Friday, February 6, 2009

Little Women (2004)

Little women full of big toxic dysfunction...

Before any wedding could even be thought of, I had a graduation to attend. I graduated with a masters a week after I got engaged-- with honors and several ceremonies over three days. I was able to arrange to have my mother attend two days of ceremonies (Thank You Ceremony, Honor Society Induction, and Hooding Ceremony), and then have my father & step-mother attend the school's graduation.

The Thank You Ceremony was on a Saturday. My mother met my fiance & me at the house, and we drove over together. The ceremony was my opportunity to thank those in my life who supported me during my college years. The MC started the ceremony by saying that the purpose of the night was thank those who have supported you through your college years as nobody can do it on their own-- that everybody has a support system. The MC told a story about a turtle that couldn't get to the top of the pole without help. Everybody has someone to thank. The MC gave CLEAR instructions on how the ceremony was to proceed: the student thanks the person/people he/she wants to honor, a certificate is handed to them, and then the group exits the stage so that the next group can do their presentation. The auditorium was filled so the ceremony could last a lengthy time.

The ceremony progressed with the student thanking their respective party and leaving the stage after a hug & certificate given to the honoree. Time and time again, the student thanked their supporter, the supporter took the certificate, and the group left the stage. When my turn came, I took my mother and my fiance on stage and started with a brief opening statement, then I thanked my fiance and then I thanked my mother. When I handed my mother her certificate and went to hug her, she whispered to me, "I'm going to say something now". My heart dropped to my feet-- here we go again with the social inappropriateness! I begged her with BIG EYES and saying, “No, please don’t. Please no”. But she went ahead.

My mother got in front of all those people and said that her daughter got to the top of the pole by herself and didn't need help-- basically contradicting the exact purpose of the ceremony! She continued saying that her daughter is the one that helps other turtles get to the top of the pole but that she is independent herself. MY HEAD WAS SPINNING. And I could tell my the looks from my beau that he was shocked and appalled. My head spun from this for days, weeks, months... I couldn't believe that she had to call attention to herself in a situation where every other person / group CLEARLY didn't do as she did. "The borderline's need for attention is so out of control and pathetic that it is frightening. Others are embarrassed for her. The Queen's behavior elicits embarrassment about her need for recognition, attention, and control" p 255 Lawson.

That following Tuesday, I had warned my mother (who was rather weak and feeble at this point) that the two ceremonies (Honors Induction and Hooding Ceremony) would be in two separate locations on campus so using her wheel chair would be highly recommended. I also let her know that there would be a reception following the Hooding Ceremony for professors, graduates, and families. I was looking forward to introducing her to the faculty, my co-workers, and colleagues.

The day arrived for the Honor Society Induction and Hooding Ceremony. My mother met me at the house, and we (beau, mother, and me) left together. The induction went smoothly. My mother decided not to use her wheel chair, so she walked over with my beau and one of my friends to the Hooding Ceremony. I separated from them as I had to get ready for the procession into the auditorium.

Once I entered the auditorium and took my seat, I found where my beau, friend, and mother were sitting in the stands. She started giving me looks like when is this thing going to end, and she was rolling her eyes and acting bored. When the ceremony ended, the reception followed, but my mother acted completely famished, exhausted, and spent so my fiance went across campus to get the car and we skipped the reception. I was very disappointed but I understood she didn't feel good... or did she??

Once we got back to the house, my mother was like a different person. She was all energetic and wanting to order pizza, watch the video of my ceremony, and chat with my friend & beau. Was the onset of the ill feelings real or did she just want to leave my ceremonies? She didn't want to use the wheel chair, yet she knew she couldn't endure being on her feet for any length of time. She also knew the agenda for the day / evening, so why did she cop-out on what I had worked so hard to achieve-- my day in the sun.

Well, my school's graduation was two days after the other ceremonies. My Dad and step-mother arrived, witnessed, and then took my beau & me out to lunch. They had a nice time meeting my friends, taking pictures, and having refreshments at the reception. A stark difference to my mother's behavior.

After graduation, I started helping my mother around her house. During the past few years, my step-father had his mother move into the house as she had Alzheimer's and kidney failure. My step-father and mother took care of her estate, moving most of her belongings into their house. As a result of not being orderly to begin with, then adding all of the other things to the mix, the house was a complete disaster, so I volunteered my assistance while looking for a job. My assistance was intended for moving large objects, heavy things, and doing things that a sickly woman like herself couldn't accomplish, or organizing and sorting which my step-father wasn't fond of doing.

I was surprised that my mother enlisted me to clean a THIMBLE collection, scrub toilets, organize hundreds of HAT BOXES, thousands of FLIP FLOPS, countless BEANIE BABIES, and other bizarre things. Clearly she didn't want to do these things-- it's not that she couldn't. Granted, some of the stuff she was not capable of, but she spent an inordinate amount of time sleeping and staying up late on the computer-- not cleaning or taking care of her house.

