The Sword of Damocles

Every time the phone rings I dread it.  The several times a week that I see her sour face, I cringe.  It’s happened!  She’s found my blog!   My mother, that is.

I’ve written my heart out on the topic of the rage that seethes within me at the very thought of her.  Of the abuse that I suffered at her hands as a child, and that I have continued to suffer as an adult.

Because of her I became a teenage runaway, to escape her endless screaming, name-calling, belittling, gas-lighting, accusations of imagined crimes.

Because of her I preferred sleeping outdoors or in abandoned buildings, suffering  hunger, cold, and turning to prostitution in order to survive.

And when I tried over and over and over again to make amends for the crime of  having left “home” she drove me out with curses: “You’re shit!” she would calmly observe. “You’re good for nothing!”  And once again, I fled in tears, into the forest, into the arms of any waiting man who seemed to want me, into cocaine, into the underworld of dirty Chicago….anywhere but “home.”  I don’t have a “home.”  She threw me out of it.

So I started getting degrees, to prove to myself that I was good for something.  And maybe if I was good for something, she would love me.  A bachelor’s. An M.D., with a master’s tacked on for good measure.  Head of my class, 5.0 GPA, wall full of awards.  Exercised and starved myself into ultimate shape.  Made a lot of money, legally.  Sent expensive gifts.  All-expense-paid-for vacations.  Surely that would earn me favor in her eyes?  Surely now she would see what a good daughter I was?

It did, sort of.  She sang my praises far and wide, in the public sphere.  But in private, again: “You moron!  Don’t you know anything?  How could you be so stupid!”

Yes, I know she’s crazy.  She comes from a family of crazies. I know the stories of what she did to me when I was a baby, a toddler, and how the family laughed about it, and how she said I deserved it: always getting into mischief, that one.

So I’m terrified that she will find my blog, and read what I have written about her.  She will not think: “Oh my God, what have I done to cause my only child to fear me so?  How can I fix this, how can I change, how can I make amends?”  No, she won’t think that.  She will think:  “Why, that g_d-damn  stinking little selfish bastard!  She can’t stand me, eh?  Well she’ll get hers!  I’ll give her something to fear!”  And she will.

Thirty years of therapy have not erased the trauma.  I still feel like that helpless little kid being cut to ribbons by her sharp tongue.  Some wounds don’t heal.

Leave a comment


  1. My mother was manipulative, abusive, and bitter. She wasn’t the worst mother, but she definitely wasn’t the best. She wasn’t even mediocre. When I tried to talk to her about the things she’d done to hurt me, she scoffed at me and threw herself down as the victim, cursing me as the worst daughter in the world. Despite all my efforts, I had failed in her eyes. Everyone else around me could see that she was absolute evil incarnate, but I saw her as my mother…I was supposed to love her, honor her, obey her. But one day, I realized that I couldn’t throw myself away to save her, for she was beyond saving, so I let her go. I walked away for as long as it took for her to realize she needed to change. She still has not changed. It took me years, but one day I finally forgave her. I hope that someday, you will experience the freedom that forgiveness can give you. You should never have to try to earn someone else’s approval, even your family. If you love you and you believe in yourself, your dreams, your goals and aspirations, that is all that should count. Be true to you, for it is you that has to live in your life. Perhaps you can read the letter I wrote to her, and it will inspire you: … Take care, fellow blogger.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story. It sounds just awful. So sad not to have a mother….the very word “mother” has a meaning, and when our physical “mothers” don’t act like mothers–when they act like monsters instead–it leaves us in a terrible desolate place.

      I haven’t read your letter yet, but I hope to when I finish my work tonight. Thank you again.

  2. I am just sending you a hug and a ” you are quite wonderful”

  3. I don’t know what to say, exactly. I loved my mum to bits and she was great. But, I know of people who have had to cut their mum from their lives. As awful as that sounds, it was so that they could progress with their own lives without being pulled down constantly and being abused – mentally, emotionally, physically.
    I see children who hurt so much at the hands of parents, who conceal the damage done because an awful parent is better than no parent at all.But is it?
    If your mum has no handle at all on motherhood and you have tried every avenue to heal the wounds I don’t know what else you can do but move on.
    I am so sorry that she has found your haven; a place where you can share. We all need to feel secure. You are obviously still healing and do not need the negativity she heaps on you.
    I wish I could be of some real help. Would there be any point in changing the name of your blog? Would that help alleviate some of the worry?
    You have a family of sorts here so, if you do decide to cut your losses, you will not be alone.
    Love and prayers.x

    • Thanks so much for your caring words. I did blog under two layers of anonymity/pseudonyms up until a couple of weeks ago, when I came to the realization that doing that only stoked the fires of fear. So I decided to take power and “come out.” I still feel terrified of being discovered, like a child who has been made to feel “bad,” but at least I know that I am not a child: I am an adult, and I can stand up straight even though I am afraid. And yes, I treasure my online family! Glad you’ve added yourself to it!

