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Was this an abusive childhood?

(32 Posts)
ShadowsCollideWithKittens Mon 04-Jul-16 23:57:52

I'm in a bit of a mess, I've been having a very tough time lately and mentioned some stuff to my GP, who looked horrified, and recommended counselling.

My family are, or at least appear to be very close. Family and friends comment on it all the time. How they wish they had the kind of relationship we have.

However. My Dad has always been pretty violent. I once woke up to him pinning my Mum to the wall by her throat. The worst argument I remember was when I was 9, he barricaded them both in the kitchen, I remember screaming for my sister to go and get our lovely next door neighbour to intervene, as I was terrified. He once tried to push me down the stairs. He once tried to push my Granny down the stairs. On Christmas Eve.

In honesty (and of course it's no excuse for the violence), my mum was pretty awful too. She used me as her sounding board. I got all the details as to how the much younger man she was having an affair with dumped her. Aged 12. I'm still getting that shite. There's quite a strong chance that, based on the number of affairs my Mum had, and when I was born, that my Dad isn't actually my Dad.

She used to rant and scream at me. Then weep on my shoulder, then rant some more depending on her mood. If I ever dared to be the voice of dissent, ever disagreed with her, she was hideous to me. I spent a lot of time hiding away from their angry outbursts.

I'm questioning everything right now. I thought I had a lovely childhood, but now I'm thinking that wasn't the case. My only stability was my lovely Granda, who is now dead. So maybe that's why I'm questioning.

It was tough. Was it abusive though? I genuinely have no idea.

imother Tue 05-Jul-16 01:12:30

Yes, it was abusive. You've been physically and emotionally abused and you've been witness to abuse as a child, which is now known to be very damaging.

I think counselling will be a good idea so that you don't end up carrying it all around with you for the rest of your life. Make sure you get a counsellor who is experienced and that you click with.

flowers for you OP. It's hard, but you'll get past having to think about it all the time.

WickedLazy Tue 05-Jul-16 01:23:57

Your dad was physically abusive towards your mum, and your mum emotionally abusive towards you. Non of this is your fault, and you deserve to be happy now. You don't have to put up with the shite anymore if you don't want to flowers

ShadowsCollideWithKittens Tue 05-Jul-16 01:43:12

Shit. I think I've known that for a long time. I've done a great job of convincing myself otherwise though. And the sad thing is, I nearly wish I could retract this post. Because I feel so disloyal, so mean, for being honest about my parents. On one hand it's a weight off my chest, on the other it's a horrible feeling of, I don't know, waking up to reality? Fear? I absolutely need counselling. The thing that cemented that in my head was the look of disgust on my GP's face when I told him about some of my Mum's behaviour towards me. And that's before I delved into the darker stuff.

Thank you both for your replies.

hesterton Tue 05-Jul-16 01:53:04

It sounds very much like there was considerable abuse towards you at home. Parts of your childhood must have been very frightening and you must have felt very unsafe on many occasions over a long period of time. And that isn't good.

It doesn't negate any good parts of your childhood but it does make you think hard and rethink the myths created around perfect families. You need to shrink yourself into the little frightened girl and then lift her safely right into the middle of your heart and love her, and keep her safe.

Counselling could be rally useful.

I'm so sorry about the bereavement you have suffered - it sounds like your granda was the one prison you did feel secure around. It must feel like a huge loss. flowers

ShadowsCollideWithKittens Tue 05-Jul-16 02:11:51

hesterton, I feel like that frightened little girl all the time now. It was scary. There's one particular song - Things Can Only Get Better by D:Ream, that was playing on a particularly bad night. DP is a sound engineer, he worked with them a few years ago. When he told me he was gigging with them it was like a punch in the stomach, brought back some awful memories. They all came flooding back.

I've never felt safe at home. From the age of about 5, I've spent most nights lying awake, terrified at the thought of the house being broken in to, or going on fire. Worried about my parents having a blazing row. Frightened of my Dad's temper. I honestly don't think I've had a full undisturbed nights sleep since I was 5.

Yes, the loss of my amazing Granda has been awful. He was wonderful, kind, and comforting. He was my best defender, he always looked out for me. I spent whole summers with him, and it was the happiest I've ever been. He made me feel so safe and cared for. He was wonderful. I cry for him every day.

hesterton Tue 05-Jul-16 02:20:06

I wish I could reach through and give you a hug. It sounds like you are feeling such a huge wave of grief right now for both the safe childhood you never had and your lovely granda.

