Annie's Mailbox: How can I overcome memories of abusive mother

Dear Annie: I’m 35, a loving family man and a successful teacher who can’t get over my childhood.

When I was young, I lived with constant anxiety due to my mother’s moods. Some days, she would be gentle and caring, but other days, I would wake up to her screaming and tearing apart the house. She would become violent and abusive and always make it my fault. No matter what I did, it wasn’t good enough for her.

My father was weak willed, and his work kept him away constantly, so he never helped me. When he was home, he, too, suffered her abuse, but when things got too hard to take, he would just leave the house and come back later.

As I grew into my teens, my mother became more violent, punching and slapping me and daring me to strike her back.

I never once raised a hand against her, and after a while, her hits stopped hurting. In fact, she once fractured her own wrist and broke a finger while slapping me.

The hospital suspected I abused her. She blamed me for the cast she wore and brought it up constantly.

Of course, my parents acted so kind and caring in public that no one would have believed how they were in private.

During my freshman year of college, my mother had a stroke and died. By then, my father had developed early dementia and spent the rest of his life in a special care home.

I was on my own. I no longer speak to any relatives because they constantly told me what great parents I had.

I now find myself reliving childhood moments in the middle of the night. I fantasize about beating my mother. I have never told anyone, but sometimes my wife asks why I clench my fists.

I do not attend church and cannot afford counseling. I’m not sure I could admit my feelings to anyone. I had to force myself to write this. Is there a way to let the past go?

— Texas

Dear Texas: Our hearts are breaking for the little boy who had to live with a mother who was undoubtedly bipolar and a father who repeatedly abandoned him so he could escape the abuse. You are a testimonial to the resilience of the human spirit.

There are people who can put the past behind them by confiding in a spouse or close friend, but if that is not possible, please reconsider talking to a professional, in person, online or over the phone.

There are many affordable places. Start with your local hospitals, university psychology departments and graduate school counseling departments; United Way and the YMCA; The Samaritan Institute (samaritaninstitute.org) at 2696 S. Colorado Blvd., Suite 380, Denver, CO 80222; and the Abraham Low Self-Help Systems at lowselfhelpsystems.org, 1-866-221-0302.

Dear Annie: My dad has started to smoke pipes, and I am worried. His dentist told him to stop because of gum cancer. He says he doesn’t inhale so he can’t get addicted or develop gum cancer.

How can I get him to stop? Can he get some sort of cancer by smoking pipes?

— Concerned Kid in Kansas

Dear Kansas: According to the American Cancer Society, pipe smokers have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and chronic lung disease, along with dying from cancers of the lung, throat, esophagus, larynx, pancreas, colon and rectum.

However, you cannot stop your father from puffing away if he refuses. Give him the information, tell him you love him. Then, try to steer clear when he’s smoking.

Dear Annie: “Grieving in the Midwest” said her 33-year-old daughter-in-law recently died from a drug overdose and her son already has a new girlfriend.

Maybe I watch too many crime dramas, but when a young woman in a rocky marriage dies of a drug overdose, the husband is a prime murder suspect.

— Suspicious in Kentucky

Dear Kentucky: Yes, that struck us, too. But, we’re not the police, and we assume if there was something to investigate, they would have done so.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

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