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Question for anyone who was emotionally abused as a child

(74 Posts)
whitechocolatehobnobs Mon 18-Jan-21 15:20:22

I am non contact with my parents and have been for years. I was emotionally and physically abused as a child and it's left me with lots of mental health issues that I will never recover from.

Did anyone else's parents constantly criticise their mood and accuse them of being in a bad mood/angry all the time but also hate it if you were happy? I honestly never knew how to actually act as I got in trouble for everything.

My parents always said, from a young age, that I was a misery (which if I was, was probably because of their lack of love and their abuse), and would always do impressions of my apparently miserable face. I would get accused all the time of being angry or being in a bad mood, or of pulling faces, when I was just being 'normal'.

On the other hand, I also got into trouble if I was too happy or had fun or enjoyed anything, or even laughed. I remember once we were on holiday abroad, I must have been about 5 or 6, and I made some friends on holiday and their dad was dancing with us all and I was having a lot of fun. After we got back to the hotel room I got in trouble for having too much fun and I got a smack for dancing and having fun with someone else's parent. I also got several smacks that same holiday for playing around the pool with a friend and her inflatable boat.

I just wondered if anyone had similar from parents and also if you find it hard in adult life knowing how to actually just 'be'? If that makes sense. I always feel like I have to be happy and over exaggerate being happy as I don't want people to think I'm a misery but then I think not being over the top happy all the time doesn't make me a misery?

OP’s posts: |
Colourmeclear Mon 18-Jan-21 19:37:55

That sounds awful. I'm so sorry you had to go through that. It sounds like the right idea to go no contact. I can definitely see why you would have problems just being especially if you feel like you are being judged.

I have some similar problems although for different reasons. The hardest thing to grasp is that most people are content and happiness/sadness are moments that come and go but if you never learnt how to maintain that feeling of content it's a bit of a see-saw and utterly exhausting. It can leave you with your needs not being met.

Have you ever sought professional help? I'm in therapy now and I'm finding it really helpful although it is very difficult.

crystalize Mon 18-Jan-21 20:28:31

Hi Ive been on another thread today about other emotionally neglectful parents. Hope the link works below. Maybe you can find more support there. I'm sorry you had to endure such shitty parents.

EddisonTortoise Mon 18-Jan-21 20:38:13


I had similar. Physical and emotional abuse.

I also got told I was "a misery" but, if I laughed or was happy, i would be told the men in white coats were coming to take me away or that i should stop because people would wonder what was wrong with me.

Obviously, there was more. A lot more. And I've been nc with them for years.

I'm really struggling at the moment.

MorbidPodcastFan Mon 18-Jan-21 20:39:49


Yes, had similar and also no contact with my parents for 10+ years after i realised things would never change.

With quite a few years NC and time to reflect i see now my mother was the most miserable bitch and just wanted everyone else to feel as miserable as she did.

The best thing you can do is realise its not about you, actually, its about them and how desperately unhappy they are and how their views are skewed by their own experiences.

I do struggle now socially in knowing what the right response is to some things and ive discussed this at length in therapy. My mum had zero empathy so ive had to learn that as an adult as any empathic response was punished as a child. The same as being excited or happy. Now im without her judgement i just enjoy things in life but do sometimes have to think for a few milliseconds before i respond and i dont think that will ever go.

Miramour Mon 18-Jan-21 20:45:10

Similar to you, I know the pain and confusion.

After literally years of therapy, not just one-to-one but group plus physical (it is now understood that the body stores trauma and the mental-physical connection needs to be restored) I can at last day I can identify feelings and am learning to act on them.

Do you have access to professional help?

Eckhart Mon 18-Jan-21 20:48:26

Yes, I used to have that. I felt like I was observing myself, rather than embodying myself. I don't know if that will make sense.

It stopped when I started listening to my own needs and wants. Via doing nice things for myself, things that made me happy all by myself. I think I just got the feeling for what it was like to be happy and undisturbed in that happiness. Also, mollycoddling myself when I got low. Buying myself chocolate, having a pj day with a couple of films.

I'm speaking as if it's in the past tense, but that's how I am now. I'm really nice to myself. I don't seem to have to pretend my feelings for others now.

