Toxic relationships can seem almost impossible to separate yourself from whether it be a friendship or a relationship. One of the hardest toxic relationships to let go from is a familial one. Why? In most cultures we are taught that family is everything. Your family is your foundation. They are the people you grew up with. They’re who is there for you no matter what. So you start thinking that there must be something wrong with YOU. That YOU must be the underlying issue. My sister and I have talked about this a lot.
We come from a highly toxic family, and it has taken the death of our father for us to really see that we don’t have to put up with it. We make our own family. The one you’re born into isn’t always the healthiest option or the end all be all. You have the right to say no. You have the right to not to be guilted into family functions that are only going to bring more anxiety and disruption to your life than you need. I’ve asked my sister to write a piece on what it was like for her to live in a toxic family. She was misdiagnosed with severe anxiety and depression when she was in the fourth grade. It was mostly due to a toxic family. I wanted her to give her insight into what a toxic family really is.
Don’t take this as a cop out for my imperfections by any means.
I’ve been in a toxic relationship since the moment I was born.
My mother is a product of one of the most toxic families I’ve honestly ever even heard of. Instead of being able to recognize it and try to stop the cycle, she just “accepts” a mental disorder diagnosis as the root of her issues.
While she may have bipolar psychosis, her behaviors toward my late father, my sister and I are what are considered to be a “norm” in her family. Things were never good enough. I know the saying that women are never satisfied, but if you had lived in the house we had to, you would actually completely understand that statement, and then some.
Just as a form of reference to the past and how our childhoods were, I’ll give you a “for instance” situation. My father had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer and it had played its game with him for 4 long years. He had gotten to the point where he was rightfully tired of fighting, and they called Hospice in for his care. My mother and father had gone to this devastating appointment together and my sister, daughter and I were waiting at their house when they returned.
My dad barely makes it in the door before she starts hounding him about how he wants his funeral to run. Most people would think this is just her answer to her grief of the day, and had it been someone else I would agree. My mother then turned it from his answers to her correcting him and changing how he wanted things done. I knew it wasn’t a grief filled moment. It was her being her and trying to manipulate the situation to best fit her and how she wanted her friends to perceive.
“You can’t change someone who doesn’t see an issue in their actions”
This is how she always was toward him. My dad worked 18-20 hour shifts at work, and expected to come home and do whatever she deemed appropriate for him to do that day (think step-mother/Cinderella). My mother even started a business for him, and told him what he could and couldn’t do for said business.
For a long time, he would just do what she said and defend her when my sister or I would speak up on his behalf. Eventually, I believe he figured it out and started standing up for himself. When he did though, my mother played the victim.
When the women of her family are together, it’s a contest as to who can make the men the most miserable. They not only complain all the time, but name calling and belittlement is like breathing to them.
This type of behavior poured down to my sister and I. We never cleaned well enough. Sometimes having to re-clean with mom standing in the doorway with her arms crossed correcting our every move. My sister and I couldn’t have friends (that she didn’t pick) over. We couldn’t to go to any friends’ houses either. We couldn’t decorate our rooms the way we wanted, wear any clothing that we bought with our own money, we weighed too much, the list goes on and on.
I went back to my parents house to get my things after my wedding, so we could move into our new house. My mother said I couldn’t move out of the house until after my honeymoon if I wanted to use their tax information for my college FAFSA. When we arrived, mom and dad were sitting on the couch. When dad went to get up to help us, my mother physically forced him to sit back down. She told him he couldn’t help move anything. It was all because she didn’t approve of the area we were moving to. That she didn’t get to help us pick the house.
So my dad looked on tearfully as we loaded up my things and left. Then the harassment started. 30+ phone calls a day. There was one call where I ended up crying in the grocery store. She actually threatened to call the cops, and tell them I stole my car because her name was on it. At that moment, I started withdrawing from her.
“Letting toxic people go is not an act of cruelty. It is an act of self-care”
Taking a step back and take a hard look at our relationship. I realized a lot of different things, but I think the most important one to me was that I was going to break that cycle. Treating my husband with respect, and making decisions TOGETHER is what makes a solid relationship. He’s a human with emotions just like I am.
When I was going through my “depression”, the common signs weren’t there, and I have a normal amount of anxiety. My mother had just beaten me down mentally to the point that I shut down. The negative thoughts in my mind were my mother. Once I got out of her “reign” and in a healthy relationship with someone. I haven’t had a mental breakdown once. My mother’s actions have taught me that properly communicating is something that I have to do no matter what. It’s hard for me though, especially when I need to communicate a difficult emotion.. It’s a daily struggle.
I have a relationship with my mother today, but it’s one I try keep at a distance. It helps to have my husband and sister as a sounding board when I need it. I want my children to have the loving environment I never got with my mother. Their relationship with me is something I constantly do a self-check on. I’m going to break this cycle. I’ve started cutting family members out of my life because of it. I’m worthy enough to have a life where I have great, healthy relationships with everyone that remains in my life.
If you find yourself in a toxic relationship and you need help to get out. There are several ways that you ca
n get help. We have another post that has several ways that you can distance yourself. Trust me, I know that it’s hard to distance yourself from family, but sometimes it’s the only option you have to keep your sanity in tact. I’ve posted the link to our other post in the picture below. If you find yourself needing some tips on how to distance yourself from a toxic relationship definitely take a look.