The Middle-Aged Under-Mothered Child


depression in the mirror

For the last three years I have been on an endless quest to “fix” myself so I do not hurt my children with my Depression and Anxiety.  I research, I write, I often judge myself harshly  and then I study some more and find something else to beat myself up about.  But hopefully through this process, what I absorb is changing my parenting for the better. I still see my behavior toward my children through the lens of my depression but more importantly, I see it also by the light of what I’ve learned.  And while it may be difficult in the moment, I can course adjust as needed so we’re not headed completely off the rails as a family.

Through my research, I have learned a great deal about Attachment Theory and its relationship to Depression and Anxiety in children.  First analyzed by John Bowlby decades ago, it has since been studied by many psychologists and written about by countless experts in the field of child development.  In the case of secure attachment, the primary caregiver (in our culture this is most often mom), provides a secure base from which the child can explore the world and safely return as needed.  A securely attached child feels loved and protected from the earliest stages of life by their primary caregiver.  An insecurely attached child, which sometimes results from the mother’s emotional unavailability, can have a great many resulting difficulties including a deep sense of rejection and a lack of self-worth. Often the worst outcomes include children later diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety (Ahhh, my life in non-fiction).  Many times insecure attachment results from the child having a depressed or anxious mother.  After learning about this from my own doctors, I read a book entitled the “Emotionally Absent Mother,” by Jasmin Lee Cori, during which I simultaneously saw my own childhood unfold on her pages as well as what might happen to my own children if I didn’t change my behavior.

One of my favorite authors, who wrote a great deal about such topics, was John Bradshaw who recently passed away.  He had a traumatic early life and understood intimately the damage that could be done by ill and/or withholding parents.  He wrote:

“We need to know from the beginning that we can trust the world…If we had a primary caregiver who was mostly predictable, and who touched us and mirrored all our behaviors, we developed a sense of basic trust. When security and trust are present, we begin to develop an interpersonal bond, which forms a bridge of empathetic mutuality. Such a bridge is crucial for the development of self-worth. The only way a child can develop a sense of self-worth is through a relationship with another…In our earliest stages of life we can only know ourselves in the mirroring-eyes of our primary caregivers (Bradshaw, 2005).”

I need to be that predictable and mirroring caregiver.  But it is so hard when it was never modeled for you.  It is not innate for me like it is for some Mom’s I watch.  I despise living my life like a science experiment, but I am an observer of parenting now…always searching out the correct behaviors because I never learned them in my first family.  W0rst of all, I cannot be around my own mother for any length of time anymore because it causes me to regress.  I’m no longer the striving good mother when I’m in her presence.  I am the rejected child.  I become the middle-aged,  “under-mothered” child to borrow Jasmin Cori’s phrase and I forget how to act.  I simply react to her endless selfish behaviors.  I become angry and lash out or I withdraw completely.  I am 16 again and hate the world and everyone in it.

No matter how old you get, maternal rejection has the ability to crush your spirit and devalue your accomplishments in a manner unlike almost anything else…if you let it.  Some people stronger than I may be able to blow it off…ignore the crazy old lady.  I am so jealous of such people.  I cannot do this.  Somewhere inside me, there is still a screaming child who just wants her mommy to love her.  And the only way to calm the child is to remove my mother from the picture and re-mother that child myself.  This used to make me even more upset and resentful.  But I’ve learned…So what?  So what if I have to re-mother myself.  It’s good practice for the ones who matter most…my own kids.


The Middle-Aged Under-Mothered Child

The Vulnerability of Depression


I cannot believe it’s been a month since I’ve posted.  But depression can make you lose track of days and weeks in a blur of mindless activity between the blissful periods of unconscious sleep.  I try so hard to walk the walk with my kids and enjoy every minute I can with them but sometimes it’s just beyond my capabilities.  And of anyone out there whom I though understood, I thought my husband did…but he really doesn’t.   Not totally.

