Criminal Mind

The link between childhood abuse and criminality.

Well everyone it’s been a while for which I apologise. Lets just say I’ve had shit on and have been chasing my tail for a month!

So I thought I’d explore the link between childhood abuse and criminality and how that fit in with my childhood trauma. We know there’s a often a link between the two but I think sometimes it’s assumed that the link is more of a socio-economic one rather than anything more complex.

According to the NCI in 2017 “Among women, having an antisocial romantic partner was linked to affiliations with antisocial peers, which in turn increased criminal involvement. For men, having an antisocial partner was associated with less partner warmth, which in turn predicted an affiliation with antisocial peers, itself a proximal predictor of adult crime. Relationships with antisocial peers and romantic partners in adulthood may increase criminal involvement by normalizing crime and reinforcing coping skills that promote criminal behavior among both men and women.”

This statement was directly referring to adults who had suffered abuse as children, and then gone on to commit crime as adults. The socio-economic situation of these adults wasn’t really the focus. Which I personally can well believe is true. My point, is that you don’t have to be poor or from a poor family to suffer abuse. Abuse happens in all demographics, in all countries on the planet. Abusers often live in plain sight.

My own mother was a criminal. She hadn’t always been. She’d also been badly abused as a child. But meeting a guy with whom she had an affair when married to my step father ,and later married, seemed to bring out this whole other personality. It started with her being the manager of a night club that was notorious for dealing class A drugs. At the same time she had an arab lover (yes another one) that ran a large criminal gang in the city. They dealt mainly in drugs and money laundering. The people that came and went from our posh little city flat weren’t street criminals. They wore Rolex and had drivers. The charming Americans had guns (and they were charming) Texans I believe, (not something we were used to in old blighty!)

And so this criminal element to homelife built in pace and momentum. At some point my mother decided that her partner and her would launder around 100k in from abroad. A great plan. Until they got caught of course. My mother got a suspended sentence – in her own words “Because the judge took pity on me having 3 kids…” and her scumbag partner got a minimum term in Belmarsh, later to move to Nottingham. The sentence included deportation on release. So atleast we had something to look forward to.

Or so I thought.

He would write to us as if we were his loving devoted children. I could barely hide my disgust. At my mother’s behest I visited him once in each place with her. It made my skin crawl to see his fake smile and overly enthusiastic hug. Knowing that when he got out he was being deported was the best fuckin news I’d had in the 2yrs years she’d been with him.

Thank fuck, I thought. I’ll finally be able to sleep without checking if the door is locked.

Just before his release, my mother sat me down and wanted to have a chat. I presumed it was going to be some shit about how she was going to miss him when he got deported home. But alas, not. In her fragile mind she’d realised a solution to the problem of him leaving her (in her mind)….. the solution was that we were all going to go with him to start a new life in his home country.

Fuck me. That added insult to injury. My life just got a whole lot worse, and at 12yrs old, I felt completely powerless to do a single thing about it.

Boundaries And Relationships

Understanding how boundaries and relationships are affected by childhood trauma.

One of the many possible long term effects of childhood trauma is how we cope and behave within relationships and boundaries. Generally speaking, we’re a bit shit at both. I’ve had difficult relationships with loved ones on and off for most of my adult life. Mainly because I’ve kept them all at arm’s length. On the flip side to that I’ve allowed others to cross the line repeatedly by not setting healthy boundaries and sticking to them. In my case this behaviour is most apparent with my siblings and with my partners. I guess it was to be expected with my siblings, as they have boundary issues too as a result of our traumatic experiences as children. Between us, we’ve been like the poster child for how not to treat each other at times, something that we witnessed in our aunts and uncles too who also suffered childhood trauma of their own. I see a fucking pattern here.

My mother had 6 siblings. All separated into foster care at a young age. Over the years my siblings and I have watched them treat each other horrifically. Intentionally hurting each other is like a national sport in that side of the family. They use hurtful comments to connect and communicate, and go out of their way to fuck up each other’s lives a bit more. Astounding when you think they’ve already had a shit time. The closer the siblings, the worse they seem to hurt each other. My mother and her closest sister seemed to go out of their way to hurt each other, and yet still turned to each other in hard times. I can never keep up with who is talking to who, who’s fallen out with whom or what bloody drama is going on now. Needless to say I don’t keep in touch with any of my mother’s siblings really, mainly because they’re all mentally unstable in my opinion. The direct result of childhood trauma.

