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memories resurfacing of violent mother - just let it go?

(12 Posts)
noreallyitsnothing Wed 29-Jun-11 22:56:30

hi ladies,

really appreciate any thoughts on this. Since having children I have remembered a lot of things I had blocked out about my own childhood and in particular my bipolar mother. I don't know whether to forget or confront. Does anyone have any experience of this sort of thing?

One particularly violent episode comes back to me often: I remember her running the length of the kitchen to get a good run up to kick me, I remember it all in slow motion, the foot coming up towards me, the anger in her face, me realising with shock what was happening, and her walking off in a huff, wordless.

Needless to say I was terrified of her as a child, and frankly I am damn proud of myself for being a stable mother of two children I adore. In loving them i have come to wonder, how could anyone do that to a child? I have come to fully appreciate that my childhood was really unusual - or at least I think so - a mother who swung from manic joy to violence to suicidal episodes. And the excuse I always made for her - her stillbirth that devastated her life - well that's not an excuse.

My dilemma is this. I tried estrangement and that simply meant she was on my mind more. What works for me is to tolerate her in the background of my life but never let her close to me emotionally and I have never left my kids with her.

But I feel enraged at the injustice that she might get away with no one ever knowing what she was like.

To the outside world she is a fine upstanding religious member of the community. Only my father and I know about her mental problems as she and he have hidden them from everyone. I know that if I bring it up she will simply deny it and my dad for an easy life will support her word. She was never abusive in front of him.

Have read a wonderful book called daughters of madness on this topic, but have rarely in real life shared similar experiences with others - three people in total that I've met - most can't comprehend and would rather not hear about it.

On the one hand I'm a grown woman and the past is the past. On the other, I can't get past it.

lookingfoxy Wed 29-Jun-11 23:15:25

How was your mother at other times when she was 'ok'
Was the violence part of the illness, is really what im trying to ask.
If it was, then could you disassociate the violence from her?
Of course not that it makes it any 'less', it must have been bloody horrific, you would probably benefit to speaking to someone professional about this.

noreallyitsnothing Wed 29-Jun-11 23:28:16

Yes I have been thinking I should see someone professional, rather than hoping it will go away.

I don't remember her ever being ok or stable, just swinging from mania to depression to suicidal to raging. In her sixties she seems to have settled into a slightly bitter depression, and she's been medicated for the past five years and wasn't previously.

EightiesChick Wed 29-Jun-11 23:40:10

I don't think you should just try to repress it all. You are clearly still distressed by thinking about it, and understanably so. I would either find a counsellor to talk it through one-to-one or look for a support group of people who have had similar experiences. Have you read the stately homes threads on here?

SindyTellsMe Wed 29-Jun-11 23:44:20

I recommend core process psychotherapy and send you a lot of love x

noreallyitsnothing Wed 29-Jun-11 23:49:58

No I haven't read the stately homes threads - are they in the relationships section?

Thanks guys. I do need to talk to a prof. It irritates me that it's me that has to do the work and sort my head out - but it does need doing, long overdue in fact!

EightiesChick Wed 29-Jun-11 23:53:18

Can't remember where they are kept but they pop up in active convos from time to time. Do a search on stately homes in thread titles. Lots of posters there will fully understand your situation.

Take the step of talking to a professional though, definitely. I can see your irritation but you are the only person you can work on.

bubaluchy Thu 30-Jun-11 00:08:33

You are doing so well to have set the boundaries with your mother, (not leaving your kids with her alone etc)

Daughters of madness is a brilliant book and I have grown up with a mother who was diagnosed with 'schizophrenia' when I was 1.
I have found, for what it's worth' that when memories re-surface it is because you are in an emotionally safe place to deal with them.

I have chosen CBT and person centred counselling at 2 significant points in my life and I can't tell you how beneficial it has been for me to have someone external from all my family ties to acknowledge that what I witnessed and experienced as a child was mortifying, its like going up to your 7 year old self and giving her a reassuring hug smile

I also think it is worth mentioning, as Im sure you read in Daughters Of Madness' that children of mentally ill parents have a tendency to protect and nurture their own mental health and well being with vigour which is such a positive thing to show your own children.

I hope I haven't gone off the point.

lastly I just wanted to say that reading about the time when your mother kicked you out of anger disturbed me and just wanted to acknowledge how having your trust broken by the one who is supposed to care for you the most must have been devastating and you are such a star for being a stable mother.

Best of luck on your journey smile

shelscrape Thu 30-Jun-11 05:02:23

I would second getting some professional help, counselling can be very cathartic. Helped me a lot

GotArt Thu 30-Jun-11 05:26:32

noreally... your story sounds exactly like mine. I went the estrangement route and it is working great. Haven't spoken with her since 2004. There have been times that I wondered if I did the right thing; its rather awful not having a mother in your life when she could be. However, there was an incident last year at Easter that made me realize that she hadn't changed one bit and I'd made the right decision for me. She lives with my sister and her two children and I've seen a change for the worse in both my nephew and niece... its heartbreaking knowing she does the same things to them.

Having children now, I have remembered incidents like the one mentioned and have asked myself the same question; how can someone do this to a child and not take any responsibility for it later when adult children ask for at least acknowledgment they were mentally and physically abusive. I found writing out the memories a great way to let go. Its a good start until you are able to speak to a professional.

noreallyitsnothing Thu 30-Jun-11 10:56:00

thank you for such wise and reassuring comments.

i was particularly struck by bubaluchy's comment that it is when we are in a safe place emotionally that these memories can surface. as it has confused me, since i feel the strongest emotionally that i have ever felt in my life and yet i am the most haunted by my memories at the same time.

and also the thought that children of mentally ill parents tend to look after themselves and demonstrate that skill to their children, as a lot of the literature tends to assume that you pass on the bad stuff - you were hit as a child and therefore you hit your children. when it's the opposite for many of us. you can't bear the idea of anything like that ever happening to them.

gotart your poor nephew and niece - i remember there was one time, just once, when i left my boy with my mum just in the playground for a little while, and she came back with a story about how she'd ignored him and walked away to show him he wasn't being well behaved enough. and i thought oh my goodness this is a slippery slope to how she was. and i've never left either of them alone with her since.

goodness me, heavy stuff, thank you everyone.

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Thu 30-Jun-11 11:28:27

It makes perfect sense that these memories are coming up for you since you have had your children, and I think it has less to do with you being in a safe place now and more to do with becoming a mother, and therefore being all the more conscious of the most important "Mother" role-model you have. And comparing your own instincts as a mother with those of your mother.

For example, it is not uncommon for woman who were adopted to have crises about how their birth-mother could possibly have given them up when they go on to have their own children, and discover for themselves the depth and strength of the bond a mother feels for her child.

Now that you are a mother and care for nothing more than your DC's wellbeing, you are instinctively wondering how on earth your own mother could have behaved the way she did with you.

Yes, it's frustrating as you say that you are the one who has to deal with this now, just because she was ill, but speaking about it to a counsellor could definitely be healing.

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