Last month we had an awful fight.  The kind that erodes a small bit of your relationship.  If you have too many of these kinds of fights I suppose that’s how you end up divorced.  Luckily (and I hope it stays this way), we don’t ever fight like this.  He said things that night out of frustration that I know he now wishes had never escaped the filters he normally uses with me.  I understand that my moods make him “crazy” sometimes, but he has to shield me because I’m so vulnerable.  I have no natural protection from hurtful words.  PTSD does that to me.  But this time he couldn’t help it.  And now I feel just a little bit differently about us.  He was my biggest protector and my best friend and he used my trigger points against me.  I’m still somewhat shocked even a month later.

It started as simply as this:  He’s working insane hours lately.  And when he’s not at work he is going to my daughter’s softball games.  Every weekend, non-stop.  I go sometimes…when I’m up for it and when the other two kids want to go.  But not all the time.  Otherwise the whole family would be living at the softball field.  But one night, I was really down and feeling so lonely that I told him I feared he was spending so much time with her to avoid being with me.  He went nuts.  Not only did he accuse me of being a poor mom for not participating in my kids’ activities enough, he said I was just like my mother!  Isolating myself and hiding away so I could wallow in my depression.  He said I was also being like my father by refusing to foster friendships with new people…softball moms especially.  I couldn’t believe it.  If there were a list of “the worst things you can say to hurt me,” these were the top 3.

I cried for the next several days despite his apologies and claims I misunderstood.  He even took two weeks off from work to spend time with me.  But it took about that long for me to be around him again without getting upset.  His words kept bouncing around my head so badly that they were drowning out everything else.  I’m just now, a month or so later, coming out of the fog this fight caused.  Mother’s Day was nice despite him being with my daughter at a softball tournament all weekend.  Her team won the tournament so I just decided to be happy about that.  But something is different now.  I’m a little more broken than before.  Something has changed in the way I see my husband and I’m not sure it will ever go back to the way it was.  I am praying not for forgiveness…I have forgiven him.  I am praying I will forget the words.  I wish there was a way to erase that memory forever.  I want my best friend back.  And I’m the one keeping him out.

The Vulnerability of Depression

What to Do About My Perfectionist Child?



“Parents should never want to teach us life; for they teach us their life.”

~Rainer Maria Rilke

I haven’t been able to write in weeks  My anxiety has been through the roof and my husband has been working insane hours so I was quite alone amidst the chaos of raising 3 middle schoolers.  I could barely keep a thought straight long enough to get them all to their respective activities on time and still had to look at my calendar three, four, five times a day even to keep it all straight.  But finally a lull has taken hold and the anxiety has abated significantly.  It is like the tide but on a completely random schedule.  It rises and rises and then ebbs.   Unfortunately, there is no timetable by which to plan my days.  I have to keep going regardless of how I feel.  It is simply exhausting sometimes.

Despite the ever -changing disposition of my moods over the last year or so, I have noticed a consistent change in my 12-year-old daughter’s personality.  She is becoming more of a perfectionist the older she gets.  Two years ago, we had a discussion about this because she melted down about getting a B on a test and to her it manifested as a failure.  I explained to her that neither her Dad nor I expected her to be perfect at anything.  She refused to us then and it’s only getting worse.

In some ways, I know how she feels.  I was the same way with my grades in school but mostly because it was the only way to get any kind of affection out of my parents.  I performed to get my needs met.  But my husband and I absolutely do not parent this way.  Even if I unconsciously had a tendency to go there, my conscious mind would not allow it.  I recognize all too well the damage it does..that withholding affection is destructive no matter what the case.  It is also a sign of parental insecurity, not of any failing on the child’s part.  And most of all, I refuse to repeat my own history.