Except I'm scared of my birthday and Christmas, because of the pressure of ripping the paper off a present and HAVING to look happy. I suppose that's a manifestation of what we're talking about that many people would understand.

vampirethriller Mon 18-Jan-21 20:48:56

Yes I did. I was called miserable, sulky, spiteful, when I was reading or watching tv for example, and if they saw me enjoying myself with friends or somewhere public I'd be shouted at when we got home for embarrassing them/ the people I'd been with. I never knew how to behave. I had every conversation picked over in minute detail.. "Why did you say that? It must have meant something. " when I would just have been talking nonsense to friends in the park.

Eekay Mon 18-Jan-21 20:51:55

I can empathise. I had a very abusive childhood in so many ways, including emotionally.
I see a lot of why I am as I am after finally having good therapy.
And it makes me so sad for that poor little girl I was. And angry that I've made so many bad life decisions because of the way my childhood shaped me.
At least the therapy has eased my shame and regret. (And I'm old now, late 40s)
I have worked so hard not to repeat the patterns with my own family.
I do wish you all the best.

Calmate Mon 18-Jan-21 21:02:41

OP, and @vampirethriller, my heart goes out to both of you, it sounds like both your sets of parents wanted full control of your emotions, with their constant sniping. Parents, and some teachers can make children's lives a misery. It sounds like your'e both justified in going NC, also it appears you have triumphed over your terrible childhood years. I hope your parents feel awful now, for what they inflicted on you. I mentioned teachers as some are clearly vindictive, I suspect some pupils are marked down on course work now there are no exams, just out of spite for particular pupils. Please note, some teachers, not all.

User547959475476 Mon 18-Jan-21 21:05:21

Yes, physical and emotional abuse here too. I was scared because I never knew when my parent would flip (physically) - if I didn't express gratitude or I thought something was funny when it wasn't etc. I ended up being extremely depressed and have continued to feel the effects throughout my life (now mid forties). I once had my mouth physically washed out with soap at a young age for saying a word which by todays standards is fairly innocuous (I hate to think how my parents would have treated my own dcs had they been their children). My other parent was completely and emotionally absent. At secondary school I was bullied for being an overly 'quiet/well behaved child. Immature, I suppose for my age.

I grew up not knowing who I was and at first couldn't even properly connect to feelings other than depression and attended therapy. I had spent my life trying to lie low and doing what I was told, walking in someone else's shadow.

It is only fairly recently I have started to learn to be kind to myself (see other thread on self love). I have developed hobbies and a couple of good friendships - I am beginning to learn more about who I am. I am also trying to start a low key business - something I would never of had the confidence to try until recently.

I am now estranged from my parents and have been for several years.

niceupthedance Mon 18-Jan-21 21:15:18

Yes constantly told I was miserable, sulky etc. I had chronic anxiety.

user1471538283 Mon 18-Jan-21 21:25:56

My feelings about anything and everything were never valid according to my DM. She was perfect. She never praised me, hugged me, told me I was loved. She was always better than me and everyone. She babied herself and I was expected to parent her. She resented me and saw me as competition. She is now dead and I am relieved but it left a lasting feeling of damage.

TheBlueStocking Mon 18-Jan-21 22:44:31

I had a lot of abuse at home, mostly physical, but some other stuff.

I can also relate because I was in an accident as a young girl that damaged my face in such a way as to make me always look miserable. I think the impact of being seen as miserable made me feel like it was just an integral part of who I was.

cateycloggs Tue 19-Jan-21 02:17:39

I got this alot in my family, not from my Dad, from older brothers and sister. Constantantly told I was miserable and sulky, my mood affected everyone else , made them miserabe, if I was in a good mood that was insensitive to others unhappiness, told people outside the family were always judging me (actually they were but should it have mattered?), I was responsible for the world's troubles.

I was 8,9,10 etc. Yup war, starvation, murder exploitation all my fault. Unfortunately that was also a general cultural opinion, eg. eat all your food, other children are starving in India - or wherever. How did forcing chidren here stop them starving? It didn't. I did have a pouty sulky face and it was remarked on by strangers @Cheer up love' etc. On the other hand, one summer's day I was just smiling walking up the street from pure happiness, a man crossing the street told me 'Don't smile like that love you'll get into trouble.' Lesson is you can't win, you're under observation, you're not good enough. but at the same time it's all your fault. Not to mention being fat and poor with a dead mother so constantly bullied outside the home and at school.

