Nothing but the Truth – A story of Abuse and Gaslighting

Trigger warning: Sensitive content. Gaslighting, physical and emotional abuse of children, domestic violence, alcoholism, mental illness, suicide.

Photo: Me age 2 years

Nothing but the Truth. Because the truth is real. The truth is right. Tell the truth and nothing bad will happen to you. That’s correct isn’t it?…

Growing up as an undiagnosed Autistic female amongst alcoholism and domestic violence, I clung to the truth in my heart and my head, because I wasn’t allowed to say it out loud. Say it out loud and you are punished.

I have always hated lies and deception. To me it is obvious that telling the truth is the right thing to do. It took me many years to realise that my particular brand of honesty and directness can hurt people. What I saw as blunt and bold could light fires and build barriers, not bridges.

I have tried so hard to fight against my instincts to just say what I think. I don’t enjoy hurting others; in fact I am hyper empathic and feel the pain and sadness of others so deeply that it makes me feel like I’m drowning. It’s why I’ve wasted so many years trying to ‘save’ members of my birth family when they don’t want to be saved. It’s why I stayed up all night when they turned off Alfie Evans life support, breathing for baby Alfie and his family, slow deep breaths, willing him to live, paralysed with fear that he wouldn’t make it. The suffering of his parents was unbearable to me. It’s why I’m quick to apologise after an argument, prone to blame myself, the first to seek ways to change so I can be a better person.

It’s taken me 45 years to realise that actually, many (most?) people are afraid of the truth. It’s uncomfortable and inconvenient. Pretence is King. Feelings are swept under the carpet like annoying specks of dirt. And that’s where gaslighting creeps in.

Ode to Gaslighting

I have been gaslighted my entire life. Do you know what that means, what it really means? I’m going to take the liberty of explaining this (with a little help from Wikipedia) because it is so fundamental to my life, my truth and learning what it is, has helped set me free from my abusers.

‘Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or group sows seeds of doubt in another person, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment. This can often evoke low self esteem and cognitive dissonance (struggling to differentiate between truth and lies, what is real and not real). Instances can range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents occurred, to belittling the victim’s emotions and feelings….’

Excerpt from a recent message from my Mother after I tried to address the abuse I’ve suffered:

‘Please try and think through the memories that live in your head, whether every memory is real.

You all had 3 good meals a day. A warm home , a warm bed with clean sheets. A new winter coat every year…I could go on and on yet I know it won’t help alter your memory’.

Now I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but the hot meals and clean sheets didn’t make up for the physical beatings and emotional abuse that both my parents subjected me to. The fear, the rejection, the humiliation I experienced; am I meant to just forget that and how it has carved me into who I am today, because I had well fitting shoes and a bedtime story?

Excerpt from the same message, after I begged my mother to acknowledge the truth and apologise for the harm she has caused me:

‘It would be so easy for me to just not put up a fight and just admit that your accusations, whatever they are, are true. And to just say sorry. But they’re not true’.

Excerpt from a message from my brother O, after I told him I was stepping away from my mother for good and pleaded for his understanding.

‘This is all complete bull***t. I hope you show this message to N (my husband) so he can take care of you and give you the help you need’.

The ‘help I need’ refers to my lifelong mental health issues. I am diagnosed with anxiety, OCD, symptoms of PTSD and Bipolar 2 aka manic depression. I jokingly call it the boring type of Bipolar. I don’t experience manic highs, or reckless, risky behaviour. I just get very low and sad, again and again and again.

God how I wish I hadn’t been so honest about my mental health issues with my birth family. So stupid of me to make myself vulnerable by giving them that mallet to beat me with. It’s their ‘get out of jail free’ card. It’s ok, she’s mentally ill! We’ll tell her she’s lying, she’s confused, she needs help. Then her uncomfortable truths will go away….

Photo: me age 3 or 4

The Truth Hurts

Well, I’m going to tell MY truth. And I realise it will hurt some people. But if it helps even one person who has been victimised like me, gaslighted like me, then it will be worth it.

Before I do, I just want to say this – I don’t believe my parents are ‘evil’. I don’t believe my brothers are bad people. They each have their own demons, tragedy and trauma. More than anything my brother’s are just weak. They hurt me with their apathy and lack of action. They choose ignorance over truth and hey, that’s their choice. I still only wish good things for them. I don’t want or need people to criticise or judge them. I’m not speaking out to hurt them. I’m speaking out to take back control of my life. To stop the gaslighting, the bullying, the coercion. To heal myself and set myself free from their judgement. They don’t understand me. They never really tried. My neurodiversity as an Autistic woman and my Bipolar 2 diagnosis have only been used to criticise and undermine me. At times, to ridicule me.