So what is happening?  Is perfectionism an inherited trait?  Is there really such a thing as middle-child syndrome? How do I get through to her?  It is getting to the point that we cannot even reprimand her about not doing her chores because she throws a fit and will sulk in her room all evening.  She absolutely cannot tolerate criticism.  She is also becoming completely risk averse which, I have learned from several education experts, is quite typical of the perfectionist child.  They refuse to do anything at which they are not sure they will excel because they may fail and that is injurious to the ego.  But how do I help her?

For now, my own doctor has suggested I share with her some concerns I have about my own shortcomings in regards to a volunteer opportunity I’m attempting.  I’m in training to advocate for children in foster care and make sure they are being fairly and well represented in all aspects of their cases.  I am scared I won’t live up to the task and I will somehow fail to do enough for a needy child.  But I am doing it anyway.  I want to do it and will try and hopefully rise above my own fear of failing.  My doctor thinks sharing this story with my daughter will help her to understand the importance of stretching beyond her fears, so I’ll try to discuss it with her.  But she’s a “tween” and not so interested in my stories right now.  I pray she hears me.   I do not want her to end up like me…in a spiral of anxiety and of never feeling “good enough.”  There needs to be an end to this generational pain.




Kids and Tech: My Newest Reason to Be Up All Night Worrying

girl on phone

It has been my goal each morning for the last 3 or so years to do all I can to protect my kids, especially my two teenaged daughters.  To protect them from me!  From my Depression and constant Anxiety.  Psychological studies have shown that girls are twice as likely to develop Depression than boys and gender is the strongest predictor of depressive symptoms that scientists have found so far. The second strongest predictor is having a Mother with depression.  So, basically, my illness is the biggest risk to them over which I have any control.  So I do all I can to keep it under control.  We don’t hide it from them though.  After much research into the the benefits of honesty in a case like this, my husband and I decided to be forthcoming about what’s wrong with Mom so that we could do all we could to convince them to come us the very second they felt overly sad or worried about anything at all.  My greatest hope is they stay just as happy and bubbly as they are, but the second greatest is they will come talk to me if they’re feeling bad.  I never had anyone to discuss it with.  And it could have made all the difference.

In my continued effort to protect my girls who are now fully engaged in the on-line world with cellphones and Instagram accounts, I am making it a priority to learn all I can about social media and what the kids are getting up to on their phones.  See, it’s pretty easy to monitor the desktop computer.  No problem.  I have that baby locked down tight.  But the phones…that’s another story.  I had no idea how hard it is to monitor a cell phone even with very expensive monitoring software.  Especially the iPhone.  I’ve been behind Apple in their public spat with the government over security.  But now that their product security is in MY way, I’m thinking of switching my kids’ phones to Android or basically any other phone… which are all much easier to lock down that the iPhone.  Given how easy it is for these kids to hide apps and inappropriate material on the phones, it is a must to have some kind of remote monitoring.  For instance, there is an app out there called “Poof” that just makes other apps on their phone (like SnapChat or YikYak, where much of the worst behavior between our kids is happening) just disappear off of the UI with one push of a button.

I made the “good parental” decision to get a recently published book on teenagers and social medial.  It is a must read if you don’t already have this all under control.  Here is a link: American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers.  But what was a good decision for a parent was a very bad decision for an inveterate worrier.  The author interviews girls from all over the country, anywhere from middle school age up to the later teens years.  And many were from a town not too far from where we live.  And it is horrifying to hear to what what these girls are exposed and how peer pressure causes them to react.  According to the author, a full 60% of 13 year old girls in America have been exposed to pornography, much of it depicting graphic violence toward women.  Further, the girls expect that boys will request inappropriate photos or texts from them, and if they aren’t propositioned, many feel girls bad about it.  Sexting is a real thing in MIDDLE SCHOOL.  And most of the girls interviewed ride a fine line between being socially rejected for reacting badly to these offenses (as defined by being angry or upset by them) or for participating, aka reacting like a “slut.”  Apparently “Slut Shaming” is also a thing with girls as young as Middle School.  As if the world weren’t scary enough.  Now these girls are expecting to be sexually objectified by boys and worry about their popularity if they aren’t!

