I have a really testy relationship with my mom, one that is likely over-dependent and toxic. When I was growing up, until about the age of 10, my mom was wonderful. Once I turned 11 and started having complex negative emotions, it’s like she turned into this other person, one who wouldn’t love me in the way I needed to be loved (you know how there’s a stereotype tweens are just like “ugh mom leave me alone”? I was the opposite. I was needy). There’s a lot (a lot) of different negative things in our relationship, too many to go into here, but one of the main problems that I think did a lot of damage is that when I was growing up, she got on me if I said things wrong—if my tone was “snippy,” or if I didn’t phrase something right, or if she read what I was saying as mean (even if, as often happened, I didn’t mean any harm at all and was just not thinking of my tone). That whole issue stung me a lot—and changed me a lot, as I now consider my rhetoric extremely carefully when I talk to her (like.....literally examining my use of ethos/pathos/logos before speaking), and try to modulate my tone to try to fit her standards of acceptable. Just to survive, I gave up trying to talk to her about things she does that are destructive, because whenever I did she would get angry and go cold, which I find unbearable, or get sad and guilt me, which I find unfair. So the negative things just kept on happening, and I just kept crying a lot and having nervous breakdowns by myself, all the while being extremely dependent on her and craving the affection we used to have.

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The last time I visited her went terribly, though, and the last couple weeks have been terrible, and the other night she started texting me when I was exhausted. I divided a text up into two text bubbles instead of one, and she immediately asked me why I was being so impatient and abrupt—who knew the struggles of tone extended to the medium of the text message!—and I was just so tired I calmly told her to stop assuming the worst of me all the time, and explained that she’d been doing this for years and she needed to stop. She seemed genuinely shocked, and kind of sorry about it. I was so tired that that was enough for me, and I went to bed thinking that, hey, maybe we could start somewhere new, now she knew what to fix.

The next day she was kind and I assumed that was because she had been an adult about it, worked through what she did, and was consciously trying to be better. Nope: she felt in a good mood because she had sent me an email laying the blame for our miscommunications back at my doorstep, asking me to take on the responsibility of gently telling her when she was saying something wrong (though she has never, ever extended the same courtesy to me) and giving me a poem—a POEM—written by some priest she likes outlining what her intentions for our home were when she started parenting. I don’t give a shit that a poem backs up her intentions, and I think sending me the poem makes it less about “wow I really fucked up your whole self, I am sorry that I have hurt my child, I will try to right this immediately” and more about “you clearly read my intentions wrong, take another look at them and change your perceptions of how I treated you because I cannot handle the blame for what I did for more than a few hours.”

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Now she’s telling me I read it wrong, and sees no irony that I have lived for years being trained by her to write and say everything so there is no possibility of something being read wrong. She wants me to help her; fuck that, I was there for ten years trying to tell her in different ways it hurt, and she never once chose to take it in. She doesn’t even seem to see how hurtful ten years of this was, how lifetime-damaging. She wants me to “move on.” How. How.