Caught between two difficult child generations

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by firehorsewoman, May 31, 2012.

  1. My life has been sandwiched between a psychotic, addicted mother and a difficult child son.

    What was I thinking when I decided to reproduce?

    I feel so guilty and sad.
    Lasted edited by : May 31, 2012
  2. greenrene

    greenrene Member

    I'm in a similar position - my mother was/is a full-blown difficult child, and I'm now raising my husband's daughter, who is also full-blown difficult child (she inherited a LOT of bad traits from her mother).

    Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever know any sense of "normal" in my home life. I'm getting a glimpse of it now because difficult child is away with her grandparents, and it's like breathing fresh air. I wonder how my life and health would be if not for all of the difficult child stressful BS.

    Hugs to you - I know all about the guilt and sadness. I'm trying to learn how to put myself first and take care of ME. Easy to say, hard to enact. Hang in there!
  3. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    I'm going to guess the psychotic addict is your mother?

    If so, detachment is in order. Sure, she's your mom and all that, but she's also a grown adult whom you have no control over. You do have control over what boundaries you put into place, and what behavior you will and will not tolerate from her. It's not easy by a long shot having a difficult child as a parent. But at this point you have to realize that you're an adult and that you do have control over yourself and your own life. Just because she's your mom, family, doesn't mean you have to put up with unacceptable behavior.

    As for your son.......I come from a family full of mental illness. I have 2 difficult children myself, 3 if you count the eldest step difficult child. Genetics are what they are, not much you can do about them. It's a random shuffle. You could've just as easily wound up with all difficult children or all pcs.

    We as parents of difficult children must remember while in the midst of chaos and stress and hectic take the time, even if it can only be like 15 mins, for ourselves each day to do something relaxing for US. Doesn't have to be something huge, could be taking a walk, soaking in the tub........could be lunch with a friend, going into your room to read a book.

    We get so caught up in caring for everyone else's needs that we tend to forget to make certain our own are being met..........and it takes it's toll rapidly because we're not super human, we're just human, and Mom's need some down time too. My kids bedtime was 7pm until Jr High. One reason was simply because Mom need downtime before bed to relax so I could go to sleep.

    If it gets overwhelming, some moms need to find a therapist in real life to go talk to and just let it all pour out without being judged. While we here at the board do our best, sometimes it's just not like having that in person feed back.

  4. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I gave birth to one difficult child (mental illness in our family too). After him, and a ten week stint in the psychiatric hospital for me, I realized I shouldn't reproduce and adopted my other kids. Some had problems, but at least they were already born.

    I have no regrets about not giving birth a second time. Birthson has a lot of mental health issues and grandson is very high needs so maybe he will too.
  5. Cut all ties with my mother 16 years ago. On the toxicity scale she is nuclear.
  6. I had an "in your family" moment tonight...but for the first time thinking this thought in regards to living with a difficult child child not parent.

    Let me explain:

    A little more than a decade ago during easy child infant year she suffered from kidney problems and was in and out of the hospital frequently. I was trying to cope with a demanding job, absent non-supportive spouse, and postpartum depression. I went to a psychiatrist with the goal of finding my mind again which I was having trouble finding. After about 5 minutes in his office discussing my current issues (and without one mention of past ones like my childhood) the psychiatrist told me to read the book, "Adult Children of Abusive Parents." I took his advice and found the book to be very helpful. Each chapter would start with a scenario describing a challenging situation regarding parents and children. The scenario would always end with a reasonable solution. The next paragraph would read, "But in your family....." and go on to describe a similar but totally messed up version of the previous scenario. Reading these passages would make me laugh as well as cry. It seemed as if the author had grown up with my parents.