I spoke to my 13 year old about it this weekend.  Simultaneous to my reading this book and becoming ever more concerned, she asked me to buy her a Middle School Formal dress this weekend.  If you had seen her first choices, Holy Inappropriate Batman!  The models on the website she liked ( were not going to any middle school formal, or even prom for that matter.  They all looked 25+ and like they might make it in the porn industry no problem.  And they almost all had DD size fake breasts.  This is the style my daughter wants to emulate for her 8th grade dance!  So I asked her point blank if she’d ever been asked for inappropriate pictures or texts from a boy.  She said no, and that to her knowledge none of her friends had either.  I asked her what she would do, and she said without hesitation she would reject it.  I believed her.  Maybe I’m naive but it was something in her tone.  I said I was proud of her, and I wanted her to come talk to me if it happened and she agreed.

My last words to her on the subject were these:  She has a very high standard by which to judge what is appropriate behavior from boys.  The bar is her Dad.  I said, “Any boy you might get “involved” with should live up to Daddy’s standards…he’s honest, respectful and kind.  To everyone.  And he thinks the sun rises and sets over your head.  If you are with a boy who doesn’t treat you the way Daddy would, LOSE HIM.”  She agreed…for now anyway.  But I’m still watching.  And I’m still losing sleep over that phone.  I will get it locked down even if it costs me a fortune to switch it out.  It’ll be a very small price to pay for their safety and my anxiety.

Kids and Tech: My Newest Reason to Be Up All Night Worrying

Thanks to a Fellow Blogger, Today I will be a good Mom


I think today’s posting will be quite different than the last. I’m feeling out of sorts…well for me anyway…I feel lighter. Today I woke up and read an unabashedly joyful posting from a woman clearly much younger than I, relishing the future possibilities of home and family. And it turned my mood brighter. I left her a post about what incredible optimism she has and, at first, felt a bit sad that I hardly ever see the joy in my life except as someone watching from a distance. That’s the disease…the Depression that dulls my spirit. But after considering my home and my family and how amazing they are despite my constant mood issues, I started to feel rather hopeful myself. I would love to carry this feeling throughout the day with me today, especially to drown out the memories of the last two days.

I research and write about my depression and anxiety for two reasons. First, it is cathartic. I usually write early in the morning, before the kids arise and before I’ve had a chance to let anything upset me too much. I research religiously because I have to learn how to parent through my depression. I have to read any book I can find and any relevant published journal article and frankly any source that I come across that will give me a bit more insight into this dreadful disease that prevents me from looking at my children with unfettered love and delight. But more than that, I have to do my best to create that light in my eyes for them even when it’s being clouded by sadness. They deserve my best effort and I’m admittedly forcing it a lot of the time. Not because I don’t feel these feelings, but because they get pushed away by a much stronger force I can’t always control. My research and my writing is making me stronger. I admit, I’m crawling before I can walk. Taking it slow and being the best I can for them.

It’s not exactly “faking it, till I make it.” It’s more like acting a part. I recently read about Temple Grandin, a famous Autistic woman who is extremely gifted in her field as many Autistic people are, but has social limitations. She now gives talks to huge audiences on the mind of the Autistic and how “neurodiversity,” which is what many high-functioning Autistics call it now, is a blessing we want to keep and not eradicate.   She has been described as saying she had to study and learn the “give and take” of so-called normal conversation and when to use eye contact and other body language appropriate for human interaction. The exact kind of things most of us take for granted just as a part of growing up. After considering it some more, I feel like that is what the Depression is making me do. I watch other Mom’s and even my Husband who is the greatest Dad, and I kind of copy the good stuff I like. Then I practice. Some days I don’t need to fall back on this as much, because I’m feeling good. Today might be one of those days. Some days I rely on my acquired skills entirely.

