Life With Lupus

Finding out I was a crappy mother

I have an 18 year old daughter who just left for college last week. I recognized that she suffered from severe anxiety and depression early on- well before I started having serious lupus symptoms or was diagnosed. It didn’t come as a surprise as it’s quite common in my family. My mother has never been able to work due to her extreme anxiety, and my younger sister took her own life 12 years ago after a lifetime of battling mental health. Additionally my daughters father and I divorced when she was 6- a month before my sisters death- after he made it clear that he had no interest in child rearing. After years of therapy and psychotherapy, she finally seems to have learned how to control her anxiety and depression and despite COVID , is acclimating well to school.

In a text discussion tonight, my daughter revealed to me that she feels like I’ve always been a bad mother and that she essentially “raised herself”, so that I should leave her alone unless she wants contact otherwise.

I was definitely a crappy mother just after my divorce when I made the terrible mistake of dating an abusive man for a year and then again during the worst of my illness, around the time she was 12/13. I was exhausted and napped almost immediately after getting back from work, getting up only long enough to make a cursory meal. The house was filthy, and my ex husband wasn’t paying child support so we lived in the only shitty apartment in a rich town (specifically for the school system). I was finally diagnosed w SLE, but had a toxic reaction to the medication, dropped down to
88 lbs, and eventually was carted out via ambulance from what was supposed to be a fun visit to the art museum after collapsing at the front door. I spent the next three weeks in the hospital as the majority of my organs were shutting down, then another two weeks at home rehabbing.

Throughout all of this I convinced myself I was a good mother because I went to all of her sports practices and games, saved up for a budget friendly weekly holiday every year, and - as I mentioned- forced myself to cook every dinner.

The reality is that I WAS mostly absent. You can’t be present when you’re asleep all the time. About 1.5 years after that episode, I had another major flare resulting in kidney and pancreas involvement and eventually chemo. By this time I had managed to secure a much better job and a slightly nicer house that quickly became a dump when I got sick. I wasn’t getting better and ended up on life support after a septic reaction to chemo. So once again, I was in useless mother mode. I was in a stable relationship with a man my daughter genuinely loved, which helped, but was fired a month after getting off of life support resulting in more financial hardship. The company was later charged w discrimination after accidentally cc-ing me on a email to their lawyer about getting rid of me since I was driving up their costs. The civil case is still pending as there are no automatic restitutions given for discrimination in MA.

Meanwhile, as I’ve said, I truly thought that I was doing all that I could for my daughter whenever I could. She is very involved in the arts; theater, choir, acapella, sculpture, and I he went missed a performance. Her friends stayed over our house regularly (I managed to keep the living areas clean even at my sickest). I truly thought we had a good relationship despite the setbacks of my year-long bad relationship and intermittent illness.

So I was blindsided tonight when she told me that she’s raised herself since 4th grade and that I’ve been an inattentive crappy mother.

Needless to say I’m vacillating between a complete meltdown and confusion and could really use some help right now. I apologize for the long winded story

I’m so sorry about this. When my son was a baby was when I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease, and I slept much of the time when he was little. I still do actually.

You have a lot going on here. But here’s the thing: you did the best that you could, at the time, with what you had. She’s able to express her anger now BECAUSE she has separated from you. I feel like what she’s expressing is a normal part of her process, and how she is managing being separated from you. In other words, I don’t know that I would take it personally.

I would encourage you to speak with a therapist. This is a lot to deal with, and talking through it can only help you.

I’ve got my first born going off to college in a few weeks. I’m thrilled that she’s going away, but I have so many concerns.

Sharon from ModSupport

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My mother was a crappy mom. It got worse when she was diagnosed with cancer when I was 14, and we had a strained relationship until she died 25 years later. When I was diagnosed, my first reaction was that I didn’t want my kids to grow up and say I was also a crappy mom.

I realized that all I ever needed from my own mother was the acknowledgement that she hadn’t always been there when I needed her. She died without giving me that closure. I have made a concerted effort to be honest with my kids - I admit to them that they have not had an ideal childhood, and that my best isn’t always good enough. I try to check in with them when I’m flaring, and warn them when I’ll be out of commission.

Your daughter does not hate you. She needs you, and she always will. Listen to her when she talks to you. Don’t make excuses, just listen and acknowledge that your illness affects her.

I’m glad to hear that she’s in therapy, and you should be too (I am). Don’t give up on her!

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No apologies needed! This is a safe place to share and vent: that’s why we insist that people make themselves anonymous when they join.

Seenie here from ModSupport (we’re a team of four). I’m wondering how you are now.

No parent is perfect, and as my colleague Sharon says, you did the very best you could at the time. And you were fighting some really tough battles. Your daughter is fighting her own tough battle, and like @Idioskosmos, I’m glad that she’s in therapy.

I’d also agree with idioskosmos on this:

Your daughter does not hate you. She needs you, and she always will. Listen to her when she talks to you. Don’t make excuses, just listen and acknowledge that your illness affects her.

And all that said, I have a new possibility for you to consider. In a previous life, I was a high school guidance counsellor, and my major was in family and child studies. I’ve seen a few interesting parent-child separation situations in my day! I don’t know you or your daughter, but I’m wondering whether this might be a possiblility:

What if your daughter was actually missing you like crazy, and feeling as if she had abandoned you? She could make that easier on herself by convincing herself (temporarily) that you were a crappy mother, and she’s glad to get away from you. In that case, being away from you would be a relief, instead of torture! Much easier to be glad you’re away from a crappy mother, than missing a mom you love dearly, despite her faults.

If that’s the case, what do you, as an always-caring parent (but still fighting difficult battles) do? I think you ride it out. It’s not easy, for sure not. But your daughter’s in therapy, and the landscape is changing for her. You know you’ve been through a lot, and I think you’ve accomplished at least this much despite it all: your daughter’s made it to college, and she’s adjusting to that well. Wow, Mom, that’s a win right there!. Really lousy parents don’t usually manage that one.

So for my two cents, you take some pride in the fact that your daughter made it to college, and so far so good on that front. You’ve had a hard go for years, and something is up with her that you’re just going to have to ride out. Times change. So will she, especially if she’s doing ok at college.

You’ve ridden lots out before, and you will survive this too.

Drop a line when you get a chance! We worry about members who are going through hard times, you know!

Meanwhile, hope things are the best they can be right now.

Seenie from ModSupport