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"I didn't know how to speak to you when you were a teenager"- Am I to blame??

(41 Posts)
MilkandWine Sat 18-Jun-11 07:47:47

Okay this is probably daft but It's playing on my mind and I just need to get it out I think.

Yesterday I was at my parents house (myself and DP are splitting up, although I'm not really sure if that's even what I really want, another thread though sorry). I was speaking to my mother about how if I ever have children I'm going to push them to achieve something in life as I frankly feel like I haven't achieved the things I should have. She then asked "Did we not push you enough as a teenager?", I said on reflection that they probably hadn't if I was being honest. My mothers response was " Well you were impossible to approach when you were a teenager, I literally didn't know how to handle you"

It's made me feel really bad tbh. I wasen't a wild, drug taking teen but I did have problems. I started self harming when I was 15. I thought I had hidden this from my parents but my mother revealed in an argument last year that she had known about it. I also had eating disorders and a completely unhealthy obsession with a rock star who disappeared when I was 16. Something that totally shattered my already fragile state of mind and insane as it sounds I don't think I've ever 100% recovered. My mother will often say "You changed when you were 16, I have no idea what happened". To this day I can't tell her as it sounds such an insane thing for a 32 year old to come out with.

I don't even know where I'm really going with this post actually, I just feel really sad I suppose for my f**ked up teenage years. I've spent years minimising it all but I'm starting to realise just how bad they were. Nobody eve really tried to help me. I have scars all over both forearms that I will carry for ever and feel that my parents really let me down by not helping me.

I know I'm an adult now and need to get over it but it's just made me feel really sad.

CrispyClusters Sat 18-Jun-11 07:56:32

Message withdrawn

cathkidstonbag Sat 18-Jun-11 08:01:42

No you aren't to blame.
Sounds trite but have you considered counselling? I had a bad childhood and struggle to maintain a relationship with my mother because of it (what kind of mother stays with her husband when he's tried to rape her daughter???). These issues have totally clouded my life until now at a similar age to you I was headed for a breakdown.
I don't think it's worth confronting your mum yet but maybe with other events in your life you need to talk this all out with someone?

MilkandWine Sat 18-Jun-11 08:02:52

Crispyclusters I have no children myself so maybye I struggle to see it from a mothers point of view. I can appreciate it would be an horrific thing to know your child was going through.

I don't walk around all day long thinking about how hard done by I was. I totally appreciate my parents are just normal human beings with their owns foibles and I do not blame them for the way my life has turned out. It's just comments like the one made yesterday really upset me when I'm already feeling vulnerable.

But I do love my parents and I appreciate that I'm a grown woman who needs to put her past behind her.

msrisotto Sat 18-Jun-11 08:03:55

She knew you were self harming and didn't talk to you about it? Didn't try to support you at all?? Wow.

Of course what she said "You were impossible, I didn't know how to speak to you" is designed to make you feel bad and the reason she wants to make you feel bad, is because she feels bad. For her to spread the blame, may make her feel better. Bottom line is, you are not to blame, she is and she knows this - hence why she feels bad and is trying to displace this onto you.

I dunno, I wouldn't struggle to talk to someone but that is what I do so I shouldn't judge her. Perhaps she had no support herself?

MilkandWine Sat 18-Jun-11 08:08:26

OMG I had counselling a few years back but I don't think at the time I was ready to admit my upbringing had been less than rosy. It wasen't until I met DP and saw how his family interact that I realised something was amiss in my own. I'm looking into getting counselling again at the minute, hoping it will help.
I am so sorry to hear what you went through, It makes me experiences pale by comparison. I hope you are healing now.

msrisotto My mother had no support. She told me that when she tried to bring up my self harming with my dad he literally didn't want to know. Also they have had long term problems with my older brother mental health issues. I think it drained them so much they had no strength left over for me.

BluddyMoFo Sat 18-Jun-11 08:08:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CrispyClusters Sat 18-Jun-11 08:09:01

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CrispyClusters Sat 18-Jun-11 08:11:56

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cathkidstonbag Sat 18-Jun-11 08:13:18

It doesn't at all make your experiences pale, I wasn't trying to do that. Just I kind of get what you are saying. I have children myself now and yes my eldest is incredibly difficult teenager but I still don't understand my mums parenting style.
Now it might be a better time for counselling, childhood has such a huge impact on us as adults.

