Twitter: @naumstrosity
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Hi, I’m Katie.

I’m a Brooklyn-based writer and western New York native whose work has appeared in the Huffington Post, Electric Literature, The Toast, and the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub blog, among others.

I’m also an experienced editor and writing coach—learn more at my Editing page.

I’m currently writing a book. Well. I might not be doing it at this exact moment. But you never know.

Please send any inquiries via the contact form below.

55 thoughts on “About

  1. Deb Fullwood

    Omgosh, I thought I was the only one. And to tell you the truth, no I never desired to reconnect either when I had kids or when she died. I was just relieved

    • Melissa

      I have so much of this exact same experience it’s unbelievable. Who is the author? Where does she post? …I would love to talk with her.

  2. Mandie

    My mother has rage fits as well. I have, in the past, cut her out of my life. For years. When I had my first child I made it very clear to her that she would not continue with that behavior around me or my son. She accepted that fact and has done her best to change for the better. We still have issues from time to time but the rage that was there when I was a child is no longer

  3. Colleen Nilson

    Katie – I, too, cut my mother out of my life years ago. In my case it took her destructive behavior being directed at my own child for me to finally gather the strength to do it. I admire you for respecting yourself enough to make a stand. I have no regrets. She is still alive, my brother still sees her regularly, but I am done. Now that I’ve been a mother myself for more than a decade, I have come to believe that no one has the right to treat another person in such a way that it causes them to question their own worth. No one, and most especially not the person who brought you into the world. My child owes me nothing. Not a damn thing. I have earned her love and respect and I work every day to keep them. But I made the choice to give her life, therefore she does not owe me for that life, given that her birth was not her choice. You are strong and smart and successful and worthy of love and happiness. Congratulations on your graduation!

  4. Lynette Cortez

    Oh, girl. THANK YOU for writing the ‘motherless’ piece. “Hi – I’m fatherless. Nice to meet you.”

    I left for college at 18 and never turned back. I am now 45. I got married when I was 36 and had my first/only child at 40. My dad finally passed away this past January. And guess what? I don’t miss him one bit. He attended my wedding but was not allowed to walk me down the aisle — I walked alone. I had my son, but my dad was not a part of his life. And now my dad is gone and WHEW! What a relief!

    So don’t take on other people’s baggage and obligation when it comes to your mom. We did not have a choice as to what family we were born into, so therefore I do not believe we have to feel guilty for choosing to separate ourselves from them if they are abusive, cruel and non-supportive. If any non-family person treated us badly, we’d have no hesitation in getting the heck away from them and never looking back.

    It sounds like you have created your own supportive network. I’m glad. That is important. But no amount of blood or ‘kin-folk’ gives anyone the right to be evil. Here is a quote from Walt Whitman that has been instrumental to me over the years: “Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul.”

    Proud of you and I fully support your decision. I pray that you will continue to find and be supported by people who ‘get’ you and who can apply some calming salve to the deep wounds. The scars will never go away, but you’ll find that they will serve as a ‘badge of honor’ with those who understand and through your pain perhaps they will be able to heal and move forward as well.

    I get it,
    Lynette Cortez
    Broken Arrow, OK

  5. R Cummings

    You’re not alone. I cut out all parental figures, a brother, and a sister. Despite, their attempts, I haven’t spoken to them in 3-10 years. And you know what? There has been peace. It hasn’t come easily, I’ve had to work for it. Therapy has gone from initially a couple times a month to once every three months. No more nightmares like in the beginning when I first cut them out.

    I don’t know that any of them being on their deathbeds would change anything I feel, not today anyway. Really, they already feel dead to me. That may sound bad, but it’s like I’ve already grieved their loss, though I am the one that shutdown the relationships.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I read through Huffpost Women on Facebook.

    • R Cummings

      Also, I really relate when you talk about her wanting the best for you, how could that be abuse, and then becoming her defender. That took the longest to reconcile.

  6. myirrelevantramble

    I also had to cut my mother out of my life. I became a better person when I did.
    I hadn’t seen her in years when I got pregnant. Did I long for a mother during the experience? Yes! But never for my mother. All I got from her was how not to parent. I was scared I’d have no idea how to love a baby, but it’s easy! And it breaks my heart that she could have treated me so poorly, but its also the past.

    My mom passed away when my son was 3 weeks old *he’s 5 months now*, I’m not sure if she even knew she had her first grandchild. But her passing gave me peace…I can’t fully explain it but it’s like my son is allowing me to open a new chapter & close the book on the others.
    I do get upset that he doesn’t have a bunch of family around but I can’t chanfe that.

    • Vanessa

      Ditto. This is a topic that rarely gets addressed. Reading this only affirms my feelings that it is OK to remove one’s mother from their life. We might be related to our mothers but that is just a technicality. Would we keep speaking to a friend that treated us this way? Of course not. Thank you for giving words to how many of us feel. I’m 36 and have my own kids now. Just starting to realize its absolutely OK (and a normal reaction) to cut “my mother” out of my life.

