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Support thread for healing from childhood EA.

(85 Posts)
PhishFoodAddiction Tue 19-Jul-11 20:02:03

I just wanted to start a supportive thread for those of us trying to come to terms with the emotional abuse of our childhoods.

Please feel free to post as much or as little as you need to, there is no pressure to reveal things or to respond to every post.

It's just good to hear from other people in similar situations.

A brief bit about my situation- my mum and step-dad were EA towards me for most of my childhood. Step-dad also used excessive physical punishment (until I got big enough to threaten to fight back). My dad wasn't abusive, but a part-time dad, and a drinker, who started a new family (stopped drinking)and made me feel pushed out. I really had nowhere to turn. I've been depressed since I was 14, am on ADs now and waiting for my second course of counselling- hoping to make some headway in moving on. I am still in contact with all my family and they don't know how badly the past is still affecting me.

I still find it very difficult to admit that I am suffering, as what went on in my family wouldn't seem that bad to an outsider (or maybe it would, but it was normal for me). I'm only just finding the strength to say, it was that bad, and it did harm me, as my parents just weren't adequate (I have 2 parents and 2 step-parents, out of those 3 are from dysfunctional families themselves).

Also, my depression worsened dramatically after having my DD1. I struggled so much with her in the first couple of months-as I had no idea what to do with her. I couldn't seem to comfort her, and then I began to wonder if this reflected the lack of comfort I got as a child. It can be so hard to parent when you don't have a good role model!

Well, that's enough from me, so much for keeping it brief grin

HairyWoman Tue 19-Jul-11 20:43:08

Justchecking in Phish, no time to post at moment but I'm here in spirit and will post when I can later x

LesserOfTwoWeevils Tue 19-Jul-11 20:44:19

Hello, Phish.
My first two DCs suffered a bit from being shouted at more than was necessary, it was only by the time I had DC3 that I realised there were kinder ways of doing it that worked just as well if not better.
My mother neglected me when i was a child and then actively emotionally abused me while I was a teenager. My DD is now reaching that age and is far more stroppy than I would ever have dared to be. But I would still rather die than scream abuse at her for hours as my mother did.
It's triggering unpleasant memories of how different my life was from my DD's. By the time I was about 13 I'd already been taught that if I had a problem I would have to deal with it alone because no one was interested and would consider me a nuisance.
It's also making it much harder to deal with my mother. Mercifully she is distant, but my DCs know her as a dotty, mild old lady. I don't know what or how to tell them about how she treated me. I don't want to look like I'm the problem yet again.
But I hate keeping it secret, because that's what my parents always did—when I was growing up the family never ever talked about anything important. Not death or divorce or illness or emotional problems. Nothing.

allegrageller Tue 19-Jul-11 22:25:50

Hi Phish and all.

I am in a bit of a state this evening so not likely to post in detail. However I think this is a great idea as I feel I need ongoing on probably lifelong support to get over the EA I experienced from mum and also enabler dad.

There is a cloud of denial over the family; the legend is that my mum had terrible 'problems' (emotional and other abuse as a child, strangely enough!), that dad had to 'help' her and everyone 'did the best they could'. Any other version is met with hysterics (she fainted dramatically last time I tried to talk to her about the past).

I'm about to go on holiday with them and the dcs and I wonder if my recent attack of panic and depression has something to do with that. They are attentive grandparents, especially my dad, and I am divorced and need the support, but I'm not over them and never will be.

Tonight I've been brooding on a nightmare I had when I was about 3 and a half. My mum and I in the park, her pushing the pram with my sister in it. Next to us a tall row of thorns. The sky tiled over, so we were sealed inside. I remember being terrified. I grew up knowing I'd let her down terribly, I was a very bad child and didn't understand why she didnt' love me and was so angry and disappointed.

I struggle to bring up my boys better. With depression and divorce this is not so easy and I'm suffering a bit atm from 'not copiing' disease. I just hope they feel more secure than I did.

PadmeHum Wed 20-Jul-11 06:25:35

Just checking in - thanks for starting the thread Phish.

No time to post today - as I am at work, but I'll get to it when I get home.


ScaredOfCows Wed 20-Jul-11 07:35:25

It's only quite recently (2 or 3 years) that I have realised how bad my childhood was. I always knew that I was frightened and hurting through most of it, but had somehow normalised that.Now though, I have realised how damaging it was, that it wasn't normal, that it wasn't my fault, that my mother shouldn't have treated me how she did. Things keep coming back to me that I had either forgotten, or dismissed. I'm not sure why this is happening now (I'm in my forties with older teenagers).

