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Last year, after spending a few hours with my mother at a family event, I went home and felt physically sick for days. I was exhausted and irritable, and I felt like I was coming down with the flu.

I knew I wasn’t sick. It’s simply how I’d felt for decades after visits with my mother. It didn’t matter that she’d tried to be nice or that we exchanged a little bit of small talk. To outside family members, it probably seemed pretty low-key. But just being around her got under my skin every single time.

I’m in my 40s, and for decades now, I’ve struggled to deal with the constantly simmering anger I feel towards my mom. It’s complicated, with years of unresolved feelings. The tension between us is always there, and after spending a few hours with her, it makes me feel hungover and in physical pain. Her energy just sucks everything out of me and leaves me feeling like total crap.

When I got home from that family gathering, I was already brainstorming excuses to get out of any future interactions with her. I have a bunch of canned responses, like the kids’ activities or my own work. But I hate lying and contriving scenarios just so I don’t have to see her. That feels awful, too.

Resenting and being angry at my mother has taken a toll on my health, both mentally and physically. I’m tired of listening to myself complain about her, even if most of my complaining is in my own head. I was tired of thinking of ways to avoid her. Most of all, I was tired of hanging onto some old stuff that was doing neither of us any good. Even though I’ll never forget some of the things that have happened between me and my mom, I was stuck in time, unable to move forward because I couldn’t let go of my anger and hurt.

I’ve gone for long periods of time where I didn’t speak to my mother. We’ve also tried therapy together. I’ve talked to her about the things that she does that aren’t okay with me. I’ve tried to keep quiet and stuff all my feelings inside and ignore the little girl inside of me that needed her mother and never got what she needed.

But none of it worked for me.

So I decided it was time to move on and let go of the past. I couldn’t go on like this and torture myself to the point of making myself sick. I tried to let all of it go, just to see what would happen.

I had to accept her for who she was and accept that she will not change. Instead of focusing on the way she makes me feel after I see her, I have to focus on my own life and all the positive things that I have going on. Because I’m never going to break the cycle feeling angry all the time. This stops with me.

And guess what? After months of really forcing myself to accept what I can not change and instead focus on my life the heartburn stopped, my clenched jaw relaxed and I feel better.

I allow myself room to be kind to myself. Acceptance does not come easy and it’s something I need to work on daily. But over the years, I’ve used up so much energy being mad at her and I truly believe I had to get to a place in my life where I didn’t want to feel that way any longer in order to let go of our past.

This certainly hasn’t been a flawless plan, and it’s not always easy, but it’s been a lot easier than getting dragged down every time I see her or think about her.

Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.

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