The Rollercoaster of Parenthood

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.

‘Tis the season to be merry’ – not with CPTSD it isn’t.

Christmas, the season of goodwill amongst men. Not when I was growing up – it was the most traumatic time of year for me. Far too much alcohol around leading to domestic violence and alcohol fuelled arguments.

When I was little and I mean very small I loved Christmas. We didn’t have much money being a single parent family but I loved the build up especially at school, Carol singing, stirring the Christmas pudding in the school canteen and making your wish and the school Christmas party.

All that changed when my mum met her second husband, my abuser. He drank, a lot and that made her lewd and lairy and violent, very, very violent. Every Christmas I tried to join in with the pre Christmas build up. I used to love going into town alone with my mum, present shopping and listening to the brass band playing carols st the end of the high street.

All that changed one Christmas, THAT CHRISTMAS. I’ve already gone over what happened that Christmas in a previous blog post and as much as I spend every year reliving it with my PTSD, I won’t bore you with the details. It’s simply enough to say that Christmas brings up so many bad emotions for me, I have often contemplated cancelling it altogether. But if you have children you can’t, can you. You must soldier on for their sakes. I must say though part of me can’t wait for the day they are all old enough to make other arrangements. I will book myself a cave somewhere and hibernate I think.

I have really tried hard this year despite being disowned by my parents and ghosted by my ‘best’ friend. Who knew trying to get well would cost me so much, both financially and emotionally. This year like every year I have done all the present shopping. I have made my Christmas cake and one for my grandparents and pickled my onion marmalade. I am trying so hard for this Christmas to be better but the memories still come back. The Yuletide pit in my stomach is still there in spite of it all.

Bed bound and bummed out

Been a bit of a bum day. Been in bed for all of it as I have the makings of flu and it aggravates the symptoms of my ME. My physical illnesses have been getting the better of me lately. I missed my EMDR therapy session last week because I was in too much pain and today I was too ill again. My therapist is on holiday for two weeks now so I won’t see her for another two weeks at least. It will be interesting to see how I cope.

One of the things I hate about my past is how it affects my own mothering. I don’t know a ‘normal’ upbringing so how can I give my children one. I know all parents worry, I’m not stupid – I don’t think I’m the only one but it affects me so deeply when one of my children is upset. It drags me down and frankly shatters my world. I suppose it’s logical really. After all it stands to reason that the unprotected become the protectors, doing all it takes to make their children feel safe and loved.

I still can’t make sense of this year, I don’t think I ever will. Trying to get well has certainly wheedled out the rotting apples in my basket. But I can’t seem to find the peace I need, not yet anyway. It’s Christmas in four weeks. I’ve done all my present shopping and made my cake, it just needs icing. I’ve made an extra one for my grandparents – I know I have to see them, I want too. My grandad is almost 95 and his health isn’t great. But and it’s a big but, what do I say when they ask about my mother and they will. My therapist thinks I should tell them the truth – I want too – but I dont know if I am or ever will be ready.

My grandparents know my abuser was violent to my mother but they don’t know about my abuse. My mother told me they wouldn’t have helped her if she had told them and left him. I told her she was wrong – my therapist says I will never know unless I tell them about what really happened to me growing up. Time will tell I suppose. I will have to see what happens.

For she is a ‘Warrior’

I love music, I can always find a song that reflects my mood. Do you ever have moments when you know crying would help you but you just can’t. I can always find a song to set me off.

I have no one favourite song – there are songs for every part of my life, good and bad. I do tend to have an album of the moment and at the moment one of my go to albums is by an artist called Clare Bowden. For those of you that have heard of a program called ‘Nashville’, Clare played the part of Scarlett. She is now an artist in her own right and has released her first solo album.

One track on the album is called, ‘Warrior’. I think it sums us all up and is worth a listen.

Listen to it on YouTube by clicking the link:

https://g.co/kgs/iB9Wyu

Hope you like it as much as I do.

Struggling to cope

I haven’t blogged for nearly a month. To be honest I haven’t been in a good place both mentally and physically. I have been struggling to cope with everything that has happened this year. I expected that EMDR therapy was going to bring changes into my life but I wasn’t quite prepared for the amount of loss I would experience.

I lost my so-called best friend. Well didn’t lose, she ghosted me, cut me off without word or reason. That upset me at the time but the fact I got over it so quickly leads me to believe that our relationship wasn’t all that anyhow or I would have cared more about it finishing. But then it was terribly one sided, on my part. She did all the taking, I did all the giving. I only wish I had figured it out prior to paying for her to go on holiday.

My biggest loss has been my mother and it is that I still cannot begin to understand. At the beginning of my EMDR journey I told her that I was doing it for me, that I loved her but it was something I had to do. Any mother would want their child to get well, but it was too much for her. In the end she told me I was disgusting and that cut me to the core. But the thing I cannot shake, the thing that I cannot rationalise is why she felt it necessary to tell me what my abuser, her second husband, had done to her during their marriage.

I witnessed a lot of it, even as a small child I nursed her wounds and consoled her after beatings. I saw it all. But was it really necessary for her passing blow to be her telling me what deprived sexual acts he had subjected her too. What kind of mother does that. It’s as if she wants to persuade me her abuse was worse. I can’t shake it from my head and it is destroying me.