    Tonight after the routine of conflict with difficult child-meltdown-stick to my guns-more conflict-meltdown-stick to my guns-rage-violence-resolution, start all over, etc...without me skipping a beat or becoming upset (only the really bad meltdowns affect me anymore) I thought of the line "But in your family..." If the book were about living with difficult children the paragraph could start: Young Jenny wants to attend a sleepover tonight. Her mother tells her that she cannot attend because of other plans the family has this weekend. Jenny starts to pout and is disappointed. Her mother suggests that she invite her friend over another time and Jenny is still disappointed but gets over it quickly. "But in your family.....young Johnny asks you to make him some popcorn. You ask him to clean his room first. He flies into a rage and starts throwing objects. You calmly repeat that he must clean his room. He stomps off and does a poor job of room cleaning. He demands popcorn again. You tell him that he must clean his room properly. His temper becomes more violent, with him screaming and throwing things. He goes into his room comes back and yells at the top of his lungs for five minutes. You tell him that he will not get popcorn since he cannot control his temper....blah, blah..." Both situations occurred at my house tonight. It brought back memories of that book.

    I started to think of what a home without a difficult child would be like. At least I have somewhat of an idea since I also have a easy child. I did not have such a comparison as a child. For years I really had no idea of what life with a non difficult child parent would be like. Once in awhile I would make and keep a friend that had normal parents and I would get a glimpse....but then we would move or difficult child mom would scare them off. I had no idea what it was like to have a mother that was appropriately dressed, not high all the time, not combative, did not provoke people staring at us...etc....I really had no idea what non-difficult child parents were like until I was in my early 20s and started forming adult friendships.
    Lasted edited by : Jun 3, 2012
  7. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I think there are several of us on here who have lived through bad childhoods and then had kids. My mom seemed to read Mommy Dearest and thought it was a parenting guide. I was abused just about every way you can imagine from infancy up until I finally got up the strength to put a stop to it and that was in my late 20's. Maybe even later. I was even forced to take care of her when she became ill with alzheimers. She became ill and had to come live with us when I still had teen boys living with me. Yeah I was part of the sandwich generation. It was tough. She was a difficult child, I was a difficult child, I think her mom was a difficult child .
  8. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Good morning FHW. It appears there are quite a few of us sandwiched between the generations as you are, you are clearly not alone. I am sorry you find yourself in these very challenging times, the dilemmas and choices some of us face on a daily basis are often beyond comprehension. My heart goes out to you, I truly understand, I think there are many here who really 'get it.' From your other posts it appears you are being scapegoated by your ex and his tribe and then in a position to have little support. An extremely difficult place to be.

    Your post brought to mind my own strange journey with so much mental illness, so much drama brought to me by my parents, siblings, daughter, ex-husband.........the list is long, it's life long. As much as I always wanted a "normal" life, that has consistently eluded me. I realized when I was in the 7th grade, sleeping at a girlfriends house, that by comparison to the way her mother responded to my sudden illness,....... fever, throwing up, fatigue,.........what my mother used to call a 24 hour virus, I knew right then that something was very wrong with my family. I hadn't been able to really see or understand it before. I was 12 years old. Her mother was concerned, nurturing, caring, sat with me and held my hand, looked at me with tenderness and compassion, all of which was new to me.

    I have had 21 years of personal therapy. I've had lots of body work since stress hides in the body and causes all kinds of issues. I've had to overcome a lot of fear and anxiety because I was not safe as a kid. I've had to accept what is and learn to detach from my only child. I raised my sister and am raising my granddaughter. Life has been, at times, very hard.

    The other side of the coin, which I really believe has made all the difference, is a belief I have which is that life gives us lessons and to the degree that we learn them, we can find peace, contentment and joy. Not to say it's easy, but that way of looking at things has made a difference for me. It keeps me out of being a victim of the circumstances I have no control over. I try to find what the lesson is and then try to learn how to deal with it. The other important factor for me is gratitude. I look for things to be grateful for and focus on that. I once read, many years ago, that what we focus on expands. That made sense to me and my emotional body shifts when I am focusing on gratitude rather then what is wrong and what I can't control anyway. These are simply my ways of dealing with life, not meant to be the path for everyone.