Do you feel safe now?

hesterton Tue 05-Jul-16 02:22:06

I mean, ARE you safe? Do you have good people in your life now?

WickedLazy Tue 05-Jul-16 02:30:09

It's normal to feel guilty, counselling could hopefully really help you let go of a lot of pent up, negative feelings.

You did nothing wrong, your parents hurt you, and that's okay. They made their mistakes. But it's not too late for you to feel safe and supported, and to stop feeling guilted into letting them hurt you again.

Dp's mum still screams vile abuse at him regularly. We're slowly reducing contact atm, but the other week he got quite stern with her over the phone, only for her to call back begging him to come round, as she was really upset, and started crying. It ended in him going to hers and comforting her (she got so rude with him, he had to call her on it, yet he hurt her feelings hmm ). I refused to indulge her and stayed at home. Been getting it in the neck since, like she knows I know what she's at, but she obviously can't tell anyone why she's pissed at me. Involving my mother, telling her I was being really "off" with her. Not realising my mum thinks she needs more mental health support.

It's not easy, but this is the first step, (admitting things weren't and aren't emotionally right with them, and that you've been treated badly). The next step, counselling or talking it out with someone you trust, and deciding what to do next. Even if you don't want advice, sometimes just letting it all out really helps, or being believed and feeling validated.

Have lot's of brew and cake.

ShadowsCollideWithKittens Tue 05-Jul-16 02:42:38

I do and I don't, hesterton. Physically, yes I feel very safe. I'm living with my DP, who hasn't a violent bone in his body. He'd never, ever lift a hand to me. It wouldn't even cross his mind. He's one of the kindest, most wonderful people I've ever met. He's actually a lot like my Granda. Granda absolutely adored him, and he looked after Granda, held his hand, dabbed water on his lips, soothed him when he was dying.

Emotionally? No, I don't feel safe. Every time I try to break away, I get the guilt and misery. My Mum today, heaped it on with a shovel. She claims that she has a chest infection (despite her doctor telling her on four different occasions that she's fine). Meanwhile, I have a medical condition that is just ignored.

hesterton Tue 05-Jul-16 02:56:03

Good to hear that you have a good dp.

I hope you're able to access counselling. It's hard to have to maintain an ongoing relationship with your mum when she is still being abusive in ways.

WickedLazy Tue 05-Jul-16 02:57:13

Can you get dp to ring her tomorrow, to tell her you've got a migraine, painful but not serious, he will ring back in a few days, don't worry, then turn your phone off or redirect her number for a few days? Get some breathing space, and let your emotions settle a bit. I wouldn't feel guilty, everybody needs to be able to detach sometimes from stressful situations. You know her health is fine and she's being unfair.

ShadowsCollideWithKittens Tue 05-Jul-16 05:23:04

Thanks, Hesterton and Wicked. I'm trying to give myself a break. Telling her I'm unwell doesn't work, I'm actually off work with a fairly crappy illness at the moment. I get multiple calls every day, if I don't answer DP gets endless calls. Then, if he doesn't answer, she will rock up outside ringing the doorbell and banging on the door. Unfortunately I've been through this before.

Squeegle Tue 05-Jul-16 05:30:56

Poor you. She is definitely abusive in her behaviour even now. No wonder you don't feel safe. Can he tell her in no uncertain terms that you need rest and to leave you alone? How would he deal with that? It's difficult for you to desk with this as you turn into that little girl again. What would you tell a friend who was coping with a mum like yours?

OnTheRise Tue 05-Jul-16 08:22:20

This bit is so sad:

And the sad thing is, I nearly wish I could retract this post. Because I feel so disloyal, so mean, for being honest about my parents. On one hand it's a weight off my chest, on the other it's a horrible feeling of, I don't know, waking up to reality? Fear? I absolutely need counselling. The thing that cemented that in my head was the look of disgust on my GP's face when I told him about some of my Mum's behaviour towards me.

You're not being disloyal by telling anyone this. They're the ones who are being abusive, not you; and they rely on your silence in order to perpetuate their abuses.

Your GP's "look of disgust" wasn't directed at you, and I hope you know this. She was disgusted by your mother's behaviour, not by your telling her about it. You've not only done nothing wrong by telling her, or sharing this with us: you've opened a door which leads to recovery from all the damage which their abuse has caused you. Well done!