  7. TBier

    You told my story (and my sister’s). While it’s still painful to recount, we find comfort in knowing there are other survivors. No one knows why we make the choices we make.

  8. Jesy Payne

    I just read Motherless by Choice. I want to hug you. I am also motherless by choice. Our stories are very similar and it really struck a chord with me. I have 2 boys who I will never introduce to her.

    We have been estranged since I was 19 (I am 33 now) and her actions and behavior towards my father, his family and my stepmother, only affirm my choice to not let her be a part of my life ever again. I struggle with my parenting skills and have PTSD due to her abuse, but I am so much stronger now than I was when she was a part of my life. It sounds like you have done very well for yourself and don’t ever regret cutting her out. You need to heal and enjoy the new traditions you have forged with the family you have reconnected with.

    Thank You so much for writing this piece, It was something I really needed to read today.

  9. Sarah

    Katie, thank you for sharing your story as you did. I am motherless by choice as well and while my background to that point doesn’t match yours exactly, it’s a comforting feeling to know that I am not alone in how I view my situation and my mother. I also was not physically abused by my mother, rather, it was psychological, and many people do not seem to grasp that mental scars can sometimes run deeper than physical ones.
    This article came out at the perfect time for me – I am getting married in October and it’s been incredibly painful to go through the planning process, especially dress shopping, without a mother when all the shows on television, bridal articles and so on focus so much on the relationship between a bride and her mother who is by her side. So again, thank you for letting us other women like you know that it’s ok to have made the decision which we did.

  10. AMMR

    I’m another person who cut their mother out. My mom didn’t rage, but she is a narcissist. She too loved me and at times we got along great, but her need to control me was more important to her. And when my dad died (they were divorced), she showed her true colors to me. For the last 6 years I went through a cycle of no contact then re-establishing contact because I missed her/she’s my mom/she’s my last parent. Now, after yet another episode with her, I’ve cut her out possibly for good. No one in her family understands. I’ve been told I have to forgive her because she’s my mom and she won’t live forever. Seeing as I’m literally the only one in my living family to have lost a parent (even my grandparents are still alive), their words make me angry. I would love to have a mom I could have a relationship with, but I can’t. And I too get the looks when I mention my situation with her. But in the end, I can only what will best for me and my family and my life. That’s all any of us with these situations can do. So, you’re definitely not alone.

  11. CC

    I just read your article on HuffPost. Thanks for sharing! At first I was stunned to find such an article (bc like you said, this experience is rarely written about), but as I read on, I could relate. Like most of the comments before me, I’m estranged as well. It took the death of my brother & the birth of my kids for me to finally cut her off. I moved to the other side of the world to get away. Although occasionally I feel guilt for my choice but for the most part, more a sense of relief. Thanks again.

  12. Dee

    My mother and I have always had issues. I was the only girl and I think I was expected to be just like her. When I wanted to go to college, she said I wasn’t smart enough and I had to get a job to help the family. When I met a good man she did everything in her power to keep me from marrying him. She never wanted me to do better than her and every time I try to improve myself she tells me I can’t do it. My child is a toddler and I’m pregnant again. She will never be alone with either of them. She will never tell them that she was raped and that’s the only reason they’re here, she will never beat them with whatever is within reach, she will never throw things at them and if they ever get molested she will not protect their attacker. I’m the only person in my family that rejects her and it’s all my fault. She didn’t do this to my brothers. To others, she represents the doting mother. My father, who she accuses behind his back of rape, tells me all the time how I should reconcile with her. I haven’t got the heart to tell him about her accusations. My own husband doesn’t understand, saying that’s my mom even with all her faults and I ought to forgive her. But I can’t. I’m forced to maintain a relationship with her but in my heart I’m waiting for the day when I’m finally free of her. The guilt I feel at wishing she would just die is debilitating.

  13. Lisa

    Only those who have lived with a selfish, narcissist, jealous, angry, spiteful mother would understand why we distance ourselves as adults. Others don’t. My life is far less complicated without my mother in it.

  14. Heather Weiland

    I’m 30 this November. January 1st I stopped speaking to my mother. I waited two and a half months before trying to reconnect, when I got engaged. I didn’t really miss her and I’m trying to understand why I let my great news have to involve her. My story seems almost word for like yours. The CPS thing was scary similar. I never knew I could set boundaries. I’ve known for a while I don’t have to like her, but I had to get her out of my life, because boundaries after a while, didn’t seem enough. Your story gives me hope … thank you!

