don’t get me wrong, I write about addiction, we do not all have the same beliefs. I can handle, in fact, I encourage, differences of opinion as I think that is healthy and quite often it can help change perception. However, society and certainly families do not allow people to talk about what is perceived as badly about mothers. Somehow the blame shifts, and it gets pointed fiercely in the daughter’s direction. We instantly, without anyone knowing any details, become the ungrateful, bad, mean, hateful daughters. I wasn’t sure I was up for the potential backlash, but how could I continue talking about truth and honestly and no shame if I didn’t do it myself?
Something incredible happened that I was not expecting.
Our World in Data estimates that there are over 107 million people globally that have alcohol use disorder. The World Health Organization states that 800,000 people a year die due to suicide. They also report one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. And around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
It would come as no surprise to me that due to the number of people affected and the millions more that love them, that my previous articles would get shares, likes, and comments. What I was not expecting was that my article, talking about narcissism and my complicated relationship with my mother, would have been read over 12,800 times. It has received more positive, supportive, loving comments, shares, likes and even private Facebook and website messages to me than ALL of my other articles combined.
I have never been more humbled and grateful to be in a community of people in my entire life. It’s not praise I am looking for. It is sincerely the feeling of happiness I get that perhaps my experience in some small way can help someone else on their journey. And the knowledge that I am not alone. And to let others know they are not alone either.
I know that most people could not possibly fathom not speaking to their mother. I am one of those people so please know I, nor anyone else came to that decision lightly. And try not to judge us as we all experience different things in life which certainly affects our path.
And to one of my private Facebook group soul-sisters, the one that made the comment that I am clear and grounded. Oh honey, it has been a long, self-reflective journey, one full of so many ups and downs.
We lose a tremendous amount when we go without contact with our unhealthy mothers, including other family members that stop talking to us. But what I believe with all my heart is that we gain so much more.
It is Mother’s Day this weekend and for me, what truly made my picture so clear is that I was able to give up any and all guilt. This state of calm came through extensive trauma therapy that I took very seriously, books such as It’s My Turn by Tina Fuller and Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing The Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride, Ph.D. and online articles from insightful people like Peg Streep and others. So, I didn’t get to this healthy place in my life alone. I know now that narcissists use guilt to make us behave in a certain way. It is their form of control. For me, it started when I was only 5 years old, so it worked for a very long time but not anymore.
On this Mother’s Day, what I wish for all of you that have no contact with your mom, is that you have a beautiful day with no guilt. None. You are allowed to live your own life. On your terms. You have a right to do what is best for YOU and your family. You do. Your health. Your happiness.
Sadly, we aren’t given the same compassion or understanding as would come if we divorced a narcissistic, emotionally abusive husband (or wife). In fact, everyone would rally and support us and lift us up when we feel like we could crumble. If we had the same type of boss, people would tell us to quit our job. I want you all to stay strong, know who you are in your heart. Give yourself the compassion and understanding that you need. I am with you and by the response of others on this topic, I know they are with you too.
Let’s all remember today, and coincidently Mental Health Awareness Month, to be kind. You never know what someone else has been through so be open-minded and empathetic.
Sometimes kindness means looking after yourself. And that friends, is not only ok but necessary.