Mother’s Day is a tricky one for me

It reminds me of the obvious lack of mother in my own life. It’s now been so long since I saw her face, I can’t even properly remember what it looks like. It poses a mixed bag of emotions every time a so-called special day presents itself.

Mother’s Day. Birthdays. Anniversaries. The last time I saw her. The last time we communicated.

I estranged myself from my mother several years before I started having children. I coped with a full on mental breakdown, and hit rock bottom with no family support whatsoever. I have been through so much without her by my side. I’ve essentially become a different person to the one she raised. A better person. I have taught myself how to function in the world, and how to be nice. To not immediately assume the worst in everyone, and think they’re all out to get me.

 

I grew up in a world where Jimmy Saville would fix all your problems, and Gary Glitter wanted you to be part of his gang. Where primary school kids had access to porn films and 8yo girls had their innocence stolen on a daily basis. 😔 I grew up in a world where comparison wasn’t always the thief of joy, and in fact sometimes knowing that others had it so much harder was a good thing for me. 😔 I grew up in a world where the WORST happened, and I got to the point where I could no longer forgive and forget. I made the hardest decision I’ve ever made (to date) when I was 26 years old (I’m now 38). 😔 Motherhood without a mum is more heartbreaking than I could ever articulate. On any given day I’ll flit between knowing I’ve made the right decision to desperately hoping I was wrong and wanting her to beat my door down. To say “I’m here now, and everything will be ok!” The words I know without doubt my dear grandma would have said, given half the chance. 😔 So if you’re struggling with similar issues please email me and I’ll send you a copy of Become the Best You. Had I read the book I wrote when I was on the edge, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have fallen down a deep, dark hole.

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I know her hands were tied a lot of the time. She was young and inexperienced when she brought me in the world at eighteen. She was still reeling from her own tragic childhood of loss and abuse. No-one helped her conquer her demons. She got webbed up with men who treated her terribly, and the rest is history.

There was my biological father – who had an affair with my mother while he was engaged to the woman who he calls his wife to this day. A woman who does not know I even exist (but that is a different story for another day). Then there was my step-father who was beyond messed up from his own horrific childhood. Who prided himself on never beating his woman, but failed to see the emotional torment he put her through. She was absolutely terrified of him.

The day he punched me in the face and almost broke my nose freed me from that world

It was my chance to get out, and even though I was only fifteen, I knew I had to grab it with both my bloody hands. I was literally covered in blood, looked like I had been shot.

She was in pieces. Didn’t want me to leave but knew that I had to. You see that punch in the face was the mere icing on the top of a huge, multi layered cake made exclusively of shit. The constant moving which had screwed up my education. The boys who abused me as a small child. The boy from my school who molested me at a sleepover and bragged about it to his mates (the shame of which led to an overdose). The chronically stressful life that had been put upon me by the grown ups who acted like anything but.

She knew I had to leave, but can you imagine the pain of allowing your teenage daughter to walk out the door? With no schooling behind her. With hardly any money in her pocket. Just the hope that she would be safe at your sisters house, even though her husband at the time was a predator you did not trust?

Trouble is, even after I left home I was perpetually called upon to be her saviour. When the electricity had been cut off for the umpteenth time, I would send money. When she was at her wits’ end with my half brother, I would rush back. When my half-sister was suicidal because she was bullied at school, I would be there for them all. And in the end those relationships became beyond toxic. They saw me as good old Reneé. I’d always be there for them, no matter how badly they treated me.

mother's dayI don’t hold grudges these days. I used to, but writing Become the Best You helped me let go of the last of those feelings

I don’t look back upon those days in anger, I just feel sad about them (and mostly for her). There is no doubt in my mind that the decision to not have them in my life was (and is) a good one. Now that I have challenging children of my own I have more empathy for her and those days than ever before. 

And that’s the trouble with Mother’s Day. It brings it all to the surface, like the disgusting pus filled, hormone driven spot on my chin that just won’t be popped and do one. It keeps coming back, redder, with more pus than before.

So this is for all the mums out there coping with their silent battles.

Who look at the social media version of Mother’s Day and want to cry a river, even if they manage not to.

Especially the ones who are mothering without a mama, and although they have made peace with their situation, have days when it hurts like hell. 

I’m a heart on sleeve wearing open book

That much is obvious from the candidness of this here blog. As well as my first book, which people have claimed was the catalyst for them changing their life. Minor thing right? Wrong! It’s a bloody big deal. 

The people who know things (?) say we shouldn’t expect other people to behave the way that we do. That we need to get to grips with the fact that we can’t control the way other’s think or their actions towards us. In fact fully grasping this was a big turning point for my mental health after my second breakdown in 2006. However, I’ve been truly shocked by other people’s behaviour this past year, utterly lost for words many times (as a writer that is saying something).