  15. CB

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Clearly there are more of us out there than people would think. I am fortunate to have a wonderful husband who completely understands why I shut my mother out and supports me doing so. I had to walk away from her because she was trying to make me let her move in with us because I owed her for my life and she needed us to support her for the rest of her life. Unlike your mother, mine thinks she is owed everything and hasn’t worked in years. She has terrible health problems caused by self-medicating using legal and illegal methods to do so and has been in critical condition several times. My siblings and I have discussed what a relief it will be once she does pass away. I had a daughter about six months ago and I never want my daughter to feel the way I felt almost every day growing up. As you mentioned, I know my mother loved us as much as she was capable of love, but now that I have a child I understand her narcissism even less than I once did. For my mother it is still about herself and how her children make her look like a good person and mother even though she was neither one to us.

    • Meaghan Fitzgerald

      Your words/ response really spoke to me. It has been 5 months since I spoke with my mother, I am 30. I stopped speaking with both my parents from age 19-21 because I couldn’t handle my mother’s physical and emotional abuse and both my parents lies to cover it up had me believing I was the liar and the crazy one. I came to a point where I knew I was telling the truth and that was enough for me. I missed them so having that self confidence I reconnected at that point.
      My dad was in a critical accident two years ago, when he regained his memory he gained the strength to leave her. She wanted my now crippled dad to stop going to physical therapy so she could continue to get $400.00 hair color and cut appointments. When they separated my dad moved in with my husband and I as he could not afford his own place. He gave her their house which has no mortgage and she owns a car with no monthly payment. Yet she is trying to take the home that we all now live in.
      I know that I will not reconnect again. Her narcissism and lies are beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Though life with out her is hard I know it will get better and the peace that I have found in the last 5 months is greater than I ever anticipated. That said mothers day broke my heart. Her birthday is in 10days and I find it so painful to think about.
      If you would ever like to chat with someone who understands feel free to email me mmfitzgerald_83@yahoo.com

  16. Annie

    Thank you for this piece. It was courageous of you to have written it, for you to give voice to your hurt and pain. Your story validated my decision and I, thank you. My mother controlled my past, but she will no longer do so today or in the future. I find that the role of a mother is a privileged one. I was given a mother who never realized the abundant joy and honor of that role. My prayers and love to you as you continue on this journey of life.

  17. CS

    I’m not yet 30, but already 14 years estranged from my mother. It’s hard to have other people understand exactly why this is the best choice for me. It’s also hard to not doubt my choices and worry that I will live with regret for the rest of my life. Your post has flooded me with emotions, but a big one is the relief of having someone else out there to relate to and to affirm that it’s an unfortunate thing that we sometimes have to do. Thank you. xoxo

  18. Becky

    I know all of us motherless girls are probably going to flood your page with our shared feelings & thankfulness of there being someone else out there who we can relate to.
    I’m 33, and reading your story truly hit home, in many weird ways. Including the Mothers Day issue, my mother and my aunt become estranged over my grandfather dying, spending Christmas (Eve) with my aunt.
    I haven’t spoken with my mother in 4 years. I just recently decided to make it official and truly estrange myself, I wrote her a letter. I decided it was something I needed to do to be able to move on with my own life.
    I haven’t heard from her, nor do I expect to.

    So, thank you for sharing your personal story. It helps, knowing we are not alone. =]

  19. Crystal

    I just read the article about your mother this morning, and I’m so glad I came across it. My situation is with my father, and I finally got to a place where I don’t have so much anger. I get so tired of people giving me advice about something they know nothing about, I just smile and walk away. You have worked so hard and have much to be proud of, thanks again for writing this!

  20. Vee

    Your words seemed to be my words from my mind. However I am parent-less by choice. I have been trying to finish my story and reading this made me feel….. Feel things I haven’t felt in a while. I am determined to share as you had and feel not alone with this choice I have made. At 33, i have spent half my life parent-less; all a wise choice. I have so much more to say but I don’t want to trail off….. Again this story not only motivated me to share but it reminded me of doing all the things I have done-on my own too.

  21. Douglas Goetsch

    Dear Katie Naum,

    Count me among those for whom “Motherless by Choice” struck a nerve. Like you, the last time I saw my mother was the death of my grandfather (1997), and I was pretty sure I’d never see her again. Without getting into details, the need to separate and protect–which came years before that–was visceral, and I never doubted it, or felt one iota of guilt.

    I totally relate to having to handle other people’s pained, often dismissive, reactions of having cut ties with one’s mother. Mostly I’ve stopped trying to explain, except to people I love, who didn’t need explanations anyway.

    I applaud your courage,

    Douglas Goetsch

  22. Cyn

    I am also a “no contact” daughter and though I tend to say it’s “by choice,” my first choice would be to have a mother who loved me more than her desire to rage.The no-contact decision became easy when I realized that I can’t be a happy mommy or a happy wife and my family deserves for me to be. She will have to find someone else to verbally and emotionally pummel. I constantly lived under the unspoken threat “You better not make me mad, or I can make things very bad for you.” When she was stressed or angry with someone else & she was in the mood for a big fight, she could find any reason, usually fabricated, to be highly offended by something “she knows I’m thinking” and the raging began. She never remembered that it was someone else who had her upset, and that I was just the easy target. She also thought I would not remember what she told me when I was very young, “I’m going to be so glad when you’re gone someday.” I’m gone. She’s not happy about it.