So here is my truth.

My Mother, the Trigger

I have battled with anxiety and OCD since I was in infant school. It will never leave me. It’s an ongoing struggle to cope with the day to day and to stay healthy and well for my husband and young sons. I’ve done everything I can to stay mentally fit over the years. I’ve had counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy. I take long term prescribed medication for my anxiety and depression. I gave up alcohol completely in September 2019 which is a huge deal for me as I’ve used alcohol to cope with my social communication difficulties since I was 17 years old. I exercise to put the right chemicals in my brain. My only vice now is comfort eating, which is still destructive but a lesser evil than drink or drugs.

But despite all this, I continue to battle with cycles of severe depression and suicidal thoughts. And more often that not, I relapse as a direct result of a confrontation with my Mother.

It terrifies me how easily she can get into my head and send me hurtling backwards into my bad place. She makes me feel like I’m a terrible person, she says that my memories aren’t real. And she blames the confrontations on my poor mental health. It’s always a shock to see how quickly and completely she can turn against me.

But this most recent time, luckily, my husband can vouch that my mental health was really good. The national lockdown due to the Covid 19 pandemic was largely a positive experience for me. I didn’t have to go out and interact with strangers. I didn’t have to juggle school runs and appointments and training courses which are always a huge stress due to my poor executive functioning. It was just me and my sons, exploring Sussex and making amazing discoveries. Sea swimming, rock pooling, nature walks. And of course my camera came everywhere with me capturing the beautiful things we saw and the precious memories we were making. I was exercising daily, I even lost 10lb. Every time I did a doorstep visit to mum, delivered her prescription meds, or took flowers or sweet treats to cheer her up; she would comment how well I looked, how happy I seemed. When I met her on the beach with my husband and our boys, she said the same things to him about how upbeat and happy I was.

So when we fell out and she immediately started sending me messages saying I was at fault and that I needed help, I was heartbroken. I couldn’t believe she would be so cruel as to try and blame my mental health rather than look at how her own actions contributed to our conflict. She even sent messages to my husband, blaming my mental health, despite the fact days before she’d told him how lovely it was to see me doing so well.

Photo: Me age 5

Broken but not Fixable

In case you’re wondering, this blog is not a knee jerk reaction or a pain response. I’ve tried to fix my relationship with mum, my whole adult life. I’ve tried to get her to talk about the past, I’ve searched for signs of remorse, longed for her apology. Because I do love her. Or I did. She always says how cruel my grandma was and still is to her. My grandma herself was abused by her mother and abandoned to a children’s home. Can you see the cycle of abuse perpetuating? Yet my mother is blind to the fact she plays the same games and causes me to feel rejected and disliked and inadequate just like her mum did and does to her. Interestingly, my Mum’s dad, my Grandfather, was her knight in shining armour. She worshipped him and he loved his little girl. Not enough to intervene when my grandma abused her mind you, but he was a stable and benevolent presence in her life, which is more than I ever had.

But first there was my Father

In those early years, I was utterly devoted to my mother and I feared my father. I was a silent observer to the shouting and screaming. He beat her regularly but she never spoke about it. To me, he was aloof. He never took my hand, never hugged me. He never came to school plays or parents evenings. I felt no warmth from him. Sometimes on a weekend we would go to my maternal grandparents house. My grandparents were young and glamorous. They lived comfortably and had a wide social circle. They would throw lively parties where alcohol flowed freely. The men played card games. The women danced and talked. My dad was the DJ. Music made him come alive. He would play one record after another. His eyes glassy and wild, his face sweaty, he would dance and joke as the alcohol fumes rolled off him. It baffled me how my grandparents adored him. Did they not know what he was doing to my mum behind closed doors? I realised many years later that they turned a blind eye because the truth was too uncomfortable for them to address. And my mum of course was too ashamed to ask for help. She probably blamed herself for falling pregnant so young. She was rushed into marrying my father at 16 at my grandfather’s behest. To maintain a veneer of respectability.

