It’s that time of the year again, #WorldMentalHealthAwarenessWeek!
I decided to join in by opening up a bit more & sharing some resources too. My mental health is far from fantastic and I suffer from Anxiety & Depression. I recently started CBT to help me with this. In doing so I have discovered my problems are much more than Anxiety and depression. I panic over the smallest things, I have nightmares and flashbacks, constantly feel guilty for EVERYTHING and after my most recent CBT session I’m pretty sure I have PTSD too. I’ve highlighted a few issues and things I can do to help my mental health which may helps others too. *May contain triggers
Along with chronic pain having a big effect on my mental health it turns out my childhood has had more of an effect than I realised. Discussing my issues with my therapist has made me realise so much that went on when I was growing up was wrong. I always tried to protect my ‘mother’ growing up. Knowing she’d had a rough childhood herself and moved down south to get away from it all, knowing my ‘father’ had beaten her, knowing she fought regularly with my brother’s dad and knowing she had mental health issues herself I always tried to defend her.
I always felt guilty somehow, my brother being in care felt like my fault, her struggling felt like my fault, her losing her temper felt like my fault. Surely I must have done something wrong to deserve it all? I’m starting to realise it wasn’t my fault how I was treated but I know it’s going to take a long time to get out of this way of thinking.
Explaining to other’s what that went on can be difficult, most of the time I’m convinced I won’t be believed. I mean come on! Seriously, who in their right mind lets their children know they are into BDSM. Who show’s off their ‘toy’s’ (whips, canes etc.) to their kid’s? I grew up thinking it was normal, at 14 I was learning to crack 6ft bullwhips. I won’t lie I thought it was cool, that part I still do! Trying to understand that lifestyle as a teen though obviously had some major effects.
Chatting to a few people about it this week has really helped me look at my childhood in a different way. I’ve felt ashamed opening up about my past but I’m beginning to see it isn’t me who should be ashamed! I didn’t ask to be brought up that way, I was a child who had no choice in what went on around me.
With my brother going into care & my ‘mother’ out most of the time at clubs of events, I spent a lot of time alone. I watched her go through so many relationships some ‘vanilla’ some very much not so. It’s only recently I have realised this had such an impact on my relationships.
I found it hard to trust, or feel and most of the time just became obsessed with an excuse to be out the house. Of course this meant I was selfish, didn’t care about her or the fact my brother was in care. I broke up with people simply because I couldn’t deal with the stress and moaning at home. It was easier to be lonely.. less stressful. I was always told no man would ever love me & they only wanted one thing. I couldn’t put my trust into anyone fully.
When a close family friend died the day before my 18th birthday my world literally fell apart. That man had stood by us through so many problems, he stood up for me on more than one occasion and I knew without him there things would spiral out of control at home. After this I tried to overdose several times. Luckily I failed, after the first 50 odd tablets I tried I kept throwing up and eventually I slept it off.
Friendships Growing Up
I struggled to make friends growing up always being the weirdo’s kid but I did at least make a few over the years. Some were disgusted by what my ‘mother’ got up to but chose to ignore it, other’s were slightly interested and thought it was ‘cool’. The kids in our street all knew quite young what she got up to and I can imagine their parents were horrified.
By the time I hit my teen years only one other parent would talk to her & I think that was more for us, she covered for me a few times saying I was sleeping over or having dinner with them so I could get out for a night. I remember one huge argument between my ‘mother’ and her boyfriend, freshly laid patio being smashed up, plants & pots flying everywhere, me & my brother were so upset and confused. I grabbed my bear ‘Bestie’ (The girls now have him!) and my brother and stood in the street crying, this friends mum took us in for a few hours to get us away from it.
As a teen people thought my ‘mother’ was cool for a while but then they started to encourage me to leave home. Bit by bit people were seeing what she was like when we were home alone. The majority of people I knew all felt I needed to get out as soon as possible, part of me wishes I listened sooner but it’s difficult to believe you aren’t just an awful teen causing problems!
I guess I’m glad I stayed so long as I might not have got back with the Mr and have our gorgeous girls. The day I did get brave enough to leave we had an argument, I was pinned to the bed and when she raised her fist I got brave. ‘Go on fucking hit me!’ This made her back off physically and instead she started screaming at me how I was such a horrible person, how I hated her & my brother, I’d ruined their lives because I was so selfish. She got ready to leave for work screaming how she was going to go jump in front of the train and kill herself because that’s what I wanted.
Panicking I sat in my room sobbing until the front door shut. I couldn’t do it anymore, whether it was her or me causing these problems I just couldn’t carry on living that way. I called the council explained everything & was told I needed to head to Women’s aid as what had just gone on was classed as domestic abuse. Because of my age social services couldn’t help.
Even after that call I still felt like everything was my fault. I thought I was causing her to have this temper and ruining everything for her. If I wasn’t there that solved the problem for her. I wrote a letter apologising for being such an awful daughter. Writing how I hoped me leaving would mean we could build a better relationship, not being on top of each other. I left my keys with the letter packed a bag with a few essentials & my birth certificate & headed to women’s aid.
As I got to the women’s aid centre I got a call which I was told to ignore as she would have just discovered I’d left and be angry. They were right and I quickly got a text saying if I couldn’t ‘be bothered’ to answer the phone not to bother her again. I didn’t contact her again after that and it took another 3 months before she discovered a diary of mine and called me. She had read a paragraph loosely mentioning I had been abused and she wanted to know what had gone on. I still felt guilty and told her nothing, I made out it was me being scared after we had been burgled.
