Ask Luci – The Triumphant Return

I got TWO questions this week in our handy little Ask Us link. Check it out! I am going to be fielding pretty much only mental health/social work type questions since that’s my area of expertise.  And I have two good ones today.

My mother and I are estranged, due mainly to the fact that she is fucking nuts. She’s got serious undiagnosed mental health issues and an insatiable need to control the lives of everyone around her, though mine most strongly. She has a tendency to claim that events occurred in a completely different way than they did, always putting herself in the position of blameless victim. Her life is down the drain at the moment- moving from temporary place to temporary place, job working in a grocery store, etc. She’s 53 and I’m in college in another state. She has been violent in the past, for example, she got in a physical fight with me over literally nothing– yes, literally. I had  done nothing wrong, simply wanted to move pillows belonging to me from the garage to my car. This was, apparently, worth fighting me over. And kicking me out. I promise I’m not leaving out anything, that was truly the only reason. I was an incredibly responsible teenager, never got in trouble with school or the law even once, and was really involved with the arts. Anyway, I haven’t lived with her for two years, and have barely spoken to her in this time. Though I have no interest in maintaining a relationship with her, the endless guilt from everyone who doesn’t know how horrible it is to be in her life is getting really old. I feel like I have an obligation to the world to be kind to her and let her have access to my life, but I just can’t handle how much she draws me in to her insanity. My father got out and remarried and now has no contact with her, but apparently I shouldn’t get the same blessing. Anyway, my questions are these: Am I really being selfish when I refuse to have contact with her, or is this a viable self-preservation technique? Secondly, if I should let her in a little, how could I do that in ways that won’t affect my life? Thirdly, if I shouldn’t do that, WTF can I say to everyone else who doesn’t know what it’s like and thinks I’m overreacting? Thanks for the outside opinion, I know it’s a pretty complicated situation!

So, first off, as I’ve said before here, I am a big supporter of cutting toxic people out of your life.  I don’t think that, “Well, they’re family!” is a reason to keep someone in your life who is otherwise damaging.  And I definitely don’t think that because other people aren’t understanding or supportive is a reason to keep someone in your life – again, be that a family member or a friend or partner.  If you have gone through the reasons why you think it’s unhealthy to stay in contact with your mom, and it sounds like you have, then I believe you’re fully justified in completely cutting off contact.  It also seems like you’ve all but completely cut her off anyway, at this point.  So if you feel like that is the best course of action for you, then keep doing it.

So besides not keeping damaging people in your life, I’m also a big fan of people minding their own damn business (except for me because I’m nosy).  Again, I don’t care if this is a family member, friends, your neighborhood pastor.  It’s up to you and your comfort level with an individual person to decide how and how much you want to let them know about the situation.  From what you’re saying, it sounds like the people whose judgment you’re concerned about are people in your family who know your mom, but haven’t been a target of her anger.  For them, I think it’s fine to politely and firmly say, “We just have a complicated relationship and it’s best that we don’t have contact at this time.” And you can leave it at that.  If it’s the type of obnoxious relative that keeps prying, you can get more firm and less polite, until they get the picture.  If they still think you’re overreacting, then that’s on them – you never have to apologize or explain doing something that is in your best interest, especially when it comes to managing your own mental health and well-being. Good luck!

I have friends interested in becoming foster parents. They are in California, south Bay Area, and they aren’t quite sure where to begin. I want to help guide them in the right direction, but I’m pretty clueless about how to figure out all the different options. Is this something you could offer some guidance on? Thanks!

First, congratulations to your friends for taking this step!  I did a little research and I can see how you and your friends would feel bogged down by all of the information out there.  I would encourage your friends to go to an information session.  They can go through an agency or through the government. I would recommend starting with the San Francisco Department of Human Services, they have a number here you can call to set up an appointment to attend an orientation. From there you can decide if you want to proceed via the government or through a private agency that has been licensed by the government.  Bay Area Homes for Kids, which is a foster care agency has a good summary of the step-by-step process of applying to be a foster parent.

There are a LOT of foster care agencies in the Bay Area.  If you don’t get a good feeling or don’t have a good experience from the first foster care agency, try another one. You’re in for a long process with them, so you want to make sure you trust the people you’re working with.

Before they go to an orientation session, they might want to think about what type of foster child they would be willing to consider.  There are foster programs for babies, toddlers, teenagers, siblings, children with special needs and developmental and/or physical challenges, children with special mental health needs.  I do know that for medically fragile children, at least one parent needs to be at home full-time, for instance.  Also be prepared for a months-long process with a lot of paperwork and hoops.

Hopefully that is helpful information to get your friends started.  Anyone who has any more information about foster care, please weigh in in the comments!

That’s it for today! Thanks for submitting your questions, don’t forget to use our link to ask any health, sex, life, Deus Ex Macintosh or Mental Health/Social Work questions you might have!

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3 Comments Ask Luci – The Triumphant Return

  1. Avatar of chrysterchryster

    To the person that asked the first question-

    Not having a relationship with your mom is a totally viable option. I haven’t talked to my dad in almost 10 years because he is a fucking asshole jerk. He’s not quite like your mom but still, he’s toxic. The fact that I don’t have a relationship with my dad rarely comes up but when it does, I just tell people that he’s a jerk and I’m better off without him. Sometimes, if people really pressure me into explaining, I’ll tell them a few bits from my childhood and then they understand and leave me alone. I figure he made the first 17.5 years of my life miserable and that’s all he gets. I don’t owe it to him or anyone else to let him make anymore of my life unbearable.

    Goodluck!

  2. Avatar of Crystal ColemanCrystal Coleman

    For the first question… I swear, that sounds like I could have asked the question myself. I ended up having communication cut off for me when my grandmother (who had been my caretaker my whole life) moved out, selling all my stuff, without telling me while I was at college. While it sent me into a depression, in the end, it was the best thing that happened to me because it allowed me to make my own life. It allowed me to realize that “family” are the people who care about you, whether they’re related to you by blood or not.

    Whoever you are, you are wonderful and strong and you deserve to be surrounded only with people who build you up and make you better, not people that bring you down. You’re not obligated to explain anything to anyone.

  3. Avatar of missCordeliamissCordelia

    To the first question, I would say that if it’s possible to maintain contact in a way which doesn’t cause you stress, then maybe it might be some kind of “good samaritan” type of deal you might want to consider. For example, not giving your mother a phone number or address to contact your at, yet still sending her a birthday card or something (with no return address) might be something that might brighten her day, and yet not cause you undue stress for risking her getting a hold of you and berating you over xyz.

    I have a “interesting” relationship with my mother as well (though we are not estranged, it’s best we remain living in different states at the moment), and can definitely relate to the mixed emotions you are having. I think for me personally, when I graduate college and get a job and earn enough to establish a savings account, I would feel morally obligated to help out my mother financially if there was a need. I know my father currently pays my grandmother’s rent and some living expenses because if he didn’t she would be out on the streets, so I think in a situation like that you may want to consider increasing some interaction – if not with your mother directly then maybe with her landlord to organize some kind of payment agreement, for example.

    However it sounds as if she is capable of making ends meet by herself at this time, so I think you’re just fine letting her deal with her life herself, and I don’t think there is any reason why you should feel guilty about not being in a traditional daughter role.

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