Strangely, MN has made me aware that it wasn't that uncommon to have an abusing childhood back then, so I'm not sure why my resentment of it is so bad at the moment since I realise I am far from the only adult to have experienced this. Maybe it's because I read people calling it what it is - abusive - that has opened my eyes to the reality of it?

Good thread - it's good to talk!

PhishFoodAddiction Wed 20-Jul-11 09:18:06

Just wanted to say a quick hello to you all, I will be back tonight to post. Unfortunately I've got to tackle my massive mountain of ironing this morning!

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Wed 20-Jul-11 09:23:11

Cows: just because others experience it too doesn't mean that you should minimise your own experience! You have a right to be angry.

And yes, realising that a relationship was abusive is a painful reality check. Any feelings you have are legitimate. Do you have RL help to help you process those feelings and overcome them -- eg. a trusted person to talk to, who can validate your experience?

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Wed 20-Jul-11 09:46:47

What my parents did to me wasn't "so" bad either, and yet I am incredibly angry now:

- because I am at the realisation stage,
- because I have 32 years of repressed anger to let out,
- because I see how all the "not so bad" parenting I received actually groomed me for abuse: an attempted rape, and a 12-year abusive marriage to a man who has vowed to kill me. Really not fun stuff, and all because my parents were too self-absorbed to nurture an adequate sense of self-esteem in me,
- and because I understand that my mother did the same things to me as were done to her, when I was her own, defenseless child, and she should have known better and cared more. But didn't.

So I think any anger I or any of us feel is perfectly legitimate. Even though describing my mother's actions may sound pretty weak to people who had adequate parents (I think: I haven't tried describing her to people other than my therapist, and 2 other people in RL who had similar mothers).


- would take the pain to "improve" and "correct" anything I produced that I was proud of,
- labelled me stubborn and wilful for life, because she got frustrated trying to potty-train me. I have never heard the end of it.
- Shamed me so much any time I tried to say "no" or to set limits, that I believed her myth that I am stubborn and difficult, and have therefore been at great pains to always be accomodating. Result: abusive and violent romantic partners.
- Would moan about how nobody loved her and what an unloved childhood she'd had. I would rush to comfort her every time. I feel I nurtured her ego more than she nurtured mine. And it didn't make a damn bit of difference to her: she is still just as wounded, so I gave away all this empathy to a bottomless pit of need who will never be satisfied, when I, as the child in our relationship, was the one who needed this from her. It also made me feel like a failure that I cold not comfort her.
- Would lock me out of the house "by mistake", repeatedly.
- Also repeatedly told me she couldn't wait till I turned 18 so she could kick me out of the house. When I turned 18, denied ever having said that.
- Once told me she regretted the fact that I was her daughter.
- Never commented on my report cards. I was always a straight-A student.
- When I got accepted into Cambridge, she became viciously competitive: if I had a question about something, her answer would be: "Well, I would think that a girl who got int Cambridge would know the answer to that!". I ended up not going.
- She gave me to the neighbours to raise when I was 3. This was because she was having a nervous breakdown as a result of my sister's death, so I understand that she was doing the best she could to cope. Still, I internalised that I must be horrid since my own mother didn't want me. The years of telling me that I was stubborn, unskilled, and unwanted confirmed this impression.

So: the actual incidents may seem like small potatos to anyone who has had generally adequate parents. But they add up to real hurt. I am going to tell her all this someday, and she will most likely be unable to accept it. But I have to let it out, since I believe my chronic depression is the result of holding all this anger inside and turning it against myself.

Thanks for letting me write all this out! I'll be using it as material for the confrontation letter / conversation I end up having with her. A MN thread is a great non-daunting place to get it all out and start sorting out the facts and feelings.

MizzyTizzy Wed 20-Jul-11 10:13:27

Hi everyone,

I won't bore everyone one with my history again - but suffice to say shitty childhood involving both parents.

I seem to be having a 'funny' day today.

I've been reading lots of threads regarding MNers having problematic/difficult mothers lately. Often it is mentioned that the poster misses the mother daughter bond and how strong that need for motherly love is.

These threads have made me question whether I ever had that type of bond with when little...I have no idea what that sort of bond feels like from a childs' perspective.

The only thing I ever felt towards my mother/father was fear...this is why I kept in contact for so long and tried to create a type of artificial bonding based on what I thought a child/parent relationship should be. If I was a good daughter they wouldn't be nasty any more. I'm tearful...must have hit a 'truth' for me writing ^ that.

I am also remembering/pondering my mothers interaction with my own children ie there was none. Usually crappy parents have learnt a few lessons by the time the GC's come if my mother had actually improved her mothering skills by the time she had GC - then what on earth was she like with me?! I said a 'funny' day here.

