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Letters To and From An Emotionally Abusive Mother

This is the email I got from a 17 year old. She wrote the letters at 16 I think.


To be entirely honest, typing out my mother's letter was extremely difficult. I still become as angry and upset as the first time I read it. It makes me angry that she assumed I don't care about education simply because I don't like the setting of high school, and it made me extremely angry when she mentioned the miscarriage. Fun fact: I never told her about it. She found out from somewhere else. That letter was the first time she even mentioned it to me.

Sorry it's taken me so long to reply. I can't find the file for the letters, but I'll type them out. The first one was me to her. The second is her response. Hers is longer than mine.



I understand that it is emotionally difficult for you to deal with having a child in outpatient therapy who won't go to school, but I would really appreciate it if you'd hear me out. First, I'd like to say that I'm really grateful that you've been willing to support me this far in treatment. I must, however, admit that I overheard you talking to Tim about how you don't want to pay for me to be in there anymore because I'm just "jacking off". I was really hurt to hear you say that because I really am trying to get better, and the Discoveries program really is helping me.

I do need help. I've been self injuring since 2006, and I have a very hard time dealing with day-to-day tasks like going to school because I simply don't have the means to deal with things very well at this point in time. I started self injuring again around the time when I started going back to school. It's really stressful for me, especially because I don't really see any benefits from it; I want to be a stay-at-home mom and take care of household things when I am older, and I don't see how school can prepare me for that. Maybe I'll change my mind one day, but for now, it's really hard for me to sit all day in classes that I hate around people who hate me when there is no eventual pay-off.

The program is helping. A huge example of this would be the letter that you are currently reading. My normal reaction to hearing something like that would be to either confront you and scream at you or withdraw into my room and self injure. Instead, I took a moment to pause, tried four-square breathing (a coping skill used by breathing in four, holding for four and breathing out for four, four times) filled out a skills card (meant to track self injury impulses to notice patterns of behaviour) then decided to write you this letter. Even in writing this, I am being very mindful as to what I am saying and making sure to use "I" statements so that I don't come off as threatening. I learned to do all of these things from the Discoveries program. I'd also like to mention that I haven't self injured for about a week thanks to these coping skills and others that I have learned from the program.

However, one week of being self injury free is not enough. I need to be self injury free for good. I also need to learn how to better tolerate stress that comes up in social situations. As of right now, I am not able to cope with things well enough, and I am afraid that if I don't continue with this program, I will go back to the vicious cycle I've been in since I was eleven years old.

I really need your support in order to do this. I live in your household and rely on you for food, shelter, and medical attention. It's pretty impossible to overcome the battles in my life without the support of my main care-giver. I understand that this is hard on you, but I really need you to trust that I am trying to get better this time. If you still feel uncomfortable with paying for me to be in this program, I have to ask if there is some other way that I can get treatment. Can Dad find a way to pay for it? Can I get a job to pay for it? I need to get help eventually. I'd much prefer to get it now while my nephews are still too young to understand what's going on with me, so my depression, self injury, and anxiety don't affect them in the way that I was affected. Of course, if you absolutely cannot deal with it, I will have to accept that. I am still sixteen, so you still call the shots. However, I must warn you that I will be angry and depressed if that is your decision. I will try my hardest not to be aggressive with any anger or depression I would feel, though, because I do recognize that this is a hard decision for you to make. Whatever you decide, I hope you know that I am trying to get better and will continue to do as much.


Dear Madeline,

Way back in the way back, when I was just a girl, I grew up in a poor little neighborhood called Preston Heights. It was next to a very wealthy neighborhood, Sugar Creek. In fact, my street was just one away from these hoyty-toyty people. I was hurt many times over the years by comments they made and by refusals to spend the night at my house by these kids, and I grew determined to both show them that I was as good as they thought they were and make myself believe it too. I did not have the clothes they had.

