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A Letter To My Toxic Parent

A Letter To My Toxic Parent

Dear Mother,

I’ve written, edited, deleted, and rewritten this about four times now, struggling to find the words I want to say. It’s all so complicated; finding the right words is difficult. This is what I’ve come up with:

“The thing about parenting is that it doesn’t come with a manual.”

That’s a saying we’ve all probably heard at least once or twice in our lives. Usually when it’s said, people are talking about anxiety regarding the proper ways to raise a child into a happy, functional adult with as little childhood trauma as possible. It’s meant to be a soothing statement reflecting that most parents are just trying to do what they can and hoping for the best, like I know you did.

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I know you did.

But the other thing about being a parent is sometimes the lessons we learn from our own parents is more of a guideline for how children should not be treated than a model we should follow in raising the next generation. That’s true for you, isn’t it? I know about the terrible cruelty you suffered in your own childhood- the screaming, torture, and neglect- and so I cannot hold the things that happened in my own against you; you were simply using the tools you were handed. You didn’t know they were broken.

Learning to forgive

It took a long time to get to the point of being able to talk openly about these things. Even now, I am trembling and anxious and I want to stop, but I know someone out there needs me to be their voice in this. Someone needs my help to say one simple, powerful phrase:

I forgive you.

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I want you to know that I forgive you, and I do not hate you. Now that I am an adult- now that I may potentially raise children of my own- I understand how important it is to tell you these things. I will not deny that I was angry; I was so furious it consumed me for years. But I can tell you the exact moment I realized I could not hold on to that anger any more.

It was on one of my many visits with you in the hospital. I believe it was your second time being admitted for threats of suicide, and you were sitting across the table from me in the cafeteria. I remember looking at you and realizing you were not there. Your eyes were vacant and your movements were slow and stilted; I remember realizing in that moment that you were doped up to your eyeballs just to have a moment of peace in your own mind so you could visit with your kids.

I was angry then, too. Not at you- or at least not directly. I was angry because I felt like once again you were running away from us. Now I realize what I was feeling was misplaced guilt and insecurities; throughout my entire childhood I thought if I was just good enough you could love me properly, like the families you see on the television. I was wrong- not for wanting that affection, but for thinking your inability to give it to me was because of something I did. It wasn’t until much later that I understood how deep the scars of your childhood traumas ran. By then it was because I had scars of my own.

My forgiveness came from understanding, which is key, because it would not have happened otherwise. It took many years and an earnest desire to understand why, which in all honesty was born from the desire know what I did wrong. I think that’s where you and I differ: I was able to get to this point much sooner than you.

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Learning From Experiences

I will never fault you for seeking treatment for your mental illnesses. Chronic depression is serious disorder, and I am glad you are such a fighter and survivor. I only wish you would have sought treatment sooner; then perhaps things would not have gotten so intensely toxic. If you had dealt with those nasty, vicious demons sooner, you may have never contemplated suicide, or… or tried to take my brother and I with you. Maybe I wouldn’t have spent so many days sitting outside of your bedroom hoping you would come out and offer some affection rather than disinterested tolerance or violence.

Maybe then I wouldn’t still live in fear of the day I get the call that you finally succeeded.

However, I also realize now that the way I was raised is something no child should have to endure. No, it was never as terrible as what you survived, but it still wasn’t okay. Twenty-four years, and I’m still trying to teach myself not to flinch when you are angry with me. Twenty-four years, and I’m still terrified of being forgotten and abandoned. I cope, I try to improve myself, I try to live outside of your shadow, but I still struggle some days. I suppose that’s part of the reason this is suddenly coming out so easily.

But I would be lying, mother, if I said even once that your influence on me in my childhood was all terrible. I strove to be the very best I could be so that you would be proud of me- and I know you were, because you said so. It’s just, that seemed to be one of the only things you could express toward me: pride or anger. So I would get so terribly upset with myself at even the smallest missteps, because I just had to be perfect. For you. Always for you.

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Because of that, I got top scores in all the standardized tests. I got a scholarship for that, do you remember? I swore to accept no limitations on myself because I knew I had to fly for you- the bird with clipped wings, locked in a cage far too long. I wanted and will always want you to be proud of me.

Changing the Path

If one day I become a mother to children of my own, I want to keep all of this in mind. Perhaps I’ll print this out. Maybe one day I’ll even let you read it and the other things I’ve written to express myself. I would say I wonder if you would read them, but you have never been overly concerned with my life much beyond whether I’m still on the straight and narrow. Don’t get me wrong, mother, things between us are better than they have ever been. I’m glad for it. But I know you and I cannot have the relationship I longed for all those years ago, or even now.

One day I may have your granddaughter or grandson; I want you to rest assured I will do everything in my power to give them the things you wanted for me that you simply could not facilitate. Just as you gave me a better childhood than the one you endured, I will give them better than I ever had. I’d like to think I can be the one to finally end this legacy of toxicity and trauma which began generations ago.