Take care everyone. x

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Wed 20-Jul-11 10:33:41

If I was a good daughter they wouldn't be nasty any more.

That feeling has a strong echo with me, MizzyTizzy. It seems like it took a lot out of you to express it, but thank you: it has the ring of truth about it.

thermosflask Wed 20-Jul-11 10:51:29

Hi Phish, just checking in, thank you for starting this thread. Going to read all posts now.

ScaredOfCows Wed 20-Jul-11 11:04:26

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow - I can and do talk about events, and more recently how I felt at the time, with my DH. He had a far from perfect childhood himself, for different reasons. My children are also more aware now that they are older - they have seen my mother in action for themselves, although only small stuff like the comments and digs etc. I've also got a couple of friends who also have 'challenging' relationships with their mothers. Our stories are all different, but somehow very similar too.

I've always tried to minimise stuff, always even joked about it. I realise now that was a coping mechanism. Strange things now though, are affecting me, for example, someone walking/stamping about heavily upstairs reminds me of the fear I felt when she did that during my childhood.

MizzyTizzy - I can relate to your thoughts about being a good daughter and creating an artificial type of bonding. I think it's the guilt of not being good enough also that makes us do that. I realise now though that nothing and no-one would have been good enough. My mother usually has someone in her sights to hold up as the 'perfect daughter'. Her latest one was her next door neighbour who moved away a few months ago, but she had these when I was a child too. Then they were usually daughters of acquantances she admired for some reason. The thing is, she only ever had superficial relationships with these people, or their families, anyway, so couldn't really have known whether they were 'perfect' or not.

I really wish I hadn't started to mull this stuff over, I much preferred the denial to be honest.

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Wed 20-Jul-11 11:13:50

I really wish I hadn't started to mull this stuff over, I much preferred the denial to be honest.

I wonder about that too: realising that my upbringing fucked me up; that my parents were too self-absorbed and how much it damaged me has sent me into depression. Up until a couple months ago I also thought I'd had an idyllic childhood.

Denial is only a false sense of security, though. And at least IME, there's always a part of you that's aware of the damage, and the denial just hurts you more by making you repress that awareness. I think that the denial created my self-hatred: since I couldn't admit that my parents were being harmful, I made it my fault.

So, while stripping away the denial hurts, it will also have as an effect to heal a deeper and longstanding hurt. That's my hope, at least! And I gotta say that I pity my father who is still in thrall to my mother and oblivious of her abuse towards him. He is visibly not a happy man, whatever he may think on the matter. Truth hurts, but it's got to be healthier in the end.

MizzyTizzy Wed 20-Jul-11 11:28:10

Thanks Puppy...that line felt very truthful to me too.


Did you find the 'goalposts' moved every time you though you were just about to achieve 'good daughter' status. Mine did, like walking on ever shifting sand...just as you thought it was safe to proceed the ground gave way and your next step was miles away. Very unsettling and anxiety creating way to live.


I am beginning to think that perhaps I was never truly in denial - contact with my parents has always caused me huge internal conflict. I was behaving one way and feeling something completely different at every interaction.

I am finding that revealing the truth of it all although very emotional, sad and wearing at times is making me feel much calmer over the longer term.

MizzyTizzy Wed 20-Jul-11 11:34:19

Just realised why I feel calmer...

It's because every revelation means I am/was not at fault.

The 'fault' lies with them...not me.

ScaredOfCows Wed 20-Jul-11 14:59:22

MizzyTizzy - yes, those goal posts are very mobile, aren't they? What you said about missing motherly love too - it's kind of missing what you never really had and what you will never experience.

The denial thing is strange - I knew my home life was different to the other kids when I was at school. They looked forward to school holidays and weekends, I dreaded them. I did everything I could to avoid her. But when I left home, for some reason, I think I felt I had drawn a line under it and could then build a new relationship with her. I was happier to pretend that it was ok, even though every visit and every phone call was difficult. Now though, I just can't be bothered with it all - I don't phone anymore and only see her rarely. Maybe it's that distance now that has allowed my brain to think about it more.

BerylOfLaughs Wed 20-Jul-11 15:02:02

Joining the thread, thanks for starting it Phish. Will read through later and reply properly.

allegrageller Wed 20-Jul-11 15:56:14

it's reassuring but also upsetting to see so many posts on here repeating the same things- that we have tried to be good, taken refuge in denial and tried to reshape ourselves for the abusive parent(s).

I think for those who are coming out of denial, this is the most important phase. I am finding a lot coming out at the moment, in dreams etc. I have finally found a man I really love and that is also bringing out stuff from a deep level. I realise how strongly I feel I don't deserve anything good in my life. Including, at times, my kids. It comes as a shock to me that they love me and want me in their lives.

