Dear Lauren,

I know I'm not a teen (I’m 22) but I read your articles (all of them) one night at 3:40 a.m. I wasn’t sure how or when I was going to contact you but I’m doing it now because I really feel I need to. I’m just a little nervous because I really don’t know what I’m doing writing to you and I don’t know what to say… I don’t even know you, you know?

Sam

Lauren:

3:30 am is the best time to read articles! Everything is more meaningful at 3:30 am. How can I help you?

Sam:

Sorry I’m dragging this out…. I obviously emailed you for a reason—it’s just I don’t want anything I tell you to get out. I don’t really know my purpose in contacting you but what I do know is that you are really smart and you seem like you know how to give pretty good advice. So here it is:

My mother hates me when I say this but it's all truth. She does things to make sure I'm miserable. There is always yelling going on in my house. I can't go on living like this. I've been fighting this fight for years now. I’m so confused. I’ve tried everything possible that there is to do and my mom still finds something wrong with me, always. I was always to scared to ask for help; I didn’t want to get my mom into trouble or anything but it’s getting to me and I don’t know what else I can do. I live in (a certain city). But please don’t tell anyone where I live—I just don't want my mom to find out.

I haven’t really ever shared anything I've written. I really hope this doesn't get out. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I know you don’t know me but I need someone really badly. After reading all your articles I really badly want a good ending to this.

I wrote this a while back:

Clarity

Nothing’s clear to me, nothing at all. What’s the feeling of being loved? What’s the feeling of being held in someone’s arms and being loved? I don’t know that feeling; will I ever? I’m lost and confused. My mom ordered me out of this house; I wouldn’t be surprised if she would want me out of this world. So many thoughts go through my head faster than the tears rolling down my face. I could say I’m done with life! Just make it stop! But, honestly, that would let her win. She ordered me to leave. She told me I’m a messed up person that should be put into a locked room, she lists all the bad things I’ve done—some are true, some are lies—I lay here thinking, “Why am I still here? All that pain she’s put me through: why do I let her do that to me? It’s not ok. Why? What is it I’m supposed to do?” All these questions go unanswered: why this and why that... I don’t understand anything anymore. I want to just understand. I pray every day for God to give me CLARITY! That’s all! To understand or to just know how to cope better with all this.

I’m a fighter and I’ve been a fighter but I’m done fighting.

Lauren:

Wow. I really respect your courage in asking your question and I can't wait to give you an answer; I feel your pain and I’m so sorry for your unbelievably difficult situation. Give me a day or so to write an answer, okay?

Hang in there until then. And then if my answer isn't enough, we'll talk further, either via email or via the phone.

Don't worry–this is confidential.

Sam:

Thank you so much, really…you don't know how much this means to me.

Lauren:

My pleasure—really. I sincerely hope I can help, and I have confidence that we can work this out together.

Sam:

Can I ask why you do this? Why do you care to help when you barely even know me? I don’t ever really like asking random people. But I got nervous and I guess it was meant to be that I came across your page. It's super-late by you, so I'll stop bugging you.

Lauren:

You're not bugging me!

I just like to know that I'm helping to make the world a better place.

That's why we're here!

Sam:

Then you’re really special! Thank you.

Lauren:

You’re very kind! I’m just trying to do my job as a human being.

Sam:

Good stuff! I wish I could one day help people just as you do. It’s just so hard to stay focused. I guess God knows what kind of people He needs to appoint.

Sam:

I can't deal anymore. This is what she said to me just now:

You are my problem! Ever since you were born problems were always by me! I hate you!’

Lauren:

Sounds awful awful awful.

Not the way a mother should behave, at ALL.

Sam:

Yeah! I know! I just look at her like she has issues, but it still gets to me.

Please please tell me to stop emailing you if you want. I just don’t know what I'm supposed to do.

Lauren:

Keep emailing me! And tell me more about what’s going on with you and your mom so I can give you as full an answer as possible.

Sam:

I’ve written a lot of my feelings on paper, but I'm not the type to really share anything. I have a lot of friends who don't even know that something’s up and I've been friends with them for years. I just like to hide this. Obviously I want recovery from her, but I really don't know how to share my feelings.

But one thing I can share is this. I wrote it a while back when my mother was fuming at me yet again. I couldn't handle it. I felt so hurt and taken advantage of:

ARE THERE HAPPY ENDINGS IN REAL LIFE?

I clean the entire house and then one thing that isn't perfect she yells at me. Especially during finals week and I’m only in high school! Sometimes I'm curious to know what's ahead for me—am I going to turn out like her and behave like her? I really don't want to! Wanting to be held in someone’s arms and having someone whisper in your ears that they love you is something that everyone wants.. But is this a real feeling, do people really live like that? Is it possible to live in a world where you feel loved?

And the unanswered questions go on unanswered....

I can't be home tonight my mom went crazy.

Lauren:

Good for you:

GET OUT.

