A stab of guilt, I could use some support...........

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by recoveringenabler, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I know some of you have been on this treacherous road of detaching from our older kids, our adult kids....... and if you have a story or some advice or support I would appreciate it............

    As you know, I am presently disconnected from my difficult child. And, yesterday, the thought occurred to me that she is out there penniless, almost homeless, alone, scared, in a terrible place............and SO and I went out to dinner, I bought a new freezer, I had a massage, I gave my granddaughter money for something unnecessary...........you get the picture, I am spending my money on me, on my life, no longer giving it to my difficult child. There were a few moments last night where that felt very, very weird, and not in a good way.

    I told my SO, "you're going to have to talk me down off the ceiling on this one" and he really did. He helped a lot by mentioning how much I've paid for her, I paid all her bills most of last year, got her to a level place where she could have gotten a job or made some choices to see the Social Worker at NAMI who said he could help get her on disability or Social Security and get her into programs for housing, employment, medication, etc. But she refused to cooperate with anything, and now we've reached this point, where all of my efforts were for naught and her life has spiraled so far down, I have no idea how she will pull herself up. I told her a couple of days ago I would go with her to the Social Worker and we could talk about options ..........and I don't hear from her. I do believe I am doing the right thing by detaching from her life, but ......................the reality of my having my own life to live which is nourishing and abundant while hers is filled with scarcity and darkness is difficult.

    Last week my therapist used this phrase that I have "absorbed the deficiencies of others" for my whole life. Certainly makes sense considering all the mental illness in my family. I know it's not healthy to continue that, and of course, it depletes me of everything, including money. This is another transition for me, to learn to allow myself to be comfortable when my difficult child is not. Ugh. Goes against so much in a mothers heart. And, yet, everyone around me, two therapists, a whole group of other mothers, my friends, you guys, everyone says this is the right thing to do, and it is. But, it can feel really bad too. I've always given away so much to my family, in every way, this new episode with my difficult child is really the end of that very long pattern, so it's been a way of life for me in many ways.

    I would like to hear how others maneuver through this particular part of the detachment process. It is always helpful to know, first of all that I'm not alone, and secondly, how you walked this path.
  2. buddy

    buddy New Member

    just popping in to give you a quick hug. your head knows you're doing right by yourself and difficult child...and setting a healthy example for easy child I'd say :eek:.......
    but I can understand how strange it must feel. I am glad you reached out to SO and here to validate your choices. you deserve so much, even things that are just for fun!
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2013
  3. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    Just want to send my support. Keep remembering that you did a fantastic thing last year setting her up with the social worker, but she didn't make an effort. You again offered to sit with her and line up services with the NAMI social worker. That is a great offer, because I'm sure she's overwhelmed and can't think these things through for herself.
    In the meantime, what are your options? Wearing a hairshirt? Please, please, I know it's hard, but you have nothing to feel guilty about. You are far from cruel and heartless - you're a loving mom who's sacrificed so much already. You offer sensible advice and guidance, and if it's rejected, although it's surely heartbreaking, you cannot force your will. It is undeniably painful to watch unfold, that is certain. We are human and we have limitations - all of us.
  4. RE - You are such a strong, smart woman. I and so many others here benefit from your experience and wisdom every week. So my hugs and prayers for you and for your daughter today.

    Please know that there is nothing wrong with enjoying your life. You have a right to take care of yourself and be kind to yourself. You deserve that. You are spending money that you and SO have worked hard to earn, save and invest. difficult child does not have a right to this money just because she is your daughter. That is her sense of entitlement and you don't have to take that on.

    My sisters therapist says "Just because someone is throwing 'sh## doesn't mean you have to pick it up." For lack of a better analogy your daughter is slinging it at you and hoping that you'll pick it up and do something for her. It's hers. You can notice that she threw it but you can let it fall to the floor and just say "Oh yes, I see that." Essentially what you have done is offer to get her some paper towel and cleaner so she can clean up her mess. You have offered her a solution in getting herself some help - now she has to accept this offer or leave the mess as it is.