Anyway the point is it did leave me with overwhelming guilt feelings about all the misery and suffering and evil in the world, extreme self-consciousness, distrust of others' motives. My Dad never spoke to strangers or let anyone in, thought the family should be all in all even when we hated each other. oh and we were 'not from around there', no local relatives or connections so bullied and excluded outside the house. The term I learnt for it is we were an enmeshed family with low or no ego boundaries.

I had social workers, counselling and psychological treatment as a teenager because I just gave up. But turns out that genuinely was also a danger as my Dad suspected because there was a huge scandal about organised child abuse of vulnerable children in the area resulting in a huge Government inquiry and condemnation years later. A lot of those kids bullying me were being abused by those in power. Many suicides resulted. So My Dad's suspicions of outsiders were correct and in a way saved me from worse as I never fully confided in any of the 'helpers' so my vulnerability was not so obvious.

there's more of course but I did think I would get away from it by leaving home. Nope you take your past with you and it basically disabled my life as I cannot follow through on anything: education, work, relationships and spent years literally asleep. Could be worse did not drink or do drugs or let any one close enough to abuse me. Just ate too much sweet stuff and stayed at home like so many women who are considered useless and of no value.

Anyway Happy Ending, I am still here, alone and fat and dependent on the state, but learnt to shrug off the guilt of being a human when we are all capable of such evil. It's probably not recommended but I practise isolating thoughts and feelings, compartmentalising them, and recognising what idiots are loose in the world and I am not responsible for any of it.

EddisonTortoise Tue 19-Jan-21 04:44:43

So many of these experiences resonate with my own.

I just wonder from other people who had their sense of self destroyed etc how many went on to have and form normal loving relationships with others?

I've always struggled with friendships and relationships. I look like I'm quick to walk away from people. In romantic relationships, I always have 'one foot out the door'. People think it's because I can't commit etc but its more that I don't expect people to stick around or genuinely care so I constantly provide others with an exit strategy. I push people away to make it easier for them to leave me. I feel embarrassment and shame on behalf of others.

I have two children and I've somehow.maanged toncompletely break the cycle but relationships with others? I just can't do it.

I have had one long term relationship which was dead before we started and, whilst we cared about each other, we didn't love or fancy each other and it became toxic to the point of being abusive - he was very controlling. He felt I owed him in so many ways for being the one who stuck by me.

Other than that, I've not managed a relationship of more than 5 or 6 months. And the ones that have lasted longer than that, well I should have ended them sooner. I've never had a loving relationship and my longest relationship otherwise was a miserable 10 months long.

EddisonTortoise Tue 19-Jan-21 04:47:26

I also thought I'd escape it when I left home and then again when I went NC with them. I was really I about these points in because I thought I'd finally be free.

The reality is that I'm 46, single, with a string of failed relationships behind me, few friends and no likelihood of this ever changing in the future.

The reality is that you do carry it with you. There's no escape from it.

EddisonTortoise Tue 19-Jan-21 04:47:46

*really excited about

vampirethriller Tue 19-Jan-21 08:22:25

@Calmate funny you should mention teachers. Both my parents are. My mother absolutely marks down pupils she doesn't like and talks about it cheerfully to family. She doesn't like sen children, she doesn't like any with regional accents, she doesn't like overweight children (or adults) and mocks them at home.

SummerRemembered Tue 19-Jan-21 09:25:41

This thread really resonates with me. I'm LC rather than NC with my parents (would gladly be NC with "D"F but I'm trying to cultivate some sort of relationship with my mum). I've spent a lot of time recently, reflecting and analysing on my father's inability to show any emotion and the way this manifested in him being unable to deal with others showing any emotion around him. Everything that the OP and others have said was true for me growing up too. I was constantly called "torn-faced little madam" or "silly, giggly wee lassie" so I learned how to make my features completely blank so that I wouldn't upset nor embarrass my family by betraying any feelings.

A couple of instances spring to mind. I was 17 and had just passed my driving test. I used to often take the family car for a spin in the evenings for something to do/escape the house. One day, I was called into the living room, where my parents looked very stern. "We know all about what you've been doing", said DF. They went on to talk about me embarrassing them in public and I had no idea what they were on about. Eventually it transpired that my mum's hairdresser had told her that she had recently been driving in front of me and when she looked in her rear-view mirror, she saw me singing my heart out in the car. It's true - I would put on my favourite music and belt it out as I drove. Anyway, I was banned from using the car from then and they made me feel that I really had done something very wrong and embarrassing, so much so that I ended up going to a different hairdresser rather than ever face that woman again.