    Many of us here, Pigless, Star, Hound Dog, Janet, Midwestmom, Greenrene, and you, all have what therapists would call resilience. That resilience is born out of a strong commitment to life, a strength which overrides the pain and gives us the courage and compassion to move through it and offer a hand to others. Use us to buoy you up out of the deep waters, feel the collective power to address what's in front of you, see it clearly, take care of yourself well so you can make good solid choices that will be healthy for everyone. Your ex, his mother, his wife are stunted in their blame game, but you aren't, you can see clearly. It's tough being the person who sees the truth without the luxuries of judgement, it's lonely and scary. But you do it, one step at a time, just like you are. It sounds to me like you're doing a very, very good job of it.
  9. Recoveringenabler I can for sure relate to your story about illness as a child. My difficult child mother would make us clean up our own vomit even when my sisters and I were very young children. She would become angry when we were sick or injured. When I broke my arm at twelve she left me at school despite the nurse calling her numerous times. I walked home the two miles carrying my books after spending the entire day in the nurse's office. Once she returned home she said that she didn't believe that my arm was broken. I cried myself to sleep that night only to awaken the next day with black fingers due to the decrease in circulation secondary to the fracture. By the time she took me to a doctor the arm was so swollen that it couldn't be put in a cast. Like you, I didn't learn the proper maternal response to childhood illness or injury until years later when I witnessed my friend's mother's and their responses.

    You speak of resilience...and my friends tell me similar. Just a few days ago a colleague asked me a question....I cannot remember exactly what now...something that was a normal question for a person raised in a traditional family but one that produced an answer that shocked him and caused him to tell me, "If you survived that, and did so well for yourself, these challenges you are facing now should be easy." On the surface this seems to be true. My life is much better and safer now than it was for the first 30 years of my life. But isn't it possible that resilient people finally run out of gas? I think so. That is how I feel. The fight in me is gone for the most part. The me 25 years ago had it very hard but then I was truly resilient. I do not feel that way anymore.

    On a separate note regarding being sandwiched between two difficult child generations, I worry a lot more about my son difficult child than I think I would if I had not had a difficult child mother. I saw her life. I lived it's horrors. I try to remind myself that she was born in 1946 not 2002 like my son. She was born to uneducated, poor, immigrant parents. Schools and the medical community did not address these issues. My son has two educated parents that are able to get him help in many ways. I try to remind myself of these things yet I know that mental illness and addiction are hard to overcome no matter what the circumstances.

    Some days I fantasize about having both my difficult child son and mother in the same room. I think about what that would be like. The two people that I love that have made my life the challenge that it is.

    I tell myself that I was put in their lives for a reason. I hope I live long enough to see a happier outcome for my son. I wish that I had been able to help my mother more.
  10. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Yes, I think we can run out of gas as you said. I think I did that after my son in law committed suicide in 2000. I burned out. I had adrenal fatigue. I could not get off of the couch. All my internal reserves were depleted from all the stress. I had to put my health as a priority and learn how to put myself first, get support, do all the things I suggested to you in your other post. It was a huge life transition for me, but I had to put the focus on myself instead of on others. I am healthier today then I have ever been!

    You may be at a similar life choice point if you are burned out. Use my experience and put yourself first, do what others are saying as well, it is vitally important for you to heed this advice now so your health doesn't get impacted in a negative way. Take good care of yourself. You've done a good job of surviving your childhood and finding your own way. You've done the best job you know how to do with your children. Now do it for you, love yourself. It ends up being the most important choice you can make. My mothers heart hurts to read your story of your broken arm. But you managed to thrive. That is something to celebrate. You are here right now trying to do the right thing for your son. I commend you for that. Now do the right thing for you. Hugs to you sweet mom, from my heart to yours.........
  11. Thanks Recoveringenabler for your kind words and support and mostly for your "mother's heart." I could use that more than anything now. I know what you say is true. I do need to put the focus on me but that is so hard for us to do isn't it? I have experienced a ton of health problems over the past five years...many of which continue. So yes, I have come to the same conclusion that you have. I quit my full-time job in January (totally freaked the ex out and a point of contention between us even though I have not missed one child support payment) because it was killing me and I have the medical bills to prove it. I gave up a steady paycheck and health insurance for me and the kids (have COBRA until next year) because I knew that I had no choice. I just wish that I could stick to my plan of taking better care of myself. Originally I told myself that I was taking 6-12 months off regardless of my financial situation. I am so tired of the commuting, long work hours and dealing with the ex and difficult child. I was falling apart mentally and physically so I did stick to that plan in March when I only worked three days the entire month....then the financial worries got to me. So in April I started doing contract work which has brought a different set of stress with the inconsistent pay, hours, and the IRS taking a bigger chunk of what I make. Still, I feel much better than I did dealing with the daily stress of my former job.