    You don't have to pick it up - you can walk away and go out for dinner with your SO. There is NOTHING wrong with that. This is something that is hard for us as mothers to accept - that we can come first in our own lives and that is not selfish and does not make us bad mothers. It makes us stronger, happier, better people and therefore makes us better mothers.

    Big hugs to you. This is a hard thing to do.
  5. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    She's 40, long past time for her to pay her own bills. Stay strong!

    It would be different if she was making progress but she is choosing her life.
  6. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    RE... you ARE doing everything that is possible to do. Including continuously being willing to help her take the next step.
    It isn't like you've turned your back on her and tossed her completely out of your life, never-want-to-see-you-again sort of rejection.
    Rather... she is in a tough corner that ONLY she can get herself out of...
    You can provide contacts, connections, information, support... anything else is just destructive to both of you.

    You can't compare where you are at today with where she is at today. It doesn't help anybody. But... we do. Comparisons are so destructive... recognize it for what it is.

    And then... keep doing the possible. It's all you CAN do.
  7. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    RE...you are a remarkable mom. I think we all feel that stab of guilt at some point in time. As an adult difficult child I can look back in time and see some things. When I was young and dumb my dad basically washed his hands of me. Oh he would talk to me from time to time but it was clear as a bell that he wasnt happy at all with me or my life. He actually sent me a wedding invitation to his second wedding that arrived a week before the wedding knowing I had no car and was two states away. He didnt even bother to call the only number he had for me to see if I needed transportation to get there. It was obvious he didnt want me there. He didnt even send anything for the birth of his second grandson...though he did come down to see him about two months later. He didnt call me in the hospital or anything. I have to say I have always envied those who have family come to visit them when they give birth. I never did.

    My dad only came around once I turned around. For him that meant when I graduated college. And it took him quite awhile to take to Tony. He did though and on his death bed he thanked Tony for being there for me and the kids. In our later years we were able to put my past behind us and became quite close. I know he always loved me and I know without a doubt watching me self destruct had to hurt him deeply because I was his only child but he had to let me go to let me grow. I am not the child he had hoped for I am sure but I think in the end I gave him 3 precious grandsons that he adored and 3 grandchildren he adored...and one he never got to meet. He really loved Cory's daughter so much. I know he would have loved Cory's youngest too. He was always so amazed with Tony being indian and to see a real little indian princess with McKenzie would have made his day. I often think of him looking down on her. I think he knows. Lord Im blathering on.

    You have had to let your daughter go so she can grow. My dad took many trips and cruises and such while my family was poor as church mice. I was happy for him. He worked hard to get what he got.
  8. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    Very descriptive and appropriate use. You've more than earned the right to refocus priorities.

    My mantra is all over my house. lol From time to time I have to refresh my memory: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
  9. I agree with all the others have written but I would add that your feelings are natural and to be expected. Of course it hurts your "mother's heart" so please don't beat yourself up for one second regarding the fact that you are having these feelings. It has not been that long really since you made the big decision to detach and you have done a spectacular job under the circumstances. You knew that it would not be easy and that there would be pain. There was pain before too...the difference is that the plan you have now has a chance of one day leaving you both healthier and happier.

    Also, as a fellow member who is sandwiched between two generations of difficult children, I think that it stinks and it is not fair to have lived most of your life feeling this pain. I also think that those like us with parents (especially mothers) who were difficult children and children who are difficult children are especially sensitized and vulnerable to all of the trappings of having a difficult child as a close family member.

  10. rejectedmom

    rejectedmom New Member

    I still have those feelings sometimes. It is more sadness than guilt but it comes up and takes some effort to put back down again. I too have been absorbing others' deficiencies my entire life. I hate that my parents programed me to be that way. I also find that I can get bitter at times for all my lost opportunities because I was taking care of and cleaning up after others. One day about a year ago, I woke up and I decided that 60 years of living a life that was forced on me rather than one I chose for myself is enough. When looked at that way, I realized there is no need to feel guilty when I spend time and money on myself. We parents aren't going to live forever. Our difficult children will have to learn to cope without us anyway. So why not have a few years of a life that we design full of the things we choose rather than the one our difficult children would pick for us .