A couple of years ago I was where you are now: being bullied by my parents, being harassed by them by phone, and if I didn't take their calls they'd get really angry with me, and start calling my husband and my children. It was awful. And it was when I mentioned it offhand to my GP, and she said to me, "That's really awful. What can I do to help?" that I began to see there was a way through.

I've had CBT, and am now having more intensive therapy, and it's been so very helpful. I called my parents out on their bad behaviour and told them not to contact me unless they first apologised for a particular incident: they've insisted it didn't even happen, that I'm just trying to cause trouble, and so on. And so I've refused their calls, and have stuck to my guns, and we now have almost no contact at all.

It's terribly sad that I have such awful parents. But it's not my fault, and it's not sad that I am no longer in contact with them, because it means that I am no longer subjected to their abuse. I'm feeling better every day.

You don't have to go no contact with your family, although it is an option. I hope you find your own way to feel better because you really don't deserve to be put through this.

ShadowsCollideWithKittens Tue 05-Jul-16 14:35:30

Thanks Squeegle (that was one of my favourite episodes of CSI, btw wink). If I told her that I needed rest and to be left alone she would freak. Absolutely lose her shit. I'm supposed to always be on hand to listen to her woes and offer support. What would I tell a friend? Fuck, I don't know. Extricate yourself, I guess. Do whatever you need to to prioritise yourself and get some distance. Look for counselling, get the help you need, don't be ashamed to ask for help. All very sensible, but very difficult to enact.

OnTheRise, thank you. I'm so sorry that you have been through this. When I talk about the look of disgust on my GP's face, it was definitely directed towards my Mum, not me. That was what prompted this realisation, I knew that something wasn't right and had no choice but to think on it.

I don't think I'll ever be able to go NC, it'd be a massive scandal. My parents are well known, respected in the community types. People think they're amazing.

Thanks for your reassurance that it's okay to say all this. I still feel terrible and conflicted, but your post really helps.

I'm glad that you've been able to get some distance and work towards healing yourself. It's very difficult and scary flowers

WickedLazy Tue 05-Jul-16 15:42:01

"I get multiple calls every day, if I don't answer DP gets endless calls. Then, if he doesn't answer, she will rock up outside ringing the doorbell and banging on the door"

Mil did this. I ignore my phone now if I need to. Turn it off and put it up on a shelf. Dp puts his on silent. She's only come round banging and shouting twice though. The second time I had to stay upstairs until she left. She gives me the rage now, and if she does that again (in my home, in my name) I know I'll loose my rag with her, and god knows what will come out of my mouth. Hopefully she has the sense not too. It' been building for 6 years, I have no idea how you've gone your whole life dealing with it (or how my dp has).

You need to learn to disengage from her. I know it's hard, but what she's doing is awful.

How are you feeling today generally? flowers

ShadowsCollideWithKittens Tue 05-Jul-16 15:50:57

Oh Wicked. Hugs to you and your DH. I admire your bravery in standing up to your MIL. That must have been so hard.

How am I feeling today? Honestly, I'm a mess. I've spent the day crying. It feels like everything is about to come tumbling down. My head is going at 90 miles an hour and I can't make it stop. I can hear my heart pounding in my ears. I'm really frightened that I'm starting to unravel completely.

Why the fuck do they do this to us?

WickedLazy Tue 05-Jul-16 16:14:04

It's not bravery, it's the fact she's not my mum (my own mum is the total opposite, in her own happy little bubble, hardly hear from her from week to week). Mil is this crazy woman wanting to control (and hurt) my dp, who I can't bring myself to pander to. You're the brave one for trying your hardest to be the better person, and a loyal daughter for so long, and for keeping a lot of horrible secrets you should never have been privy too in the first place etc. You gave it your best, they didn't change or give it their "best". You deserve to have a bit of peace and quiet in your life. Was it in the railway children that someone said "a true home should have a moat and a drawbridge" or something to that effect?

I think some people act like this because they don't see those people they're shouting at as real, with feelings that are just as valid and important as theirs. They see them more as pawns to shift about and use as they please.

Could dp come home from work early and give you a cuddle? Do you have any old comfort films or box sets you could put on to pass the time a bit, couch, pillows, duvet and a cuppa?

OnTheRise Tue 05-Jul-16 16:34:37

OnTheRise, thank you. I'm so sorry that you have been through this. When I talk about the look of disgust on my GP's face, it was definitely directed towards my Mum, not me. That was what prompted this realisation, I knew that something wasn't right and had no choice but to think on it.