So while the adults partied, myself and my two younger brothers (one day I’d have five) would play hide and seek with our cousins and tell ghost stories under a blanket. Steal coins from the card table and chocolate from the tin. These were happy times I suppose, although at the back of my mind the clock ticked because when we went home the fighting would start. And he would hit her. And she would cry. Just like they always did when he’d been drinking. Alcoholic was not in my vocabulary back then, but I recognised the change in him all too well from the day to day sullen and indifferent robot to the gregarious and popular drunk to the staggering, violent bully who covered my mum in bruises and punched holes through all the doors in our house. But the worst bit was after. When he’d isolate himself in the lounge, put his headphones on and blast music so loud you could hear it upstairs. ELO. Mario Lanza. Bread. The headphones couldn’t contain the music or his heartbroken sobs. I cannot adequately describe the conflict I felt then. Between hating him and pitying him. I could feel his pain so strongly but I didn’t understand why he couldn’t stop his destructive behaviour.

But actually, that wasn’t the worst bit. The worst bit was the next day or the day after, when he’d come home full of remorse bearing gifts for her. Usually jewellery or ornaments. Garish watches or necklaces with a hologram pendant. And she accepted the gifts and she’d fall into his arms and they’d disappear upstairs for hours leaving me to mind my brothers. Even though I didn’t know a thing about sex at that age, I had a horrible heavy feeling of knowing they were being intimate and knowing we children were shut out. Surplus to requirements. It made me want to scream. The mother I adored, who I followed like a loyal pet and did chore after chore just to please her. But when he turned his kind eyes on her she was gone to us. We were invisible and I was childcare, not old enough to look after myself let alone 2 younger brothers. To me it was revolting and humiliating that she would give herself to him after what he’d done. And so the seeds of resentment were sewn and the rejection laid heavy in my heart.

Of course, it was not long before she did something else to displease him. A burned dinner. A shirt un-ironed. He didn’t need much of an excuse to head to the pub and I for one was happy when he was gone. It was when he returned that the cycle started again.

Photo: Me age 9

Impossible promises

Until I started secondary school I think I was almost obsessed with my mum. I loved her too much. I saw her as a victim and I wanted to save her. I would tell her that I’d never get married; I’d never leave her. I’d tell her that I wanted to adopt disabled children like my Uncle Robert, who was in a wheelchair. She never discouraged me from these fantasies. I think she enjoyed my slavish devotion. I shared responsibility in the home for my brothers and for cleaning. All I wanted to do was serve her and protect her from him. What struck me as strange then and even stranger now, is that she never talked to us about any of it while it was happening. It was an open secret. We never even discussed it amongst ourselves (my brothers and I that is). I don’t know why. I suspect my brain was so overloaded as an undiagnosed Autistic that I just accepted the fighting as normal. And despite everything, she WAS a good mum in many ways during those early years. I felt loved by her and she tried her best to bring us up well. There were always bedtime stories and trips to public swimming baths. Playing with our cousins at the park. Baking fairy cakes and licking the bowl clean after. In the evenings when he was out drinking she’d let me stay up to watch Moonlighting with her. Or she’d take me to slimming club with her on the bus and we’d eat chocolate on the way home. To me, she was the best mum in the world and I was devoted to her. I just couldn’t sustain it for the lifetime I’d promised her.

Finding my independence

Secondary school brought many changes and affected the dynamic between my mother and I. Suddenly I was away from my brothers. I didn’t have to look after them all day like I’d had to at primary school. I was actually able to make friends because I didn’t feel obliged to spend my break times protecting my siblings from bullies. Also the learning got a lot harder and I had the daily demands of homework to contend with. I struggled here because despite being very clever, I processed information more slowly and I struggled to manage time and organise myself.

Looking back I think my mum resented the fact that she wasn’t the centre of my attention any more. Or maybe that’s unfair. Maybe she was just hurt and felt sad and rejected by me because I wasn’t so devoted to her anymore.