I felt so guilty after that call that I agreed to meet up with her in London. We met and things were ok for almost a year, I fell pregnant with Eva and she showed interest & helped me out where she could. At this point my brother was in Northampton after several suicide attempts. It was difficult to visit him especially after a C-section with a new born to look. I had a chat with his social worker and we agreed on a home visit at our flat. We would have to be checked out by Social services and have the flat looked over for escape routes etc. I figured this would be better for him anyway, in a more comfortable setting.
Our ‘mother’ wasn’t allowed home visits, looking back it’s not surprising! I talked to the social worker and managed to get her to agree to our ‘mother’ being there too since it was supervised contact. We had a great day and took loads of pictures for us all to look back on. I had high hopes that this family setting would help us all be a little closer.
Giving Up For Good
I was asked to email over the photo’s to our ‘mother’ so I did. The next morning I got a rather aggressive text demanding I sent the photo’s. I replied to say I had sent them but would try again. She refused to believe I had sent them as she hadn’t received them. I sent screenshots of the sent messages & she blew up at me saying she had told me it needed to go to her work email not her personal one as she could only access her work one.
By this point I was in tear but sent the pictures to the correct account whilst still receiving abusive messages. I’d apparently not sent her the pictures because I hated her. Apparently I thought she was a shit mum and didn’t deserve pictures of her family. No matter how much I tried to explain I had sent them, I was wrong. Even when I realised she wanted them sent to her work email and did that it still wasn’t good enough.
The argument quickly took to Facebook where she tried to embarrass me which she seemed to enjoy doing. The Mr had had enough at this point. He’d seen what she was like when I was living with her. He had also seen how it affected me and how hard I tried to please her. He stepped in and told her to stay away from his family from now on. I haven’t spoken to her since and never want to again. I gave up for good on that day.
The Mr has been absolutely amazing and helped me through a lot of issues. He has had to put up with so much because of my dysfunctional upbringing. When things started to get worse with chronic pain on top of everything else it caused a lot of problems. I reverted back to being extremely defensive and told him to leave far too many times. He shared this article with me the other day and I have to say it explains anxiety in relationships so well! I actually felt less guilty for reading it. He doesn’t deserve to go through it & it’s difficult for him just as it is for me but it can’t be helped. I can honestly say the Mr has had a great impact on my life though and has stuck by me through some of my biggest crashes. I have a lot of issues to continue working through which will take time. The Mr has already helped me massively, but it definitely hasn’t been the easiest ride.
Whilst CBT and the Mr are helping me I need to help myself too. Self care is majorly important for our mental health. Growing up to believe I was selfish means I struggle badly with self care. Usually I have to find ways to justify doing something for me. It has to somehow help someone else too or do some good. I’m slowly working on this though and trying not to feel guilty doing something for myself or something I enjoy. I’ve been conditioned to think nothing but negative thought’s about myself. I hope eventually I can kick these negative thoughts. I’m looking into mindfulness and ways to look after myself & have some me time to help.
Talk about it
Blogging has been a big help, somewhere to rant and ramble when I need to. Uplifting comments & people understanding what I’m going through has helped a lot. I’ve overcome a lot of the years and have a lot more to work through. I still have nightmares that wake the Mr, violently hitting out & screaming in my sleep. Explaining a lot of this and reading up on guilt, shame, anxiety has pointed me in the direction of PTSD. Due to my nightmares & flashbacks the Mr also seems to think I have PTSD.
I’m slowly beginning to realise none of it was my fault. I was a child and not in control at all. I’m beginning to realise it’s not normal for a child to find out about BDSM so young. Seeing people walk around dressed up (or not so dressed up!) and hearing/seeing people being beaten messes your head up. Regardless of the fact it was 2 consenting adults, a child shouldn’t be seeing that.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family leaves it’s mark for the rest of your life. You are probably wondering how I’ve managed to find positives. I know it’s affected me negatively. I also like to think it’s made me a better person in some ways too though. I’m more open minded than a lot of people I know. I’m the first to admit when I mess something up. I love my girls to the moon & back and make sure I hug and kiss them always. Affection was something we lacked growing up. Cuddles were extremely awkward. We were told it made her feel ‘dirty’. I think I remember being hugged maybe 5 times growing up. I hate how that felt even now and I promised both my girls the day they were born I would smother them in love, hugs & kisses for the rest of their lives!
It was a struggle to believe for a long time the Mr loved me, I didn’t see how he could. Now I know that I’m extremely lucky. He DOES loves me & would do anything for me which he’s proven time after time over the last 8 years. He’s stuck by me and supported me through some rough times even when I’ve been a complete bitch.
Whilst I don’t have a lot of friends those I do have I would do ANYTHING for! I understand when friends are down and need to just be around people even if we don’t talk. I know sometimes people need to rant essays at me and don’t want a real response just something to let them know you are there, you are listening, you do understand they are struggling & they have somewhere to vent.
It’s taken a long time for me to finally reach out properly and get professional help. Always believing I’d be wasting their time! Now I realise just how messed up my head is and how important getting help is. Get a referral if you can. It may take a while but do what you can in the meantime to get help, take time out for you, there are online sites & telephone lines to help anyone struggling too.