Like the day before yesterday. I did not do a good job of acting my part. I was completely shut down and didn’t have the time to adjust while the kids were at school. My daughter was home sick. And I had nothing to give. It was all I could do to ask her how she was feeling and take her temperature. Lucky for me, she slept most of the day. My ability to empathize was abysmal. And when I went to bed that night I felt my failure in my bones. I promised to do better the following day (yesterday) and I did. I fell into my role, and I coddled her to the best of my ability. I made her feel taken care of. I did all I could to make up for the prior day. I apologized for failing her. As always she denied it, but I knew it was true. I had a bad day, and as long as I have this illness, there will be bad days. I can’t let them beat me though. And thanks to one of my fellow writers, I think today I will beat the illness. Today will be an UP day. So many thanks to a young woman with a big life ahead of her and enough optimism to share with me.


I’m a Convert to Inner Child Work … Finally

There is in fact healing in mediation and visualization of the child you were before the damage was done to your “self.”  My parents emotionally abused me for the better part of my life, and obviously the younger I was, the worse it was.  It was especially those years between 3 and 12 or so when the verbal attacks created the “split” in my brain between the person I really was in my heart and the person they said I was.  I have had so much exposure to the theories of Inner Child work from various authors as well as clinicians, but I don’t think I ever did the work until now…until the desperation set it because nothing else is working.  I always thought it was silly and that I didn’t need to “meditate” on what they did to me because I know it perfectly well.  They stole my self-esteem and made me afraid of everything.  They made me perform as the “perfect” child or they withheld affection.   My father required this until he died and my mother still does.

I recently told my mother I need time away from her because she is a trigger for my emotional turmoil.  And I’m not sure when I’ll let her back into my “circle.”  This was a decision I made because it was time to stop the ongoing abuse…you see she simply demands her right to say whatever she likes to me despite my being an adult and a parent now.  According to her, I am still her daughter and she has a right to her opinions, according to her.   But I also cut off from her because up until then I had refused to do my own work and it was finally time to do so.  That work is to re-parent that inner child and to re-order her self-conception as it was inflicted on her.   Sure, for years in therapy I rehashed and complained…”They didn’t love me.  They were miserable and didn’t get the help they needed.  They abused me to release their own pain,” all of which is completely accurate.  It is accurate, but only in the abstract because other than the instances of the worst abuse, I have barely any memory of those years that include my parents.  I have memories of the people  who were kind and fun and brought joy into my life, but not of my parents.  So it is accurate to say they abused me for all the above reasons but there was a further truth available to me that is quite helpful and I hadn’t realized it until now.  And it only came about through a deep meditation, which brought up the real feelings of a 5 or 6-year-old girl left all alone most of the time trying to figure out how to make her parents love her.

My first real memory of myself at that age, and most of my memories of that period of life, when I am at “home” (their home), I am alone.  Invariably alone in my room playing.  But not just playing…I am learning to perform.  I am memorizing nursery rhymes so that my parents could put me on display for their friends.  I am teaching myself how to read music and play the organ (we didn’t have a piano at that time) also to provide them with bragging rights.  I am teaching myself how to read books way above grade-level.  The interesting part is no other adult is ever with me in these memories.  And it makes sense.  Because I know from my experiences when I was older and can remember more clearly, that my parent were so caught up in their own lives and with the new baby (who came when I was nearly 6), that no one had time for me unless I was performing.  Unless I was doing something extra special that they could brag to their friends about.  Otherwise, they had no use for me really.  “You are sullen and a cold fish,” I was told.  I didn’t smile enough.  “You have a sour disposition,” my father always said.  I think rather I was petrified that I’d run out of ways to get them to pay attention to me.  I wouldn’t be able to pull off the next “feat of strength” to win their love.  And since I believed him about being sour and that no one would ever love me, I had to make them love me.  Otherwise I’d always be alone.  Performing was the way to do that.  The alternative:  showing my pain, crying, needing something, now that was the worst behavior I could display.  Those methods of getting attention resulted in more abuse and ultimately punishment.  And punishment invariably took the form of isolation.  Consistent isolation for a child that age is torture.  And I remember it viscerally.  I was not welcome.  Only the “perfect” little girl got to leave her room and be a member of the family.  And even she was skating on thin ice.  She had no heroes in that household.  No advocate.  But thanks to the meditation work and the visualization of my adult self in that picture, keeping that little girl from feeling isolated, she is not feeling so alone these days.  She has a protector now.  Someone who thinks she’s amazing and tells her so.  And things don’t look so bleak through her eyes anymore.