    Yes, you are right. I know that you are. In fact I even know what I need....a long break from my profession but I am too afraid to suffer the consequences financially since I have no one at all to fall back on. I also need a change of scenery but feel paralyzed and won't leave town. In the meantime I am sleeping more, reading the self-compassion books and taking it one day at a time. Trying not to worry too much. I just wish I had the courage to do what I really need and take more than a month off.

    thanks again
  12. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Yes, I hear that you need the care and love directed at you, I'm happy to hear you say that. I understand that very well. I'm right here with you, I will offer you any assistance you require with my experience as you make these transitions, I know the path out, I really do. Remember this piece of wisdom someone shared with me, it's about faith, you jump first and then you grow wings. You're doing that and it takes time I completely understand the fear of letting go of where you are and walking into the unknown. It's a risk. You are moving through it now and because if your health issues and the pressure on you, you can see what it's all cost you.

    I have to say this too, I am proud of you for quitting your job and having the incredible courage to recognize you had to do that. Wow. I am impressed. I believe you are doing all the right things, very similar to the very hard choices I had to make. And, you know what? Over time, over each agonizing choice, I got closer and closer to who I really am, closer to health, closer to joy and closer to the life I always wanted to live. Is it perfect? No. Did I make the right choices? Absolutely. I left a lucrative career which was depleting the life force out of me.It was hard. But like you I rested and read. I gathered my resources and kept making different choices, choices that reflected self love, a rather different point of view, and one which changed the course of my life.

    Don't worry about tomorrow. Do exactly what you are doing and the next step will reveal itself when you're ready. Rest. Be compassionate with yourself. You are making an enormous internal shift which takes time and forces you to think each step through so you make a different choice now based on taking care of YOU first. You can do it. You have already demonstrated enormous courage by quitting your job and concentrating on your needs. You have the courage, no doubt about that, now it's time to change your thinking about yourself and your needs. Time spent caring for you, being kind to you, making your needs important, holding your own hand and telling yourself how precious and lovable you are, because you are. You, like me, didn't have anyone to mirror your unique and special wonderfulness to you as a child, but that doesn't mean it isn't there, it's just been hidden from YOU, and now you need to find it, which is exactly what you are doing.

    I think you are doing all the right things to make major changes in your life. You have what it takes to do it. What you need is loving support and to develop within yourself the mothering towards yourself that you missed out on the first time around. You can learn to do that. I did. And, I can help you too. You can PM me anytime and talk about it, I am happy to support you any way I can. It's simply an invitation, you choose whether that would be helpful or not. Or keep posting here, I'll respond. Big giant mommy hugs are coming at you right now, the same ones that held me close. Open your heart to all the love there is for you, I found it to be amazing once I let go and let it in. So will you. It's your time now.
  13. Recently another small yet not insignificant event has set me on that "path out" as you describe it.

    Because my kids are with their father 2/3 of the month, I feel the great urge and need to tell them how much I love and miss them when they get to my house. I asked easy child, "Do you know who my two favorite people are in the universe?....." she cut me off before I could finish with the "...and how much I love you" part. She said, "Why do you tell us that all of the time? I don't want to hear that anymore."

    I was crushed. I held back the tears and mumbled, " I tell you because it is true." I added, "One day Mommy won't be around to tell you that she loves you and you may wish that she were." What I was thinking was "AND I tell you because my mother never told me she loved me my entire life." Silly me for thinking that telling my kids how much I miss and love them is important. easy child is sweet and easy-going but she can be a "chip of the old iceberg" (like her father) when it comes to affection so I am accustomed to that. Still, the severe coldheartedness of her response really triggered something in me deep inside regarding moving along that path of change...that path of "my time" as you describe it.

    thanks again
  14. pigless in VA

    pigless in VA Well-Known Member

    Yes, I did. husband's illness almost took me down with him. It was at that point that I realized I needed a long range plan to live for. I started making changes that were small. I began to sleep in a different room because husband's negativity was sucking the life out of me. He spent 95% of his time depressed and miserable. I didn't want my life to be like that. I started doing things with the kids and left him at home if he didn't want to participate. I found sitters, so I could do things with friends once in awhile. When I couldn't do that, I'd just go outside and dig in the yard. Maybe it's because plants don't say anything, but I was able to recenter myself with that one activity.

