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How do you repair the damage from your childhood?

(31 Posts)
SleepyHay Mon 29-Aug-16 08:53:32

Didn't have the best time growing up. I suspect my M has NPD. She has massive issues with people who are in any way confident, so growing up I was continually put down and made to feel worthless. Over the years I've had a lot of horrible friendships and relationships which have added to my low opinion of myself.
Things have improved since my late 20s. I decided one day that I'd had enough and started to remove the toxic people from my life.
10 years on and I'm nearly 40, have been with DH for 9 years and he's lovely, kind and caring. I don't have many friends but the ones I have are some of the nicest people I've ever met. I don't see much of my M now but don't have the energy to cut her out of my life completely.
I guess I just still feel 'damaged' in some way. I lack any real confidence or self belief. I struggle making new friends and tend to keep people at arms length. I have one DD who is amazing but the love I feel for her scares me so much sometimes.
I've had counselling, CBT and hypnotherapy but nothing seems to change my deepest feelings about myself.
Sorry if this isn't making sense I've never really tried to explain it before. Does anyone have any advice/ experience of this?
I'm also pregnant with DC2 so probably more emotional than I usually am. I just want to be a normal mother and a good role model for my children so they don't grow up like me. Any advice appreciated- I have been told to just learn to love myself but have no idea how.

TalkingSheds Mon 29-Aug-16 08:56:50

I wish I had the answer, I'm in a similar position, similar age, loads of issues stemming from childhood from my mother. I'm still working through it all now, it's mentally draining. I have good periods and bad.
Hopefully someone will come along and tell us how they cope better.

TalkingSheds Mon 29-Aug-16 08:56:59


teaorwine Mon 29-Aug-16 09:20:20

I also tried cbt, counselling and various alternative therapies, that helped slightly with understanding what and why. That took about 5 years. Then reached a point where I knew I had to learn new ways of being, how to deal with my anger and anxiety so looked for a different. He has psychology training, is very challenging and more directive than I was used to. 18 months in, and I can see progress, but its painful and slower than I'd hoped for and also bloody expensive ! Wish I'd found him years ago and not spent so much time on the others....

SleepyHay Mon 29-Aug-16 09:39:01

Thanks TalkingSheds, at least I know I'm not alone. DHs family are lovely and he grew up knowing he was loved. He's not the most outgoing person and doesn't have a big ego but just seems to know his own worth in some way. Can't really describe it but it just feels missing in me.
Teaorwine- never heard of psychology training before, will definitely look into it, thanks.

sevensome Mon 29-Aug-16 13:10:10

I'm EXACTLY the same as you OP - I can so relate to what you say about your DM, mine was exactly the same - almost word for word of what you describe - NPD etc , deliberately belittling me and then being deliberately insensitive. My own feeling was she wanted to be the centre of attention and felt threatened by genuinely confident people.I struggle with issues of self confidence and self belief - I've also made a huge 'mess' in the friendship department. I was crying all day yesterday - or most of it - as I know I've lost some very good friends because of the way I am.

Anyway, this morning I woke up and realised something has to change. In my case, I knew someone who is 3 years older than me and is an EXCELLENT role model as far as confidence is concerned. He's the most confident, emotionally mature person I've ever met. Although he's very self confident, he totally respects other people. I've decided to model my behaviour on his. When I've done this at certain times before, I've automatically come across as confident and I've found my relationships with other people improves.

MrsBertBibby Mon 29-Aug-16 13:43:36

Sleepy, would it help to remind yourself, every morning and night, how different a parent you are to you children, and how much of an achievement that is?

It has taken my messed up mother's starting to slide into dementia for me to finally let go of any expectations of her, and to feel that actually, I manage her pretty damned well. Sounds like you are there already!

I know that damaged feeling. Try not to brood on it, though. Store up a mantra of how far you have come, and all you do well. Get your partner to help you with those. Hold onto them.

Novemberfran Mon 29-Aug-16 15:25:06

I know this isn't the main point of the thread but a good thing to keep in mind OP is that I suffer many of the same problems as you do for many of the same reasons as you do - and at least you've done better than me in, in where appropriate, keeping people at arm's length. I've let some bad people into my life as so-called friends and allowed them to take advantage of me sometimes leaving me in very bad situations. I only wish I'd done what you did and kept them at arm's length'. I know, as I say, that this isn't quite the point of the thread - just wanted to point out that in some circs, keeping at 'arms length', as you say is ABSOLUTELY the right response.

LyingWitchInTheWardrobe Mon 29-Aug-16 16:13:06

My mum sounds a bit like yours, Sleepy but she's certainly not cognisant of that fact and thinks that she did her best (which I believe she sort of did given that my dad was useless). She used to bully me (as the eldest child) and make me conform about things that didn't matter a jot.

