50 YEAR JOURNEY
I have managed to live my life not addressing the issues caused by my parents who physically abandoning me at 2 yrs old. I am now 52 and I can tell you I have worked incredibly hard all my life at burying my feelings about it, but finally it has caught up with me. This is a long post, but I have written it so that I can see it on paper and this has helped me. I also found the other posts o this site helpful to read so I am hoping this might also help others to feel they are not alone.
My parents were not happy together. My father married my mother when he was 47 and she was 27. He was an old fashioned kind of a chap who worked hard in a semi skilled job and loved DIY. She was young at heart loved to dance wear nice clothes and socialise, it was not a good mix and she became very unhappy and bitter. When I was 2 she met someone else and left us to live with him. I believe she left me in my cot alone in the house, and that?s where my father found me when he came from work. He was distraught and felt that he could not cope with me alone, so he fostered me with a neighbour and went back to work. I was there for a short time before being moved to a live with another family whose name I cannot remember. They lived 70 miles away and he visited me once a fortnight.
After a while my father decided to move me again to live with his sister and her family. I lived with my Aunt and Uncle and my two cousins for 2½ years, while my father still made the 100 mile trip to visit me once a fortnight. I was part of their family and I am still very close to my cousins now because of the bond I developed with them during that time. When I was 7 my father moved me back to our home city. During the next 3 years I lived with three more families and it was at this point that I completely "shut down" emotionally. I learned that there is no point in making emotional links with people I was not going to stay with for long and who were only paid to care for me.
Throughout my childhood I never remember feeling angry towards my parents. I idealised my father because he was my only parent so he needed to be perfect or I could not feel safe. As for my mother I was simply curious about her and what she looked like. I had never seen a photograph of her, she didn't send me a card on my Birthday or at Christmas, she had simply vanished when I was 2 yrs old and I did not ask after her.
When I was 10 my father remarried and I moved into his house. Looking back my father's house was always the place I considered home, no matter who else I lived with. Unfortunately, his new wife was not mentally stable and soon became abusive towards me, hitting me, accusing me of stealing money and not speaking to me for very long periods of time. Despite my fathers family witnessing her erratic behaviour no-one felt they could act and so I stayed in this environment for a further 5 years.
At 15 I began to stay out late and found a boyfriend. My Father and Step mother strongly disapproved of him not least because he was of a different culture. One night my father nailed all the windows in the house shut, bolted me in my bedroom and called social services to come and take me away. My father had finally decided that he could no longer cope with the fights and arguments between his wife and this rebellious teenager who was full of contempt for both of them. Social services asked me if I wanted to go into care and I jumped at the "opportunity".
I was sent to stay with a family who were kind to me, they set fair boundaries and I respected them. 3 months before my 16th birthday I had sex for the first time with my boyfriend and became pregnant. I did not use contraception although I knew what the consequences might be if I did not. I loved him more than I ever thought it was possible to love anyone and he loved me. We wanted to be together so my boyfriend asked my father if we could marry and he gave his permission.
At 16 and 2 months I got married. The following spring I gave birth to my first child after a long and difficult labour. I found that I did not bond with her and after a period of post natal depression I stopped wanting to hold her or feed her. My husband, having come from a family of 9 children, stepped in and became her main carer but the more he cared the more distant I became from my daughter.
I was married for 20 years and although we had difficulties we brought up both our children with moral values. But I simply could not be affectionate towards my daughter. Please understand me I could not hug her, kiss her or tell her how much I loved her. It was like living with a glass screen between us. I sincerely wanted to fix things but I did not know how, so the screen stayed in place and I now know that I abandoned her emotionally.
I tried several times to trace my mother because I was curious about her and finally in my 20?s I found her. She had remarried and had another daughter. Over the next 27 years I tried to develop a relationship with my mother, but she was a critical of me and I never felt worthy of her approval. I ended the relationship by saying something very simple that I knew would make her angry so she would not call again and it worked.
In my early 20's I gained some basic qualifications and then undertook general nurse training. Getting an education made me feel good about myself and in order to keep feeling good I carried on getting GCSE's, a University diploma, a Counselling qualification, voluntary work with People with HIV/AIDS, a teaching qualification and finally a first class honours degree. But still my internal voice told me I was stupid and dumb.
When I struggled academically I would self harm to ease the pain of potential failure. I sought therapy for this, but still could not address my anger towards my mother, or admit that she had abandoned me. After I completed my degree I set up a project to support young parents and their children and I replaced education with "doing" and I "do" all the time at home and work.
My husband and I eventually divorced. My daughter grew up moved out and became a nurse and I started a new relationship. One day my daughter came to see me. On the way out she challenged me about my emotional distance, she said she feared me when she was a child. I tried to talk to her about why we were not close, but because I couldn't make sense of it myself I could not help and I simply felt guilty for letting her down. I apologised for not being what she needed when she was a child. After this we began to argue a lot, she was rightly very angry at me - and now I had admitted that I had failed her she had a stick to beat me with - and she beat me with it on a regular basis. I internalised all of her anger and felt even more guilty and a failure - and so it went on.
My daughter married and two years ago she had a baby girl. It was a momentous occasion and fraught with emotional stuff for both of us. Within 3 months of the baby arriving my mother died. After not speaking with my mother for 3 years I went to her funeral simply to make sure that I was mentioned in the eulogy. Amazingly I still did not feel any anger towards her. I found that I had not been mentioned at all in her will, this was not about money but felt like I was not even recognised as her family I simply felt like I had brought it on myself by provoking her.
The problems I have had with my daughter came to a head again at the funeral when she caused a huge and painful scene in the car park after the service. At that moment something exploded silently in my head and I began slowly unravelling and falling apart.
From that day on I started to wake early in the morning at 4 or 5 thinking about my daughter and her baby. I began to cry easily and frequently and I would talk to friends and family about how painful it was that my daughter was so angry at me. I couldn't understand why she could not forgive me and I longed to see her and my granddaughter.
People began to want to change the subject when I spoke about my sadness because it was difficult for them to hear, and I began to realise that I was becoming obsessed with this problem for which I could see no solution. The pain and guilt were eating at me during all of my waking hours and it was becoming unbearable.
Last December I travelled to Flanders on a business trip. As part of the work I was doing I visited a residential project supporting and caring for very young mums 12 to 16 and their babies. The project manager who was a therapist had seen that many of the young mothers he worked with had problems with bonding and attachment. He understood how important this was to the development of the babies and the welfare of the young women and so, the staff encouraged the mums to massage their babies, give them lots of hugs kisses, smiling and eye contact.
When I got back to the Hotel in Brussels I cried - my heart ached, I felt totally bereft and wanted my own babies back so that I could learn how to do that too. From then on I cried most days and it became more and more difficult to concentrate on my work. I became more obsessed than ever with my feelings of sadness and guilt. I started to make big mistakes at work because I was so preoccupied with my feelings that my coping strategy "doing stuff" no longer worked for me and in February I cut all my work commitments down to the bare minimum and completely collapsed emotionally.
I am now in therapy. For the first time ever I am beginning to really "feel" the anger at being abandoned by my parents and to understand that those feelings have always been under the surface damaging my own relationships. Some time in my childhood I learned that it was better to bury all my feelings very deep because there was no room for self pity in my life. At the age of 52 I am finally addressing things that happened to me 50 years ago and know that I have a right to feel what has been suppressed for so long. wish me luck.
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