  23. cb

    Too close to home, hit it on the head, nailed it, and any other idioms you’d like to add. Wow, it’s nice to know other people have struggled through the same waves of insanity and self-loathing that only a Mother like that can induce. Not that my Mother has ever been officially diagnosed, but based on my own learnings she seems to fall in the category of people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s worth a Google, anyway.

  24. Cher

    Thank you for sharing your story! I became “motherless” during my forties, and maintained the distance and silence for nearly five years, until I could trust myself to draw some very clear boundaries and stay strong enough not to let my self-worth leach away again in her presence, which I limit to short, endurable spans, well-supported by my siblings and other resources. At the same time, after feeling all the grief and rage and sorrow at being “motherless” for what amounted to pretty much an entire lifetime, I began to realize the tremendous gift she gave me: it was because of what she did to me that I became an entirely different mother to my own kids. That doesn’t excuse or eliminate what she did, but it began to make room for forgiveness, not only of her–but of myself. I’m not saying you should ever let your mother into your life again–she sounds far too diseased and destructive! I’m just hoping you can keep on finding ways to let peace and self-love into your life, jso you can mother yourself the way you would have wanted (and deserved); and the way you someday will your own children, should you ever choose.

  25. c.d.

    Thank you, Katie, from the bottom of my heart. I made a similar decision a few years ago and I identified so much with your story. You’re brave and generous to share; please know it affected me greatly and will stay with me always. May everything you face be love and light.

  26. Nicole


    Thank you so much for sharing. Rarely do I find an article I can relate to so much. I think motherless-by-choice’ers are a rare breed. You look at this symbol of a mother, and things short of faith, trust, and pixie dust are supposed to fill you. My mother is mentally ill, something I realized early on. She was manipulative in every aspect of my life, to which I confused her manipulations as motherly love. It wasn’t until she left my father (the most caring, loving, supportive man on the planet) that I was fully able to realize her true form. It will be four years in July since I talked to her. It has been difficult, but needed. I am sorry for the pain you went through, I am sorry for the insensitive comments people make when we hesitantly open up to them (my personal favorite- “She’s your only mother.”) Your story brought me a sense of familiarity for which I am thankful for. You seem to be well on your way to an amazing future and I wish you nothing but all the best in the world. Thank you.

    -Nicole Mollica

  27. Bridgette Peteet, Ph.D. E-portfolio

    I highly recommend the book “Will I Ever be Enough?: Healing the daughters of narcissistic mothers.” The impact of emotional abuse (especially from a mother) is difficult for many to conceive. Your choice to rebuild a healthy life should be your only focus. It’s the only way to thrive.

  28. cprochas

    There are many of us out there in the same situation and you are certainly not alone. When I hear that old saw about family values I wonder which ones they are talking about. The Cleavers only existed on TV. You are not obliged to explain your life choices to anyone. The mentally ill cannot be forced into treatment unlike during my generation. Even then, effective treatment was limited. My compassion for her sickness did not extend to tempering my resolve to live a life in relative peace and engage in relationships of mutual respect and civility. It’s interesting how some things stick with you…an old teacher of mine once stated to the class “Of all the people that exist in this world, if you can’t get along with at least 3 of them then YOU have the problem”. I had occasion years ago to meet her childhood girl friends who described a different woman before her illness. I never knew that person unfortunately and mourning for things that have never been or will be serves no purpose other than to get in the way of living your life in a positive way. Choose to live life like you mean it.
    As to the “deathbed” question, given my mother’s situation at the end, it was a mercy. Age did not improve her condition despite medication. She was finally at peace from her travails. I wish you well.

  29. Bonnie J

    Thanks so much for writing this.You are courageous. In spite of everything, I could not make a total break with my mom, so I compromise. I am in distant contact with my mom and sisters. I call Mom once a week because she’s 89 and alone (Dad died in 2011 unfortunately). We live over 1800 miles away from her now. Mom is severely depressed and never agreed to get treatment in spite of the fact at least three doctors have told her she needs it, and all three of us are on meds and have been in therapy. They never forgave me for moving away and only coming back for rare visits. Mom used to beat us regularly (sometimes raising welts, bruises, and scratches) for things as minor as losing a mitten and was also emotionally abusive, always playing on my insecurities and being hypercritical of me. I entered my 20s socially naive, unsure of myself, and having all kinds of emotional difficulties. I got away from her by joining the Army and serving overseas where I met my husband. She was amazed I could handle military training and the challenges of Army life overseas, and questioned me closely about the masters I earned at night while there. My dad before he died used to call me and tell me about how abusive she was to him; it was so sad. When she and my dad made rare visits to the DC area where we used to live, it was constant criticism for living there and how I did everything. The visits were so stressful, and i always wished my mom could be more loving to me and my family. My daughters can’t stand her, and she tried to break up my marriage. Re: my daughters, one is a successful attorney and happily married. My mom told her she got her job because she married the son of a judge, totally ignoring she’d graduated law school with honors and was known to have a killer work ethic. Mom’s so surprised we’re married over 30 years, and that our kids are great, finishing college and having good lives. I guess a large part of getting back at her has been proving her wrong. Luckily, my daughters grew up around my husband’s parents who while not perfect, were very loving and supportive of them. As a new grandmother, I hope to follow their example as grandparents.

