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. 

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 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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does your child think rape is funny?I read a deeply disturbing article today. About the rape of a 15yo girl being broadcast via Facebook Live. If that wasn’t bad enough, she is now being harassed online, and told she’ll be got at again. Unsurprisingly she is too terrified to go home, and is staying with relatives.

The thing I find most troubling is that the kids watching thought it was funny

That raping another human being amounted to nothing more than teenage kicks. That they would be so brazen about doing this unthinkable thing, that they’d stream it live on the internet. I don’t know about you, but my head feels like it wants to explode right about now.

The worst part is that it’s not the first time I’ve read a story like this. Just last week I read something similar. The girl was gang raped by boys, whilst girls watched. She was then harassed and physically assaulted by the girls some time afterwards. She tried to get past the atrocities that we’re inflicted upon her, but couldn’t. In the end she took her own life because she couldn’t live with the pain.

Every day it seems horror stories like this are appearing

Kids being bullied so badly that their only escape is suicide. A nine year old hung himself recently. Nine? Polly will be nine next year, and I can’t even bring myself to imagine what this would be like. 

I myself am no stranger to bullying. I was bullied horribly in several of the eight schools I went to as a kid. I even took an overdose as a cry for help. Bullying has been around forever. It’s an unfortunate fact that some people pick on the weak and vulnerable to make themselves feel better. To make them feel strong and powerful.

Here’s the thing though: only cowards bully. Only cretins of the highest order make others suffer to make themselves feel good. Only the truly weak among us would hurt the vulnerable

does your child think rape is funny? Bullying has changed though. It’s constant now. It’s in school, on the way to school, on the way home from school. It’s on Whatsapp groups and on social media. It’s on seemingly harmless online games that our kids have to play otherwise they’ll feel left out.

And it would seem that when that gets boring and doesn’t quite scratch the itch, these bullies are moving onto violence of hideous proportions.

Rape. The ultimate violation of another human being

Is it the easy access to porn that is to blame? Just like bullying, porn has always been around. I wrote a blog a few years back saying that I feel porn played a role in my own sexual abuse as a child. Now that anyone who owns a phone can get their hands on porn, it certainly raises alarm bells in my head.

So my question is, dear readers, what are your kid’s views on rape? Because there comes a point where us parents cannot sit back and deny all knowledge of what our children are up to. It’s on us to teach them right from wrong. That’s our job.

It’s up us to monitor what our children are doing

Most parent in this day and age live in fear that their child will be bullied, but what about the other side of the coin? Someone’s child is doing the bullying. We can’t just sit back and sleepwalk into this horrendous situation. We need to stop it in its tracks before it goes too far.

I haven’t got the answers, far from it, but I would urge you to watch this video. Lucy Alexander lost her son Felix when he committed suicide after seven years of abuse

My heart goes out to all these victims and their families. It’s times like this that I truly question what kind of world we’re living in.

sibling bullyingThis is very much the article I’ve been putting off writing. I’m sure there will be a backlash. An air of ‘you shouldn’t have said that…’ I’m tired though, I’m exasperated, and I need these words out of my head. For my own catharsis if nothing else.

Every single day, my high functioning autistic eldest daughter Polly bullies her younger brother and sister, and her behaviour is tearing our family to shreds. 

People ask me if I think our lives would be easier without autism in it, and my honest answer is: YES I DO!

I know I shouldn’t be saying things like this.

I should say that we’re grateful and blessed, then go on to tell you all about the wonderful qualities that autism brings to our world. It would be nothing more than barefaced lies though. All I can think of is the strain that autism has brought, the pressure it has placed upon our relationships. I’m loathe to use the word blame, but so far autism hasn’t brought us any happiness.

I can only live in hope that one day it will.   

Now don’t get me wrong, I genuinely couldn’t care less what society thinks. No, really I couldn’t. If someone gives me a look in the play park because my kids are kicking off, or a so-called friend is unsupportive because of a disagreement at a play date, then it’s water off a ducks back. I feel for my neighbours sometimes because of the noise levels, but that doesn’t keep me awake at night.