I spent a lot of my childhood alone and in fear of the next explosion, like a lot of you. How hard (but necessary) it is to be able to give and receive affection however late in our lives.

sellcrazysomeplaceelse Wed 20-Jul-11 19:33:55

Marking my spot, identify with just about everything said so far. Will try to post later. Thanks for the thread, Phish

PhishFoodAddiction Wed 20-Jul-11 21:03:40

Argh just wrote a huge reply, and lost it all angry I'm too exhausted to write it all again.

Just wanted to say hello to everyone who's posted, good to see so many replies (not good that it happened to us all, but good that everyone feels safe enough to post).

Allegra how are you today, are you feeling any better? I'm not suprised you're anxious about going on holiday with your parents.

I've read all the posts, and lots resonates with me, just too tired to post individual responses right now.

When allegra said about her dream (which sounds really frightening) it made me wonder how much dreams help us process the feelings we're having. Does anyone else on here have incredibly vivid dreams, recurring dreams, and also dream for much of the night? I think this is why I'm so tired, I'm always dreaming.

Another thing I've been thinking about is anger. I realised yesterday that I've got so much anger which has built up over the years, and has turned in on me. It's only hurting me, and I want to let it go, but how? Do I have to confront my parents? Don't think I could do it-my dad would be devastated and my mum would be very angry and probably disown me. Are there any other ways to let the anger out?

PhishFoodAddiction Wed 20-Jul-11 21:09:10

Puppy I found your post about anger being justified, and how you were treated by your mother very eloquent and moving. Thank you.

Another last thing I want to add is that I noticed that I hold my breath when I am feeling things, as if to distance myself from it. My counsellor gave me a hug once and had to remind me to breathe! When I'm reading this thread, or writing in my journal, I often find myself hardly breathing confused it seems very odd. I wonder if it's because I was taught to hold things in that it extended to my breathing as well.

Sorry if this has all been me,me,me.

sellcrazysomeplaceelse Wed 20-Jul-11 21:37:05

If I ever have a nightmare about anything, even situations that have nothing to do with my upbringing, they are always set in the house (of horrors) I grew up in. Part of the dream is always me trying to get out of there or explain I don't belong there anymore. So, it can be a dream about something innocuous, like needing to catch a train, or needing to get to a work meeting; but I just can't find my way out of that house or convince anyone I don't belong there.

Whenever I dream about my mother (who is an old crone now), she is young, beautiful, slightly unearthly, always has a faint smile on her face and eyes that bore through you. I am generally shouting and shouting and shouting at her, and she is not reacting at all. I don't think I ever saw her as that young woman, I think the image has stuck from a picture of her from way before i was born.

The worst ones are when I am also married to my emotionally abusive ex bf in my dreams (as opposed to my lovely DH). Married to him and stuck in that house, trying to convince anyone, everyone that i don't belong there and that he is not my husband. He has the same lack of response and etherial look about him as my mother has in those dreams.

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Wed 20-Jul-11 21:37:53

Hi Phish you made me laugh when you apologised about being "me, me, me" at the end of your posts, when your posts are in fact so inclusive of everyone on this thread! (saying hello to all, responding to several posters by name,...) wink

Regarding anger, you and I seem to be at exactly the same stage. I have become aware of my anger and how it's hurting me, and wondering in thread whether confrontation would be the right method of releasing the anger. Lots of generous posters answered with their experiences; maybe it will be helpful to you too.

The solutions that keep cropping up on MN, my readings, and a discussion with my therapist are to:

- increase your level of physical activity;
- find somewhere where you can scream or hit and punch stuff without disturbing anyone else;
- write a letter to your parents, and either save, send, or ritually destroy it;
- confront your parents.

I'll be mock confronting my mother (represented by an empty chair) at my next therapy session. I plan to try and get as angry as I can, in a way I would never be in a RL confrontation with her.

I also plan to write her 3 letters:

1- a "go to hell" letter, which I will never send, which is just to lance the boil.
2- a "here's what you did and here's how it affected me" letter, which I may or may not send, or which I may or may not use as the template for a live conversation with her.
3- a "you're OK and I'm OK" letter, which I will not send. I will write this one once I feel my anger has been released. I sense that at that point, I will fully accept that my mother did what she did, and that it's her own choice and her own responsibility, and that my choice now is to take sole responsibility for fixing myself (ie. spending no more energy on blaming my parents anymore, but getting on with what only I can do as an adult responsible for my own well-being).

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Wed 20-Jul-11 21:44:21

A fairy tale for us

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