As it is Mental Health Awareness week and we are in lockdown it made me ‘flash-back’ to my childhood which wasn’t a good one. I am glad the government is looking at the issues that can affect people when in lockdown, those that are diagnosed and those that hide under the radar. Being able to get outside is important. Escaping the pressure cooker of a home is vital. Cycling is my escape now in lockdown and it was my escape in my teenage years. Cycling always makes me feel better and improves my mood.
My childhood was like living in one constant lockdown. I was not allowed to go out or have friends when I was young, I was ‘excessively controlled’ by my mother. I therefore struggled at making friends at school and it was a skill I was never able to fully learn. My mother has mental health issues which resulted in her being both physically and verbally abusive and controlling. She would not let me have friends, she would open all my post, the only place I could go on my own was school. I could not go to social or school gathering. I had to be back from school on time, if I was late I would be punished.
The physical abuse meant I was a punchbag for her. I could be sitting watching tv or doing homework and she would come in and just start attacking me. I would be kicked, slapped and verbally attacked. The verbal comments from : ‘Your are a lazy’, ‘You ruined my life’, ‘You are ugly and no one will ever like/love you’, ‘You will never come to anything’. ‘I wish you had never been born’. The list of negative comments is endless. I am impressed that I managed to survive it. It was a close thing in my early teens. There was one time I will never forget where she had hold of my hair and was smashing my head against a wall and I was thinking, I am going to die this time.
Why didn’t I tell someone?– because she would say that if I told anyone I would be taken into care and it would be even worse there. Which based on the media reports was true, it was full of care/foster home nightmares of abuse cases which resulted in criminal action. I would never see the rest of my family again and would disappear.
Once I reached my teenage years I managed to get a bit more freedom, I think family relatives had picked up on the treatment I was getting as I was sent to live with an aunt for a while and I was allowed some freedom, a chance to breathe. When I went back home I was allowed to go out cycling on my own and I would take every opportunity to get out of the house. It was the only thing I was permitted to do on my own. My home was a dark cloud of oppression and it weighed heavily on my shoulders. I was never happy at home. The amount of physical abuse reduced in my teens but the verbal torture never stopped. My confidence and esteem was attacked at every opportunity.
My escape came when I left for Uni, I worked hard at school and saw that as my only escape. It was in a time when fully funded student grants existed so I was able to go and study. Leaving was bliss, a cloud disappeared and sunshine flooded in. I would go home occasionally and see my siblings, who could see that leaving home was the way to escape the oppression, my escape had meant they became the new victims. They soon worked on leaving home too. Going home was horrid as soon as I saw the house the cloud of oppression appeared. Any mail that arrived for me while I was away would be opened and inspected by my mother. She would respond to letters in my absence and forge my signature on forms and paperwork. I had no idea what she had done until I received any follow up correspondence.
I blocked her out of my life for a while after uni and she hated it. She would try to be nice and try to get me to see her, I would relent and do so but after about an hour she would revert back to character and start verbally attacking and criticising me. All my choices were wrong, my friends were bad influences on me, etc, etc.. Everything I did was wrong in her eyes. One of my boyfriends overheard her once and couldn’t believe the way she spoke to me. He told me to keep away from her as he could see what a negative effect it had on me. He wouldn’t leave me on my own with her to try and prevent it.
I still have occasional contact with her, she is family so I cannot block her from my life completely but I can keep my distance. I keep more contact with my siblings as we act as a united front when we go to see her. Safety in numbers seems to work. When things were reasonably good between us, she had a key to my house and would house sit for me. Which I thought was ok as she felt she was doing something for me while I worked, not being present meant I would not get any verbal attacks either, it seemed reasonable. This has become somewhat poorer decision now. I bought some security cameras for when I was working away and fitted them in my house and they were triggered one day while I was at work. I watched the recordings. It was my mother, she was in my house and she was going through my mail and rifling through drawers and snooping generally around the house.
I wish she would give me respect. I am in my 50s and she continues to treat me like a child. I have tried to talk to her about it but she says I deserve it, as a child and now. It is a relationship that will never get better.
She has impacted my own mental health over the years. I have anxiety, trust issues and bouts of low self-confidence but somehow I manage to keep going. I have somehow managed to find a motivator within me to forge a path through life.
These type of mother-daughter relationship problems are quite common and if they had been tackled earlier then maybe a better outcome could have resulted as it is I will continue to have a poor relationship with her.