My point, is that they all have boundary issues too. They cross the line repeatedly.

My siblings and I have done the same although never to the same extent and certainly not with such venom.

As children connected by trauma, we’ve overstepped the mark with each other in many ways. I once had a casual boyfriend that I met whilst working abroad, broke up with, but arranged to fly home with and let stay with my sister. Let stay with my sister. Not my home. Not a family home. HER home. With HER child. I wasn’t even staying with her. He didn’t speak English either. She agreed to let him live with her because she had no boundaries either. Don’t get me wrong, he was a good guy, but he was also a recreational drug user. I took him on his word that he’d ‘behave’ whilst staying with her. Luckily, it worked out, but could so easily not have.

The lack of healthy boundaries meant that I overstayed my welcome at my step father’s home. My brother overstayed his welcome at my sister’s home, and my sister overstayed her welcome at my home. So you see we’ve all done the same shit. Now I look back and understand the root of the behaviour which gave me a chance to course correct. I have healthy boundaries in my life and my relationships have improved overall. Everybody wins, except maybe for the toxic people I’ve cut out over the years, they don’t seem like winners to me.

I’ve had difficult relationships with partners too (here’s where I make the joke that I married the most difficult one then remember that he’ll probably read this later 😂).

And now I’m working daily on my relationships.

It’s a struggle at times.

But it’s never a struggle I shy away from. My family are worth every difficult day. And for that, I’m always grateful. Grateful that I have something in my life that makes me want to work on myself. The drive for self improvement comes after the healing from trauma.

An empty cup can’t quench anyone’s thirst.

The Cruelty of Neglect

Out of sight out of mind.

I’ve written in previous posts about the type of childhood trauma I suffered, and how neglect was the worst one for me personally. There are 4 main types of neglect, emotional, physical, medical, educational. I scored 4 out of 4. Lucky me right? There were so many instances I just wouldn’t even know where to start. So I thought I’d just pick a few at random.

It wasn’t unusual for my parents to be gone for days at a time from when I was about 11. But there were a few times when days turned into weeks.

There was one time in particular that sticks out in my mind (actually there are about half a dozen if I think about it). Anyway, I digress.

When I was around 13, we’d moved (again) out of area to a lovely little holiday park of sorts. I presume my mother knew the owner of the property somehow as it was a holiday home. When the bags were unloaded, I thought it looked cute, if a bit small. I could see a balcony overlooking a majestic mountain range and I thought, not so bad. It was just me, my sibling & my mother unpacking. Once inside it took me a minute to cotton on. There were 2 rooms with single beds and sheets on, the other room didn’t have a made bed. She wasn’t staying. Well, I thought, nevertheless, a nice little place.

The days passed with us walking the dogs, playing games, swimming in the onsite pool. One evening running with the dogs I tripped over a lead and fell onto the road, skidding as I went. My arms and legs were bleeding as the skin had been grazed off by the rough gravel. I hobbled home with the help of my sibling and cleaned up the wounds, picking bits of gravel out for a few hours. It was hot that night and I couldn’t sleep so got up for a snack. It was then that it dawned on me how little food we had left. But mum would be home soon, right?

The next morning we gathered together the little cash we had and headed off down to the onsite shop. We stocked up on what we could, and rationed the rest. Towards the end of that week I was starting to worry. We were stuck in the middle of nowhere with no money and quickly running out of food even though we’d rationed it (my siblings and I learned that skill a few yrs previously). What were we going to do? We were just kids. My sibling was only a year or so older than me and our other older sibling was staying with someone else on an apprenticeship.

We’d tried calling my mother from a public phone, but she hadn’t picked up. Where was she? Was she dead? It crossed my mind. By this point her criminal interests had gotten her into a lot of trouble. Her life (and ours but that’s a whole other blog) had been threatened more than once.

Then I thought about it a bit longer. Dead. Nope. No fucking chance. Dead would be a reasonable excuse. She just wasn’t thinking about us. She was off living her life, whatever that was at the time.

We were out of sight, out of mind.

Fuck.

We might actually starve here.

With our last coins we decided to call our older brother. Didn’t really know what else to do. But no one else would understand the severity of the situation would they? We were miles from any kind of support.

