Parenthood is a rollercoaster and navigating its twists and turns is difficult at the best of times. Add into the mix the additional sensitivities of a parent from an abusive childhood and you will see a parent who is riding that rollercoaster without the safety bar holding them in to the seat, they are basically holding on for dear life whilst their legs are being dragged along behind.
I have three children of my own, all are from my 21 year relationship/marriage with their father. My eldest suffers with depression and is on medication for its symptoms. Without it he dips into periods of severe low mood but is also prone to bouts of extreme anger which the meds help to control. My middle child also suffers from depression and has also had periods of self harm along with suicidal thoughts. My youngest suffers from ME also know as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She was first diagnosed six years ago. Her latest episode has so far lasted nearly three years. During that time she has been absent from school receiving tuition from teachers sent to our house during the week.
During the text messages my stepfather sent to me in the summer of this year, he commented, “you are going to make your children as screwed up as you are”. Boy did he hit a nerve but I suppose that was his aim. As a sufferer of mental illness one of my biggest fears is that I will ‘damage’ my children. How disgusting of him to cast doubt on my abilities as a mother when I already do that to myself enough.
Because of my own experiences I have an incessant need to keep my children safe and happy. The pain I feel when they are not is unbearable and debilitating. It stops me eating, talking and can even make me vomit. After all it’s not as if being a parent isn’t already one worry from start to finish.
When you want to become a parent you worry that you won’t be able to conceive. Then when you find out you are expecting you worry that your baby will be ‘perfect’. When that little bundle arrives you worry and worry and worry some more. As a parent you rely on your own upbringing to guide you in the right direction. What do you do when your childhood was full of pain and suffering; what experiences do you fall back on for reference then. All parents muddle through; babies don’t come into the world with their own instruction manual. But when you have nothing to fall back on it makes the already impossible job of parenting so much more difficult. Those of you with troubled backgrounds will know exactly what I mean especially if like me you suffer from CPTSD.
Picture this, a teenage child comes home from school upset because they have been subjected to bullying. Any ‘normal’ parent will be upset by the news. They will sit down with their child and comfort them. They will try and get to the bottom of what happened and if required will go into the school to sort out any issues that may need specific handling by the school to avoid it happening again.
Now look at the same situation but imagine that the parent of the bullied child was themselves bullied as a child. The bullying they experienced was so severe they became a recluse as a child and developed phobias as a result. If taunted about their weight they may have even developed an eating disorder which has followed them into adulthood. As adults they still find it hard to trust and make friends and may not even have any ‘real’ friends. In this situation when the child comes home upset from bullying the parent is catapulted back in time to their own experiences. They suffer flashbacks and relive the memories of their own torment as if it happened that day. So now you have a tormented adult trying to soothe a tormented child.
Now imagine the same scenario but in addition to the parent also being bullied, imagine that their home life had been filled with abuse, they not only experienced abuse themselves but witnessed it being done to their own parent by their other parent. As a result all of their emotions are thrown into overdrive at the thought of any bullying/abuse. Their reaction sometimes seems far too excess for the situation and they may stampede into the school demanding something be done hurling abuse at anyone who does not seem to be taking them seriously.
Raising any child is bloody hard. Raising a child as a parent who has experienced abuse firsthand is nigh on impossible. You spend your life feeling out of control all because when you were a child, you had none. Ask any abused child who has since grown and had children of their own and they will tell you that had they known how difficult it would be to raise their own family they would almost certainly have decided not to have one, not just for their own sanity but more importantly for the sanity of their children.