The odd collections were disturbing as she was appearing to be a hoarder and a person with a shopping addiction. She had things stashed and hidden all over the house... and she wouldn't get rid of anything. She still had her dead mother's clothes in the downstairs bedroom (if you recall my grandmother passed in 1977-- this is now 2004). "Borderlines hide their purchases. Shopping and hoarding can be an obsession. The act of acquiring and controlling what is hers provides temporary relief from feelings of emptiness" p 114 - 115 Lawson.

I kept my mouth shut, worked the best I could given the parameters, and I made a distinct difference in the house: making shelves for the hat boxes, clearing out rooms to be usable, gutting the garage, cleaning the house of years worth of dust & grime.

One day when I was getting supplies from a local hardware store, my mother went with me for the ride. As we were driving up the street, she asked me out of the blue, "Who are you going to have you walk up the aisle?". I hadn't talked to her about ANY wedding thoughts, ideas, plans, or anything knowing that the subject would be a touchy one figuring my wedding would involve her AND my Dad... and we know how that goes. My heart bounced off the floor, ricocheted off the ceiling, and smacked me in the face. I answered that I hadn't given it thought yet. She then said that my step-father should be the one to walk me down the aisle since he's the one that has always been there for me. She also added that he shouldn't be expected to pay for any of the wedding since he's not my father. What!? Errr, say that again? Then she asked me about my Dad, if I had told him about my engagement. I told her yes, that I had been in contact with him, and that he even offered to contribute to the wedding. She then said that doesn't give him the right to walk you down the aisle. From there, I asked if she thought it was fair that he contribute to the wedding but not be involved. My mother responded that it is fair considering how my step-father has been more of a father to me. I was breathless, and shot out of the car once we got to the hardware store. I immediately called my fiance. I knew that this was only the SURFACE of the rage that she was going to throw my way about the wedding if things didn't go the way she wanted. See subsequent posts: Adult Children of Parental Alienation and Borderline Mother Alienates Daughter

A week or two later, I was outside on her deck polishing silver when she, out of the blue, started telling me about my step-father crying in the middle of the night, telling her that he wants so much to walk me down the aisle. I was completely baffled. I didn't say anything, and I just kept polishing silver. She continued with saying that if anyone had the right to walk me down the aisle, it's my step-father, and how I should ask him to walk me down. I could feel my adrenalin flowing as I was being put in a situation I cannot win. She wants to walk me down the aisle, she is telling me a pitiful story about how my step-father wants to walk me down the aisle, and she knows that my Dad is contributing to the wedding & will want to walk his daughter down the aisle as the Father of the Bride. I have spent endless hours thinking of how NOT to hurt anyone's feelings (long before my fiance ever asked me to marry him, I pondered how I would handle this situation), how to incorporate everyone to make everyone happy, how to make the wedding as peaceful as possible... and I hadn't even made a single plan yet! The wedding wasn't even in its planning stage!

Well, as my mother kept laying on the guilt trip thick about my step-father walking me down the aisle, my head started to spin more and more. I finally blurted out, "Fine. We will have two ceremonies. We have talked about it and we will have two ceremonies. We will have one with my Dad which he can contribute to, and we can have another with you guys".

She commented about how my step-father shouldn't have to pay for anything, so I suggested having a celebration at her house. She then shouted to my step-father who was inside, "We're out! We're out!".

I asked, "What!? You're out? Out of what?".

At that point, my step-father opened the door, and my mother said, "We are out of the wedding".

I responded with, "How can you be out of the wedding when you weren't even in it in the first place? We don't have any plans yet!".

She was like a different person. All the love and affection was gone, replaced with rage and animosity. My friend came to pick me up at that point, and when he walked in, my mother turned on that fake person, acting all nice and smiling.

As I walked to the car, I burst into tears. I knew that was it. I knew that was the last time I would see her, that we were headed into another estrangement, this one bigger than any before. I spent that night over beers with my friend. He had my mother figured out and talking to him really cleared my head. One word summarized my mother, he said, "Evil".

The next day, I called and talked to my step-father, telling him that I wouldn't be over to clean their house. I asked him to have my mother call me. She didn't. I called back again, asking him to have her call me. Again, she didn't. My fiance also called and talked to my step-father, which they said that we all needed to sit down and talk. Additionally, my fiance cleared up some lies that my mother had told him. But my mother never called.