The phone rang and rang. The dread in my stomach grew until I thought I couldn’t breathe anymore. We hadn’t eaten more than a bowl of rice for a few days.

Then he answered. The relief was unreal. We were children connected by trauma, and we’d always pick up eventually.

The next day he turned up, with his boss and a full food shop. We chatted and caught up whilst unloading food into cupboards. He left some cash incase it happened again, petted the dogs, and left.

He was 15yrs old. His boss had driven him over 300miles at his own expense and stopped at a supermarket when almost here.

Some days it’s crippling when I think about it. Especially as our trauma has left me and my older brother estranged. He’s broken. A broken human being. His trauma was so severe that he never recovered enough to live a normal life.

She did that to him. To all of us. She broke us. So when people tell me I need to forgive her ‘for me ‘, I thank them for their kindness, and answer with a simple ‘I think fucking not ‘ .

Peace out.

Self Care. Or Lack of.

Life skills. Self worth. Self esteem.

There’s many documented long term effects of CPTSD, the most notable for me being a complete lack of self care. I’m not suggesting by any means that I punished or blamed myself for my childhood trauma, I always knew it wasn’t my fault (hence why I buried it in an attempt to ‘get over’ it or ‘just move on’. And in many ways I did move on.

Once I’d managed to free myself from my mother’s care (I use Care in the loosest possible sense of the word, she’d give Quokkas a run for their money) , I was 15yrs old. The last phone conversation we had (she’d already left the country to go back to her husband after dragging my siblings and I halfway round the world to be with him some years before) she told me I couldn’t possibly survive on my own, like I’d been doing any different for years by that point. It made me realise that she really was delusional.

So I washed my hands of her and everything that had happened in the 5yrs since she met this wonder of a man, I use the term Man in the loosest possible sense of the word.

The trouble was, she left me with absolutely no life skills at all. Yes I could wash and dress, feed myself some half assed food, and I could work and earn money. But I had no idea how to actually CARE for myself. I was never kind to myself, always my own worse critic, and certainly my own worst enemy. I dismissed my own feelings, wants, and needs as quickly as I dismissed other people’s. I had no idea how to handle money, save or budget, or even to prioritise food over ‘going out’. I had my freedom, but now I wasn’t sure how to move forward or what the hell I was supposed to do with this freedom now I had it. I’d missed years of education & become estranged from most of my family. Be careful what you wish for, right?

The lack of self care came hand in hand with low self esteem. I hid it as well as I could, but it was always there, a paranoia in the back of my mind. I was never going to be good enough. Important enough. Cherished enough. But of course what this really translated to was that I was never going to be good enough to keep from hunger, important enough to listen to, cherished enough to keep safe. All the things that had happened shaped how I thought about myself and my value. And I was fucking angry about that. In fact, I was pretty angry at most things for a while.

So I did what most teens do I guess. I found a part time job until I turned 16, then took a job that came with accommodation and moved. The next few years were full of work, parties, clubs, booze and drugs, a scene I never felt out of control in, as I’d previously been exposed to so much of it. I’d love to say I cried my misery into the bottom of a bottle, but honestly, I didn’t. I was so far away from processing my trauma that the complete opposite happened. I had a great time for the most part apart from the few blackouts. I drank until I was drunk, danced until I was sober again, then rolled a joint on the way home with enough time left for a shower and a sausage sandwich before work. Legend.

I burned the candle at both ends and had a great time doing it. This lasted a few years until the shit hit the fan.

BOOOooom.

Depression.

Possibly the most surreal experience of my life. I felt numb. Had no appetite. Barely slept. Took no interest or joy in my own life or the lives of those around me. And worst of all, I had absolutely no idea I was depressed. That sneaky fuck had wormed it’s way in and I hadn’t even seen it coming. I walked around like a zombie day to day. Detached. My body wasn’t mine. There were times when I would dissociate and have no idea how much time had passed. Had I moved from this spot since this morning? Literally no clue. The most bizarre experience of my whole life.

Some people break down. Others just check out for a time. But one thing is true. At some point we all need to face the reality of our experiences.

Peace out.