    Funny even as I type this I have to remind myself that doing this isn't being selfish. -RM
  11. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    It seems to me that requiring (or allowing?) your daughter to take her life where SHE wants to take it is the one thing you have not done for her yet, recovering.

    Is it possible for you to view this time as that one, last effort to help her become independent by forcing her to rely on herself? Sometimes, we forget how shaming it is for our children to still BE children in their parents' eyes, and to be ineffectual adults, in their own.

    That is what we are trying, at my house. And it is almost impossibly hard to stick with it.

    And the guilt we feel at enjoying the good, bright things in our lives while our grown children are suffering....

    Something as simple as shopping at WalMart can bring such guilt I begin to feel anxious and sick to my stomach. If I can remind myself though, that having a parent to turn to for the normal, everyday expenses of life pretty much guarantees that my adult child will never find the strength to go out and get those things for herself, that helps me. We need to be able to see that we are crippling our children by consistently providing what they need. They were never meant to be so dependent on us that they did not develop their own strengths and resources.

    And that is where true self-esteem, true self respect, comes from, of course.

    You and I (yep, me too recovering ~ I'm trying those same shoes on for size) need to give our children space enough to create, and to come to rely on, their own strength. How scary a world would it be, had we not learned to do that for ourselves? Here is another thing I think about, sometimes. So, say husband and I were both killed driving one day. How could we expect a child who'd never learned who he was or what he valued to cope with a sudden influx of money or property? It would all be gone in a heartbeat...and then where would the child be?

    It kills to feel the agony we (and here, I thought I was the only one!) go through when we know the kids could use the money we're spending on ourselves. Better to teach them now, while we are still here for true emergencies.

    I'm sorry, recovering. I know you never in a million years believed there could be this much pain over even the simplest things. We will make it through this. And more importantly, we will pull our children through it, too.

    They need to learn how to function, how to choose how they will live. They need to stop dreaming of some freedom where no one has any responsibilities and everyone is kind. They really do need to learn those things.
  12. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Thank you all so much. That pang of guilt has been deleted from my consciousness, you all said all the right things...........

    Buddy, as always thank you for your warmth and compassion and acknowledgement that I did in fact reach out to SO and to this board, I didn't actually see that clearly until you mentioned it. And, of course, that's how we all get through this, with support and using the tools we have learned.

    Calamity Jane, thank you. I had to look up what a 'hairshirt' was, and when I did, I burst out laughing. REALLY! I laughed so hard it hurt. The idea of me wearing a hair shirt was so funny to me, it is now my new visual to keep me from feeling that guilt when I am simply living my life. I told my support group about the hairshirt last night and the whole group cracked up laughing.......mainly because we all wear hairshirts so much of the time!! What a gift, thank you so much.

    WTW, I love the story about throwing the sh*$, it is a wonderful visual too, it also made me laugh about how many times I picked it up!!! Your words were very comforting to me.

    JJJ, yes, she is 40 years old, Good Lord, you are so right! Thanks for pointing that out, it makes it so obvious which of course, sometimes when we're in the thick of it, we can't see the obvious!

    Insane- That is such a good point to not compare where I am today with where she is today, what a cause for suffering! Yes, doing more would be destructive, I needed to hear that!

    Janet, Wow, thanks for sharing what it was like for you with your Dad, that made so much sense to me, I can understand it better. I do need to let her go so she can grow and hopefully, she will grow as you did and have those insights as well.

    Sheila- thank you for saying I earned the right to refocus priorities, that has been easy for me to forget.

    FHW- thank you for understanding how natural these feelings are and acknowledging how painful it really is, as well as having empathy for how challenging it is to be 'sandwiched' between the difficult child's who raised us and the difficult child's we raise. Sigh.