Instead, within the next few days, my mother began a campaign of emails, sent not just to me, but to my Dad (copied to my fiance's family who he had never met), my fiance's family, my fiance, my college colleagues, my personal friends, and more. She said things about me to paint me in the worst light possible. She exaggerated facts. She outright lied. She said personal things about me that are none of anyone's business. I don't understand why a mother would want to be so mean and cruel to their child. See subsequent blog post: Understanding the Borderline Mother: Enlisting Allies Against Her Target of Rage

I also don't understand how a mother, who was just singing her daughter's praises at a graduation just TWO MONTHS earlier could think such awful thoughts of her child so quickly-- how she could have such a complete turn around in her thinking. “Borderlines distort the truth because their perceptions are distorted. Distortion is an unconscious way of processing information that reflects the individual’s reality. Distortion misleads and aggravates family members, who may take a borderline’s statement at face value before discovering the facts.

The borderline enlists others as allies against the person who is the target of her rage. She may seek out friends, family members (including siblings and children), and co-workers of her victim in whom to confide fabricated stories designed to discredit her enemy. She intentionally leaves out discussion of her own behavior, presenting the other person's behavior as entirely unjustified. Others may believe the allegations because of the intensity of her emotion. Misinformation is calculated and constructed in order to destroy the victim's reputation. Those who do not know the true situation may not notice the inconsistencies in the story. It's difficult to verify the truth because the intensity of her emotions dissuades others from asking details" p 141 Lawson.

Fortunately, the people that she emailed these rants to simply deleted them for the most part. I received phone calls from people asking why my mother was acting so erratically and why she was slandering me. I explained the situation briefly, and the consensus was that she's crazy (most people knew my history with my mother). My fiance responded one time, and I responded one time. My fiance's family never responded, but to this day, they still exchange Christmas cards (bizarre). She's convinced a few people that I am a hateful, mean, and cruel person, and I can't do anything about it (nor do I care to because if these few chose to believe her, I am not going to campaign to convince them otherwise). "The Queen borderline's adult children must understand that those with healthy mothers cannot imagine the manipulativeness of the borderline Queen. Others therefore assume that the child, rather than the mother, is the selfish one" p 253 Lawson.

I really couldn't battle with her thinking as she was damned and determined to think I am hateful, mean, and doing everything in my power to hurt her. She was telling people that I kicked her out of the wedding, that I was ripped her heart out of her chest, that I don't love her. I responded one time with what my intent was and how I want her in my wedding one way or another, and when she said that she was "out", did she mean it. I told her if she didn't mean it, to let me know, and we could discuss the wedding options. She never responded to that question, but continued to shoot me emails about everything else under the sun.

In regard to the borderline mother and an announcement of marriage, I found this passage particularly haunting, "When the daughter of a borderline Queen announced that she was getting married, her mother insisted on planning the wedding as if it were her own. The daughter wanted a simple, private ceremony as opposed to her mother's desire for a large, lavish wedding. Because her daughter insisted on a simple ceremony, the Queen mother refused to attend the wedding, complaining to extended family members that her daughter had 'shut her out of her life'" p 253 Lawson. When I read this passage, I freaked out as this is almost identical to what happened to me with my mother. I was breathless as I realized that others have been through exactly what I have.

To this day, I haven't spoken to her again. "The borderline mother is powerless over adults who use their power to disappear " p 281 Lawson. "The single greatest power adult children possess is their ability to get away" p 283 Lawson.

Shortly after this upheaval with my mother, I had lunch with my step-mother, and she said I should wish her dead. WHAT!? What is with these people in my life!? I don't wish my mother dead. I don't wish anyone dead. What in the world is my step-mother thinking telling me that!? My mother may be inappropriate. My mother may be seriously misguided. My mother's thinking may be crazy. BUT SHE IS STILL MY MOTHER. How cruel and harsh is it for this lady to say that to a person who is trying to handle a fresh estrangement with her mother during a time that should be the happiest in her life!? WOW.

There was another incident when my fiance and I were over at my Dad and step-mother's house when my step-mother had been drinking pretty heavily. My Dad and fiance were in the other room, while my step-mother and I were in the breakfast room. We were talking about this and that, and at some point she asked me about my mother. I answered that I had no idea, that she and I hadn't spoken still. My step-mother took me into a different room, father from my fiance, and started to tell me that I needed to start therapy. I stated that I was doing fine, that my friends are better than any therapist. I also said that if she and my Dad would open up about the past, that would be the best therapy I could ask for. She asked why I was so resistant to the idea of a therapist. I said that I am not resistant to a therapist at all-- but that I am not in need of one, as I have my situation with my mother handled. She said that I will have issues when I am older, and that she doesn't want me to have to go through that. I reassured her that I am fine, that my friends have been with me through the years and are able to support me more than a therapist who only knows what I am able to tell him/her. Again, my step-mother asked why I am resisting her. I finally had enough with the alcohol induced, whispery demands coming from her lips, and I got my fiance to leave.