There’s None So Blind

I’ve been thinking a bit more about the topic of abuse enablers. I’ve written about them before in a previous post but I feel there’s more to say, especially as my own experience of them is so varied. We know that statistically speaking, most abuse enablers have been groomed themselves to a degree. But I also wonder just how many are conveniently closing their eyes to abuse that they’re well aware of. I’ve spoken to a fair few childhood trauma survivors and many have a similar part to their story, in that someone close to them either enabled their abuser to continue harming them by directly facilitating it, or simply by default for doing absolutely nothing about it. I’m not sure which is worse.

I suffered several different types of abuse from around 10yrs old, not all from the same source. In each situation there was an enabler of some kind, which makes me think there’s as many people out there willing to close their eyes to abuse as there are actual abusers. A concerning thought.

In one situation, when I was about 13, a ‘good friend’ of my mother’s 3rd husband (and yes you’ll notice I can’t refer to him as my step father as hubby no#2 will always be my step father, a kind and generous man) opened his house and home to us. He had a wife and 3 beautiful daughters, the eldest only a few years younger than me. We spent time with them as a family, bbqs, trips, family parties, sleepovers… you get the picture.

Only things weren’t as happy a family image as appeared at first glance. This good friend, good dad, loving husband, provider, caring guy, was actually a paedophile who on occasion would take a belt to his precious daughters. More than once I woke during sleepovers with him in the bed next to me, trying to molest me in some way. It got to the point where I dreaded staying over there, and dreaded any time spent in their house. He wouldn’t exactly make a secret of it during the day either, a quick squeeze here or hug there and a quick grope. It was hideous. And worse than that he’d do it infront of other men, normally friends or family but not his wife, as if I were a trophy of his to show off. He would accompany these moments with statements such as ‘You know I’m only be friendly, you know I don’t mean anything by it, right?’ What a fuckin gent.

Ofcourse you could ask the question why did I keep going there. And the answer is complicated. Firstly I think I was quite conditioned to the advances of men by then, and I was still young. I was repulsed by it, but not frightened really. And secondly I found in his wife the role model I wanted to spend time with. She was kind, thoughtful, funny, caring. All the things I felt I lacked in a relationship with my own mother, who was so distant. I would watch her with her 3 girls, fussing over them and would feel utterly envious. I wanted a family back. The family home. Holidays. Normality. And I think I tried to find it there. The troubling thing about this scenario, was how indebted I felt to this family, so I guess I just tolerated any uncomfortable situations as best I could. This family were there when my own parents weren’t. With food, shelter, and company. They helped us move house when we’d been evicted (this was a running theme), drove to medical appointments when my own absent parents couldn’t be contacted, so the debt I felt to both him and her was vast. The main thing I’ve been thinking about is whether his wife was aware of her husband’s abuse and closed her eyes, or whether she was really that naive. I didn’t consider her a stupid woman. They had 3 daughters. I’ve often wondered if he ever molested them and whether I should try to make contact. And why, if she knew about his abusive nature, did she stay? He would often tell the story of how he’d met her, when she was just 16. So I guess she was groomed and conditioned too. She enabled her husband’s behaviour, simply by not confronting him about it. And she really did love him. I think for her the price was too high. If she stopped him she would lose her own family security, not to mention having to face the reality of what would come next.

As time went on I realised more and more that this family I wanted to be part of wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. The simple fact was that I missed the security I’d previously had. A home, a loving step father, safety. The moment my mother decided to leave my step father, my whole world fell apart. And now she’d moved on, moved on to a man who had monsters as friends. I wasn’t afraid of the dark from that point on, as I knew where the real monsters hid.

It turned out they’d been hiding in plain sight all along.

The Trauma Butterfly

Normal For Me, But Not Normal.

During the processing of my childhood trauma, I started to think about the specific events that may have caused me the most harm, as a way of ordering them and unpacking things. I found it really helpful to start with the worst ones then move down a list, taking the time to let myself respond in whatever way I needed to. There’s been situations I’ve avoided thinking about for a long time, and it surprised me which ones I felt had the biggest impact and which ones were further down the list.

