Guilt, Shame, A Healthy Selfish

I had a session with my therapist this past Thursday, and not a minute too soon.

I visited my mother last Wednesday and when I walked into her room she had a box of all occasion cards spread out on her bed and she was looking through them with great intent. After greeting her with a hug and asking how she was, I inquired about the cards… Mom told me her table mate that she eats her meals with got them for a gift and said she would never use all of them so she told mom to look through them and take what she wanted. Mom asked me to help her pick out some nice ones so I started looking through them with her. I noticed there were several that had duplicates so I asked mom if she wanted me to pick out one of each card that had a duplicate and she said yes, that would be great. When I had a nice selection of different kinds of cards for mom I asked her what she wanted me to do with them. She said “I want you to take them home and keep them and when I need one I’ll call you and have you bring it up to me”. Then she said “oh, and isn’t your birthday on Sunday?” I acknowledged that it was and I knew what was coming next… Mom said ” pick out one you like for your birthday..” I asked her if she wanted me to sign her name on it too and she said “well you know I can’t write…” I can’t even begin to explain how that affected me and even worse, I can’t explain why it still does… All I know is it did…

So the next day when I went for my therapy appointment…I talked at length to my therapist about the card incident and she told me I need to cut the time I spend with my mother to no more than one day a week and no more than two hours during that one day visit. She told me since I can’t impose those boundaries with my mother on my own…she is imposing them for me as part of my ongoing therapy. She said you are still recovering from a rage that caused you to have a break from reality. Rage so strong and so deep you couldn’t deal with your brother, mother, or anyone’s anger because you were trying to control that rage but you didn’t have the coping skills to be successful because you never learned coping skills as a child. She said “Virginia, you’ve already suffered one breakdown and my job is to make sure that doesn’t happen again. She told me my mother is a definite trigger to me and the reason I can’t just walk away from her is because I was raised in a guilt and shame based environment instead of one that was based on honest love and acceptance, and that my mother still controls me with guilt and/or shame…” She said to this day if someone makes you feel guilty enough or shames you enough you will do whatever it is they want. She sited the examples of if I don’t go to see my mother for whatever reason… even when she has upset me,,, I feel guilty, or worse, shameful because I think I’m not doing what my Christian Faith would have me do…She told me guilt and shame are two of the most powerful emotions a child can be controlled with. She said she believes that my mother decided when I was very young and she looked around and saw this one little girl among all those boys…that she would “train” me to do her will, and she did it without ever raising a hand to me…it was all done by making me feel guilty if I didn’t want to do something, then making me feel ashamed for not wanting to do what I was asked to do…”I told my therapist I would speak to my mother about limiting my visits to one day a week and no more than two hours per visit. She agreed and said she would like me to come back next week and do another EMDR session, this time around my mother, because I’m never going to change my mother at her age, so she said I need to be “desensitized” to the things my mother says that are triggers and/or hurtful to me…well now, isn’t it a shame I have to be desensitized from my own mother…? But, I’ll do what I have to do to keep my recovery moving in a positive direction…

Today, I went to see my mother. I took her the supplies she asked me to bring and as I was putting her things away I told her I couldn’t come on Wednesday because I have a doctor’s appoint (which I do) and that after that I would only be able to visit her on Wednesday’s from now on. And then, there was “that look”, the look that always stopped me in my tracks when I was a little girl…I can’t explain it I just know it’s a look that needs no words. But, I kept talking through it to mom telling her I need to have some time to do some things I need to do…(my therapist told me I need to replace the time I would have spent with mom on Monday’s with something fun for me. She said I need to replace a negative experience with a positive one and it needs to be something that makes me happy…she called it being “healthy selfish” and said I need to get real familiar with what that means for me)…Mom just kept looking at me and said “well don’t forget about me”… I smiled and said “I doubt I’m going to do that mom, I just need some time and space that’s all…I’ll still come up on Wednesdays and stay with you from 8-10 when you go to your church service. Mom just shrugged her shoulders and said “well I guess I’ll just let them do whatever they want to me then since you won’t be around to see what’s going on…” I said “you’ll be just fine mom, and if you need anything you can call me and let me know and I’ll bring whatever it is to you when I visit on Wednesday’s. I said “you’ll see Danny on Sunday’s and me on Wednesday’s so you will have at least two visitors per week.” Mom just kept looking at me and said “you’re not my visitor, your my daughter and your suppose to be here with me when I need you”. I said mom, I’m going to be healthy selfish because I need to do this for myself. It’s OK if you don’t agree, but I still need to do this for me. She said “well what if I had been “healthy selfish” with you how would you have liked that?” I said “mom, I need to go now, you can call me whenever you want and I’ll see you next Wednesday.” I gave her a hug and left.