I'm glad you realised that. I was worried for a moment!

I'm doing really well now. It's amazing how a few months of not having my parents in my life has made me feel better. And the therapy has helped enormously too.

I hope you're now getting the counselling your GP recommended. It's hard work but it really does help, and the harder you work at it the more it helps.

I don't think I'll ever be able to go NC, it'd be a massive scandal. My parents are well known, respected in the community types. People think they're amazing.

Well, they're not amazing if they're making you feel so upset all the time; you don't have to announce it to the world that you're not speaking to them anymore; nor do you owe your parents your soul in order to preserve their undeserved reputation for amazingness.

Do what's best for you. Your parents can handle their own needs.

Thanks for your reassurance that it's okay to say all this. I still feel terrible and conflicted, but your post really helps.

You're welcome! And don't feel terrible. It's good to ask for help. And violence and abuse thrive in secret. When it's brought out into the open, by talking like this, its effectiveness dwindles away. You're doing exactly the right thing.

I'm glad that you've been able to get some distance and work towards healing yourself. It's very difficult and scary

It is. But it's SO worth it. A year ago I was having anxiety attacks, I was breaking my own teeth because I was clenching my teeth together so hard, I couldn't talk to anyone, and I would run away from loud noises or strange people because I was so frightened. Now? I'm really good. My life has changed. It's fab.

How am I feeling today? Honestly, I'm a mess. I've spent the day crying. It feels like everything is about to come tumbling down. My head is going at 90 miles an hour and I can't make it stop. I can hear my heart pounding in my ears. I'm really frightened that I'm starting to unravel completely.

Why the fuck do they do this to us?

They do it because it allows them to control us, and making someone else feel bad about themselves makes the abuser forget for a while how awfully they feel about themselves. Bastards.

You might find it useful to practice a little mindfulness, and self compassion. There are classes: my GP referred me to a mindfulness class last year and it was good. But you can find mindfulness or self compassion meditations free online, which you just have to download to your computer or phone, then you can play them whenever you want. Just five minutes a day will make a difference, but twenty minutes a day will be stonkingly good. Give it a try.

I hope you feel better soon.

ShadowsCollideWithKittens Tue 05-Jul-16 16:34:55

Wicked, thank you. You are brave though, for standing up for your DP. You deserve credit for that.

I've tried so hard to be the 'good', loyal daughter. I've tied myself in knots trying to keep everyone else happy. It's been so awful, trying to hold it all together. Not wanting to betray my Mum by telling my Dad about her affairs. Not wanting to deceive my Dad by not telling him. Not wanting to shame our family by telling anyone about the physical violence.

I sound like a pathetic eejit, I know. I should pull myself together. But I just want someone to hug me and tell me it's okay. I so want my Granda. His love was unconditional. He never wanted anything from me. He just loved me and nurtured me, and it was so lovely.

Unfortunately, DP can't come home from work early. He's not good with the emotional stuff anyway. I have no-one to talk to about any of this. I am on the sofa with some crisps and a duvet, cuddling my cats. It helps a bit.

AnotherEmma Tue 05-Jul-16 16:43:30

Yes, they were and are abusive, and I'm sorry flowers

I think your GP was right to suggest counselling.

You could also contact NAPAC, they have a helpline and support groups, which would provide someone to talk to who understands how you're feeling.

I also suggest you read "Toxic Parents" by Susan Forward, it's always recommended on Relationships threads and for good reason.

Lastly there is the Stately Homes thread which you might be interested in joining?

Take care flowers

AnotherEmma Tue 05-Jul-16 16:44:24

PS You are NOT a pathetic eejit x

VanellopeVonSchweetz99 Tue 05-Jul-16 16:49:50

OP, I feel for you.
Mine were not quite like that, but it was actually a huge relief the other week when a new-ish friend said: "Wow, your parents sound like scum."
And it's true, often they were.
And that was not my fault, and what happened to you is not your fault. flowers

ShadowsCollideWithKittens Tue 05-Jul-16 16:55:29

Thank you, Emma. I've read about the stately homes threads for years, but never thought I should be there. Somehow I convinced myself that I was overreacting, that my childhood was fine, that I was being dramatic. I really must pursue counselling. DP arranged an appointment with a local counselling service for me but I couldn't go, I was so conflicted and scared and unable to leave the house due to anxiety. I definitely need help though. I'm sinking.

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