View Full Version : I Now Know the Primary Source of My Anxiety: Enmeshment


cwf1986
05-19-16, 09:39 PM
http://www.printfriendly.com/print/?source=homepage&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.counseling4less.com%2Fblog%2F what-is-enmeshment#

That website above explains it very well. I couldn't figure out why I was so anxious and depressed. I couldn't figure out why I had such severe romantic intimacy issues both emotionally and physically. I couldn't figure out why I was always so much happier and clear headed when I didn't live with my mom. I thought it was because of other family issues when I lived at home pre-college, but those issues were just symptoms. I thought it was because I was just innately hateful and disrespectful. But no, it's from boundary issues of my mother.

She was abused via neglect the 1st five years of her life and my father had become neglectful to the family around 3rd-4th grade for me and earlier to my mother due to severe bipolar disorder. It was so bad he was unable to hold any sort of job after 4th grade.

Initially, she used my brother as the replacement. In high school, he rebelled and did anything he could to escape. The 'wrong crowd' kind of thing. He left as soon as he could after high school and lived at a trailer park to get away. This is when she started to use me emotionally to replace my dad.

She was humiliating to me in public. I still feel like I'm on the verge of a panic attack when I go clothes shopping because of the way she would try to control my choices, my thoughts, and my feelings regarding what I would wear. And the age-inappropriate way she acted towards me (treating me like a little kid rather than a teenager) combined with the way she would try to train me to be like her husband. One of her favorite lines was, "It'll prepare you for when you have a wife"...

Any time I've tried to and continue to try to establish space, she'll use one of or many strategies for manipulation and control. Guilting is a favorite, belittling is another, and simply annoying me to harassing levels.

I developed anger and anxiety issues and even rage at times in high school. She got me to convince myself I had bipolar because this is what she thought and she skillfully gave a psych all the syptoms for it. After speaking to her for a while and me for about 10 minutes, I got the DX from the psych. One that I now know is incorrect. The bipolar meds combined with the lack of ADHD meds and the emotional issues left me crippled as far as growing as a healthy teenager. But I was easier to get along with and more pliable at home.....

Unfortunately, after grad school, I hadn't found a job yet and I had to live with her since min wage is unliveable and she's been slowly encroaching on my boundaries. She tries to tell me what to think, say, do and even tries to convince me that I'm one deciding to do so. She can't fully recognize me as my own person. When I try to resist, she'll employ one of the above methods.

When I did find a professional job, I had not recognized what was going on. I had four 12 hour shifts and a 2 hour 2-way commute. When I got home on workdays, all I had time for was to try to chill out for about 15 minutes, eat, then get ready for the next day, relax, then go to bed. I told her as much.

But she would slam me with to-do list and demand I watch her TV shows with her. If I didn't, it was one of her methods of control. Between the time I lost placating her and the distress, I was averaging 5-6 hours of sleep a night and my anxiety issues sky-rocketed. I think she was angry at me for not being as available as when I had part time work. Due to sleep deprivation and anxiety, brain fog became so severe that I couldn't perform my job duties and I was terminated.

I've tried having frank discussions with her about this and she still cannot take responsibility. In fact, she told me I was abusive. I did get very testy with her towards the end of that job and would raise my voice and desparately plead with her to stop and that's where she got that from.

But she told me I was being abusive to her and that those issues were in my head and acted like I was the one to blame. She said it was all my ADHD, irrational anxiety, poor employers, and even tried to convince me by getting me to convince myself that I have autism which no one has ever thought including psychologists and psychiatrists.

The employers were great and I could have overcome ADHD if I had lived on my own. Unfortunately, I didn't realize what was happening until it was too late.

More recently, I completed a grad school certificate. Fortunately, she had learned to back off some when I got extremely busy. Towards the end of the certificate, I pushed myself as hard as I could to the brink of breakdown, but not past. I told her what I was doing and told her that I needed her to take it easy on me for a couple weeks, but when it was over, she slammed me with emotional neediness for spousal like company and tasks she wanted to me to do.