She also used to keep me 'in my place' and not let me think I was good at things. I think, in some misguided way, she thought that would protect me from censure by others. She's certainly of the opinion now that parents are far, far too lenient and ineffective because they pander to their children. I don't know if there's any truth to that but certainly, I look at her parenting and steer far away from it in my own.

The point I wanted to make in posting was that my mum would be completely crestfallen if she knew just how much damage she did to me as a child. I think much of her behaviour was learned from her own mum who really shouldn't have had children at all as she was so mind-gaming and game-playing with them all the time. I wonder if your mum is equally clueless at the extent of her behaviour?

Ultimately, you have tools now to protect yourself from her behaviour and you're now an adult and can say 'stop it'. If that doesn't work you can just be too busy to see her often or for too long. Nobody but you knows your situation accurately so only you can decide what is best for you. I hear you though, loud and clear.

RunRabbitRunRabbit Mon 29-Aug-16 16:17:23

I think it helps to separate how you feel and how you behave.

If you wait until you feel confident before nurturing friendships etc. then you are kind of reinforcing to yourself all the old bad messages about being unloveable and are maintaining your "pushing away" habits.

Fake it until you make it.

You want the beneficial effects of friendships and confidence. So, act in the ways necessary. Accept that you will still have massive issues that may exist forever but that you'll still choose to behave in the way you know is right.

Kind of like being an alcoholic or an emotional eater, I suppose.

That's how I handle it anyway. It works for me.

Novemberfran Mon 29-Aug-16 17:11:01

Accept that you will still have massive issues that may exist forever but that you'll still choose to behave in the way you know is right

This is EXCELLENT advice. Even though I'm not the OP, I'm taking it on board.!!

SleepyHay Mon 29-Aug-16 17:23:22

Thanks for the replies some good things to try. Some days I feel OK, others I feel like I'm a child again and scared of my own shadow.
My M definitely has no idea how her actions affect other people. She has very rigid views on things and can't see beyond it. Also she's not capable of empathy. I've tried to speak to her about it in the past but she can't accept any form of criticism. She completely denies events that have happened and blames everyone else for any flaws she has. I accept that she won't change.
I keep people at arms length to prevent myself from getting hurt I guess. I just would like to be more trusting of people. I think improving relationships in my life and being able to make new friends will probably help. I know this means opening myself up to more possible pain but don't want to go on hiding away from it.

Novemberfran Mon 29-Aug-16 17:31:07

To be honest OP, to address the last point you make - if, when you attempt to make friends you spend a longer time getting to know them - I find at LEAST 3 months possibly 6, before getting more close to someone on a personal level (meeting socially) - and are discerning - i.e. I think a night school class where you have to discipline yourself to do the work, which goes on for several months can give you a better idea of someone's real personality than e.g. chatting for an hour a week outside a yoga class - anyone can be 'plausible' in this more casual situation) - then you are much LESS LIKELY to open yourself up to possible pain - as you'll have a good idea of their personality beforehand.

Novemberfran Mon 29-Aug-16 17:32:03

..and to add to what I said above, if you notice anything at all 'off' with them, you can nip the 'friendship' in the bud.

SleepyHay Mon 29-Aug-16 18:45:45

Novemberfran, good idea about taking time to get to know people. Any friends I've made in recent years tend to be people I've worked with and got to know over several months. Just need to give myself time.
One of the main issues I have is with my MIL. She's a really lovely person but I still find I have my guard up slightly even though she's never done anything and isn't remotely like my own M.
Definitely going to try 'fake it till you make it' rabbit. Especially at work, where I know I should be earning more and have more responsibility but I just can't bring myself to ask for it.
Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who's responded. Hope this is helpful to others and not just me x

Novemberfran Mon 29-Aug-16 19:00:39

Rigid views, denying events that happened. Your DM almost exactly echoes my experience - the only difference is that I do think my DM knew EXACTLY what she was doing, but she realised that when I lived at home with her I didn't have many other 'options' as it were - I think she knew it was knocking my confidence.

On another note, as you allude to in your previous post, I've definitely benefitted greatly from the advice on this thread.

LineyReborn Mon 29-Aug-16 19:07:08

OP, do you mind me asking, how are / were things with your father? You don't mention him.