So I feel it’s appropriate to share this piece right now. Because if you want to cross the line into my real world, or are already a part of it, there are a few basic rules I’d like you to adhere to. 

Basic rules of life 

heart on sleeve wearing open bookPlease do not smile sweetly to my face, then bitch about me behind my back. As far as I’m concerned, integrity is everything, so if you have a problem with me, or my kids, let’s talk about it. I don’t think it’s expecting too much for you to come to me with your grievances, so we can discuss them like adults. At thirty eight and a half I am an adult, and everyone I interact with is also an adult. Act like one.  

I don’t ask for help lightly, if I do it’s because I am desperate. I had two mental breakdowns in my twenties, and have had numerous cycles of depression throughout my life. I can sense the black clouds when they are looming. I try exceptionally hard to stay positive, but with my days being as chronically stressful as they are, this is a monumental task. 

When a person has estranged themselves from their entire family, it means they have had to make unimaginably difficult decisions. Don’t judge me for them, have compassion and try to understand what would drive a person to do that in the first place. 

While we’re on the subject of judgement, until you’ve truly walked in my shoes, your unsolicited opinion is rarely welcome. Genuinely helpful advice, yes please. Constructive criticism which will enable me to become a better person, hell yeah. Anything else? Zip your lips and throw away the key. 

Me talking openly about my struggles is not attention seeking. In fact I often end up in floods of tears when people tell me how inspirational I am for doing so. Give me a compliment about my hair being swishy then I’ll smile politely and say thank you. Tell me that you think I’m amazing for daring to openly go where most others can’t/won’t, then I will cry. But let me be explicit here: when you spend as much time feeling as broken as I do, you don’t feel very inspirational. Quite the opposite. 

But above all else… 

Don’t be a disappointment. Don’t tell me you’re a friend but find any excuse you can to not spend time with me. Don’t disappear for months then come back and give me some flimsy reason as to why you couldn’t return my text messages. 

Life is hard, that much is clear. But when are surrounded by awesome people, it gets so much easier. I don’t allow everyone I meet into my world, far from it. I’m selective, I like to feel that my friendships are genuine and a two way street. If it all starts feeling a bit too one-sided, then I’m going to take it personally. Ten years ago, fresh out the other side of mental breakdown and true rock bottom, I thought I had all this sussed out. However, as I said at the start, this past year has properly opened my eyes.

They say that in the end everyone is just trying to save themselves, but I think this mindset is making us selfish. At what point should we put what we want to one side and just be there for the ones we supposedly love most in our lives? I don’t have all the answers, but I do hope this piece starts a conversation.

 

My mental health has taken a battering in the last six months or so. I used to be great at plastering on a fake smile and pretending I was ok, but now, not so much. In the same way that my daughter gets emotionally burnt out from masking her autism, I think I too have become emotionally burnt out. I’m also concerned that I might have PTSD brewing. The warning signs are there, plain as day. ♥️ As I mentioned in my previous post, our January has been all kinds of horrendous: Sickness ✅ Meltdowns every day ✅ Sleep thievery a newborn baby would be proud of ✅ Crippling overwhelm ✅ Feeling like I’m failing in every aspect of my life ✅ The list could go on, but you get the picture? ♥️ Half the people I know tell me I should be demanding help from those in a position to give it. The other half clearly think I’ve done too much moaning already and need to (wo)man up. The edges are getting blurry, that much is obvious, but I do know this. Others find my candidness comforting, and that counts for a lot in this over-filtered often fake world we live in. ♥️ I had numerous messages after posting a me too last year, from women thanking me for being their voice. Women who were traumatised by the abuse they’ve suffered silently, because coming out would destroy their families. People have said that my self-help book/memoir gave them the impetus to change their lives for the better. That my blog posts touch them in a way other words simply don’t. This is why I will continue to talk openly about my struggles for as long as I’m on social media. There’s only so long that you can pretend you’re ok (when you’re not) before the wheels start falling off. ♥️ So it was rather apt that the PR team for #GetTheInsideOut asked me to spread the word about their brilliant campaign aimed to get people talking about their mental health. A problem shared is a problem halved after all. Check out the hashtag for more details…

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Sometimes the term survivor of abuse makes me cringe

Other times it chokes me up, leaving me wanting to bawl my eyes out, or rock myself in the corner. I dislike it so much because it implies victim status, but I’ve come to see that this label is inescapable. 

It is what it is, because no matter how hard we try to make our tomorrows brighter, we can not erase yesterday. Us survivors carry the scars of the past around, like invisible (or visible) wounds of the battlefield. These scars are etched into our souls, and haunt us while we are sleeping.

Being the survivor of abuse can (almost certainly) damage our confidence. It can make us feel that every single little thing is our fault, even when we’ve done nothing wrong. It can leave us questioning our abilities in ourselves, to the point of feeling totally incompetent. The smallest task can feel like having to climb the biggest mountain.