  30. smuggin

    Hi Katie,
    Just read your story and I posted this on my Facebook. Thank you for sharing. It IS a brave thing to share.


    Well, this really was a perfect read for tonight.
    I was thinking about how it’s been a few months since I confronted my abusive parents and no reply. I don’t think I’ll ever get one. And that is OK. I did it for me – not for them.
    Mother’s Day thankfully passed while I was in Paris and I didn’t have to think twice about what that day meant to me. Father’s Day is coming up and I probably will have to.
    I was also contemplating what being estranged from my parents means in the grand scheme of things. I think of things such as if I ever get married, how they won’t be there (my dad likely wouldn’t have been there anyway, since he is a shut-in) or if I choose to raise a child, how they wouldn’t be there to help. And even if they were there, I wouldn’t trust them to look after my child seeing what they did to me. It’s really sad and pretty depressing to think about.
    When I confronted them, I honestly hadn’t thought of what I wanted the outcome to be. Maybe I secretly hoped they would just say two words that would mean so much – “I’m sorry.” I did want the relationship to improve.
    But I think instead what has happened is they see me as an ungrateful brat. That they “did the best they could,” and I was just making accusations up. So they do as they typically do – they deny and they ignore.
    Maybe they expect me to bridge the gap.
    But reading out those points – all 20-something of them ranging from most severe to least – was hard enough that I barely made it out the front door. I can’t be that bridge for them, they have to want to improve things too. They are supposed to be the adults.
    The last line of this story was really powerful to me. And reading it, I probably felt the same emotions the author did while she wrote it – resentment, anger, sadness, pride and triumph:

    “‘I did it all without you.’ The words reverberate, though, as though spoken aloud in a great wide room, completely empty. Without you.”

  31. smuggin

    This is the original post back in late March.

    Yes, this is a very personal post.
    I had a big, life-changing day yesterday. After 30 years of repressed pain, I confronted my emotionally and physically abusive parents in person and told them the impact they’ve had on my life and my adult relationships up until now.
    I read aloud a list of things they did to me – my mother threatened me with a kitchen knife when I was 13, I was called ugly, fat, stupid, a whore. Nothing was ever good enough. My mother would give me things and take them away and give and take away. I learned not to trust her. I used to get hit all the time.
    There were many other incidents.
    I am not hiding this and protecting them anymore.
    I told them they were both bad parents. And what they did to my brother and me was wrong.
    I’ve been carrying around this burden for far too long and with the help of a therapist, loved ones and friends, I was able to muster up the courage to do it.
    Of course, my parents denied anything had ever happened and used the “We tried to raise you the best we could” line, but I didn’t care. I don’t care how they respond.
    I did this for me. I gave them back this pain.
    After leaving, I put my head between my knees and just started sobbing and bawling. For 10 mins.
    And then afterwards, I felt fucking amazing. Literally, it felt like the weight I’ve carried for so long had been lifted off my shoulders and it was surprising that it happened almost instantaneously after the tears flowed out.
    For anyone who is in the same situation and who has been dealing with long-standing abuse, I encourage you to seek professional help and with support and strategy, eventually face your monsters, which in this case, were my parents.
    Abuse is all about control. And this was the last piece of the puzzle I needed to solve to be free. Whatever the outcome is, they cannot control me anymore.
    You will be able to move on and see life in a new, happier way.

  32. EPP

    I’ve have little to no contact with my sisters and brothers. I have a lot of relatives but communication is rare or none.

    I am living in an isolated rural area because I let my husband decide this. I have no friends. They have died or moved away.

    I want to leave my husband who is mentally ill after caring for him for 41 years. I’m making preparations.

    If someone wants a roommate in Austin, CA or NYC, please leave me a message on this website.

  33. longjourney

    Thank you for this, Katie. I join the chorus of people with, well, a violent, insane mother. I’m in my mid-twenties now, and have been estranged nearly a decade, after the knife throwing, the car rides where I was forced to walk partway home on lonely highways in the rain, the yelling in a drunken haze, the next day of hissing, menacingly, “oh, did I give you bruises, you baby, it was nothing”. The emotional abuse. The nightmares still linger occasionally and I flinch involuntarily when I see women like her.