What I do know is, I wasn’t a bad kid. I was a good kid. I was kind and sensible. I helped out at home. I did really well at school. I never smoked or drank alcohol or went off with boys. In fact I was ridiculously immature and naive compared to other girls. I knew nothing about puberty or sex. I still read comics meant for little kids like ‘Bunty’ and ‘Judy’. I still played with dolls. But I did have more things to fit into my life and so I had less time and energy to focus on mum. I started doing voluntary work at a local club for children with disabilities on a Saturday. It made me feel worthwhile and got me out of the house. I even used to take my brothers; it was the only socialising any of us did back then. At 15 I started being interested in boys because they showed an interest in me. I’d always hated my face but suddenly boys were calling me pretty and saying I had nice eyes. Like any teenager, my hormones were confusing and overwhelming. Maybe Mum and I would have stayed close if I’d been able to talk to her about my thoughts and feelings but I literally couldn’t talk to anyone. I was so emotionally immature and terrified of being judged by her. I kept a diary but even my diary was sanitised, like I was writing it whilst being the character of Lizzy who I thought everyone expected me to be. The good girl. The obedient servant. The other thing that changed is that I started to fight back with my father. I wasn’t going to let him beat her up in front of me. If he hit her I’d hit him. He hated me and I hated him. We either ignored each other or screamed at each other. He couldn’t bear me challenging his behaviour and gradually his violence turned onto me rather than mum. And this is why I started to not trust her anymore and why I doubted her love for me, because she did nothing to protect me. She just let my dad and me war on. I wonder if she was just relieved that it wasn’t her anymore on the receiving end of his fists. One significant event I remember is when I was 13 or 14. My mum was at work and I’d had a horrific argument with my Dad. To punish me he’d picked up my guinea-pig hutch and thrown it to the floor with them inside. They were squealing with fear, there was wood shavings everywhere. My pets were everything to me, my bedroom was like a miniature zoo, I kept birds and various small mammals, I showered them with love and spent hours each day cleaning them out and exercising them. Now my guinea-pigs were shrieking inside their upside down hutch. He got up in my face, spit sprayed out of his mouth as he screamed at me. I couldn’t even hear the words. I was terrified, adrenaline was pumping through my body and I suddenly realised I’d wet myself. My pants and trousers were soaked in urine. I was overcome with shame. I went running to my Aunt’s house a few streets away crying my eyes out. It was the first time I’d ever told ANYONE in the family about what went on at home. She calmed me down and cleaned me up and took me home when mum returned from work. I didn’t hear what she said to my mum, I assume she told her it had to stop. But as soon as she’d left, my mother gave me a good hiding. She beat me for telling my Aunt what he’d done. I get that she was ashamed and afraid herself. I accept she was a victim of domestic violence too. But I was the child. Not her. I was the one who needed protecting.

So I started to love her less. I started to imagine a future away from him and her, my own job, house, my own family. I began to plan my escape.

Photo: Me age 12

Paying the Price

I was stupid to think I could break away from my family without there being repercussions. When I was 17 and doing my A levels I got my first proper boyfriend who I really, really liked. We both had weekend jobs at Homebase, the local DIY store. He was funny, easygoing and kind. Of course, she hated me dating and every time I left the house there would be conflict. I used to wonder if she was afraid I’d end up a pregnant teenager like her. But she never offered any advice or friendship. Only judgement and mean comments that made me feel humiliated and horrible about myself. We never spoke about contraception and when I took the step to have a physical relationship it was an awkward, messy disaster and I ended up taking the morning after pill from the doctor as I was scared I’d get ‘caught out’ like she did. I stupidly confided this to my diary. A few days later my boyfriend came to pick me up and mum invited him in. She’d NEVER invited him into the house before. I felt so scared. I knew I was walking into a trap. She took us to my bedroom where she slowly took out my diary. She said the morning after pill was very bad and that I’d effectively had an abortion. She said I might never be able to have children. I just cried and cried while he stayed silent, his face bright red. He was mortified. When he got home that night he found out that she’d called his mum and told her everything. His mum was furious. She asked him if it was true and told him that she understood ‘young girls could be very silly and have fantasies’. So he said I’d made it up, he denied we’d had sex. A few days later he broke up with me. Can you imagine how I felt? I believed I was in love with that boy. I naively wanted to be with him forever. He was my first love and my mother had turned our relationship into something dirty and deceitful, something to be ashamed of. She wasn’t trying to protect me she was trying to punish me for growing up.

Sometime around then, she asked me to move out. I remember Dad had been gone for a while. I don’t know where. There were always periods when he’d disappear. To his mothers or his brothers. But then suddenly mum told me he wanted to come back home. She said she’d found me somewhere else to live. A house share in Sidcup with 2 estate agents in their 20’s. He wouldn’t come home if I was there so I had to leave. She tried to paint it as an opportunity, a way for me to have freedom. I tried to act like I wasn’t bothered but inside I was devastated. I desperately hated change and feared strangers (because I was Autistic of course but my parents either ignored or just didn’t see my obvious differences). I couldn’t believe she was choosing him over me. Again. No matter what he did to her she chose him. So I moved out. The weirdest thing was, my Dad helped me move house and he was crying as he said goodbye. So he must have felt bad but not enough to talk to me about it or to try and build a relationship with me.