More recently, I was at a family wedding. My parents did not attend but lots of aunts, uncles and cousins were there. It was a brilliant day and we had lots of fun. I get on really well with the majority of my family (some of my closest friends are my cousins) but there is one aunt who is very much cut from the same cloth as my dad (they are siblings). A few days after the wedding, my parents called me and opened the conversation without pleasantries but by asking "what did you have to laugh about at the wedding". Obviously I was totally perplexed but after a while it transpired that grumpy aunt had called them to say that every single time she looked over at me throughout the day and night, I was laughing. She apparently found this odd enough to call my parents. I was 38 years old. My parents were again, completely mortified that I had shown them up in this way. Apparently the fact that I had been laughing and smiling all day would make others think that I am "simple" or "not taking the wedding seriously"

This has affected my relationship with DH in that I find it very difficult to talk about my feelings so I bottle things up until they explode. It's definitely affected me at work though were I am constantly told that I come across as cold and indifferent to people and situations. I hate this as it's absolutely not what I feel on the inside but I've had a lifetime of conditioning. When I try to convey emotions I feel like I'm playing a part and I can tell that it comes across as false to others which is even worse.

WellIWasInTheNeighbourhoo Tue 19-Jan-21 09:45:59

Yes I understand and have experienced this.

Something that has helped me is inner child work. Sitting with my inner child, being a good parent to her, loving her, being empathetic with her, talking through what happened to her. Doing what my parents should have. Its a strange thing to do but I do think it has helped with my self esteem, which is what most of these issues boil down to. Being with that inner little girl in a loving way, will help you to just be. There are some good youtubers on the subject, I like Stacey Hoch.

EddisonTortoise Tue 19-Jan-21 12:13:30

I've really struggled with inner child stuff.

I had a counsellor once who tried to touch on it with me. Initially, I couldn't even picture her. When I could 'see' my inner child, I just felt hugely hostile. Not sure whether it was towards the child. Possibly not because i felt pity for her but still too hostile to respond appropriately.

I feel I'm not healed enough to be able to meet her needs in the first place.

Cyw2018 Tue 19-Jan-21 12:17:45

I was "over sensitive"!! Basically I didn't cope well with being constantly bullied and emotionally abused, from as young as I can remember, which is hardly surprising.

barbrahunter Tue 19-Jan-21 12:50:25

Ohh so much of this is familiar to me! I was always told I was a misery as a child, when I was just sitting there minding my own business. I was also mocked if I laughed or smiled. I was also told that I 'counted for nothing'. Lovely.
I hope all on this thread find peace.

cateycloggs Tue 19-Jan-21 13:28:27

Oh Edison, I just spent ages writing a reply and lost but I see you have answered one of my questions. About therapy, my main point was it may not work after many attempts as trust is such an issue. But it's not too late and you can recover. I do recognise your response to the Inner Child concept it aroused quite violent feelings in me. That child needs a good slap and stop crying. I think it takes practice to treat yourself well and believe in it. I only really began to put it all together about your age after so many attempts sabotaged by me. Have you heard or read about enmeshed families? and weak ego boundaries? Building mine up consciously has been the biggest help to me. Probably go too far and feel like I am floating off sometimes.

This spoke to me because of being blamed for our family misery and all the terrible crimes in the world. Well ,it was believed in our family if there was a wrong going on anywhere no-one should be even moderately happy. Worry was a virtuous activity and everbody else's opinion was more important and true than mine. Now I say No its not my fault why should I care about your opinion apart from common courtesy? Also so many people are just wrong so much of the time including family and friends. Just that wrong.

As i said I resisted therapy very hard thought I knew better (I knew nothing). Had it pointed out I was way too comfortable being miserable and I needed to actually work on and do the theraputic steps.. Took me years, still not finished as withdrawing is so easy for me. But you know you have good reason to persevere in your children.

One of the reasons I never had children is I was sure I would harm them psychologically. My Dad and family weren't maliciously abusive but did not realise what they were doing. Combined with an extreme introspection, avoidant personality, social phobia, self-consciousness and depression I was never going to cope with the school system for my self or others. I just gave up so much so often and still do if allowed. But I am more at ease in my mind.

Ok I am going to stop now wrote too much before and lost it all so I will wish you all well and recovery from all the misery.

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