The trouble with CPTSD is that it comes from trauma that is acumulative, so it goes without saying that my ‘normal’ wasn’t really normal. By around 11yrs old I had gotten so used to living in a household of varying types and degrees of abuse I didn’t even register it. My mother’s third husband, who I shared a home with from about 10yrs old was a piece of work let me tell you (they weren’t married until many years later). At any opportunity of my mother’s absence (of which there were many due to the criminal circles she moved in), he would do random things like masturbate in the living room so he was likely to be discovered, I’m sure just to play out some sick teenage fantasy he was living at the time. I had gotten so used to this type of situation I would roll my eyes and go back to whatever I was doing previously. In the early days of his relationship with my mother he would suggest we play games like poker. At 10yrs old I was naive enough to believe that late night games were just that. But things would quickly turn into something hideous. Poker into strip poker, that kind of thing. There would always be booze available, which I never drank, mainly because my own biological father was an alcoholic. It took me a while to realise that these game nights of his had an ulterior motive. I avoided them after that.

He would make crude statements about what he and my mother were doing sexually and the kind of things she liked. He also made a point of reminding me daily that the home we lived in was his, and that he would always have a key to EVERY door in the house. Once I woke to him leaning over me, pinning me to my own bed. When I tried to struggle he gave me a lovebite on my face, right on my cheek, knowing that I would have to go to school the next day with it, a mark of ownership displayed for all to see. It was clearly a power play. He wanted me to know he could do whatever he wanted, whenever it suited him. He laughed about it. I solved this with a simple barrel lock on my bedroom door, fuck you very much. The barrel lock was a habit I would continue for the next 5yrs.

I had gotten so used to this weird narrative. Normal school day, normal friends. Fucked up home life. I never really knew what I’d find when I came home. An empty flat, maybe. A bunch of strangers high in the living room, possibly. A wad of cash or pile of drugs on the counter, probably. All of this became so normal I didn’t even blink at it. Our home was clean, dry and warm, in a popular location with reasonably wealthy surroundings. There was even generally some kind of food in the fridge. Or atleast cash for a Nando’s. I stayed out whenever I wanted and came and went as I pleased.

There were a few incidents that made me question my normal. One was a school friend staying over who drank so much she had alcohol poisoning. I didn’t realise other kids didn’t have access to alcohol at home. My mother covered for her for a full weekend until she was ok enough to go home. What a great parenting moment. The other incident was a teen friend sniffing cocaine, whilst making a joke about drugs. Ironically she thought it would be funny to pretend the pile of white powder was cocaine, which as it turned out, it was. Again, I couldn’t believe she didn’t know what it was, I mean, everyone did, right?

Sound the klaxon please.

This was my normal. But it wasn’t, as it happened, actually normal.

If It Feels Wrong, It Probably Is

There’s a few things that bug me as a parent of young children, and one of those is how quickly we (as adults) dismiss their concerns for the simple fact that they’re children.

As a child of primary school age I was uncomfortable with several adults over the years, one of which was my own biological father. I didn’t like the way he hugged me. Kissed me. Carried me up the stairs. I’m sure if any adults around took notice they would’ve put it down to the fact that I no longer lived in the family home (my mother left my biological father when I was 3) and therefore was a little shy with my father during visits. But it wasn’t that. There was something off. Something that made me anxious. When he was close it felt, well, predatory. I didn’t like the way he kissed my cousins goodbye (all girls), and could see their discomfort too.

When I was about 8 I walked in to the kitchen at my father’s house during a holiday visit to find our local babysitter sitting up on the sideboard in barely a skirt. The conversation was about how he wouldn’t pay her for sex, that she should just do it for the pleasure. She was barely 15. I knew then that my feelings were right. I wasn’t imagining it. He was a predator. I said nothing and left the room. This babysitter would visit often, even if my father wasn’t going out. She wasn’t, as it turned out, the only teen my father had bedded.

He drank heavily for years, and the more he drank, as with many alcoholics, the bolder he became. He would talk about local girls with sexual reference. I remember how uncomfortable I felt when reading his thoughts he’d jot down in a notepad by his chair when he referenced how someone had changed from a girl to a woman (woman would be underlined). This person he was referring to would have been barely 11 or 12 at the time.

Although I never suffered physical or sexual abuse from my own father, I knew what a predatory male was because of him. I could spot them a mile off. Charming. Friendly. Funny. Helpful. Non threatening. Everything you need to get close to a vulnerable person, or child.

I would listen to him, drunk, as he told me stories about how my mother would come home with her stockings torn and how she clearly cheated on their marriage then left him. But he never mentioned the fact that he regarded her as his property, and on more than one occasion, had raped her. Rape within the confines of a relationship, is still rape.