Shantel, I write this blog mainly for you, and when you read back on this I want you to know I hope I never, ever, made you  feel guilty or ashamed about anything and I hope I never do going forward. I want you to have your own life and live it to the absolute fullest. As I get older, I don’t want you to ever feel like your responsible for me in any way shape or form. I’ve always said I want people  in my life that want to be there for their own reasons….not because they feel obligated in any way.

Do I feel guilty? Yes. Do I feel shameful? Yes. But at least now I know why and I’m working on it.

Stay Tuned!

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gotham girl
    Apr 29, 2013 @ 21:03:22

    And you know what? That’s all you can do. You know why and you’re working on it. I love you!


  2. Aunt Ellen
    Apr 29, 2013 @ 22:21:30

    Well Virginia, Now you know how to deal with your Mom and with yourself. Just keep on doing what your therapist tells you. Wish I knew about the HEALTHY SELFISH throughout my years as growing up as the youngest in the family. Although my Mom wasn’t the problem as you should know. Siblings can be so cruel. All we can do is the best we can to our ability and do not let it interfer with our lives. ” You need to Be Happy, Don’t Worry” as my Dr. of Physiatry, who I use to work for in my working days. Just love your Mom for what it is and the past is the past. She is old and caregiving is not a gift, but a heart wrenching job for some.


  3. Bill
    Apr 29, 2013 @ 23:11:52

    I am on the front lines with you honey and you are doing what you need to get through all this. I’m with you and support you 100%.

    Love your Bill


  4. Debbie AZ
    Apr 30, 2013 @ 02:23:27

    Thank you for this, I too am in that situation. In 1983 I left WI because I didn’t want to meet the same fate as my Dad (he committed suicide in 1981) My Mom has always used guilt to control the whole family. My youngest brother has learned to deal with it in a healthy way, my middle brother, not so much. I am now trying to help my niece deal with my Mom. She treats my niece horribly & has her so guilt trained that my niece calls me crying. My Mom calls my niece by My name all the time & when she refers to my middle brother she says ‘Your Dad’ I finally had to remind her that My Dad has been gone for over 30 years now. She just moves people into whatever slot is most useful for her. I told my niece what a friend once told me that you can Love people & not Like them. I love my mom, but I don’t like her. I had also started limiting my contact with my Mom this year. The rage I feel when I hear her complain about how no one ever does anything for her has gotten to a point where I can’t speak to her for fear I will unload on her. My niece recently lost her other grandma so she is conflicted about the feelings she is having about my Mom & that is tearing her apart. I feel so bad for my niece, she is living my life all over again. Thank you for your insight & for sharing it others. It helps 🙂


    • beyondcinderella
      Apr 30, 2013 @ 03:09:01

      Debbie, thank you so much for your heartfelt response. I’ve always said I mainly write my blog as a gift to my daughter Shantel to look back on since of course I can’t give her pictures of our life…but, in the process, of course, I open myself and my life up to the universe and I know others out there have to have experienced at least some of the same family issues I have…so if I am able to help anyone in any way to know they are not alone…I’ve accomplished what I set out to do…Virginia


      • Debbie AZ
        May 02, 2013 @ 21:49:47

        I forwarded the link to my nice & she read this too. It helped her & gave her strength to give herself permission to limit the contact she has with grandma. She knows she is toxic & will not let that pull her down.
        Your words meant a lot to both her & I. When we are open, we can find strength in places we never thought of.

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