What I care about is the misery going on inside my four walls

Polly’s autism is completely invisible to most, and the way it manifests itself is when she feels overwhelmed for whatever reason. This time last year, the biggest cause of stress and anxiety for her was school. So we removed it, and have been home educating her. Although she is a ‘different child’ in many respects – calmer overall, has a fraction of the meltdowns that she used to, and sleeps much better than ever before – unfortunately one thing hasn’t changed. It’s the biggest cause of unhappiness in our family, and seems to be getting worse as the months pass.

The way she treats Clara (4½) and Freddy (2½) is appalling.       

We have invested so much time in trying to equip Polly with coping mechanisms. We know her meltdown triggers, and how to stop them in their tracks. We know the people who bring out the best in her, and the people she should avoid. We have a diet so squeaky clean most of the time, it makes us seem saintly to our friends. Everyone comments on how well she is doing, and the truth is, in most areas, things are going swimmingly for her.

But.

There is no way to dress this up. 

When Polly is frustrated, or angry at life, she abuses her siblings  

She lashes out, destroys their games, throws hard toys at their heads. She becomes unjustifiably indignant when they don’t want to play with her, which more often than not sparks off another round of violence. The kicking, the hitting, the throwing. The blood curdling screams that make my ear drums feel like they are about to explode, and my head feel like it’s going to split open.

It’s not constant, as it was once was, and my children are capable of playing together so beautifully it makes me want to weep, but the outbursts can come out of nowhere, and leave us all totally shell shocked. It’s worth mentioning that Polly does not behave this way towards anyone else. She is adorable around her friends, and takes care of their younger siblings. She would never dream of hurting them, she has told me this herself.

If she can control her violent urges around friends, why can’t she show the same constraint around her brother and sister? 

We’ve tried all the tricks. Going to the little ones and ignoring Polly’s behaviour, but she cannot handle being ignored, and this makes her lash out even more. We’ve tried giving her immediate consequences, but she doesn’t seem to make the correlation between what she’s done and what happened next.

I know my own behaviour doesn’t help sometimes – I lose my temper and shout, so does my husband. We are prone to getting embroiled in negative cycles, feeding off each other’s frustration and showing an awful lack of empathy towards each other. It’s no secret how little sleep we get most nights, but this is no excuse. Ultimately we know all the things we should be doing, but it’s not always possible to stay calm and do them. We’re not blameless by any stretch of the imagination, but we are also not robots.

I wonder how any marriage survives small children, let alone autism. 

I had a breakthrough with Polly the other day, after yet another incident, after everyone had calmed down. She told me outright that she doesn’t like seeing her sister being so happy, because she feels that she isn’t able to be that happy herself. My heart actually broke a little bit, because I have suspected as much for a very long time now.

What on earth are we supposed to do with this information?  

beautiful clara belle

photo credit: Le Coin de Mel

 

When your younger children suffer because of your eldest

In the midst of concentrating so much energy on Polly, our younger two have suffered massively. A lady at the nursery Clara and Freddy went to briefly told me that she also has three kids, her eldest being autistic. They are adults now, but she said looking back it feels as if the little ones had to bring themselves up. Her words caught in my throat and brought tears to my eyes. I willed myself not to cry in front of this woman who has so visibly been hardened by life’s challenges. 

The truth is that our once carefree, happy go lucky four year old is broken at the moment. She is unable to cope with her sister’s meanness. She screams and throws and hits and kicks. It can feel at points that she has forgotten how to play with other kids. If she’s upset she will have the mother of all meltdowns, in front of people or in private. She doesn’t ‘hold it together’ like her sister does.    

Clara has gone from being our best sleeper, to refusing to go to bed until both Polly and Freddy are asleep. I’m convinced that it’s because she knows it’s the only one on one mummy/daddy time she will get that day. We feel the only chance for her to get some respite is to send her to school, which we are begrudgingly doing from September.

Worried doesn’t even come close to how I’m feeling about the situation. 

But, I’m trying to remain positive. 

Have you been in this position? Do you have any helpful advice? I’d love to hear from you if you do!