I have gone into myself since then – bar my children no one can reach me. I see the pain in my husband’s eyes and I don’t know what to say to him. It’s as if I have nothing left. My bulimia is back with a vengeance. I vomit daily – sometimes I don’t even have to make myself – it just happens. I am empty now. I have nothing left to give. I am disgusting. She has won.

Music has always been of great comfort to me.

My song for today – “Let it Rain”, by Clare Bowen

https://youtu.be/146DT8ShGHY

Christmas Cheer – or is it?

You hear and read a lot about how, if you do the same action you will always get the same outcome, so this week I have started to try and change that. I have always started my Christmas preparations early. I start off with really good intentions, that this year will be different and I won’t get the pre-Christmas sadness that hits me every year.

As a small child I can remember loving Christmas. Granted we never had much money when my mum was a single parent, but I loved the buildup to it, all the sparkly lights on the tree, being in the Nativity at school and carols, how I love carols. But my memories seem to be marred by bad memories that trigger panic attack’s and emotions in me that I have never been able to overcome.

My worst memory of Christmas is when I was about six or seven. My mum was married to my abuser at the time. He loved a drink at the best of times and Christmas only made his alcohol consumption increase. This particular Christmas we had been woken to a stash of lovely presents left by Santa. Since my mum married him, our money situation had increased but only if he was in the mood to hand it over. It was only as an adult I found out how hard my mother had had to beg for money.

That particular year I had desperately wanted a swinging crib for my Tiny Tears doll and Santa had bought me one complete with drapes and matching bed linen. With the turkey in the oven, my mum and stepfather had gone over the pub leaving my brother and I behind playing with our Christmas presents. I don’t remember how long they were gone but I sure as hell remember them coming home. They were both intoxicated. He had gone on a bender and my mum had tried to match him drink for drink.

Then it started. First the shouting, then the sounds of smashing, crashing, bumps, screaming, it went on and on. My mum told us to go into the dining room for safety so we did as we were told and took refuge under the table. The shouting and smashing continued. Some time later she came in again and joined us in our hiding place.

The door opened and my stepfather appeared. Something was glinting in his hand, it was the carving knife. ‘I’m leaving’ he said, ‘ and if any of you try to stop me, I will f***ing kill you!’ As he walked out my mum ran after him begging him to stay. I can remember my brother and I screaming for her to come back, remembering what he had said would happen if we tried to stop him leaving. He left.

We were left surveying the damage. The house had been smashed to pieces. Every present broken. My beautiful swinging crib lay in pieces in the lounge. My mum realised we hadn’t eaten so went into the kitchen to make us something. Not content with wrecking the house he had taken the plug off every appliance in the kitchen. ‘Turkey and chips it is,’ she said.

A few hours later the door opened and he walked back in. ‘No trains today,’ he said, ‘I’ll go tomorrow.’ He never went. He obviously wheedled his way back into my mum’s good books because they were soon acting as if nothing had never happened.

The damage stayed with me though. It doesn’t take much to trip my mood at Christmas. I don’t mean I get angry. When my mood changes I go into the pits of despair and there I stay until after New Year and I cry, I cry a lot.

So this Christmas I have decided to try and change things. Even though my eldest has now moved out and he and his younger brother and sister are spending it with their dad this year, I am putting the same amount of effort into it as I used to when they were small. Like then, I have made my own Christmas cakes and pickles. I have spend ages designing how I will wrap everyone’s gifts and what we will eat. I have almost finished my gift shopping already and know exactly what theme my decorations will be.

This year Christmas will be different. My mother and her third husband are no longer in my life having disowned me; my closest ‘best’ friend may have ghosted me without telling me why, but I have MY family, my husband, my two sons, my daughter , my stepson and my two loyal Shih tzus. And as hard as it is, I am doing really well with my EMDR therapy. I know I have already banished some old demons. Maybe this year it will be a Merry Christmas after all.

Moving on by letting go …

I woke up in extreme pain again today and didn’t relish the thought of going to my EMDR therapy session. It wasn’t just the session that was on my mind but the 45 mins drive there and back. But I had already cancelled last week and you have to pay whether you go or not so off I went at 10am. Halfway there my back went into such a big spasm that I had to pull over for a while so I could recover.

When I arrived my therapist as always asked how the time had been since my last session. I then explained that I had been dreading my birthday. On any birthday I reminisce about the precious year but this year I was 50, a milestone in anyone’s life.

I had started the year with such optimism, that this year was going to be different. Perhaps I had expected way too much but I didn’t expect the year to turn out the way it has. I had been told at the outset that people in my inner circle might not like how my therapy ‘changed’ me.

In my mother’s case I suppose I was hoping that she would acknowledge her role in how my past had shaped and affected me, both mentally and physically. I didn’t expect a grovelling apology, a simple sorry would have sufficed. The outpouring of insults and abuse I received instead came as a complete shock. This has been hard to bear, I see it as yet another betrayal, the ultimate one being when I was told that the sexual abuse I received at the hands of her second husband was somehow my doing, my fault. I was the victim, an innocent child, how could she see me as being to blame.

My husband says I should see my 50th as a new start, the start of a new life. Perhaps he is right. Maybe that is how I should approach the next chapter. It couldn’t really be any worse than the last one.

Photo from Christieinge.com