    I miss my childhood friends but have not returned to the town I grew up in, thousands of miles away. Soon I will be moving, perhaps permanently, literally halfway around the world from her. As far as I can go without leaving the planet entirely. The people I knew growing up are divided, family friends have told me that I am a liar for speaking the truth. If only they knew. My father, quiet and good, I love but don’t always trust. We left but not soon enough.

    And yet, she’s called my professors when I was at university, called my boss, called me at work a few weeks ago for the first time in years, making up some sob story, whispering creepily, croakily into the phone. She sends packages to address I might be. Is it a cloying gift, a pathetic attempt at reconciliation? Is it a bomb? It could be either, really. It’s terrifying and there is nothing I can do to stop her. Restraining orders only last for so long, only so many courts will believe you, and stirring up the pot often only increases the agitation. I am powerless over her, I can only try to ignore it and live life.

    I, like you, have accomplished many things academically and work-wise, but it’s a dangerous escape. It’s easy to lose myself in work for fear of the world. Friendships are less dangerous now, but romantic relationships remain nerve-wracking. My love and I have pondered this, dancing slowly at the abyss of violent memories, bearing witness to one another’s pain, he a child of maternal abuse as well. Will we fall into the same pattern as abuser or victim? Will we unintentionally tear one another to bits? I will do everything I can to prevent it, including leaving him if I must, but I don’t know.

    I think I will be more at peace when she dies. My own kids? No, I think not. The world is too overpopulated and I’d fear too much for their safety at her hands. The only fortunate thing was that (most of) this started when I was around ten or so and not sooner, or I fear I would have needed even more intensive therapy than I have already been in and out of and in again. Someday I will be able to write these details with my own name. It is another story that should be told with a person standing in the light behind it.

    But I am afraid. Afraid of the still-short plane rides, of google maps, of the guns that are so easily accessible in this country I live in for the moment or the kitchen knives always lying about, menacing over the airy countertops. Still I triple check the double-locked doors to the house when I enter and when I leave. I try to cast off her shadows and fears. It is a daily struggle.

    • 64birdtoes

      I understand. I thought I would die from fear if mine so much as touched me. She became larger than life but there came a point where I had to recognize she was really just a sick, mean old woman and her ability to hurt me anymore was fairly slight given my precautions. I hope you can find a way to reduce your monster to it’s true size and then walk tall through life. She has a lot less power than you think. Her ability to make you fear her is her power. Don’t let her win. She is nothing but anger and what is that against the power of good?

      • 64birdtoes

        I thought about my comment some more and realized I should have said rather than that she is anger she is manipulating you with fear and that gives her a power over you that she doesn’t truly have. Don’t open her letters, packages, block her number from your phone, block her emails, and don’t listen to her messages because they are tools she uses. To protect yourself find methods like this to block her out and resist listening, looking, reading etc. These women are high functioning, well thought out manipulators. The rage quickly comes and goes so the planning of a trip to carry out an assault takes more time than a rage typically lasts. By then they have usually moved onto another target if they aren’t getting immediate satisfaction. Tell your employers/school right off that you have this problem and need help blocking her calls from interfering with your life, that she is no different than a stalker, that she is borderline. It is more understood now and if you look you will likely find support. She is not behind every corner, just getting out of a cab, waiting outside your door. She can accomplish her intentions of manipulating you without ever leaving the comfort zone of her own home. Mine used such tactics for years, even calling the police and telling them my husband had killed me and buried me on the property. My lawyer took care of that but I had to provide proof of life. She loved that. However, they don’t respond to her anymore and warned her to stay away from this town or risk a mental evaluation, every Borderline’s nightmare. I missed seeing a lifelong friend who was dying and came to my city unplanned because I was afraid to go to the door and I’ve regretted it ever since. I let my fear rule me. Not anymore. After all I have survived how can that woman hurt me now? I will not let her. I will not allow her to rule me with fear. She is nothing and she does not get to experience the wonder of me. I am self made and amazing. She did not break up my marriage (34 years). Her predictions of failure did not come true (I am very comfortable, retired from a brilliant career and have wonderful friends and my husband’s family), and I am mentally healthy (lots of work) and a very happy, joyful person capable of giving to others. I am nothing like her and she does not exist to me anymore than an insect in a foreign country does. It is worth the effort to do what you need to, read, build your strengths however you may, to accomplish freedom from this fear and manipulation. You don’t deserve this. You deserve to live a beautiful, loving and loved life. A so called biological mother is not necessary to that life. Katie’s article and the comments are so true and honest. This freedom from fear is within your reach. Another commenter suggested “Understanding the Borderline Mother” by Christine Ann Lawson (2002). I read it a dozen years ago and it was the transitioning event that helped me understand the dynamics of my family and that it wasn’t me. Be strong and know you are not alone.