My childhood shit is definitely 50/50 either parent - and their weird relationship with each other tbh.

pollyglot Mon 29-Aug-16 20:05:53

I wish I knew, Sleepy. Sadly, I think the answer is that there is no answer. Damage done in childhood is so deep that it never really heals. You can put plasters on the wounds and avoid ongoing damage by limiting contact with toxic people, but the infection stays there forever. My lovely brother recently died of cancer and I remain convinced that the underlying cause was our toxic relationship with our mother. He was very gentle and sensitive and greatly affected by our mother's emotional and physical cruelty, and by her rejection. If it were not for DH's support and care I truly believe that I would have shuffled off this mortal coil many years ago.Limiting contact, and lots of opportunity to talk out the poison seem to be the only way of counteracting the effects. I feel so deeply for you, OP, and for all the people whose childhoods have blighted their lives and withered the people they should have been. Loving thoughts to you.

SleepyHay Mon 29-Aug-16 20:10:58

Novemberfran, my M knows what she's doing in the sense that she is manipulative and is constantly trying to get one better on other people. She has a fairly high IQ and I think that she feels she's superior. It's just she has the emotional intelligence of a 3 year old and being seen as 'in the right' in any situation negates any one else's feelings.
Liney, my DF is quite quiet, I don't remember him being around much when I was small as he was at work a lot. He's not the same as her but is passive and wouldn't ever stand up to her. I don't really know much about their relationship as it's not something they would ever discuss. They've been married over 40 years though so think they are just used to each other. He was always quite kind but never shows any real emotion. Sometimes I feel bad for him as she speaks to him like crap. Sometimes I think that he's a grown up and should do something about it and should not have let his children down by allowing her to be the way she was with us.

Novemberfran Mon 29-Aug-16 20:20:02

Gosh OP, my mum's same - high IQ but low emotional/social intelligence and emotional and social immaturity.

For the record, my Dad sounds similar to your and the dynamic between your mum and Dad, and the way you feel about your upbringing is nothing short of IDENTICAL to mine.

Doingprettywell Mon 29-Aug-16 22:13:47

I disagree with you pollyglot, it is difficult to repair the damage but it is possible.
Some things that have helped me...
1. Self mothering /self care eg. replace the mothering you never got
2. Getting secure boundaries in place ( lots on baggage reclaim about this)
3. Unraveling how you think /feel about things. ( put timer on for 20 minutes and write whatever comes in your head, very cathartic! Sentence completion is good for this too.)
4. Paying attention to your inner critic and replacing it with a kinder voice

Just keep chipping away at it and pushing yourself and it will make a difference.

Also I wouldn't worry about being a good role model for your dc's op you already are. You have self awareness which means you will not pass on your issues to them. Remember you are not your mother, you're doing a massively better job than she did.

moonfly Tue 30-Aug-16 07:54:24

I have been through similar and have come to think that continual criticism and put-downs of a child gradually erodes their sense of self, which in turn mentally disconnects them from their environment through underlying anxious feelings. When anxiety is always present, it mutes the full emotional spectrum which takes away your ability to judge others using instincts / intuition etc; hence a string of bad friendships.
I found dealing with the root cause of the anxiety really helped, which can often be traced to one particular thing that was said at one time.
For example my Mum told me I looked ridiculous when running and she was ashamed of me. This caused an anxiety whenever I needed to run so I would actively avoid running because of her comment. But my anxiety regarding running left me when I traced the reason for the negative feelings back to her remark.

BeMorePanda Tue 30-Aug-16 08:13:47

Checking in. I'm 48 now and have been relapsing back to all this childhood negativity since I ended an abusive relationship 3 years ago. It's like XP kept on with the job my parents started - different methods, but still the same.

I've had times in my life when I've dealt very well with this legacy and times when I haven't.

Sometimes it helps to remember they are damaged people too. Mostly I just try and block them out of my life. I live thousands of miles from them and don't communicate much. But then I also feel very lost and isolated and alone. Disconnected.

Yes my self esteem is shot. It affects every part of my life. I've tried therapy, cbt, counselling. Self medication with weed. The "best" way to get to me is to simply be a bit kind. That can make me fall to pieces.

Mostly I feel both hugely responsible and completely powerless. I've learnt massive things about myself, human condition etc, but still I feel like glass inside - invisible, fragile yet strong too.

I'm trying to be a fab mum but feel like deep down I'll just ruin their lives too.

It's a lifelong process I guess.

noego Thu 03-Nov-16 16:49:07

think of yourself as a computer that has had software added to it everyday of your life up until this point. Software added by parents, grandparent, relatives, siblings, teachers, peers, boyfriends, employers, society, culture, media, religion, politics and on and in it goes. Now imagine that this software and the information on the software is now out of date, can't be replaced and is totally useless. What would you do?

You would take out the hard drive and throw it away and start from zero.

Don't believe anything that anyone has ever told you. It comes from their computer software and its caused a virus in yours. HTH

Bingybongybashy Thu 03-Nov-16 17:05:06

Please look up 'Schema Therapy'. pm me for more info. Ps. I'm not a therapist, but am having this at the moment.

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