Scratch beneath the surface

Underneath the bravado, and positive thinking, there’s more than likely a little girl or boy dying inside of us. Failure can to be great as a learning experience, but it can also lead to feeling that nothing we do, or ever will do, will be good enough.

The weight of responsibility on these shoulders of ours can drag us so far down into a hole that it seems impossible that we’ll ever find the resources to climb out. Each situation we fail at we’re reminded of all those times we were implicit in our own abuse. All those times we should have said no, even though saying no probably wouldn’t have made the blindest bit of difference.

The #metoo hashtag only scratches the surface

However, it’s highlighted that we have a very deep rooted problem on our hands. So many of us have suffered, and for a lot of us that suffering was in silence for too many years.  

So this blog is for all those who were taught from the youngest of ages not to ‘air their dirty laundry in public.’

For those who were led to believe that their abuse was their own fault, and suffered in silence.

For those who are afraid to speak up for fear of outing their family members, causing fights or making others feel uncomfortable because of their words. 

For those who carry the scars, and do everything in their power not to pass those scars on to their children.

An Open Letter to the Survivor of Abuse

survivor of abuseDear Survivor,

I hope you aren’t offended by me calling you this, for you truly are a survivor. You may not have had to slay zombies or save the world, but after going through what you did as a kid, you’ve earned that title.

What ever form(s) of abuse you suffered, be it sexual, physical or emotional, will have left you with demons. If you haven’t already acknowledged them, then the time has come to do so. 

For once we make peace with our past it frees up all the associated baggage, and allows us to move forward with our lives.  

By baggage of course I’m referring to the guilt. The never ending guilt that us survivors carry around.

The shame of being abused. Of having our innocence robbed from us at such a young age. The coulda shoulda woulda thinking about what if… 

We must make peace with all that went before, so we can make our worlds a brighter place for our own children. It’s vital for them, we owe it to them to be the best we can possibly be. So do this for their sake. Whether they are already here, or just a twinkling in your eyes.  

Slow down. Take a breath. And be honest with yourself.

Are you drinking too much? Taking drugs? Going out and getting hammered every other night? Are you sleeping around in the hope that someone, anyone will show you some real love? Are you starving yourself, binging or comfort eating? Are you in tons of unnecessary debt? Are you cutting yourself just to feel something? 

You will find a way to undo whatever damage is being done by your own self-destructive behaviour.  

You deserve happiness

YES. YOU. DO!

First, you must start being kind to yourself. 

Find a creative outlet, take up a hobby, eat well, exercise, look after your mental health. Stop the negative thoughts in their tracks. Do not let those thoughts control you.   

If you have people in your life that are still taking advantage of you, then know they are toxic and need to be walked away from. You must find the strength from somewhere to cut the ties.   

You might not have much clarity right now, but as soon as you have made vital changes you will start to see things clearly. You’ll come to realise what you need to do to turn it all around.

Eventually you will forgive yourself. 

Cherish the wonderful folk who’ve proved themselves worthy of a place in your life. If you don’t have any yet, then know you will make real friends once you have moved on from the quagmire of shit you have had to pull yourself out of.  

Time will be always be the best and truest healer. If you can summon the strength to get through this next bit it will pass.

Don’t let those bastards who robbed your childhood win. Sending love and strength your way.

For anyone who posted who has posted a #metoo status this past week

 

When I posted my #metoo status on Monday I said that there were no words necessary, but I’ve changed my mind. The words are absolutely necessary. ♥️ I was eight years old when my abuse started. The same age as my eldest daughter is now, and the thought of any of my kids, or anyone else’s kids going through what I did terrifies me to my very core. ♥️ I used to convince myself that what I went through wasn’t that bad, and they were just teenage boys experimenting. I know people who went through so much worse, which meant I didn’t have the right to complain. But looking back all I can think is: I was 8 or 9 and they were 15 or 16. And that is NOT OKAY. Not even a little bit. ♥️ The abuse wasn’t simultaneous, it occurred separately. One used to take advantage while he was babysitting. The other was a ‘family friend’ and lived with us after his mother chucked him out. He was obsessed with my mum and used to crack on to her at every opportunity. If only she had known what he was up to while she was fending off his unwanted advances. ♥️ When I was younger, I had zero self respect. I was promiscuous. I got myself into ridiculously bad situations. I was once found running down a dual carriageway with no shoes on screaming “help, he’s going to kill me!” Truly horrifying. ♥️ Unfortunately sexual abuse wasn’t the only abuse I suffered as a child, and it’s all had a lasting impact. One of my best friends tells me that although I’ve been through more than most other people she knows, I’m one of the most grounded people she knows. The thing is though, this year, I’ve not been feeling so grounded. I often find myself thinking: if only you could see the contents of my mind. ♥️ I’ve been through therapy. I’ve healed my broken heart. I’ve patched up my aching soul. I’ve written a self-help book to help others on their journey. But still the pain, the torment, and ultimately the shame stays with me. ♥️ I’ve had a blog post in draft for months titled ‘when you are the survivor of abuse’ but I’m having trouble getting the words out. Maybe I will find them this week, who knows? ♥️ Big love to everyone who posted #metoo! Let’s hope that our kids will never know the same suffering.