I broke down again and became all but useless... I couldn't and still have trouble sitting down and applying for jobs many month later because I'm terrified of what she will do and the constant feeling of being liked a trapped animal being poked and prodded at.

Recently, I had to go to the hospital because of an over reaction of a doctor when I started to pass out while the nurse stuck me several times with a needle trying to draw blood. Vasovagual syncope. I only tell her that I'm at the hospital, that I'll be okay, I'll call when there done to pick me up if that's okay. But she comes rushing in for 'her baby' as if I'm about to die. I tell her many times I'm fine and that it's nothing and explain to her why it's nothing.

During the very long waiting time, she took control of ongoing conversations I had with people. When the nurses would come in to ask me questions, she would immediately tell them answers and would throw her self in there when I'm asked personal medical questions and immediately said that she was the emergency contact. I didn't want her as the emergency contact, but I didn't say no for fear of one of her retaliatory actions outlined above. This is just one example of far far too many.

I feel so broken, battered, and bruised that I can't focus on my job search that could potentially free me. I feel so stupid I didn't identify this for what it is earlier. I'm terrified I can't escape her... I'm far from any sort of commitment to action and want to keep it that way, but intrusive thoughts of suicide do pass through my head multiple times a week...

The worst part is that she doesn't even know it and I don't think she can know it because she's a master of rationalization and a master of convincing others of her rationalizations. This makes it seem impossible for her to get help.

It bothers me so much, I can't hold it inside anymore. I didn't really have a place or person I was more comfortable expressing this. One of the awful things is that if I say these kinds of things, people act like it's both my fault for being weak and I'm being mean talking about my poor mother. I'm even scared to talk to my psych about it.

How do I know if my psych is the right person to talk about it? I know better then to assume the psych's credentials immediately qualify her.

I do know now why the psychologist I saw for ADHD DX and both of the psychs I've seen asked me multiple times if I was sexually abused. I wasn't, but my reading about enmeshment has shown me that it can lead to similar issues.

This all hit me like a ton of bricks in a flash very recently when I was just doing random wiki-ing for leisure and I stumbled on something about anxiety that I was just innocently curious about...

This wasn't meant to be a long post, but once I started I couldn't help but to let it out. If you read my book, thanks.

aeon
05-19-16, 10:21 PM
It bothers me so much, I can't hold it inside anymore. I didn't really have a place or person I was more comfortable expressing this. One of the awful things is that if I say these kinds of things, people act like it's both my fault for being weak and I'm being mean talking about my poor mother.

It is not your fault.

You are not weak.

You are not mean.

You are doing the best you can, given the limits of your situation, with the tools and resources you have.

And to be fair, so is your mother.

I read it all, and I am so sorry for you.

I know what a mother who does not want her child to individuate is like, as that was my mother.

Her need for control was so very strong.

I would have never been allowed to be my own person, so I spent some time trying to “destroy her creation.”

And when I finally GTFO, I neither saw nor spoke to her, or had any contact with her whatsoever...for over ten years.

I did what I needed to do.

I urge you to leave the nest as soon as you are able. Make it a focus of your efforts.

I urge you to also find a therapist who will be able to help you in your healing and recovery.

If you think drink and/or drugs will help soothe your anxiety, ease your pain, aid in forgetting your trauma,
I want you to know this: yes, they will do that, but those things will come at a terrible cost. They will rob you
of what life is left you, and you will, in time, sit down to a plate of consequences that you cannot imagine.

Find a way to be present with your pain. Do not run from it, do not numb it out, do not bury it, or lose it (and yourself)
in distraction. That therapist you find will be able to help you with this.

I survived the war. You can too...believe that.

I read it all and I am so sorry to hear of it. I wish you the best.

:grouphug:


Bless You,
Ian

DJ Bill
05-20-16, 11:16 AM
It is not your fault.

You are not weak.

You are not mean.

You are doing the best you can, given the limits of your situation, with the tools and resources you have.

