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As I am now older I have come to the realization that my mother was very mentally ill when I was growing up. I feel that in my adult life I am having some issues with depression and anxiety and reflecting back on my childhood. I have this feeling of blame, and resentment towards her. Why couldn’t she have been more involved, or didn’t sleep all the time? Why couldn’t she have loved me more rather than finding her next fling? Am I wrong for this? Is she to blame? Help.
First, I am so very sorry you grew up feeling unloved and unimportant by the person who was supposed to love you and prioritize you the highest. How could you not feel awful about this as you look back? Your feelings are authentic and you are not wrong.
But, you’ve taken this step – a giant step – towards healing and moving on from this pain and disappointment. And that is a beautiful thing. And from this moment forward you should know that healing and letting go has got to be your priority – for your mental, emotional, and even physical health. It’s important to make healing your goal now so that you don’t end up repeating the pain from your childhood in other relationships. You really have to want this though. You have to want to heal and release this pain.
I think you do. I think that is why you wrote. And I hope I can get you started on your healing journey with this letter being the first tiny step. You’ll want to seek support and wisdom from others as well. Seeing a professional for depression is your next stop. Healing can be rough at times and add an illness on top of it without medical support is dangerous. I cannot help you with a medical issue and I think you need to speak to someone qualified to help you in that area. There is no shame in that. It doesn’t make you wrong to seek medical treatment and therapy. But, having a history of depression with your mom, it’s absolutely vital that you talk to your doctor about it and make them aware of your desire to heal from childhood issues.
And, I’d like to let you in on something – from a mom’s point of view. Parenting is so hard. We all make so many mistakes and screw up our kids in a million ways. Add mental illness, untreated mental illness, on top of it – and it’s a perfect storm of dysfunction. When I first read your letter I wondered if it was one of my kids writing until your last few sentences. I know I failed over and over as a mom and have a long way to go in helping my kids heal from my mistakes and in healing my own shame and guilt for screwing up.
Here’s the thing about parent/child relationships – we’ve got some sort of entanglement with one another. The bond we have causes us to feel responsible for each other. A child feels guilty for the behavior of the parent and the parent feels guilty for the behavior of the child. This doesn’t happen in other relationships in our lives.
And, so, forgiveness in these relationships is also the hardest. We are least likely to forgive our parents, even though they are the most deserving. We are least likely to overlook the mistakes of our kids than we are of other people’s kids. Because we feel responsible.
And when we don’t forgive our parents, we condemn ourselves to a life of self-blame and condemnation. Because we feel responsible.
“Mom didn’t love me and that is why she didn’t spend time with me,” is self-condemnation. You feel like you are responsible for your mom’s behavior. And that is the largest source of your pain – your feeling of being unlovable and unworthy.
Sweetie, the truth is that she didn’t love herself. She didn’t think she was worthy of her own time, care, and attention. That’s depression. It. Wasn’t. Your. Fault. You are lovable. You are worthy. You are important. You are loved. You are a priority. And you deserve to take care of yourself and your mental health and have a beautiful future ahead.
Mental illness is not an excuse. It’s just what it is. Would she have been a better mom if she had taken care of all her health needs? There is just no way to know that. But, we can know that there is no way to go back and change the past. The only thing you can do is heal, forgive, and release the hold these memories have on you moving forward in your life.
I hope this helps you some. I truly wish you healing and happiness moving forward.
And if your mom never said it, allow me to say it for her… I’m so sorry for the pain I caused.