real life

'I'm 50. And every day I struggle with the scars left by my cruel, angry mother.'

This post deals with emotional abuse and may be triggering for some readers. 

About one in five people live with the long-term impacts of childhood trauma. I don’t know what your trauma looks like. I know what it's like for me. For me, it feels like having no safe harbour as a child causes wild and stormy seas for life. 

I’m 50 now, and maybe making some progress. Some of the people I follow on Instagram talk about their long hard road to recovery. Usually, they’re in their 30s. Here I am, at 50, still struggling almost every day with some aspect of it.

I wasn’t sexually abused. I feel like that’s what most people think of when you say abuse. But abuse comes in many forms and sometimes it is not ‘big’.  

Watch: Women and violence: The hidden numbers. Post continues after video. 

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For me, my mother took every possible opportunity to lay the blame for her anger on me. Her anger was palpable. I’m ugly, fat, the one with the wrong colour skin, the least deserving.

I don’t deserve. 

I’m not what I should be. These labels bear no relation to what I actually look like or who I am – I know now they were an expression of the betrayal of her expectations of the way her life should be. 

My mum once told me that my dad and the doctor had conspired to swap her birth control pills and my birth was a mistake. She clarified that no, I definitely wasn’t an accident… I was a mistake.

Many of the things she said and did, I’ve blocked out. It’s a protective thing your mind does. I still do it – float off somewhere else when things are hard for me to work through.

I’m being very simplistic in my explanation here because each situation is really complicated and there are usually multiple factors in play. 

My dad really struggled with anger management. He did not hit us but his anger was physical and there were many holes in the wall at home. He stood by and let our mother say really horrible, awful things. Over and over and over. He sometimes tried to make things right but he wasn’t present enough, often enough, to make a difference.

So, as I said, I’m now 50. And this Christmas was the first since I separated from my husband and the first one that my kids have experienced where we are not in the same house. Yes, my issues contributed. So did his. Including how he did not notice how much I struggled.


I stayed over on Christmas Eve and hoped I would make it through to Boxing Day but I really couldn’t. The pressure built in my head throughout the day. The pressure in my chest that I used to think a loving family would fill expanded with the pain inflicted by my difficult childhood and adult liaison with my parents and my sister. 

I walked through the day with a physical ache in my chest and head. It feels like flu but this ache is grief. Sometimes it affects my stomach. I try to smile through the pain or ignore it but around 6pm on Christmas Day I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to leave. I could see my children in their own grief as I went. I sobbed all the way home. I want to be held like I held my own children when they cried (or still cry). I want to know what it's like to have the support of someone who cares for you unconditionally. 

I feel dead inside  – all that is left is grief. Grief because even though I’m 50 I still want a mum. But I’m not the right colour, the right build, the right person and I can’t seem to believe I deserve to be here. Grief because I want to believe I deserve something.

Listen to Kee Reece talk about being estranged from her parents on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues after. 

Sometimes I wonder if I can just stop, maybe I’m ‘just’ feeling sorry for myself. I don’t know if it's possible. I know I don’t want to live like this anymore.  

The only thing I do know is if you know and care about someone who you think may have suffered some kind of trauma, just be nice to them. Don’t judge them. Try to make it clear that you aren’t judging them and also that you like them. Make it clear that they are enough as they are. Don’t assume they know. Because they have convinced themselves in every single possible way that they aren’t enough, that everyone hates them and that they are awful people. You will have to do this over many times before they believe you. In their worst moments, they may need to know all over again. And again. This could be a lifelong conversation. It won’t be every day. But you need to know that you may have to revisit your kind words when things get bad for them.

Maybe they are being a drama queen. In which case, they will be relieved to know that (unless they are a narcissist, in which case keep walking). But maybe this is an ongoing seriously impactful part of the less than ideal upbringing they had. Reading a little and being thoughtful in your words and actions will mean more to them than you will know. It's not really a lot you need to do, just a little every so often.

For more information about childhood trauma, see The Blue Knot Foundation. Finding this organisation finally helped me understand I wasn’t alone. Except for days like today.  

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo from Getty.