Or maybe I won’t have children. Maybe I’ll live a life filled with travel and experiences you never allowed yourself to dream about. I could send you a postcard from each exotic land and hope you get the message I have never been brave enough to say to your face.

I made it mama. I’m okay. You didn’t fail me. We both made it out fine.

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Last Updated on July 27, 2020

7 Ways to Make Life Changing Decisions

7 Ways to Make Life Changing Decisions

Most people don’t know the profound effects of making life decisions. Often times, we go through life oblivious to what thoughts we are thinking and what actions we are taking. Every single decision we make in our days shapes our current reality. It shapes who we are as a person because we habitually follow through with the decisions we make without even realizing it.

If you’re unhappy with the results in your life right now, making the effort to changing your decisions starting today will be the key to creating the person you want to be and the life you want to have in the future.

Let’s talk about the 7 ways you can go about making life changing decisions.

1. Realize the Power of Decision Making

Before you start making a decision, you have to understand what a decision does.

Any decision that you make causes a chain of events to happen. When you decide to pick up a cigarette to smoke it, that decision might result in you picking up another one later on to get that same high feeling. After a day, you may have gone through a pack without knowing it. But if you decide not to smoke that first cigarette and make a decision every five minutes to focus your attention somewhere else when you get that craving, after doing this for a week, your cravings will eventually subside and you will become smoke-free.

But it comes down to making that very first decision of deciding whether or not to pick up that cigarette.

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2. Go with Your Gut

Often times, we take too much time to make a decision because we’re afraid of what’s going to happen. As a result of this, we go through things like careful planning, deep analysis, and pros and cons before deciding. This is a very time consuming process.

Instead, learn to trust your gut instinct. For the most part, your first instinct is usually the one that is correct or the one that you truly wanted to go with.

Even if you end up making a mistake, going with your gut still makes you a more confident decision maker compared to someone who takes all day to decide.

3. Carry Your Decision Out

When you make a decision, act on it. Commit to making a real decision.

What’s a real decision? It’s when you decide on something, and that decision is carried out through action. It’s pointless to make a decision and have it played out in your head, but not doing anything about it. That’s the same as not making a decision at all.

If you want to make real changes in life, you have to make it a habit to apply action with your decision until it’s completed. By going through this so many times, you will feel more confident with accomplishing the next decision that you have in mind.

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4. Tell Others About Your Decisions

There’s something about telling other people what we’re going to do that makes us follow through.

For example, for the longest time, I’ve been trying to become an early riser. Whenever I tried to use my own willpower, waking up early without falling back asleep felt impossible. So what I did was I went to a forum and made the decision to tell people that I would wake up at 6 AM and stay up. Within two days, I was able to accomplish doing this because I felt a moral obligation to follow through with my words even though I failed the first time.

Did people care? Probably not, but just the fact that there might be someone else out there seeing if you’re telling the truth will give you enough motivation to following through with your decision.

5. Learn from Your Past Decisions

Even after I failed to follow through my decision the first time when I told people I was going to wake up early and stay up, I didn’t give up. I basically asked myself, “What can I do this time to make it work tomorrow?”

The truth is, you are going to mess up at times when it comes to making decisions. Instead of beating yourself up over it, learn something from it.

Ask yourself, what was good about the decision I made? What was bad about it? What can I learn from it so I can make a better decision next time?

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Remember, don’t put so much emphasis focusing on short term effects; instead focus on the long term effects.

6. Maintain a Flexible Approach

I know this might sound counter-intuitive, but making a decision doesn’t mean that you can’t be open to other options.

For example, let’s say you made the decision to lose ten pounds by next month through cardio. If something comes up, you don’t have to just do cardio. You can be open to losing weight through different methods of dieting as long as it helps you reach your goal in the end.

Don’t be stubborn to seek out only one way of making a decision. Embrace any new knowledge that brings you closer to accomplishing your initial decision.

7. Have Fun Making Decisions

Finally, enjoy the process. I know decision-making might not be the most fun thing world to do, but when you do it often, it becomes a game of opportunity.

You’ll learn a lot about yourself on the way, you’ll feel and become a lot more confident when you’re with yourself and around others, and making decisions will just become a lot easier after you do it so often that you won’t even think about it.

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Anything you decide to do from this point on can have a profound effect later on. Opportunities are always waiting for you. Examine the decisions that you currently have in the day.

Are there any that can be changed to improve your life in some way? Are there any decisions that you can make today that can create a better tomorrow?

Final Thoughts

Some decisions in life are harder to make, but with these 7 pieces of advice, you can trust yourself more even when you’re making some of the most important decisions.

Making a decision is the only way to move forward. So remember, any decision is better than none at all.

More Tips for Making Better Decisions

Featured photo credit: Justin Luebke via unsplash.com

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