I did not have the house they had. My parents were uneducated. My dad had his GED and had been in the Marine Corps. His high school years were something like out of the movie "Grease." White t-shirt, motorcycle, tattoo, rough crowd. My mom had been to "nurses' training," which she reminded us about frequently. She was proud of her post high-school training, but told us that she had to stop when she became pregnant out-of-wedlock with my brother, Jeff. She regretted not finishing, and it seemed she was harsh towards my brother -- perhaps taking out some of those regrets on his normal childish behavior. I was not particularly proud of my parents, and I was certainly not proud of my house, car, or clothing. These things gave me low self-esteem growing up.

Your father's parents were not educated either. His dad had to go to work as a young man because of the death of his father. It was the boys' responsibilty in the Franzen family to support their mom and the girls. Then Grandpa Franzen went into the Navy, where he was well-respected as a photographer, I believe. Grandma Franzen fell in love with him when he returned from serving in World War II as a young woman, and they began their life together with no post high-school education. Grandpa Franzen regretted that he was not able to attend college and vowed to himself that all of his children would go to college. He furthered his knowledge by reading voraciously. Many many books cluttered the rooms of 608 over the years.

And so your father and I found value in education from the examples of our parents. We wanted to "make something of ourselves." We wanted to do what our parents had not been able to do for themselves. We wanted to make them proud and show others what we were made of.

It is so disappointing to me that you cannot find it in yourself to value education for education's sake alone. Both your father and I dedicated our lives to teaching kids. It sseems as though you can't see the value because you did not have the experiences and struggles that we watched in our familes as our uneducated parents tried to give your father and me a better life that they had had. I feel that you feel education is below you, not worthy of your time, not worthy of your struggle. I assure you it is. Being educated is something that no one can ever take away from you. One can lose one's house. One can lose one's spouse. Money is fleeting; jobs are temporary at best. But the knowledge that a person has found through education will always serve one well. It is yours to keep and grow in whatever way you want.

My final thought on the subject is that someday you will have children. And you will want your children to feel proud that you are their mom. Not embarrassed by your lack of education or your job. As you know, it's hard enough to grow up in this world nowdays without giving those kids one more reason to have low self-esteem. If you can't see a reason to educate yourself, do it for your kids and their futures.

#2: You are a young woman, and do not have the experiences of a middle-age woman. There are things you have not experienced yet. For example, the rate of miscarriages in a woman's overall reproductive years is 50%. Almost all women have had at least one miscarriage at some point, whether they knew they were pregnant or not.

As I have often commented, I think that I cannot carry boy babies, because there were numerous times over the years that I had late, clotty periods. If you do a little research on miscarriage statistics, you will find that miscarrying is a part of reproduction for us women. Obviously the further along you are in the pregnancy, the more bonded to the baby you become, and obviously, every baby should be loved and mourned. But... you will be having more miscarriages over the next 25 or so years. Some you will know for sure. Some you will just suspect. It is a part of life and of death.

You need to find a way to put your energy and passion into your life and the future lives of your children. You cannot let an experience such as this one drain away your future. God cares for everyone, and you can rest assured that all children that you may or may not give birth to are held in His loving hands for eternity.

To summarize, I see you heading down a road that you will look back on and wish you hadn't. Entering the world of work is no picnic. Your bosses will have a control over you like no one has ever had before -- not your parents, not the schools. They know you need money to live and eat and will use that fact to control your schedule for the rest of your life. There are just a few years in one's life that one has the freedom to explore and learn and wonder and grow. The rest of your days will be spent toiling for someone else. Don't give up on these wonderous young adult years just yet.

"The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it." John Ruskin

Love~ Mom

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Steve's comments (just some of them)

... about the miscarriage - that was her first resonse to it?!

That's how she talks about the subject with her daughter for the first time...? with that invalidating lecture (and madeline didnt even mention the miscarriage in the first place in her letter)....?!

very dysfunctional

btw - i would like every school counselor and every psychologist or psychiatrist in the world to see these letters.... i really wish i could send this page out to them all.

maybe then a few more of them might understand how emotional abuse causes cutting, self harm and depression.sucide - SH

also - my partner said "A guilt trip is coming" as soon as she read the first few words of the mother's letter....and she was absolutely right.