Most importantly she is instructing me on how to be a better parent.  I feel almost like I can look out through my children’s eyes now and I know what they expect to see mirrored back at them.  I hope I live up to what they deserve.

I’m a Convert to Inner Child Work … Finally

Parenting while suffering from Depression and Anxiety.

How Do I Prevent Passing these Disorders Down to my Kids?

I am a mother of three.  Two girls, 14 and 12 and a son, 11.  I’ve suffered from Depression, Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and PTSD since I was a child.  I wanted children of my own so desperately and from my early 20’s made a pact with God (or my conception of God) that I would never parent any child of mine the way I was parented.  I did kind of hope (and this is awful) that I had boys because I was such a mess as a teenaged girl that I thought I could do better with boys.  But there was a different plan for me and now I’m on the cusp of having two teenaged girls in my house going through all that hormonal and brain-growth  related angst at virtually the same time!  When they were born I thought to myself, “OK, here’s my chance to do it over again my way and get it right…I can do this.”  I studied and went to therapy and prepared in every way I could think of.  Dear Lord, if reality could only be as simple as what we imagine in our heads.

When my children were younger it was much easier to cover up the symptoms of my depression and panic/anxiety and to pretend all was well with Mom.  Plus I worked outside the home, so I was out during the most stressful periods of my day…that is until I completely fell apart in 2012.  I’ll save that story for another day.  But at that point I had to give up my career and focus on my health for the sake of the children.  It was a major adjustment but quite necessary; I was simply disappearing into my depression and almost none of me was left to offer them.  So I left work and have been at home since that year.

That first year at home is a blur from all the doctors’ appointments and treatments.  I also attended a full time Trauma Program 5 days a week.  The myriad changes to my meds alone were enough to make me feel lost and almost invisible except for the disease.  The emotions were hard to hide from the children despite them still being pretty young, but we told them I was ill with Fibromyalgia (true) and that was causing me to be tired and “not myself,” (untrue).  My husband and I were blessed to be able retain in-home childcare for those occasions when I was completely wiped out and I truly believe that helped me get over that particular episode of illness without impacting them too badly.

The problem now, or rather I should say problems, is first the intractability of my disorder(s).  It is highly resistant to treatment and I can tell you I have had almost every one accepted by the medical community.  Now I’m into the realm of the experimental.  But I’m going for it because I know that I can feel better.  I can do better and I have gotten back my personality, my empathy and my overwhelming adoration for my children, some of which had been smothered by disease for a while.  I am moving forward.  I am doing a good job and I love my kids.  And this is being the best mom I can be.

The second problem, I cannot completely control.  Some part of this disease is heritable.   There is the never-ending nature vs. nurture debate, which applies to depression and anxiety as it does to so many diseases of both body and brain.  With all the research I could find, there are no exact figures or predictive models out there to tell you what the chances of passing this down are, just simply based on genetics.  Some doctors with throw out a 40% chance for girls and somewhat less for boys that they will inherit my depression.  But these figures are guesstimates and completely situation specific.  I can tell you I intend to nurture my way around those figures if it turns out the reality is even close to that high.

