On Family Estrangement/In Defence of Meghan Markle

I know more than most that family estrangement never occurs without very good reason. 

In the early days of my own family estrangement back in 2005, I grieved long and hard for what had been and would never be

Cutting ties with mother and the (half) siblings I grew up with had been a long time coming. There was a lot of bad blood. Too many lies had been told. Too much drama brought to my doorstep. Too many situations which had left me broken hearted.

Although highly dysfunctional, my family are not evil people, which made walking away from them hard.

In fact scrap that, what a ridiculous understatement. It was the toughest decision I have made to date. And I sincerely hope I’ll never face a decision as soul destroyingly difficult ever again.

family estrangement

But our relationships had become toxic and unsalvageable

You see, they had always been takers. Ever since leaving home at fifteen, I’d been bailing them out in some way or another. I was the fixer upper. The shoulder to cry on. The ATM. I had tried so hard to help them, and I learned the hardest way that no one can save you but you.

In the end it came down to a heart wrenching choice. Allow these toxic relationships to continue, and sign myself up for all the associated fallout. Or walk away.

So I told my mother she wasn’t welcome anymore, and I never saw her again. My half brother and sister didn’t seem to care too much about my absence.

I was done

I didn’t have the capacity for more drama and heartbreak. It was time I started saving myself. In the year that followed I experienced full mental breakdown and rock bottom. Forced to look at every single aspect of my life and the way I was living it, I massively re-evaluated so I could become a better person.

I firmly believe I would not have been able to go through this process had my family still had as much power over me as they once had.

I am also convinced my experience as a mother would have been better had I had a great mum by my side. Oh how I’ve wept for the fairytale superhero mama I have desperately needed over the years. When autism and sleep deprivation and agonising education decisions have had me on my knees with despair. When childcare might have been the magic bullet, but was as non-existent as unicorn dust.

Fairytales aren’t real, and in the end we have to do what we think is best. 

family estrangement

There is much to be said for this great quote by filmmaker Robert Evans:

“There are always three sides to a story; yours, mine and the truth!”

Before you brand Meghan Markle a “social climber” who has “forgotten her roots”, take it from me; she would have agonised over her own family estrangement before walking away.

What Rock Bottom Feels Like and Three Steps to Get You Back on Track

what rock bottom feels like and three steps to get you back on trackTen years ago, pretty much to the day, I woke up in a Reykjavik hotel bed, drenched in a cold sweat.

I had been there on an all expenses paid work jolly up, and had as per usual got myself into a very messy mess. I had the familiar heart sinking feeling that shit had gone down the night before, but couldn’t recall the details.

It took me some time to gather the momentum to get myself out of bed. I needed the loo but didn’t make it, and instead ended up on the bathroom floor retching. I’ve often wondered if my inability to vomit is a blessing or a curse, and have concluded that it’s both, but that’s a whole other story.

Whilst lying on the bathroom floor trying futilely to eject the poison that I’d been voluntarily feeding myself for the previous forty eight hours, I noticed an empty bottle of wine from the minibar. On the shelf in the shower.

Who in their right mind drinks wine in the shower, straight from the bottle?

That was when I realised I had crossed the line

untitled-design-5Once the retching had passed, I sat with my head in my hands and bawled my eyes out. Snippets of the weekend came back to me in flashes. I remembered arguing with my boss, and making a complete idiot out of myself in front of my work colleagues. 

If that wasn’t bad enough, I’d put myself in unnecessary danger (again) by taking a taxi from one end of town to the other, alone. In the state I had been in, anything could have happened. 

I felt deeply ashamed of myself.

I knew that I could no longer just laugh it all off as I had done so many times before back then. If I was to have a chance of making it through 2007, I couldn’t carry on like that. In the four years between my first mental breakdown and that morning in Iceland, I had many incidents that could (and should) have propelled me to rock bottom.

But they hadn’t. Why not? 

I wasn’t ready to face my demons before that morning, and rock bottom only comes after pushing the boundaries to the absolute max

rock bottom and how to get out of it
I remember being in that hotel room like it was yesterday. After my pity party in the bathroom I had a shower, got myself dressed, and took a long hard look in the mirror. I was a broken mess. I had survived a shitty childhood and in many respects had got through my first decade as an adult by the skin of my teeth.

Yet, amid the chaos of my life, I had met some truly amazing people who I am privileged to call my friends. Without even finishing high school, I had managed to forge a decent and fairly paid career. I had also found my wonderful husband, who I was in serious danger of losing at that moment in time.

Ultimately, I knew there and then that I was deeply flawed as a human being, but I was capable of great things too. I hadn’t come this far to give up, and I would be damned if I allowed my relationship with the bottle destroy everything I’d worked so hard to achieve.

I was overwhelmed with a sense of clarity, and the fighter in me who had given up in favour of getting smashed took over.

rock bottom and how to get out of it Just like that, everything suddenly made sense

I was a weekend bender away from losing absolutely everything and everyone that mattered to me. I knew, sitting there in that hotel room, that things had to change. I also realised, perhaps for the first time, that nothing would change unless I did, and that I needed to change a lot.