  4. The upside of this is that maybe she’ll become so enraged she’ll disown you for a while and then you’ll be left in peace. Take care. 🙂

  5. You’re right – some wounds don;t heal … but hopefully blogging helps a little 🙂

  6. BTW, even if she does find it, who cares … keep writing!

  7. I feel so sad for you, and also for us all. Parents with no guidance, children wanting so much, the acceptance they get from Mum and Dad. I think what you have achieved is amazing and I’m sure your an inspiration to so many people. WHat I pray for for you right now and forever, is a) peace b) oooodles of self love and c) happiness…I hope your career brings you happiness everyday. You have taken all that is good in life and battled using the ‘wise-kit’ on your way. None of us deserved x,y or z when small, but as we work through troubles so painful, I think we all seem to come out richer and deepened in terms of character. Thankyou for an honest post and for sharing those kinda memories…Take Care and may all of life’s scrummy things make their way into your quite remarkable heart and spirit. I’d say, blog on, you are both adults now, both of you dealing with the consequences of old actions, and if she cannot support you and see your side, she can choose not to read…I emotionally abused people for a period of my life and if I was face to face with one of those I hurt, I would be grateful for the chance to apologise and try and heal just a bit of their pain. If she can’t do this for you, God tells me that ‘A Mum bubbling over with warmth and love and laughter, is dying to add another lovely lass to her brood. Sometimes water can be thicker than blood. I hope she enters your life tomo…Love Dawny Xxx

    • You’re so sweet. Put a smile on my face, you did.

      • Well, that put a smile on my face too, after reading that 🙂 Keep plugging on Lady, as I’m sure you will. What you’ve achieved so far shows you have an iron will, Thank ze Lord! 🙂

  8. Hector

     /  July 9, 2013

    My biggest fear as a father always being that somehow I would screwed up badly turning my daughter into a sack of anxiety and mental health issues. It is hard to see how parents can screw up their kid’s lives when all it takes is showing the love and care they deserve. There must be a chemical connection that won’t allow to let go of the pain and suffering caused by a terrible parenting or lack of mother love.

    • I know what you mean. I made some big mistakes as a mother, myself, and I’m very grateful that I was given a chance to make amends and help my child to heal from the hole we had dug ourselves into. I’m very grateful that I can say that my child is my dearest dear friend, and I believe I’m right up there on his list too. But it has taken a whole lot of work, and help from others, and the willingness to set aside pride and ego, and forgive the deep pain each of us has caused the other. It’s a two-way street. Lack of mother love, that’s another thing entirely. I don’t believe it can be fixed. Likewise, abandonment by the father is very tough to mend, but if there is love, there is hope.

  9. So sorry to hear about your situation. I really hope the blogging here helps. I have not been here very long, but it seems like there are some very helpful and supportive people here. I hope you will eventually be able to put the ugly chapters of your life in the past and just move on.

  10. OMG! we must be sisters, because surely the ‘mom’ you talk about is the same one i talk about! you are all those things she told you you never could be, never were. she is the one who is angry, narcissistic, cruel in a misguided attempt to force love. i have written on my blog about similar fears i have had with my ‘mom’–who after 5 yrs of me cutting her out of my life, recently sent me 2 letters. i was terrified that she would now show up on my doorstep, forcing her way back into my life, only to pick up the abuse where she left off. but im not afraid of her anymore, even if she showed up at my door. I don’t have to talk to her, Ever. Again. she can do as she wants, writing me, coming to my door. i dont have to join anymore and neither do you! YOU ARE AMAZING!

    • Ha! I knew there was a special bond between us. There you have it. The only difference is, I can’t cut her out of my life yet, because that would mean no contact with my father, whom I love dearly, even though he is codependent and a facilitator. Classic triangulation. But he is old and sick and I want to be in his life in his last days. We are having some very important conversations, making some things right before he goes. So I will have to wait a while. But then….NC (No Contact).

      Good on ye’ that you’ve been able to make the NC stick and are much healthier for it!

  11. You are amazing and are able to “paint the picture with your words”, as awful as the picture is. Sometimes I think that all we can do is do a better job than our parents did. My mom was not there emotionally for any of us, but she wasn’t abusive – narcissistic and an alcoholic. I have three sisters and we have talked for hours about Mom. For us that was our therapy. I just thought of a book my counselor loaned me that I have yet to give back. It is called something like “Mothering Ourselves”. Something like that might help. My mom is 91 now – stopped drinking in her sixties and stopped smoking about 10 years ago. I always said that I would have to get counseling when my mom died, but then I became bipolar at the age of 42 (really – didn’t follow the rules). So, I have had the same counselor for 16 years. I can’t imagine what you had to go through —– but…………..YOU did survive and are working on the pain……………….

  12. Goodness I am so sorry for the trauma’s of your childhood, but well done you for “making good”, you have broken the generational cycle. Hopefully, your next step will be to forgive her. Yes I know, sounds strange, but I learnt to do that with my own mother and the pain is gone, I can relate to her without fear or hurt now. You don’t have to tell her you have forgiven her, just decide to do it and keep on with that decision. Praying for you.