But therein lies core issue really… I have no model of my own for how to be a “nurturer.”  Both my parents were depressed and unwilling to get treatment.  Both had a tendency toward narcissism with its attending underlying lack of self-esteem, which was then turned on me.  They were emotionally and verbally abusive…often cruel.  My father was louder and meaner, my mother passive, sarcastic and always taking his side.  She had absolutely no instinct to protect me whatsoever so I don’t really know what that feels like.  Now that he’s gone, she took over his meanness.   She will never change.  Most never do.  So as I said, I had no model at home for how to nurture my children through their teenage years and into adulthood.  So what do I do?  Well first, I look to my husband, who is kind and compassionate and was the first person in my life to show me nurturance.  He teaches me daily how to be a better Mom.  Plus he thinks the sun rises and sets over his children’s heads, which sure as hell can’t hurt their self-esteem.

Beyond that I visualize the archetypal “good mother” in my head.  She comes to me in hard times and tells me it wasn’t my fault.  She says it doesn’t matter if my own parent’s couldn’t love, that was their problem. She tells me she will protect me and make sure I’m never hurt like that again.  And most of all she tells me I’m a good Mom.  For anyone who hasn’t seriously attempted this type of self-talk and visualization, I can’t do enough to convince you to try.  Whenever I have that twinge of anxiety or guilt about what I’m doing wrong with my kids or if I even know what I’m doing at all, I hear that calming voice (an amalgamation of my grandmother and a family friend I think) and I know I’m ok.  I can do it.  I love those children and that’s exactly what they need.

It’s happens to be exactly what I need too.

Parenting while suffering from Depression and Anxiety.

The Inner Critic vs. The Good Mother

“We internalize the quest for our flaws and watch ourselves in an evaluative and rejecting way.” (Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in Their Struggle for Self, Elan Golamb, PhD.

As a depressed and anxiety-ridden parent, I do watch myself and yes, quite often I am severely critical and rejecting of my performance. I have done what so many of us emotionally abused children do: I have internalized the constant parental criticism I received as a child and supply it for myself despite barely having any contact with the original perpetrators. I don’t need them anymore. For many years I still looked at them through a child’s eyes, searching for a sense of my value or worth, and maybe even some compassion. But I gave up on receiving any of that from them. They were incapable of that kind of love. And now what remains is my inner critic. It is the destroyer within who wants me to give up on myself and my own kids because “she” knows I’m going to fail. And for a long-time I’ve listened closely to that voice in my head. It didn’t help that until very recently when I cut my first family off, the voice was merely an echo of what was said in reality as well. But even with them mostly absent now, the voice remains. And is louder and meaner that either of my parents ever were.

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’ve not given up. I am fighting this with every imaginable tool available. Between various therapeutic techniques I use (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, EMDR), new drug regimes, Yoga and lots of heavy cardio exercise I feel like I am training to fight and kill the inner critic. It is a sneaky opponent though. It preys on me at my most weak. I hear it in my own frustrated voice, especially at the end of a long day, when my kids aren’t listening and on nights when I just don’t have the energy to fight. It sounds eerily like me parroting my Mother. And the moment I realize that, I shut it down. Because no matter what I do, I will never treat my children the way I was treated. I will never parent them with criticism and punishment, withholding affection and even communication. I will never scream at them as if they ruined my life…as if they were the cause of all my earthly problems.

No. As soon as I feel I’m at that level of anxiety, I’ll excuse myself and go take a hot shower or just lie in bed and breathe. I visualize the “good mother” in me that I’ve been practicing with. She gives me a hug and tells me I’m a great kid, and my parent’s couldn’t love me and that it wasn’t my fault. They were sick. She strokes my head and tells me she’ll protect me from that ever happening again. That I am finally safe. She tells me I am a good mother too. And that I can do this…that I can raise these amazing and (Thank God) happy kids. And that she is there for me when I need her. I have the “good mother” I always wanted now. And she’s on my side. And that fact alone is worth more than the world to me.

The Inner Critic vs. The Good Mother

Childhood Emotional Abuse: Get the Hell Over it Right?