My instincts about him were right. He could be kind, charming, funny, hell when he was sober he could be a great parent, he’d make up bedtime stories on the spot, say kind things and spend time doing the stuff kids love. But that other side was still there, and I knew it. I felt it, although much less once I got past the teen years.

The truth of it is, I’ll never know every side to my father, as he died of an overdose nearly 20yrs ago after years of mental health, physical & addiction problems.

But something I’ve always taken away from him, is the invaluable lesson that if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Peace out.

The Trauma Butterfly.

The Cycle of Abuse

As a self confessed nerd, I love a good statistic. Recently I’ve seen some shocking ones. According to the ONS, 51% of people abused as a child go on to suffer domestic abuse as an adult, over a third of those abused by a family member go on to be abused by a partner, this is more common in women who were abused as children.

Other statistics tell us that over 30% of children abused, will go on to be abusers as adults. Frightening.

It’s got me thinking about where my childhood abuse came from. It’s easy to point the finger at my parents as the obvious source, but really, did it start with them? Did they wake up one day and decide ‘you know what, fuck it, I’m going to be the worst kind of human being’ . Of course they didn’t. Their behaviour stems from their own experiences of abuse. Very different experiences, but abuse none the less.

My father’s history of abuse is somewhat of a mystery. He has surviving siblings, none of which have, or indeed likely ever will, talk about their childhood. I know the children in the family were split at one point (my father included). I know times were tough. I know that my Grandfather died, leaving his wife to raise 5 children. But no one ever seemed sad about this. Indeed my grandmother never talked about her husband when we were kids. Neither did my father. I can never remember any of my aunts or uncles taking flowers to their father’s grave in the family plot in the village, even though we all went to church together on a Sunday. I never really questioned it until my adulthood. Could this man have been a monster. It seems likely. The details I’ll probably never know. But the silence in the family is deafening. How can not a single one of my aunts or uncles talk about their father? Especially if they lost him earlier than expected. My father grew to be an addict with narcissistic tendencies and had an attraction to young girls. I draw my own conclusions on how his father treated him and what behaviour he may have witnessed.

My mother’s childhood, by all accounts, was a tragedy of epic proportions. One of 7, she was pushed through the foster care system when all the children were removed from the care of their biological mother. I’m sure most people have heard tales of the standards of care in the uk foster system in the 60’s. Not great. Eventually she ended up on permanent foster with a couple that I came to call Gran & Grandad. And here is where the story gets worse for her. During this foster placement she was repeatedly abused by her foster father, who’s sexual preference, it seems, like my father, was young vulnerable girls.

Knowing the tragic upbringing of both of my parents offers little comfort to me. As a human being I can empathise with their past. But as a daughter,and a mother, I can neither understand their behaviour fully or forget it, although I have come to largely accept it. Their past does raise more questions than answers for me though.

As kids we would often go and stay with my mother’s foster parents. Our Gran and Grandad. We would eat penny sweets from Woolworths (when they were still a penny!) , have dinner, play in the communal garden of the bungalow, and often, stay over. There were times when we would sleep on camp beds in the spare room and hear my Gran pacing around at night (I always presumed she was a poor sleeper). There were other times, when we shared my Gran’s bed at her request. These times would coincide with my Grandad already being a third through a bottle of Bell’s whiskey on our arrival. At the time I guessed she didn’t want to share her bed with a snoring husband on these occasions. The truth is far more sinister. I now believe, knowing what I know about his penchant for young girls, that she put us in her bed to protect us from him.

This leads me back to those who protect and enable abusers (see previous post for more about this). Gran had married a paedophile. They remained married until his death. It begs the question just how many children had he had access to? For me it also begs the question of why my own mother would allow us to go and stay with them. If my Gran couldn’t protect my mother, why would my mother believe she could protect us? Maybe she was living in complete denial. I’ll probably never know.

My point after all of this, is that the cycle of abuse is strong. It runs through generations like wildfire, consuming all. Is it coincidence that BOTH of my parents suffered abuse and went on to be abusers themselves? Doubt it.

I saw a statement last week that resonated so strongly with me it almost brought a tear.

“It ran in my family, until it ran into me”

Too fucking right it did.

