As a mother, there is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing my daughter suffer. Last week, after spending a couple of days in my bed, not talking, not really moving either, she was curled up in a ball, sobbing her emotional pain out. I sat by her side, silent. I gently put my hand on the small of her back, ever so lightly as she knows she doesn’t like to be touched much. We stayed like this for a few minutes. I knew this wasn’t the moment to say anything. I had tears in my eyes, but I sat there with her until she started to tell me what was on her mind and heavy on her heart. There was nothing new, really. It didn’t matter, I just listened to her, nodding, validating her feelings and experiences. Finally, she seemed calmer. She offloaded all that was weighing her down, in mind, body, and spirit.

Seeing my child like this reminds me of the time when I was in total despair. As a small child, and as a teenage girl, I was really unwell. Growing up in an abusive household doesn’t make anyone happy, does it? I was alone: the adults around me, as well as my siblings, kept telling me I just liked being unhappy and that I has nothing in my head. I had no one to turn to. I promised myself that, if I ever had a child, I will never treat them like this. I will support them in their moment of need. When I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait to meet her. I declined support for PND. I couldn’t imagine needing it! Once my daughter arrived,  I suffered greatly. Looking back, I understand I was drowning in emotional flashbacks, which triggered my CPTSD. I felt crazy and was in despair I asked for support from my partner at the time, his family, and a Buddhist community I was a member of, but they kept telling me: “You are a mother now, you have the love in the world!” or “It will be ok.” I felt terrified of hurting my baby just as my mother hurt me. I was frustrated, angry, restless, and very unhappy. It took me a while to bond with my child. I took myself to therapy. I didn’t want to transfer my pain and my anger onto my child, just as my mother did to me.

On top of my own challenges, we have been through a lot. The breakdown of my relationship with her father was traumatic and I had to move into a women’s refuge. With the help of a solicitor, weekend visits were arranged. There was also my constant struggle to heal from all that was done to me as a child. Sometimes I have little energy left to look after a toddler full of life force, when, all I wanted to do was to die. I kept pushing myself to become a single mother working full time. I was still seeking the love I didn’t have as a child, in all the wrong places too. After each rejection, I felt suicidal and was really struggling to keep going. Until another unhealthy relationship ended. Her father manipulated her into moving with him. I left my job because I was really unwell and self-harming. A few months later, not able to afford a private two-bedroom flat, I was homeless, penniless, and was moved into a care setting. During this period I felt so guilty: I wasn’t able to be a mother to my girl. I was so busy looking for someone to love ME, I didn’t step up as a mother. I was selfish. Maybe my mother was right, after all: I am not good at anything. I overdosed a few times and it once brought me to A&E. I’d visit her at her father’s but she wouldn’t look at me and barely spoke to me.

I finally settled down in my own flat, and from there, our bond strengthened. As she grew up to be a teenager, I became the one she opened up to, about her experiences. My home became her safe place where she was loved and free to be herself. When she started to have emotional and mental difficulties, I felt guilty. It was still very difficult to support her when I, myself, didn’t feel great but I was determined to be there for her, no matter what. I didn’t want her to be all alone as I was, growing up. I wanted to keep this promise of loving her and of supporting her through life.

In the last 5 years, I learned to feel and love myself through my own difficulties, I’ve started to look at my journey and myself with compassion. No, I was never crazy or difficult, as a child. I was mistreated. I knew and felt how unwanted I was and, for a very long time, I wished to die. I wasn’t a Love Addict or “disordered”. I was suffering from deep attachment trauma. I wasn’t unemployed because I am lazy and useless, I have been really unwell for a while. Recovery isn’t a destination. for survivors of childhood trauma or CPTSD, recovery is every single day. I have learned there are no such things as good or bad feelings. I discovered that inside of me there isn’t just ONE inner child but many inner parts. I learned to listen to and to lovingly accept the small rejected baby, the terrified child, the angry teenager, the lonely ones, the one who was in despair to be loved, and the one who really wanted to die. Thanks to Dr. Kristin Neff’s Mindful Self-Compassion, I meditate to receive, to give to myself, compassion, love, and kindness, as well as send all this goodness to my daughter. I breathe for both of us, especially in difficult times. When I see her in total despair, and it brings up a lot for me, I take what Neff’s calls a compassionate break. I don’t see my child as misbehaving, as “disordered” or being difficult: she is suffering and she needs my love. Of course, as a mother, I wish I had magical powers to take away her pain. I wished I was allowed to put her in bubble warp, protecting her from the world.

For a long time, I thought stopping my family’s patterns of rejection, abuse, and abandonment, would mean she wouldn’t have to suffer from mental and emotional distress. I no longer felt guilty but I was sad She has to go through this. I understood there are so many factors, some more obvious than others, as to why someone suffers from Depression or C-PTSD, etc. All parents will have an impact on their children. There are no perfect parents. We live in a society that disconnects mothers and their children on so many levels. School isn’t the right environment for all children and there is often bullying. There is so much pressure on children to sit down and absorb information, for 6 hours a day, passing exams, getting good grades, and 100% attendance are all required.

I also understand that she has her own path in this life. Now I know that changing any family patterns is about not abandoning my child when she needs me the most. Yes, I am her mother but my job is to make her feel safe enough for her to go and live her life, whatever it might be, for her.

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