CrispyClusters Sat 18-Jun-11 08:18:45

Message withdrawn

GollyHolightly Sat 18-Jun-11 08:22:33

I think the crux of the matter here is that you don't have children.

I'm not trying to minimise your experience as a teen, or the depth of your feelings about what she said but until you are a parent you cannot understand how hard parenting can be, at any stage of a child's development.

My mum once told me that I was a very difficult child. That comment cut me to the quick. It's not even a particularly nasty statement but I cannot describe how hurt I was by it, but now that I have kids (one teen, one almost teen) I can better understand how she felt because I have found parenting frustrating, infuriating and hugely rewarding in equal measures.

Were you the oldest child? I ask because as the parent of a (difficult) 14yr old girl I can honestly say that we're winging it with her too. There are books on how to do it and how to handle the myriad of different situations that crop up but on a daily basis we have to make snap decisions on how to handle things, and it's HARD!

Try not to be too hard on your mum. If your relationship is a good one on the whole I wouldn't let one comment spoil things, because they're not around for ever.

MilkandWine Sat 18-Jun-11 08:33:12

Crispyclusters It baffles me a bit as well, my brother was in psychiatric hospitals, the works! Yet when it came to me it was head in the sand time. My dad was less than useless though I think from what mother has said. His typical reaction to emotional uspset it to a) ignore or b) get upset with you for being uspset (always helpful as you can imagine)

OMG Oh I know you weren't trying to belittle my experiences, that's not what I meant at all. Hope you didn't misunderstand me.

Golly I take on board totally what you say about me not having children. Yet I can't help feeling that totally ignoring the fact your 15 is slicing their arms to bits is a little odd? I am the 2nd child, my oldest brother has long term mental health problems that started in his teens. I think they were too frazzled by him to have any energy for me tbh.
My relationship with my mam isin't great. We never go shopping, for a coffee together, any of the girlie things you are supposed to do. It makes me sad because as you rightly say they aren't around forever. Sadly me parents have a very 'You child, us adult' attitude even though I am 32! I still get told off for raising my voice or being cheeky ffs! It makes it very hard to be on an equal footing, I feel like I constantly get blocked in my attempts to forge a proper adult relationship with them!

SheCutOffTheirTails Sat 18-Jun-11 08:33:24

I don't think it's remotely helpful (or true) to say that the OP's mother is to blame for what she went through as a teenager. She could have handled it better, but that doesn't make it her fault or mean that an intervention would have helped matters.

OP - some people just make shit parents of teenagers. My mother was like this - she found us odious, impossible to deal with. She pretty much just shut her eyes and waited until that phase was over. Luckily for us our Dad thinks teenagers are brilliant, and he did most of the hard parts during those years. But overall she was a great Mum, she just had her weak spot (like most of us).

Of course your difficulties were not your fault, and of course your mother should have handled it better. But she probably found herself completely out of her depth and terrified of doing the wrong thing.

I agree that counselling might help you deal with these feelings. It sounds like you had a very rough time as a teenager, and you haven't quite come to terms with it.

BTW it wouldn't sound at all silly for a woman in her 30s to explain why her 16 year old self was obsessed with something like a popstar's disappearance. Was it the guy from the Manic Street Preachers? I knew a couple of people in college who were obsessed by that too.

You were a good kid, just mixed up and intense. That is hard for some parents to deal with, but not because you were unlovable or bad. Just because you were unreachable and troubled and they didn't know who you were anymore, or how to help you.

MilkandWine Sat 18-Jun-11 08:40:51

"You were a good kid, just mixed up and intense. That is hard for some parents to deal with, but not because you were unlovable or bad. Just because you were unreachable and troubled and they didn't know who you were anymore, or how to help you."
SheCutOffTheirTails That is such a brilliant way of summing it all up, thankyou. I was ridiculously intense as a teenager, sadly I'm still the same as an adult, some things never change eh?
No I don't believe my mother is to blame, she didn't force me into the actions I took, it was my own free will. Maybye I need to be more forgiving and let it go.

And yes that's the guy. Something else I will never forget is the way my mother broke the news to me. Reading the paper she went 'Ohhh look who has disappeared". Then told me off for starting to cry. Surely the fact that my bedroom was covered in about 55000 pictures of him would have indicated a certain regard for this chap to anyone with eyes? Oh God I'm getting angry again, must try for zen like calm. It is not my mothers fault she wasen't on my wavelength.

frantic51 Sat 18-Jun-11 08:41:06

MilkandWine, I think your mum's remark was probably in reaction to your (perceived) accusation that she had in some way "failed" you by not pushing you hard enough. Perhaps she didn't push you because she knew about the self-harming and didn't want to tip you further over the edge?

