My early life as a child of an emotionally unavailable parent, was very confusing. I was always told off and yet most of the time I knew I had done nothing wrong. Being the daughter of a single mother I often wished that my father was there to protect me, but I didn’t know him. He left my mother before I could recollect any memories of him.
I had two older brothers, one of whom was actively vicious, the other looking after me all the time when my mother wasn’t around. I am so glad he was in my life then, otherwise I might have felt totally bereft of comfort. I did always wish for an older sister, one that would love me so much she would make my life more tolerable. We would share and talk about better things, but I wasn’t that fortunate.
My Mother Wasn’t All Bad
I have to say that my mother wasn’t all bad. Sometimes when I was poorly she would give me a toy that she had hidden away for Christmas, and that proved she loved me. She would cuddle me sometimes if I asked her, and when she got married when I was six we had some family cuddles, my step-dad, my mother and I. That felt good. It made me feel loved.
However, the cuddles were soon forgotten if she was angry with me. The moment her mood changed she would send me to my bedroom to think about the wrong I had done. Not being able to read or play, just sit on my bed and think. My brothers were not allowed to talk to me at all, or they too would be isolated. So when mummy didn’t like me nobody else would either. These familiar time-outs I remember graduated into being hate fests on my part. I would shout out “I hate you, I wish my daddy had taken me with him when he left you”. This in my adult mind was my way of saying I don’t deserve this treatment.
I can remember some of my early life, and what comes to my mind is that I felt unsafe and insecure all of the time. Unsafe because often, from the age of 7, I was left on my own in the house if I wasn’t well enough to go to school, with instructions not to touch things like the kettle or the fire or open the door to anyone. Actually, I liked these occasions because there was peace in the house. I soon discovered though that my oldest brother came home regularly, he left to go to school and would wait a while for my mother to go to work and then come back again. This sparked a major fear in me because he could hit me, and there was no-one to either protect me or believe what I could tell them. Had I told on him then he wouldn’t have been punished anyway. I see this now as an abuse of my mother’s power. She had the ability to keep him in line and she chose not to. Because that made me want her company, just so I would be out of his harm’s way. It literally was like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Wherever I landed it was not safe, and when a child is thus undermined she becomes afraid, introverted and tries to assume a cloak of invisibility. She finds it difficult to trust people, especially adults and is also likely to have feelings of inferiority. An avid interest in books and writing will often be her salvation. Losing herself in those, whilst she tries to ignore her reality.
Whatever I achieved in school was not praised. The only time I did really well in school was when a particular teacher would take a real interest in me, and would actually draw out the potential that was within me, but had remained unrecognized and ignored. As I recall between the ages of 5 and 16 there were 3 such teachers, and a Headmaster and I am grateful that I met them on my path. They all believed in me even though I could not.
I had school friends but none that really stayed. I moved so often in my childhood and I was often the subject of bullying whenever I attended a new school. There was a spark of bravery in me though. When bullied I would immediately fight the bullies, because I was absolutely determined that although I couldn’t stop this at home, I would not tolerate it at school. School therefore became the place I wanted to be. As at least I could mostly control how I was treated.
My schooling was not always constant, I would be made to stay at home if my mother so wished and I noticed in my early teens I often had headaches and stomach problems which I believe were manifested in my early childhood but actually could not be ignored, no doubt my body was telling me I was stressed and unhappy and remaining at home only stimulated the symptoms more often.
But One Wish
Through these years I grew up with one wish. I wished for the day when I would reach 18, and would be able to leave home and get away from my mother and all that it meant to be living under her roof. The sadness is this wishing started at 7 years old and never stopped. It has left me with a legacy of not living in the moment, but always looking beyond to a time when something I need to do has been accomplished and I can breathe again. I am an extraordinary procrastinator who hates time limits and testing myself, which led to me being a gross underachiever.
I did leave home at 18, although a year later I found myself through lack on finances having to move back in, but I loved that year of freedom. I did not miss her and amazingly in that time she still managed to fall out with me even though there was a vast geographical distance between us.
