I am trying to make sense of it all. Trying to figure out the moment that things changed but maybe there wasn’t an actual moment. Perhaps it is a trajectory that we have been on for a while. At least that is what my knowledge of trauma and recovery tells me.
And I am hanging on to that knowledge as hope for things to eventually mend, because I feel like I am being taken under.
Right Now I am the Enemy
I have an adult son who means the world to me, and he is suffering. His suffering is layered and complex. Recently, I have become the target for all the rage, the blame, and the hurt he feels. Nothing I have done has been good enough, everything he wishes he had but didn’t is my fault. He even blames me (solely it seems) for his mental health diagnosis.
I get it, I’m the parent that is still around. I’m the constant and always have been. I’m the easiest and most accessible punching bag. Thing is, when you couple my child’s need to rage against me with my own history of trauma – a party bag of PTSD symptoms show up.
A bag full of stuff I am trying not to project.
A Pattern of Behavior
For awhile now it’s been a lot of ups and downs but recently, it’s been going steadily downhill. It started with what I thought was a simple disconnection while we were talking on the phone. I later learned he hung up on me through a flurry of text messages from him, telling me everything I have done wrong to him in his life. I felt blindsided by his sudden anger at me. In this instance, like all others prior at this point, I bought into his attacks and tried hard to defend myself and make sure he knew I loved him.
It led to a week and a half of me walking on eggshells with him; of me wanting to make sure he knows I love him, but wondering if he is going to go on the attack again. It caused me such stress I spoke about it in therapy searching for better ways to deal with both myself and with him.
A few days ago, another instance of exaggerated rage. Through a phone call with his sister he began a discussion with me about our new kitten. It didn’t go the way he wanted. Once again my phone begins dinging over and over as I receive a dozen messages in record time about why I need to change my mind now, and listen to him. When I didn’t concede he again began the onslaught of messages telling me what a terrible mother I am – this time telling me to stop calling him, he will call me if he wants to talk.
I did it differently during this instance and set boundaries on his behavior and what I would accept – I didn’t buy into the rage or respond to all of his attacks, and all he did was get angrier and angrier.
So I Wrote About It
It’s what I do. I take all the mess in my life and I process it here, as a means of helping others. Yesterday he saw the piece. I had no idea the kid reads my site.
My post about Children and Trauma really upset him. He didn’t like what I had shared of his story (among other things) and communicated it by jumping on my social media to comment, followed again by a storm of text messages. This time he also called an old friend of mine (she helped me raise him as a single mom and has always been close with him) to get her involved. We ended up having a really nice 3 hour conversation. She has been a very close friend for nearly 20 years but she moved 5 years ago so I miss her terribly. After her call, I made small changes to one paragraph of the piece I wrote to ensure his confidentiality – but despite my son’s legal threats – the piece is not coming down.
Yesterday was it for me. I hit that proverbial wall of how much my own well being can take. The disrespect, the swearing at me, the name calling – I’m done putting up with it.
A Mixed Bag of Emotions
Yesterday I didn’t feel much other than exhaustion. All of me just kinda checked out. Everything about the situation sapped my energy. I went to work an hour late, though had planned to completely call off. I literally pushed myself out the door to do something productive as a means of self-care because I was sinking fast.
Now as I write I have tears of both anger and profound sadness streaming from my eyes.
I am so angry at how my child behaves. I understand his emotions are big, but his actions are unacceptable. I taught him better, and I have never treated him the way he has been treating me.
I wish he could see how much I do understand what he is feelings in many ways. He knows my story yet cannot connect how intimately I do understand his pain, because he doesn’t want to hear it. I feel so powerless to help him, and he doesn’t want my help anyway.
But I realize this is his healing and recovery. I also know what it feels like to be in the thick of it. I am so sad at the thought of him pulling away from me when he needs comfort most, but I see that this is part of his process and it is just going to take time.
I will be here when he is ready.
It’s Different This Time – For Me
Despite all of these emotions that I am dealing with right now – one emotion that is absent, for the first time when dealing with him like this, is fear.
Fear that I am not good enough, or haven’t done enough. Fear that he will never speak to me again. Fear that he doesn’t know how much I love him, or love me in return.
This is a big change for m, this is healing in real time, and this is where the heavy lifting begins.
These fears are tied directly to my own traumas and negative thoughts of self – these are emotions that have gotten in the way of my boundaries and my confidence with my son. They have aided us in arriving where we are today.
My son treats me the way he does because I let him. Due to my own traumas, I have always allowed him to pull me into heighten outbursts rather than teaching him how to properly communicate big emotions nearly this whole life. Recently he hasn’t been getting the same rewards for his behavior. Something has to change and I see that right now, it has to be me.
I have watched his anger towards me escalate over the last week as I change my own responses to him. I will not be drawn into heighten emotional exchanges, I will not accept or defend against his disrespect. According to the Extinction Burst Theory, we are heading in the right direction.
I am not going to give up on myself or my son through all of this. I just wish I had a manual.
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Thank u. My dad abused me and my daughter although I stopped it when she was 3 and I do the very best I can my daughter hates me. Dealing with the next generation of abuse is just as hard if not harder than being a child. I try to be a good mum but I also know she hates me and I have to figure out how to survive With my other kid while Living like this. Not a topic I’ve ever heard spoken about before. Thank you
Knowing that I am not alone in this means a lot to me. I am so sorry you know what it feels like to go through this with a child, I wouldn’t wish this on any parent. I also have a younger child that I have to keep in mind as I tread these waters.
I definitely felt the uncomfortable vulnerability of this post when I wrote it. Knowing that it has found it’s place with someone who needed to read it helps me too. 🙏☺Wishing you peace and strength as you journey through healing.