  34. Skye

    Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s no easy thing to disconnect from our parents no matter how toxic or dysfunctional they are. It’s also difficult explaining to people that you don’t see them because you choose not to. I commend your bravery and am grateful that you shared your story. Especially during one of these weeks when self doubt creeps in. Take care

  35. EPP

    I found it difficult to express is the reason I don’t have communication with my family is because of verbal abuse and criticism that I don’t have as much money as they have. In their eyes I’m a failure for not driving expensive cars and living in expensive homes.

    I took care of my father who was physically and emotionally abusive while he was dying. I took care of my mother (who watched and did nothing about the abuse )for five years until she
    died. Thanks to the doctors who helped me through this. I now face another journey. Hopefully without any more abuse because my husband’s illness can be abusive. It’s unpredictable. I hope for a peaceful quiet life full of new experiences.

  36. Cat

    While my experience with my own Mother does not compare, I did need to learn about boundaries and how not having those affected me. A really wonderful lade by the name of Melanie Tonia Evans has a great program to help heal Childhood Wounds. She can be found at http://www.melanietoniaevans.com/

  37. Kate

    Good on you Katie! It takes alot of guts and clarity to get to the point you have. Loving & nurturing yourself and not letting harm enter your life when thats what was so familiar.

    I was really lucky and had great supportive parents (mostly!) when young but my Mum has became a little trickier later on.

    I have friends who have stories similar to yours. The actual act of finally detaching seems to be the hardest part but their lives have become so much simpler and less fraught and complicated since. For some it seems harder to overcome to the ‘stigma’ of detaching from a parent but others are so practical theyre just releived!

    I have my own daughter now and I pray everyday to be an adoring and loving Mum to her even when she’s older and on her own path in life. My life as a parent is so different from my Mum’s I tend not to even relate to my Mums life as a parent, so there’s little sentimentality or connection there lol! Hopefully you’ll experience something similar. I also appreciate the peace I get living on the other side of the planet and not having to deal with her complicated ways on a daily basis! I know her passing will be a bitter sweet moment. Sad that it couldnt have been better in these later years but relief that the judgement and ‘negativity’ will be gone from the equation.

    It sounds like your Mum suffered from an untreated mental disorder which is never easy to be around let alone for a poor child. I just want to give you a big hug! And a huge high five for becoming who you are all on your own.

    I hope you meet a lovely man and create a gorgeous family for yourself and get a second chance to be part of a loving & gentle family. Your children will be so lucky to have such an evolved Mum.

    Congratulations on publishing such a brave, intimate story and allowing yourself to be so vulnerable. Thanks for sharing your fears and insights! We are social beings and the chemicals in our brain thrive on social connection…. I’m sure your words will have a comforting and supportive impact on many and make them feel less alone in their own otherwise isolated traumas.


  38. Jessa

    Thank you for your brave, insightful and honest article in the Huffington post. I’m often saddened by our lack of healthy cultural dialogue around mental illness, especially in the wake of shooting tragedies in which terms such as ‘bipolar’ briefly surface but are quickly subsumed by more urgent cultural discussions such as Rihanna wearing a see-through dress to a party.

    My own mother has been repeatedly diagnosed as borderline though she continues to deny it and has waged war on those psychologists, threatening to have their licenses taken away. My childhood was also filled with the dizzying highs and lows of her unpredictable rages, her cloying inability to recognize a shred of the boundaries between the two of us and her attempts to control every single facet of my behavior from what I ate, wore and said to how often and what I watched on TV, how I slept and for how long and so forth. I wasn’t allowed to be angry, to speak my mind, to have opinions. My memories of our fights are terrifying: black eyes and claw marks on my arms as a child, being abandoned on the side of a highway at dusk as a teenager, the time she called my the police and reported my car as stolen after a particularly gruesome fight during which she forced me to walk through wet paint and called me a whore through clenched teeth.

    I too share a terrifying memory of her randomly driving seven hours to my college to sabotage what would otherwise have been a pleasant trip with my step-father who she was in the midst of messily divorcing. She had a police officer accompany her to campus and serve him papers while we were eating breakfast at his B&B.

    It’s taken years of therapy, support groups, daily meditation and an endless devotion to increasing my self-awareness for me to become a healthy(ish) adult capable of finding self-worth in the right places and to overcome my debilitating perfectionism (which I believe is tied to uneven self-esteem development). Although I continue to choose men who struggle with addiction or are intensely narcissistic, I can now recognize it is these traits that clang an ancient echo of recognition deep in the patterning of my subconscious. I’m working on it all a day at a time.

    I so rarely talk about my mother with people on anything other than a surface level and have only one friend with whom I can be completely and utterly honest. She, too, has a terribly narcissistic mother and we’ve been so blessed to find one another and compare stories through our lives. Other friends to whom I’ve divulged a few stories display the same exact faltering smile you described. A few have suggested I “write her a letter to tell her how I really feel” or argued, as you experienced, that I won’t realize how much I need her in my life once I have children of my own. If anything, that would be the development that would make me officially go no contact. I’d never let her lay so much as a pinkie tip on anyone I loved and, as I type that, it’s sad to realize I’m more protective of my imagined future family than myself.