Either way, it was a self-protecting, knee jerk sort of remark and shouldn't be taken too much to heart, just as your remark about really pushing any children you might have to achieve shouldn't be taken to heart by her.

FWIW I have had a child with mild learning difficulties who I desperately wanted to have tested for as a youngster but my ex wouldn't hear of it because he "wasn't going to have a child of his 'labelled' " hmm Please remember that women of my and your mother's generation didn't always stand up to our husbands as we should. sad (My DD had herself tested when she was 18, in truth it is very mild dyspraxia (sp?) and she did manage to get a reasonable run of GCSEs, just struggled at A level and has taken 3 years to get what most youngsters of her intelligence level should have achieved in 2.

I know it's not the same and self-harming is far more serious but when my husband said "no" I fumed inwardly and capitulated. Sure, I feel guilty but at the time it was just what I had been brought up to do. sad

anorexiamummy Sat 18-Jun-11 08:51:13

Of course, you are not to blame and I do not think for one moment that your mother meant to imply that. She was probably expressing remorse and regret at not having been more effective in reaching out to you and helping you. Neither of you are at fault for struggling with life in those teen years.

The thing is that parents of teens are often well aware of the teen's issues but just not at all sure that they won't make things worse, and get a hostile reaction, if they raise them. They are terrified because their DC are the most precious things in their universe and seem sometimes to be pressing self destruct. I have written (as anorexia mummy...I usually MN under a wholly different name and not on this issue) a blog about dealing with my daughter's self harm and eating disorders and had many comments back from other teenagers, or ex sufferers, saying that, through reading it, they have realised what they put their parents through. This is heartening, but I hasten to add that most parents do not object to being put through hell if it that is what it takes to help - most parents would happily walk through fire to protect their DC, but lots of us are mortal and don't know where to start. This does not make it the child's fault, nor does it make it the parents' fault. It is simply sad.

There is nothing in your post that indicates that your mother did not love you or did not want the best for you, simply an expression of helplessness at that time to be ABLE to help you effectively. There is also nothing to indicate that she is blaming you even though you have read it that way, which might go to the heart of some of your self esteem issues which might be part of the cause of the self harming.

I am so sorry for what you went through but hope that it does not cause any continuing rift or resentment. Remember that your Mum would never want you to feel bad or to harm yourself ever again and that this is all behind you now.

With love XX

amverytired Sat 18-Jun-11 08:54:03

Your post rings a bell for me (more of a siren tbh). I've been in therapy now a very long time, dealing with persistent depression etc. But it has really helped me identify what has gone on in my life. I think if you look up 'attachment issues' you would find yourself somewhere there. My parents were pretty detached when I was a child and there were additional factors (time in care). Basically my emotional needs were not met at any significant level. I became very depressed as a teen, and my parents once told me things were so bad they were considering sending me to a psychiatrist (as though this was the worst thing that could happen, shame, failure etc.) - I remember thinking why didn't they, it might have helped.
They simply had no idea how to deal with a real live child. Things changed when I became an 'adult' and we started to have a good relationship. However my life is plagued with feelings of inadequacy. I did the typical thing of trying to win their approval through education etc. Basically, I am still that child looking for my parent's unconditional love.
I was prompted to go into therapy once I had my own children. I saw that I was completely ill-equipped to provide an emotionally nurturing environment for them (as the only role models I had were my parents). Raising children is incredibly hard (from my perspective) - much much harder than I ever could have imagined. It's a total minefield. You can make dreadful mistakes every day. I realise now that my parents were just doing their best. They simply didn't know how to do things differently given the circumstances. I don't blame them anymore, but I am very aware of the consequences of how they behaved and am making huge efforts to do things differently.
At a personal level, I have spent lots of time thinking of myself as a child. It felt self-indulgent in the beginning, but I needed to really recognise what had happened and grieve a little too.
I can guess that you are fairly hard on yourself and that your self esteem isn't the best. I would really recommend that you consider counselling again.

GollyHolightly Sat 18-Jun-11 08:57:51

Sorry, yes of course it's odd that your mum didn't mention the cutting if she knew you were doing it.