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Would you like a FREE copy of my memoir/self-help book Become the Best You for #WMHD17?

I often question my motivation for writing, and frequently ask myself what the point of all the sharing is. I have wondered many times whether it actually makes a difference.

The short answer is yes it does.

I might not have a million plus followers, but people regularly get in touch to tell me that I’ve helped improve their well being. They say that my words have made them feel validated and heard. That I’ve brought a smile to their face, even if it’s sometimes through tears. Just take a look at the heartfelt comments on this post if you need proof. 

So I’d like to give you a gift today, for world mental health day. I wrote Become the Best You mostly for my own catharsis, but also to help others who are going through a rough time.

Become the Best You details the rocky road I travelled before settling down, getting married and having children

#WMHD17For those who are new to my story, I had a severely dysfunctional childhood, and troubled leap into adulthood at just fifteen. In the book I talk candidly about the decision to cut ties with my family.

As well as going through two mental breakdowns in my twenties, and hitting rock bottom. I talk about every thing I did during that time, to turn my life around.

I truly believe that going through this process before having kids is the only reason I am able to now cope with my chronically stressful life.

The book has 40 mostly five star reviews on Amazon, and is now available to buy directly right here. Check out this article to learn more. 

“It’s not just a self-help book, it’s a manual for life!” – Michelle Reeves

What you need to do to claim your e-book version of Become the Best You

  • subscribe to my mailing list
  • if you are already a subscriber, send me a quick email to mummytries@gmail.com 

Cards on the table: I have been in a seriously dark place for most of this year

I kind of broke, which sounds ridiculous, but I’m not allowed to fully break am I? Not with three kids at home. I came closer than I ever imagined I would though, and it terrified the life out of me.

Having experienced mental breakdown twice already, I’m no stranger to the dark place. I know the warning signs. Sometimes they are helpful, and other times they just make me feel worse.

A toxic, negative rut

My biggest problem was that the toxic thoughts inside my head became all consuming. I found it impossible to count my blessings and focus on the good. I was deeply engrossed in a cycle of negativity, and could only see disaster everywhere I looked.

I became bleak about the direction my family was going in, and what the future held. I was catastrophising and couldn’t snap out of it. I started fantasising about running away, and not just for a weekend.

dark placeHow did things get so bad?

Back in March, as we headed into Spring, I was full of optimistic hope. We’d decided that school wasn’t for Clara, and were happy with the idea of home educating her. It felt like we were making massive progress with Polly. Freddy was going through a particularly wonderful phase.

Then a series of unfortunate events occurred, and every time I picked my little family up, something else would happen to knock us back down.

It started with Polly smashing up her front (adult) teeth on a slide at the park, then three months followed where it was literally one thing after another. Including the shock, not to mention heartbreak, of being ghosted by a person I considered to be one of my very best friends.

I was done for

I had no motivation for anything over and above the bare essentials. Or as the infamous lyric in Amy Winehouse’s Rehab goes:

“I just think you’re depressed.”

Another couple of months passed, and I found myself drinking far too much. Reaching for the wine or gin bottle multiple times a week, to drown my sorrows. This led to comedown type hangovers, leaving me feeling totally despondent, drinking endless cups of coffee to try and perk me the next day.

I did not like what I saw in the mirror. As I’ve already said, I’ve been here before. It wasn’t pretty then, and it was even uglier this time around. For the first time since becoming a mum, I questioned whether I was capable of doing this job.

There was only one thing for it: GAPS!

Call it a detox, call it a cleanse. I like to call it the ultimate reset, and it worked a treat. Check out my other blog if you’re interested in the full details.

Suffice it to say that I’m now feeling much better, and I can’t tell you how great it is to be able to say this.

After hitting rock bottom, and turning my life around in 2006/07, I honestly thought the dark place was behind me. This year has proved that it can happen to any of us, at any point.

So for the stressed out mama’s and papa’s among us, make sure you look after you. If you sense the grey clouds looming, and the dark place coming, do anything and everything in your power to stop them in their tracks.

Take every opportunity you can grab for self care. Eat well, and nourish your body and mind. Do more of the things that make your heart sing. Feed your creative soul. Do not feel guilty about having time away from the kids. If you don’t put your oxygen mask on first, and save yourself, you don’t stand a chance of helping anyone else.

The deeper you fall, the harder it is to pull yourself out of the hole.

**Huge thanks to Unsplash for the gorgeous photots.**