    My the goal was to get Candy through high school and then divorce husband. Until then, I was going to do my level best to make my marriage work. As I got personally stronger, husband unraveled more and more. I continued to help him but I did what RE is describing. I found my joy in life again. Little by little, bit by bit I took it back. I found friends to laugh with and I enjoyed my kids and their friends. Through their friends, I found friends, too.

    I read a lot, too, and I found reading about others who survived atrocities to be incredibly helpful. I needed to know about people who forged ahead in spite of incredible circumstances.

    I had a reasonably safe early childhood, but my parents divorced when I was 13. They both stopped parenting. My dad did pay child support but paid no attention to the neglect going on at our "home" where mom was. Mom fell into a deep dark depression and didn't return to normal for 10 more years. She wasn't mean but she allowed her now husband who some of you remember that I call the "troll" into our lives. Troll brought his drinking buddies into our house and they were some tough customers. Our house became the hangout for biker gangs and druggies. That experience skewed my whole perspective on normal and I have spent the rest of my life trying my hardest to create a safe haven for my kids.

    Have I had moments when I said, "why me?" Oh, yeah. Many, many, many of those. I think the trick is to slide in some enjoyment in between those moments.

    When you are dealing with difficult child's outrageous behaviors, does he sometimes make you feel like you're dealing with your out-of-control mother again? Ferb was causing me PTSD until I realized that his rages made me feel like I was dealing with the junkman (psycho ex who was a crank addict). Once I recognized my panic was for situations I had no control over in the past, I was able to calm myself better and forgive my son for his anger.

    I also had to go on an antidepressant for myself for a long period of time. It is something to consider if you are feeling overwhelmed.

    Hang in there, girl. There are many who have been in the trenches and survived. We care about you.
  15. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    FHW, your post reminded me of a discussion I was recently having with my therapist about disappointment. How my own profound disappointment in my childhood was the hook which kept me stuck in codependency and enabling with children, and more recently with my granddaughter. She helped me see that I needed to mourn my own disappointment, which I've done a lot of, and to recognize the difference between what my granddaughter is feeling, perhaps a small disappointment that is part of growing up and how different that is from my own depth of sorrow from my own childhood. I think when we have children, our wounds sometimes get mixed up and we can't always distinguish their needs/pain etc. from our own. Your daughter likely really feels loved by you and knows how much you miss her when she is not with you. Her emotional body is filled up and nurtured, you gave her that. Your emotional body may not be filled up and nurtured and your reaction could be from that part of you. Her response may not have been so coldhearted as it was just an offhanded remark made by a 10 year old who knows she is loved. It may have more to do with your wounds and hurts with your mom and how cold she was to you.

    For me those kinds of observations that pop up, like this has for you, are an opportunity to heal that part of us. I would look at that as the next step to work on. If you are in therapy, you might mention that to your therapist. If not, keep open and keep reading your books, and certainly, allow the feelings to surface if that feels safe. My belief is that feeling those old feelings frees us to be in the present, not continually reliving the past. Great observation by the way, and connecting it to the process you're in is another step in the right direction. I look at those as 'clues'....... intuitive directional arrows pointing you to the truth and to freedom. Good job.

    For me, it's like I had to empty myself of the past, the sorrows, the beliefs I held that were not real, the hurts and disappointments. And then I was empty and a new self began to birth itself. It's a helluva ride, but absolutely worth taking. Keep following the clues..................
  16. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I didnt manage to escape my mother's abuse. Her treatment of me lasted a lifetime and I came away with my borderline diagnosis. I just wasnt strong enough most likely because I already had the genes waiting to emerge for the bipolar. I am convinced I was bipolar from a very young age but there was no childhood mental health when I was a child either. I didnt get my diagnosis until I was in my late 30's.