Obviously when moving back in, I had to live by her rules once again. I had the delight of her yet again talking bad about my friends and boyfriend. The knowledge that she would go through my possessions and letters whilst I was out of the house. The fact that she would keep me off work for the flimsiest of reasons, because she had an ulterior motive. My life was not my own, and so I started working my way out of there again, which took another 2 years. This time though I made sure I was reliant on sharing a place with someone who would look after me. Not the greatest love story of my life, but at least it gave me space to breathe again.
Now knowing how she hated my boyfriend, she told me so every opportunity she had, she would still invade my space and ignore my boundaries. She would invite herself to my home, and whether the boyfriend was there or not he would be insulted and badmouthed. She would make me feel ashamed of myself for not voicing my authority and tell her to get out and never come back, which ultimately is what I wanted to do, I was just too afraid of the repercussions.
I knew I couldn’t stand up for myself and felt as though I had to agree with her when she spoke badly of friends and siblings otherwise I would suffer even more. I didn’t like myself for these traits because I like mixing with people. I believed she was totally unkind to everyone behind their backs and it took a piece of my inherent goodness away each time I had to take part. I understood that she had to have her own way and when she would tell me she loved me I would feel sick. How could I believe she loved me when she treated me the way she did? On the other hand, how could I believe that she didn’t love me? She is my mother after all.
”So by this time I felt guilty as when something went wrong in my life I blamed” MYSELF!!
With a Grain of Salt
During my 20’s I desperately tried to keep my distance from her, but with little success. Especially when I had my own children she would let me think I knew nothing about babies and toddlers and gave me lots of untrue advice. Like when she told me to add extra baby milk powder into a feed. I did that, and my poor baby threw up so badly! She then proceeded trying to tell me the baby had a blockage in her intestines, luckily she was wrong and I watched the baby very carefully for days afterwards. I hated her for making my baby suffer unnecessarily. The next time she gave advice it was always after the problem had been resolved, which was just as well in most cases. I couldn’t afford to take advice from her.
From the moment she met my husband-to-be she detested him and often insinuated he was gay, even though I would always stand against her for that. We didn’t have a falling out on my wedding day luckily, and she did not really do what most mother’s like mine do, it was my day and it stayed that way. That is possibly due to the fact that she tried to ruin the day I got engaged by turning up unannounced and making sure she got a lift home when my boyfriend turned up. Then when his family started contributing to our wedding fund, she complained how little they were doing, when she a single mother had done so much! I told her then to stop comparing what the in-laws had provided and after a particularly nasty verbal ear bashing she did not contact me for another 2 months, whereupon I had to apologize most sincerely for provoking her and being so ungrateful.
The Stress of Secrets
Enter my 30’s and I started having many medical problems which I believe were caused by the stress of living with so many secrets. I believe it could be a result of toxic shame, feeling bad for things that were beyond my control and responsibility. I had already been tainted with the revelation that there was something drastically wrong with me and I felt inadequate and very, very guilty for just being me, but at the same knowing intellectually that I wasn’t a bad person it still did not assuage that guilt.
In my 40’s my marriage broke up and my mother seemed to be my best friend. For the first time it seemed that she was really helpful and generous to me. For a while I was convinced she had changed. With hindsight it was more like fodder for manipulation. She began to be more malignant than ever. Things she said to me would have the power to assault my mind and my spirit.
I was glad when I moved away from her and kept a much lower profile in her life. Then she became ill and for two years I spent time every day talking on the phone to make sure she was all right. I had virtually decided to move close to her to look after her, but thankfully I didn’t. Instead I chose to cut her out of my life.
It was not an easy decision to make I did feel so guilty but after a crisis of my own, I realized just how much of my energy she stole to make herself feel really good and I could not let her do this any more.
I am a few years into no contact with my mother, and I believe I have improved my life considerably since then. I have become my own person, I have learned to love myself and I realize that the shame I always felt belonged to her.
The best part about having no contact is every day I grow stronger and there is no-one alive that could make me go against my own beliefs again.