The Beginning of Neglect

I’ve written before about some of the types of abuse I experienced as a child, and the hardest for me to write about is neglect. There are 4 main types of neglect. Physical, Emotional, Educational and Medical. I was unlucky enough to receive my fair share of all 4. The evidence behind why neglect happens can be a complex combination of a lack of education, a cycle of abuse, financial pressure, drug or alcohol addition, criminality and a whole list of other joyous things. Neglect became a part of my life,but it wasn’t always that way. We had a fairly good life before the catalyst of events that sent everything spiralling out of control, my mother at the helm. An average life. Parents, school, home, dog, pretty standard.

A marital breakdown (the 2nd for my mother) meant that the family home was no longer our home. We moved a few miles away to something more affordable and it was a few months before I realised my mother wasn’t really coming home anymore. I would see her from time to time and she would act normally, saying she was working and dodging any questions about why she wasn’t home. In the mean time I went about my day as normal, school, home, friends. I would’ve been around 9 or 10 at this point. Luckily there was still a loving parent at home doing day to day care as well as 2 jobs. I had no idea that this would be the last time I felt loved and cared for until I reached adulthood.

One day my mother collected us to go and live wherever she had been living all these months. Her marriage to my loving step father of 8yrs was over and she was building a new life. In the car on the way over she caught my eye in the rear view mirror & explained that she’d been seeing someone else for some time now, and that we’d all be living together. For a while there I thought she’d just vanished and left us. But that couldn’t be true could it? No, I was definitely imagining it. She’d come (I now know under duress) and brought us to share her life again.

Well, I thought, can’t be that bad……. Fuck. Little did I know.

The neglect came on slowly at first. Small things. Clean clothes, meals, that sort of thing. A general lack of interest in parenting. All of which were solved fairly easily by just looking after ourselves. Tinned meatballs and rice were a favourite of my 10yr old self. And toast. Lots of toast. Now I realise that these small things were the first signs of what was to come. After what seemed like endless months of being dragged around to sleep on the floors of various family member’s homes and other caregivers, we finally settled in a flat. Most of my time was spent on the now 2hr commute each way to school. Finally, a new home. But it wasn’t OUR home. It was HER home that she shared with her now boyfriend and her new life. And everything about it confirmed that. She became more and more distant, stayed out for days at a time, sometimes up to a week. Often, her boyfriend was with her, but other times, he was at home. It was just the opportunity he was clearly waiting for to indulge his perversions. He had easy access and nothing in the way, least of all, my mother.

The Shadow Child

I’ve always referred to my inner child in the third person. The Shadow Child. The neglected version of the inner child. She’s me but doesn’t feel how I feel. We don’t share our thought patterns, fears, reactions or dreams so I guess I feel like she’s a version of me but not current enough to identify with daily.

So I talk about her. And sometimes I talk to her.

There’s lots of evidence out there to show that addressing the inner child in varying methods is useful for recovery for trauma survivors. Some therapies work towards acknowledging the inner child in order to help process the feelings you felt during childhood trauma. Another method is to write a letter to them, in the hope that they write back eventually – nothing weird about that at all, right? I can’t even be bothered to read the reminder emails I send myself so not likely to get far with that method personally 😉

I have however, done lots of inner child work to aid my recovery. This meant addressing and, most importantly, acknowledging the feelings I had towards my life as a child.

My shadow child protected me, defended me, and even saved me. She didn’t overreact (infact she didn’t react at all), didn’t let in any situation that could be damaging, and kept people at a comfortable distance. Her and I are pals. She got me through the hardest times of my life by building these unshakable walls. Her courage, resilience and problem solving were commendable. The problem was, once I became an adult she did too. I was untouchable, unreachable and immovable. She built me a fortress in which to hide. If even a hint of something emotional came along, a life event, family gathering, anything where I might be required to give my feelings freely, she did her utmost to make sure I was otherwise engaged so I never had to trip over any rogue feelings left laying around.

Sounds great right?

It was. Right up until I realised I was half a person. The other half, my shadow child, was busy sunning themselves safely tucked away inside a fortress. This was a turning point for me in my healing journey. I knew I’d have to face her. But she had such a gob on her I wasn’t sure I could. Turns out she’s all mouth, and actually her and I have come to an understanding. She has nothing to be angry over anymore, so she isn’t. But I’m grateful. Grateful she was there. Without her walls and blindingly good defences, I don’t think I could’ve survived. So I thank her daily. And remind her that her work is done, I don’t need her anymore. Maybe I never will.