I have wanted to write about my past for a few years now. But only for the last few years and never having the courage to do so. This despite so many therapists telling me how cathartic a process it would be for me. I’m in my middle 40’s now and have been getting this same advice since I first broke apart in 1995. I simply never saw the point in writing down all the ugliness. Instead, I let it bang around in my brain for the better part of the last 20 years, slowly making me sicker and sicker. Now it’s time for a release. I’m writing some down and I’m posting it so I know it’s out there somewhere. It will be outside of me, where it might be seen and contemplated by others.  It won’t be simply a letter to an unloving parent that never gets sent. I’m going to free the angst.   Just a little for now. Just to see how it works.


Of course, once you begin writing something like this, you start second guessing yourself. You think, for God’s sake, I’m 47 years old…Get the Hell Over it already! Your parents were hard, unhappy and angry people. They took it out on you. They crushed your spirit. But as my Doctor asked, at this point in my life, why am I allowing them to take up so much real estate in my head? My father’s been dead for 7 years now!!! The answer is I don’t know why I allow it, but this post may be step one to evicting them.


I’m going to start at the end (the present) because for today…for right now….all I can manage to get down on this virtual page is the fact that finally, after all these years, I accept that I cannot be near my “first family” anymore. I have PTSD from an emotionally and mentally abusive childhood. One in which there was almost no kindness or love and more disappointment and anger than any child should have to witness. My parents’ dislike for each other and their ability to blame me for their lives was topped only by the insanity of how they would come together long enough to abuse me. That much they had in common. That was what they shared. My father’s own self-loathing caused him to lash out verbally on a daily basis. He would tell me that no one would ever love me, I was a loser, “a big zero,” a nobody. I understand now that he did this out of his own self-hatred, but at the time he broke my spirit. And my mother watched, listened and usually did nothing. Sometimes though, she piled on.  Truthfully, she did love him I think. She didn’t respect him, but she loved him in a dysfunctional co-dependent kind of way. She needed his validation more than she needed me. I was sacrificed so she could keep up the charade that their marriage wasn’t based on bullshit.


“So what?” you might think…lots of people have this problem or worse! That’s probably true. But now I have children of my own to parent and the broken spirit is still alive in well in their Mom. And broken people don’t usually make great parents. I have PTSD as I mentioned, Depression with periods of suicidal ideation and suffered for decades with an Eating Disorder. For the last few years, I have tried everything known to science to get out of my depression and deal with the anxiety…and for the most part I have the tools I need to be well. To smile sometimes because I am truly happy and sometimes, through the pain. But all that has to happen is for my Mom to come around and make a snarky comment or two and I’m in bed for 3 days. I feel withered all over again. She is toxic to me and I have to accept that. My Doctors and my Husband have understood this dynamic for years but only recently have I come to understand that I cannot have her in my life because she will not ever change her behavior. She will never acknowledge my pain or take any responsibility for any of it. Deny, Deny, Deny.


Just last week when I was crying at the aspect of cutting off from my family, my Doctor simply said, “you are grieving because these people are dead to you, but they are dead to you because they NEVER REALLY EXISTED.” I am grieving the childhood I wish I had, and the parents I deserved. And as I grieve, I feel waves of pain wash over me bringing flashbacks of childhood memories, mostly bad, a handful good and with the pain of regret comes the nausea and the sense of loss even though it is the loss of something I never really had. It is like when a loved one dies and you feel the pain cycle through you over time. I can’t do this grieving without writing it. I share with my Husband but it’s hard for him. He doesn’t know what to say. He had loving parents. I told him my current mantra is “My Mother couldn’t love me and it wasn’t my fault.” He almost didn’t know what to say. It hurts him to know that’s how I feel. So rather than just keep dumping it on him, I’m writing it down. I’m posting it and I’m putting it out there. Maybe no one acknowledges and maybe someone does. I know there are so many with similar stories. I just have to believe for all of us, the pain subsides. The tide ebbs and with it, the pain.


Childhood Emotional Abuse: Get the Hell Over it Right?