    Rejected- Yes, I am sorry you are a member of the 'absorbing others deficiencies' club, and it's good to pop out of that and make the focus ourselves. Thanks for understanding that, it means a lot.

    scent of cedar- thank you for your compassionate empathy, it feels good to know you not only get it but are traveling that same road. It is painful, and yet I am getting better and better each day. It sounds as if you are too. Everything you said was absolutely right on.

    Every one of you has given me a wonderful gift and you helped so much. I was teetering on the precipice, wanting so much to just live my own life and not be saving myself, my money, my time, my energy, my everything, for my difficult child should she fall deeper into the abyss........and you all lovingly nudged me over to the other side, where I can enjoy my own life. Geez, I needed that nudge. Then I went to my support group last night and they nudged me further down the road. I am so happy that I have an army of people supporting me through this, it makes it doable and so much easier. Many grateful hugs to all of you who responded..........
  13. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    RE...I was in a very weird situation. I had one parent who was using tough love and the other wanted nothing more than to see me fail in every way. It made my life very hard. Remember the Push me Pull me thing in Dr Seus? That was my life.
  14. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    Mom guilt is a powerful thing, isn't it? I'm glad you were able to wrestle it to the ground and show it who's boss. I bet every parent here can admit to a time where they had very similar feelings, even with radially different circumstances. Remember that you need to put on YOUR oxygen mask first. Then you can be there for your beautiful granddaughter.
  15. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    I think it's important ~ vitally important, even ~ for us to remember that what is happening to us is a personal devastation. To need to learn to turn our own children away is gut-wrenching. We all deal with that knowlwedge in our own way, but that doesn't change this into something easy or even, survivable. I am not who I was before this happened to my family. I will never know the confidence that comes so naturally to a mother who has not survived the fire I have ~ the fire every one of us has walked through, all the normal, everyday things we all juggle in one arm and our raging, defiant, broken difficult children in the other.

    We ARE warriors, here. We never give up, we never stop fighting, we never stop trying to know how to make this right.

    I understand that I sound like I am whining. Actually, I'm not. Unless our awareness is crystal clear, we will be defeated by our losses. There is not a one of us here who doesn't remember who she thought she was raising ~ who didn't see that young man or woman so clearly, in the child in her arms. We are grieving, we are raging, we are half-dead.

    But we are surviving.

    And we are bringing our children through it, somehow, some way, too. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe never. But you will never see one of us give up. Not for long.
  16. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Scent of cedar, you really nailed it, "personal devastation" sigh, yes, that's it. And, you did not sound as if you were whining, you were stating a fact as far as I am concerned. Putting this into words is not easy, it all takes place in such a deep internal place, where this kind of grief lives within us all the time, lurking there awaiting that opening to pounce out, dragging us, at least momentarily, through those very dark places only a mother of a difficult child knows so well. Thank you for saying it so eloquently, it brings me some comfort.

    Last night I was standing in the kitchen with my granddaughter and her boyfriend, tasting bread I had just made in my new bread making machine. We were laughing and enjoying the moment. The kids left the kitchen and a stab of such pain hit me in the heart, that my daughter is out there alone and scared and I am warm and fed and happy. The moment passed. I am very aware that she got there on her own, needs to find her own way out and I will not interfere. But that does not make the moments of pain any less, the heartfelt recognition that she may never get it together and could end up.................????...........and then I have to pull myself back to the moment and motor on with my life. It is what it is, I cannot change it, I have no control over it, all of that stuff we all know....................but yes, I see the little girl who had so much promise and it is devastating. And, yet, life does go on and each day this gets just a tad easier.

    I see from your signature that your daughter has retreated from life somewhat. Geez, I hope she finds her way back. I'm sorry. Sending you hugs and hoping you find peace.
  17. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Yes, we have advice, but nobody here has figured out how to make it easy and pain free for the warrior mom! We are here for life dear RE, we can do what we think is best.....but not sure it is ever easy.
  18. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    Oh, man. I love fresh bread! Love the way it smells, love the way butter melts on it when it's warm...!


    (A salivating Scent of Cedar slinks away.)