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Why I Choose to Remain ‘No-Contact’ With My Abusive Mother

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Many survivors of childhood complex trauma have experienced abuse and/or neglect at the hands of an abusive parent who also had a mental illness. They may also have a history of trauma themselves. Where does the cycle of intergenerational trauma end? With a lot of hard work, therapy and self-awareness, you can be the one that breaks the cycle. If you have an abusive parent, the key to your own healing may be stronger boundaries and limiting contact, or going “no-contact.”

• What is PTSD?

After a childhood of trauma, I made the decision to end my relationship and go no-contact with my mother 13 years ago. As an adult woman who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD (C-PTSD) herself, I should clarify that I am not intending to demonize mental illness. I have many healthy relationships with friends and family who also live with mental illness. My mother has simply not taken steps to heal, and this is not OK with me. I went no-contact for my own self-preservation, but that didn’t always assuage my early feelings of guilt. I cut off contact with the number one person society tells you that you are supposed to love and honor. I’ve heard the phrase “but she’s still your mother” more times than I could count. With a lot of therapy under my belt, I recognize that I didn’t ask to be created, I should have been taken care of, and the guilt does not have to be mine to carry.

Not having a mother hurts, but for me, having one in my life hurts even more. I was an 18-year-old college student when I experienced what would be The Last Straw. My mother picked me up for spring break and drove aggressively and erratically the whole 90-minute drive back. When we finally got into town, she stopped to pick up a six-pack. She had screamed at me on the phone two weeks prior when she found out I had been drinking at college, but on this particular occasion, she offered me a drink, opened one up herself, and drank it the rest of the drive home. This offense was one of many, was not the worst, and would certainly not be the last.

With more emotional intelligence under my belt, I try my best to reflect on the past with a bit of understanding. I know my mother is human like the rest of us. I know she has experienced her own traumas. What I don’t understand is why having four children wasn’t enough for her to want to heal and take control of her life. With plans of being a mother myself in the near future, I cannot fathom repeating the patterns of abuse and neglect. I would sooner be in therapy for the rest of my life if that is what it took to raise children in a healthy environment. For my own mental health and healing and for my future family, this is why I choose to remain no-contact. 

If you struggle in your relationship with an abusive parent, I understand and send empathy your way. If you choose to have a relationship with this parent, setting clear and firm boundaries may be what you need to maintain your relationship. If you choose to go no-contact, please remember that you are not bound by blood to anyone. Just because someone gave birth to you or raised you does not give them the right to abuse or neglect you in any way — not back then, not now, not ever. Mental illness is never an excuse for abusive behavior.

As the child of an abusive parent, it is important to prioritize your own mental health. Work on expanding your capacity for self-awareness. Go to therapy, if that is a privilege you have access to. Meditate. Come up with self-soothing skills that you can use in times of stress or crisis. Move your body. Open up to your loved ones. Surround yourself with people who love you just as you are. Break cycles of trauma. Take care of yourself. There is only one of you, and you are worthy.

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Originally published: August 14, 2020
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