    • Thank you so much. Sometimes forgiveness is not the answer, especially when the abuse is ongoing. Sometimes the best thing one can do is to “save oneself,” by getting in the lifeboat and sailing away to one’s real life. Some wounds do not heal, and continuing abuse cannot be forgiven. I have worked on forgiving her for years and years, but each time things seem to be going well, she stabs me in the back again. So I am making this her problem, not mine, although I blog about the process and my feelings often.

  13. Hey there, Sorry to say that I get it. I’m sad that you have felt so much pain throughout your life and even today, it still follows you. I get it though. I blog under a pseudonym to stay hidden. I have not said much yet that is very deeply sharing but I expect to. it’s why I started this blog. I had started a blog a few months ago and told some friends. I decided even THAT didn’t feel very safe so I opened a new one. NOBODY in my life knows about this one. and I plan to keep it that way.

    The very first thing I remember being told about my mom was by my aunt, her sister. I was about 10 when my aunt told me “Your mother has no empathy. I want you to know that I understand what you go through because I know your mother doesn’t know how to empathize.” I’m not sure I even knew what empathy meant back then but I surely do now. She now reminds me of your mom a bit, just not as vehemently. She gaslights me all the time, says horrible things to me when my dad is not listening then makes up stuff that I am supposedly saying to her on the phone when he is sitting right there. I am not sure what she gains from creating a wedge between my dad and I but I almost don’t even care anymore. He and I rarely speak. He thinks he knows all he needs to know about me from her. I was home last christmas. She just picks on him relentlessly. Everything gets blamed on my dad. unless I am there. then everything gets blamed on me. I live 1200 miles away. Just far enough! just close enough I should say. She tells my sisters that she never sees them even when they cooked for her just the night before. They have them to dinner at least once a week and send over food other times. But still she complains to them that it’s not enough. Twists things? omg. does she ever twist things as well.

    There is tons more I can say. I am studying shame (Brene Brown’s work) and so much of what we are describing is why we feel so much shame as adults. Narcissism is the dx I give to my mom; to my dad as well. It’s always about them. Doesn’t matter who they hurt in the end as long as they are happy. OR can blame someone for everything in their lives that they don’t like even if it’s of their own creation.

    I am sorry you are feeling this. I wish you peace of mind and courage to keep up as long as you are able to see your dad through. take care, be.

    (BTW, I even keep two Facebook pages. One for family. One for friends. It’s just safer to be who I am if they are not watching. Too many judgements and sadly, I can imagine what they would post that my friends and clients would see. Been there, done that. It wasn’t pretty! congrats for taking the plunge to no longer hide. It’s brave. And thanks for writing about the fear as well. Bravery in action.)

    • Wow. Wow. I try not to make comparisons between different people’s experiences, but your letter here tells me that I have to say you have it much worse than I do. Much, much worse. I don’t think I could have stood what you stand and still live. I think I would have to turn around and go that 1200 miles, or maybe 6000 miles, and stay there. No contact. But that’s me. Luckily you have siblings to take some of the guilt load, although each sibling in the family gets her own load of sh*t to bear, if you know what I mean. But that’s too much, at least for me. I’m going to look up Brene Brown’s work on shame, because I think that I am totally shame and guilt driven. My son, who unfortunately in spite of all the therapy I did before he was born to try to avert passing the dysfunction down the generations, got a load of it anyway, and in order to keep him from killing himself one way or another I put him in a therapeutic boarding school that had a philosophy that all dysfunctional behavior is a result of two things 1) shame and 2) loneliness. And the loneliness is because of unresolved shame, that we isolate ourselves unconsciously. Anyway, I didn’t really mean to get off on that tangent, but your letter reminded me of it.

      Look, you know how when you get on the airplane and before it takes off the flight attendants go through the safety song-and-dance, and they tell you that if the oxygen masks drop down and there is a person sitting beside you who needs help, who do you put the mask on first? Tell me.

      YOU!!!! Is who. Why? Because if you conk out, who will be there to take care of the weaker person when you’re not there?

      What does that mean for you and I? It means that WE need to take care of our own needs and not go crazy from our parents/families’ craziness. We need to put on our oxygen mask and get the f*ck away from the poison of toxic families, and deal with the guilt that they so kindly fling at us. Not easy. Very hard. Yet life-saving. My thoughts and prayers are with you!

  14. I came across this from a Blogging101 suggestion.
    I see you wrote this a while ago… and I only just found it.
    This resonates very strongly with me.
    It’s so hard not to hear internalised parents’ disapproval.
    People keep telling me I’m intelligent – an intellect.
    5 mins with my mother would put them straight…… I’m working on it. Working on myself I mean.
    All the best I’m glad I found your blog.

    • Wow. Mothers have no idea how powerful their words, body language, tone of voice are, in forming their children’s sense of self. I’m sorry you are one of the casualties. It’s only the sensitive ones who get targeted. For some reason, they know who’s susceptible and who isn’t, and they discharge their bile on those of us whom they know would be most wounded. Then they accuse us of being “too sensitive”! I’m glad you found my blog, look forward to exploring yours. Take good care of YOU. In essence that’s all that counts. If you and I don’t take care of ourselves, no one else will.

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