My attitude.

My behaviour.

My eating habits.

My outlook on life.

Everything.

So that’s when the hard work began.

Step One: Awareness

rock bottom and how to get out of it It’s so much easier to just ignore our problems and hope they will miraculously disappear, but they never do. What actually happens is they become harder to deal with the longer you leave facing them.

To start helping yourself, you have to acknowledge what your problems are in the first place. Self-reflection can be a bitter pill to swallow, but you absolutely must be willing to do it. 

It became obvious to me that I was in the mess I was in because of the crappy things that had happened to me. However, I came to realise that holding on to the hurt of the past was destroying my chances of future happiness. I had all but written myself off as ‘tragically messed up’, but I wasn’t. I just needed to make peace with my past, so I could move on from it.    

Step Two: Determination 

I truly believe that most self-destructive behaviour stems from being engrossed in the cycle of dysfunction. By getting obliterated we are burying our heads in the sand, and not facing up to our problems. We think at the time that we’re having fun, but actually we’re doing even more damage to our broken selves. In order to start healing we need to surround ourselves with the the very best people.

rock bottom and how to get out of it A supportive partner, real friends or loving family will want to help you thrive and succeed in life. They absolutely, categorically, will not try to sabotage your efforts.

People who genuinely love you would only ever want to encourage your success. If you’re at rock bottom, chances are you have toxic people in your life that are holding you back. You’ll need to identify who they are and either redefine the rules of your relationship, or sever ties with them altogether.  

Step Three: Courage

You will have to get to know yourself, and always be true to who you really are. This means not getting swept up with the crowd, and never living your life according to anyone else’s timetable. You’ll need to become a ‘what you see is what you get’ type of person, not someone who changes their personality based on who they happen to be with at that moment. 

It’s time to identify the steps you need to take, that will get you onto the path to the life you deserve. If you need a little help with doing this, you might find my book Become the Best You useful. Click on the image below for more info.    

I wish you the very best of luck!

rock bottom and how to get out of it

Motherhood without a Mum

Motherhood without a mum

Motherhood is a complex subject for people like me. Mother’s Day is always a mixed bag of emotions. 

In the early days of my estrangement from my mother many people told me that I’d change my mind once I had children of my own.

As if the decision to cut ties with her and the rest of my family was made so lightly it would all just get swept under the carpet and forgotten about the second I was pregnant.

As if it had been nothing more than a minor spat that could be rectified by having a group hug and doing a bit of forgiving and forgetting.

Believe me, walking away from my family wasn’t something I did without agonising over it for years first

I don’t speak about them often, online or in real life. I grieved for them long, hard and self-destructively directly afterwards. Nowadays I don’t harbour animosity towards any of them, and I see no benefit in dredging up the past and justifying why I don’t have them around.

Not that I need to do that of course, but I’m sure it comes across that way.

It’s a strange one to get your head around isn’t it? A person claiming not to have ill feelings towards their mother, yet actively choosing to exclude them from their life. Depriving their children of an extra grandmother in the process.

“Don’t you miss your mum?”

motherhood without a mum Concerned friends have asked me this countless times over the years. I’d be lying if I said no, not at all. The fact is, I do miss not having a mum around. One who could help see me through the daily grind known as motherhood.

One who would demand to take the kids off my hands regularly so I got a break. One who could be a brightly shining positive influence for my children.

If I thought for a second that my mother was capable of these things, I wouldn’t have cut ties with her in the first place

When I put my damaged self through therapy after breakdown number one in 2002, my counsellor opened my eyes to how toxic my relationship had become with my mother. Before that I genuinely had no idea. I knew my family was far from ‘normal’, but whose is, and what is ‘normal’ anyway?

The biggest irony is that my mother had a very volatile relationship with my grandma, and she was extremely vocal throughout my childhood about that never happening with her own kids.

In lots of ways I feel sad for her, because her life wasn’t easy or fun, then to top it off she lost her eldest daughter. Not through some tragic accident or awful unfair disease, but because that daughter decided she couldn’t be around her anymore.

For the sake of her sanity, and self-preservation, she was done

Done with the lies.

Done with the dramas.

Done with her good intentions being thrown back in her face.

Done with the guilt.

Done with feeling that she was responsible for fixing everyone else’s problems and should always be doing more. Giving more. Being more.

motherhood without a mumShe was done. I was done

In April 2005 I made the toughest decision I have made to date. In my darkest, most horrendously depressed moments, where I’d feel alone in a room full of friends, I miss the idea of a mum so much it physically hurts. A superhero mum that would put her cape on and make my challenging life easier.

Then I remember the reasons I walked away in the first place

So, do I miss a mum? Yes of course. Do I miss my mum? No, sadly I don’t. Do I wish things were different? Hell yes, but they aren’t.

I’m the mum now, so rather than pine after something that doesn’t exist, I’m going to plough all my energies into being the best mum I can for my own children.

I will let my actions, not my words, do the talking.

That way, they should never feel the need to cut me out of their lives when they grow up.

 

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