Dear Readers and Sam,

I wanted to include that portion of our emails in this article to help you see the process of what emotional abuse looks like.

I chose my words carefully: the process of emotional abuse.

Sam, I don’t want you to stop reading now because you don’t want to hear the label “emotional abuse.” A big part of the process of emotional abuse is the victim denying to himself and to others that the situation really is abusive. Because I care about you, I really, really want you to keep reading and try your hardest to accept the things I’m going to tell you about your relationship with your mom. Let’s try to push past the denial.

The process of emotional abuse is an extremely insidious one. The process of emotional abuse is built very carefully by the abuser, usually over many years, and the goal is to make the victim feel as though he or she can’t trust themselves, can’t trust their feelings, can’t trust their memories, can’t trust their very sanity. If you look at your emails, you’ll see that self-doubt surfacing again and again. That’s the result of your mother’s emotional abuse.

Get away from her so you can live a healthy life where you can give and receive love.

So let me say this clearly: your mother has problems. Real problems. The problems were not caused by you. The problems were not made worse by you. She has problems that she is not dealing with. She has problems that she is not being honest with herself and others about. She has problems that she is not resolving. You must get to a safe place where she can’t hurt you. Get out. Go live somewhere else. Somewhere where you can build yourself up again into the wonderful, healthy young person that you intrinsically are. Somewhere where your mother cannot continually tear you down.

You said you want to help other people, and you wrote about how you recognize the goodness in my wanting to help other people. Having those sentiments means you’re a good person. Don’t let your mother’s craziness steal your goodness from you. Get away from her so you can live a healthy life where you can give and receive love. You are a worthwhile person. Don’t believe your mother’s arguments otherwise. You deserve love, safety, respect, and unconditional positive regard. Abuse makes victims feel as though they are not worthy of love, not deserving of respect, not good enough to be wanted. So hear me now: you are good enough. You are worthy. God created you, so you are worthy of respect. God created you, so you are worthy of love.

Another aspect of the process of emotional abuse is the abuser’s isolating the victim. Do you see how many times, in the emails I included above, you mentioned that you don’t share your feelings with other people? That you’re afraid the information about what your mother is doing to you will be revealed? That even your friends don’t know what’s going on in your house, with your mother? That’s what the process of emotional abuse does: it is aimed at isolating the victims.

So hear me now: you do not have to bear this alone. This is not your craziness to bear—it’s your mother’s. You do not have to bear her insanity alone. Get away from her, to a safe place, and then feel free to trust people and to tell them about your pain. Yes, it’s wise to choose carefully whom you decide to trust. But trusting no one and staying isolated or silent would mean your mother has won. Break the isolation. Share your pain and your feelings. Don’t let her win by keeping her terrible secret secret.

And I will say it again: the most problematic aspect of emotional abuse I’ve seen, which never ceases to amaze me, is the victims’ denial of their abuser’s actions as “abusive.” You might be reading this and thinking, “Lauren, you don’t understand. It really is my fault. She’s really not an abuser. Just a mom who’s not exactly what she should be.” I’m here to tell you the truth: your mother is emotionally abusing you, and she has no right to do that. Get out of her path of derision. Get out, to a healthy, safe place, where you can love and be loved. You should also start therapy so that you can keep those parts of yourself intact which seem so positive, loving, and giving. I help my clients with that all the time. It’s a truly liberating, exhilarating process for them—and you could have that, too.

If you can honestly recognize your mother’s behavior as abusive, and then honestly believe you are a worthwhile, lovable person (through therapy and through finding people to whom to give and from whom to receive love and respect), you will be well on your way to healing. But I warn you—and I hate to be blunt, but I want you to hear the truth—if you choose instead the pathway of denial, isolation, and self-invalidation because of your mother’s abuse, you might become an abuser yourself one day. And, Sam, I can’t imagine your ever being that way.

If this situation sounds familiar, break the silence. Talk to a teacher, a principal, your rabbi, or any other trusted adult.

For those of you reading this who are under 18: if this situation sounds familiar, break the silence. Talk to a teacher, a principal, your rabbi, or any other trusted adult. Tell them the truth about what’s going on in your house so they can help you get to a safe place. We all deserve to be safe and loved and respected and validated.

One more idea I want to add. Sam, a few times in your emails you wondered, “Is it really possible to feel loved and cared for?” For you and for anyone out there who’s felt neglected, rejected, unloved, and disrespected, I can assure you: life can be beautiful. If you didn’t get unconditional, ever-flowing positive love and regard and respect and admiration from your parents, then go to a family where you can see those positive relationships occurring. Spend time with a family where you can learn how loving relationships really ought to be. Learn from those families how to do it, then turn right around and give all that love and respect and time and caring that you never got to your own spouse and children and friends. As Ghandi said, “We must become the change we wish to see in the world.”

(To be continued, Sam. And thank you for allowing me to share our emails.)