    Psychological abuse is hard to quantify–how can you display your mental and emotional scars? Thank you for taking such a public step at doing so through your essay. And what a lovely and supportive comment board; how heartening to know we are not alone.

  39. John

    There is something called FORGIVENESS. This may sound arrogant to many people here. But it does not mean you need to go to the one who abused, you can forgive in silence in your own mind. And there will be relief as a result.
    Hate destroys, love heals. And in fact, most abusers have been abused themselves, it get passed from generation to generation. Stop the spiral of hate. Forgive.

    • E

      AGREED, John. Understanding and acceptance is what heals the heart. No one is perfect, parents didn’t have a manual for raising their children. And while some abuses are unacceptable,(physical, psychological, sexual), somewhere we all must find peace. Reading some of these replies, I see where there are those who are putting their mothers in a category that is inappropriate… mothers like myself indeed made parenting mistakes, but certainly NOT in a way that should be defined along with the severity of abuse I mentioned above! Sure, we ALL have our disappointments regarding our parents but come on folks, GET OVER IT! You will make mistakes as parents yourselves one day, hopefully your children won’t condemn you to a life of guilt for doing the best you knew how and loving you with ALL OF THEIR BEING!
      Remove yourselves from your “Haters Club” and realize the essence of the human condition … we are all flawed.

  40. 64birdtoes

    Wow, in reading all of Katie’s posts and the comments to each I have read an overwhelming sense of guilt, a desperate wish to be understood, a generous spirit of understanding and shared grief over what might have been but could not be, and many other sympathetic experiences and support but one thing I have not encountered here was hate. How can you read Katie’s posts and these comments and come up with your response that this has anything to do with hate is a reflection of absolute failure to comprehend the message. You DO understand we are talking about parents, typically women, who generally appear benign in public but torture their children mentally and physically in private do you not, and not just in childhood but into adulthood, interfering in their relationships, their educations, their jobs, every single aspect of their lives? We are not talking about HATE, but FEAR and the ABSENCE of love, of MANIPULATION at its most insidious. It is mental illness and the forgiveness part is something we all work toward in our own ways because for many of us it is the only way we can safely love them. These parents are sick, you can forgive in your heart but never forget and you can never trust them. The word hate doesn’t apply to mental illness. You can’t blame anyone here for needing and wanting freedom from fear, torture, manipulation, humiliation, and all the other forms of abuse that come with this type of mentally ill parent. Please excuse my need to burst your nice bubble but I have found the postings and comments here are way deeper and more personal than your forgive and feel better comment. I forgive because it is all I have left to offer and I can only offer it safely in my heart. I do not and never have hated. I have grieved liked many others here, the loss of what could have, and should have been.

  41. Colleen

    Agree completely, birdtoes. I don’t hate my mother at all. I genuinely wish for her healing and happiness. I honestly feel sorry for her because she will probably never really know her granddaughter, who is a wonderful child. I can forgive her past behavior, but I cannot give her the opportunity to repeat it in the future, especially where my child is concerned.

  42. 64birdtoes

    Thank you so much for your reply, Colleen. I was concerned about being so blunt but having worked so hard to get “here” as you obviously have as well, I was compelled to write. My feelings are the same as yours. This is all about love.

  43. CB

    I also completely agree. I have forgiven my mother however I know that forgiveness doesn’t fix what is so deeply broken inside her. I can never let her be around my child because I know she can’t change who she is and I will never let my daughter be impacted by the vitriol my mother can’t help but spew. I do wish that my mother could get help, but she insists she doesn’t need it and would rather live out the rest of her days alone than admit she has problems. I have been strengthened seeing so many others who survived and came out stronger despite all they went through. I am grateful to Katie Naum for her opening up all this dialog through her story.

  44. 64birdtoes

    This is my life. You are SO right. If you haven’t lived this or partnered someone who has, you won’t understand this issue. And, there isn’t much a Borderline fears more than a mental evaluation. They are usually highly functioning, very intelligent women who can manipulate those in the psychiatric field who aren’t skilled in handling Borderline patients. However, if they come up against someone who has experience with this illness who sees through them it really scares them and they will do just about anything to avoid being faced with the truth that they are mentally ill. They might start therapy but they rarely continue it for long because you see … they aren’t “really sick” and they “don’t really need medication”. They have excuses for everything in order to stay raging and unpredictable and manipulative because the power feels comfortable. They don’t want to face whatever made them that way and confront their wrongs and change. I hope my “mother”, quite old now, never wakes up to the terrible things she has done because I think that pain would be too incredible to imagine. But, truth is, I don’t have to worry about that, because she won’t and I will never see her again. And yes, that is sad. That does not define my life. It is a truth to tuck away like a lesson learned and no longer needed, as I move through life with joy and the strong heart of a survivor.

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