My teen was cutting at one point, we did talk to her about it and we took advice from her CAMHS (child & adolescent mental health service) worker. We were advised to not attempt to stop her by hiding her chosen methods of self harm by for instance, hiding all the knives, because she would simply find other methods. We did attempt to get her to talk about what she was so unhappy about and when she didn't open up we had to eventually tell her that if she ever cut herself so badly that she was scared or in a lot of pain, she must tell us and we would get it treated in whatever way was appropriate, without judgement. I don't think many parents (especially ones with no professional advice) would think to go down this route. My dd has stopped now, perhaps because we didn't pressurise her to do so? who knows?

corriefan Sat 18-Jun-11 09:13:24

I had a mentally I'll older brother too and I definitely found that my
Mum's emotional resources were drained by him and she relied on me to be ok. But I went through a period of anxiety and blushing so much I could hardly speak and so she suggested I see my brothers psychiatrist. It was awful, I was totally incapable of saying anything, embarrassed etc and i wonder what she thought it would do.

She also used to cry about my brother to me a lot. She also divorced my stable loving dad when i was young and married my step father, a depressed man, with 2 older children who are very resentful still now. There are things I would have done differently but I would not burden her or myself by telling her, particularly now I'm an adult and mother myself, but I know I'll do my best to try and understand my children but that I'll probably do things wrong. Counselling def a good idea to help you move on, parents can solve everything and don't know the answers all the time.

corriefan Sat 18-Jun-11 09:14:31

Can't solve everything!

MooncupGoddess Sat 18-Jun-11 10:10:12

Hi MilkandWine,

Sorry you are going through this. I went through a very unhappy and messed-up period when I was ten, fantasised about suicide and had a bout of self-harming.

My parents also stuck their heads in the sand and pretended nothing had happened. Years later my mother told me she had been really worried by the self-harming, but had thought I was 'just experimenting' hmm. I went through a phase of being really angry with her in my early 20s, and I am pretty sure it had a long-term negative effect on our relationship. She is dead now so I have forgiven her by default, as it were. I don't have children either, maybe I would have forgiven her earlier if I had.

I have no useful advice I'm afraid, just wanted you to know you're not alone! I think it might be worth you talking through this with a counsellor, or saying something to your mother (perhaps just something like 'this may be irrational, but I still feel very upset by X'). I didn't do either and in retrospect I should have done.

Diggs Sat 18-Jun-11 17:05:59

I was a very very mixed up teenager and a total nightmare . I acted in ways that still cripple me with guilt and shame , and i had nothing but hatred for my parents . I was a glue sniffer blush and would make bogus attempts at suicide to get attention . I even went to the police and said my dad was physically abusing me . He wasnt , and ive never forgotton the look on his face when the police came sad . I was a total twat , but despite that i felt very let down by them .

Fast forward and i have had my own mixed up self harming / running away / abuser magnet / aggresive horrible teen and i honestly didnt have a fucking clue what to do . I know she too feels very let down by me , and while i understand that , i am not willing to be held responsible for some of the choices she made , and i feel that she does hold me responsible . Its a bit mixed , on one hand i feel very guilty about it , i didnt do enough , but then again i will not have her running around acting ridiculous and blaming me for it . I did not make her do those things and i couldnt have stopped her .

With regards to my own parents , i am not sure what i wanted them to do , or in fact what they could have realisticly done . Whatever it was im fairly confident i wouldnt have welcomed it .

EssentialFattyAcid Sat 18-Jun-11 17:17:03

I agree that your parents did not give you the support you needed and that this has had a big affect on your life.

They were probably doing their best, and their best just wasn't good enough. It is a common tale. Blame isn't particularly helpful - you could blame them for being inadequate parents, they could blame you for being "difficult". Adults are generally pretty much by definition far more to blame than children, but don't expect your parents to see it this way.

The best way forward is to realise that your parents probably did the best they could at the time and probably will never admit that this was inadequate, preferring instead to blame you. Don't blame them back as this is unconstructive, but you should acknowledge the effect their inadequate parenting had on you. This will help you to move forward.

TBH it truly is all very sad, but for your own sake you need to come to terms with it, only then can you truly be at peace. I really recommend therapy. I had this age 40 and if only I had had it at 20 or before.

cybbo Sat 18-Jun-11 17:24:00

I think many many paretns find it hard to engage with their teenagers and communicate with them. But parenting means you keep on trying even if you feel you are hitting your head against a wall

Do you think they tried, then gave up ?

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