And to be fair, so is your mother.

I did what I needed to do.

I urge you to leave the nest as soon as you are able. Make it a focus of your efforts.

I urge you to also find a therapist who will be able to help you in your healing and recovery.

If you think drink and/or drugs will help soothe your anxiety, ease your pain, aid in forgetting your trauma,
I want you to know this: yes, they will do that, but those things will come at a terrible cost. They will rob you
of what life is left you, and you will, in time, sit down to a plate of consequences that you cannot imagine.


Bless You,
Ian

Truer words were never spoken. Ian, you've got a gift for saying the absolute right thing. Thank you! The last paragraph is going up on my wall!

sarahsweets
05-20-16, 01:03 PM
You are NOT:
lazy
crazy
dumb
useless
worthless
horrific
terrible
unworthy
unlovable
boring
obtuse
abusive
brutal
cruel
selfish
egotistical
egocentric
maniacal
evil
or
insignificant.

You are human.
You have flaws.
You have gifts.

Donny997
05-21-16, 06:11 PM
You just wrote out my life story, wow. I was my Mom's emotional spouse from about my third year when I saw her collapse in hysterics over the death of her mother, and felt the need to be there emotionally for her ever since. It's royally messed up my life to the point of almost crippling me as an adult, especially in the area of intimate relationships. How can I have relations with other women when I'm my Mother's emotional life-guard, or boyfriend.

And just as you said, the worst part is that nobody else can see this dynamic going on and they think my family is somewhat normal, which makes the burden all the more heavier. I think that's what made me collapse in chronic fatigue.

All I can say is to you is, you need to separate from your Mom. Cut the cord and be free, and relate to her from a more differentiated, mature, emotiinally self-reliant, independent-self position. You dont owe her your life. You can't save her anyway; it's grandiose to think you can absorb all the problems created by previous generations.

That she used you so blantantly and then not only denies it, but tries to make you think you're imagining it all, is called gaslighting, which is essentially crazy-making, and is probably indicative of her having a personality disorder.

Also, I know it's nice to think that everyone is always doing their best, but in my very personal and probably unpopular opinion, it's not true. If she was doing her best, she would be going to therapy herself instead of taking you.

I'm very sorry you had to deal with this. But at least you know what's going on now and can make the changes needed to do what's right for you.

Chicky75
06-08-16, 08:27 PM
I feel so stupid I didn't identify this for what it is earlier.

You're definitely not stupid. I haven't read the info on enmeshment specifically, but I know from experience that it takes a lot to be able to see this type of relationship objectively. I think the term enmeshment says it all - you're so enmeshed in her world view that it's hard to see that it's not the only one or a healthy one. It took me until my mid-30s to really begin to recognize similar problems with my mother.

I don't know if 'psych' means psychiatrist or psychologist, but if it's someone you see for therapy, that is the person to talk to. I can absolutely understand the guilt, too, of saying these things about your mother. Especially out loud to someone else. My mother told me in the past that all she really wanted to do when she was growing up was to get married and have children of her own, so I've felt like I'm basically calling her a failure at life for saying that she wasn't a perfect mother. But you're not saying she's a horrible person. She's made mistakes, like everyone does. And yes, maybe her mistakes have had a larger and more lasting impact on you than some other mistakes, but that still doesn't make her a bad person.

It sounds like she has her own unresolved emotional issues that are affecting her behavior. Talking to a therapist and learning to set boundaries really isn't about what you think of her at all - it's more about you learning to recognize your right to your own thoughts, feelings, time, etc. and that you have the right to deny people access to those things. And how to do that in a productive way.

You'll never be able to change her behavior, but you can manage how much it affects your life and the hold it has over you.

sarahsweets
06-09-16, 02:16 AM
We teach others how to treat us. By allowing the same actions to repeat themselves it tells the other person that youre ok with it.

cwf1986
06-25-16, 10:29 PM
I've been away from the boards for a while.

I appreciate all the responses.