Her approach was not of someone who was concerned-- not by any stretch of the imagination. She has never acted like she cared about me in the past, why now? She never does acts of unselfishness, so what's this all about? I think she has HUGE amounts of baggage carried over from her own mother, and she thinks she can project her issues onto me. She also has always been intimidated by my toughness, ability to land on my feet, and for making sound decisions (after all, her daughter drops out of college, has wedding planned and paid for by them that she abandons to run off to Vegas with another guy while drunk, gets knocked up and spends the next SEVEN years in their house with her kid while not working). The biggest factor, however, is how much I look like my mother, and she dislikes me for that.

Somewhere around this time, my step-sister decides to tell my Dad and her mother that piece of information she confided in me back in 2001 (My step-sister, one night when we were out with our significant others, pulled me aside and told me some pretty alarming news about her childhood that involved my brother and step-brother. She gave very little detail with her main point letting me know that this 'memory' came out in therapy. I was actually FLOORED when she broke this news to me, and she begged that I tell no one. So, I didn't. I did, however, think about what she had to say, which it just didn't add up (especially if you've known her, seen how she's conducted herself, and how everyone is to blame for her shortcomings)). The results of her revealing these lost memories have have devastating to the family. Obviously she "spilled the beans" to her step-father and mother for selfish reasons-- why else would she run to "Mommy & Daddy" when she's in her 30's? Her actions were obviously calculated and manipulative, and she pretty much got what she wanted-- my brother and her brother to be ostracized from the family. She also got her "Daddy" (step-father) to be alienated from his own son, and she also got the drama she was seeking.

I spoke at great lengths to my Dad about her actions-- how she has continually blamed other people for her short-comings her entire life, and now she is blaming these two brothers for other problems in her life. I spoke to my Dad about how she targets family members methodically when she doesn't have things going her way. I spoke to Dad about how negative and unhappy she is, and how she is finding comfort getting attention abet from a damaging situation. My Dad agreed with me all on accounts but still was stuck between a rock & a hard place because he is married to her mother; therefore, he has to keep peace. I couldn't believe it. Here we go again. The choice between my brother (his son) and his wife AGAIN, and he's going to chose his wife with no fight for his son.

The repercussions of my step-sister's revelation spilled over into all areas, including the ability for my brother to attend my wedding. My Dad told my brother that he would have to clear things up with my step-sister and step-mother before he could attend my wedding. WHAT!? What does my step-sister's diarrhea of the mouth have anything to do with MY WEDDING?? Nothing! Here my Dad is trying to control what is going on-- AGAIN. Here my step-sister has power-- AGAIN. Here I am being disregarded AGAIN by my Dad. See subsequent blog entry: My Dad, the Narcissistic King.

When speaking to my brother, he said he would do what he had to so that he could attend my wedding. I asked him not to compromise himself or his principles. I also reiterated that we are not children, so our Dad cannot tell us where we can go and where we can't; therefore, my brother can attend my wedding even without the approval of my Dad. I also commented that I truly understood if he felt uncomfortable with the entire situation and didn't want to come. I wanted him at my wedding MORE THAN ANYONE else, but here again, just like we were little, we were presented with a situation where we had to chose between parents, chose between people, chose between this or that because our parents forced the decision... a decision that should have never even been.


  1. My mother is a computer addict to, staying up late online. My graduation from high school was a disaster. My father was there too and my boyfriend's parents and she felt "left alone" on my day in the sun. She always has to be in the spotlight.

  2. Our ability to "get away" (NC) is also IMO a demonstration of our most primal Right: The right to Self-Protection/Self-Preservation. Our CB "parents" have undermined that Right from our earliest memories so often, we/I didn't realize we do indeed have this Right.
    Look at the natural world: Every single creature from the smallest (say, an amoeba) to birds, fish, primates etc. are born with some sort of inherent, environmentally adaptive mechanism(s) to protect themselves from Predators. If they have the "Right" to protect themselves, the right to self-preservation built right into their DNA to increase their chances for survival, don't we as well?!
    "Evil." Yes. I use this word to describe my CB "mother" and folks often get in an uproar. I'm using "evil" in it's Dictionary definition. It has a specific definition-look it up if you're so sure I'm denigrating my CB "mother:" If the word fits, use it. I'm not curled up comfortably on my couch with my lap top slinging invectives! There's about as much emotion behind that observation/word as if I used the word "blue" to describe the color of the sky.
    I smile at Lawson's use of words like, "misinformation," "distortion of truth" etc. as a very nice, PC way of saying, "CB's LIE, folks!" ;) Your SM's use of the Power of Suggestion informs my belief she was setting you up for a Classic double bind: If you agreed to go to therapy, you could then be "formally" labeled "The Problem" instead of "Resistant." She was pulling a Shit Test to assess her Power and Control over you-and you beautifully out-witted her with flying colors!
    (Go Gretel!! YEESS!!!)

    1. Thank you so much for the affirmation about the situation with my step-mother. That night was totally weird-- and I am so thankful that I don't have to deal with those manipulative situations anymore :)