By then I’d started seeing the boy who would later become my first husband. I skipped school a lot and got drunk with my friends. Having previously been a straight A student, I scraped a B and two C’s at A level which was a miracle as I did little work and frequently skipped classes. But I wasn’t being parented by anyone so I did what I wanted.

I decided I didn’t want to go to University. I wanted to get a job and earn my own money so I wasn’t relying on anyone else. Other people just let me down. Also, as predictable and lame as it might sound, I was in love with my boyfriend and I didn’t want to go to Uni and risk us splitting up.

I arranged to meet up with my mum and brothers at a mini golf course in Sidcup. I tried to explain gently that I was going to get a job instead of going to Uni. I tried to explain my reasons. Focus on the positives. But she just freaked. She screamed and cried. She was shaking and trembling like she was having a panic attack. It scared the life out of me and in that moment I knew I had no choice I had to go because otherwise she’d never forgive me.

So I went to Uni. And was desperately unhappy. I missed my boyfriend. I had no money, my student loan barely covered my rent and travel. I lived off cans of soup that mum gave me each week. I felt totally cut adrift, surrounded by strangers. It was like I’d been hollowed out, a ghostly observer of my fellow students, never a part of the story that played out in front of me. My course was so hard, the first term was poetry and being a very literal Autistic person I found it impossible to interpret the complicated poems they gave us. I remember writing an essay on a famous poem I had thought was about War. It turned out it was about HIV and AIDS. I had no clue. I think I managed one and a half terms. Then one day I woke up, packed what I could carry and boarded a train home. I never, ever went back. I left so many possessions there. For years I fretted over the things I’d left behind. Not so much for the things themselves but the fact of abandoning them; that felt deeply wrong to me. The whole experience felt doomed, haunted. Like a chapter from someone else’s life story that I’d accidentally fallen into.

So I went home praying mum would understand. But of course she was really upset and angry. We’d had several difficult weeks in the run up to me leaving Uni, as she hated the fact I would travel home on a weekend, shower and grab clean clothes then disappear to my boyfriend’s house all weekend. She said I treated her house like a hotel and I can definitely see why she thought that. But I was in love and I just wanted to be with him. She KNEW what that feeling was like. But she hated me for it. She had nothing to say to me except spiteful comments and accusations. She never stopped to think about how I felt or why we were in that situation. She started to turn everyone against me. My younger brothers called me ‘the bike of St Paul’s Cray’ (our local district) because mum told them I was sleeping around. On separate occasions both my maternal Auntie and Uncle turned on me because of the lies my mum was feeding them. But what had I done wrong? Yes I had a spiteful tongue as I’d learned the art of personal attacks from my mother, the grand mistress of belittling and demeaning comments. I would get into awful rows with her. But I wasn’t a bad person. I just wanted to be independent, to enjoy being with my boyfriend, the first person who truly loved me and made me feel safe. His mum and dad were so kind to me, their place felt like a real home. They felt like a real family.

In contrast my mum seemed to despise me. She constantly told me I was mad which really scared me as I’d grown up overhearing the adults talk about my Grandma’s mental health struggles and her suicide attempts, so I thought I must be just like her. I was regularly having (what I now realise were) uncontrollable Autistic meltdowns. These feel like giant suffocating waves of emotion, anger, fear, confusion. You lose all sense of reality, your senses are boiling over and you are so frightened. But these meltdowns would earn me beatings. And I can hand on heart say that my mum hit me and assaulted me far worse than my dad ever did. I was bickering with her once, sitting cross legged in the lounge doing homework on the floor. She grabbed my hair and smashed my face full force into the carpet. My nose burst with blood and I went to school the next day with 2 massive black eyes, having to say I’d fallen over. Another time, I was walking through the downstairs hall in a towel and she launched herself at me and ripped off the towel, opened the front door and tried to force me outside naked. I was screaming and crying, trying to hold onto the bannister. My crime? I’d back chatted her. I’m not going to pretend I was an angel. I was a confused, extremely angry and hurting undiagnosed Autistic. We bickered over everything and yes I would answer back and use swear words. I also tried to physically defend myself when she was attacking me. But does that mean I deserved what she put me through? The violent attacks, the pure mental torture of hearing her criticisms and put downs. No matter what my dad did, he could never really hurt me because I didn’t love him. I hated him. I pitied him. But I ADORED my mum. I loved her so intensely and purely. I’d devoted my childhood to protecting her and looking after her.

Photo: Me age approximately 13

Just a few weeks before our final fall out in June, she shared a picture of herself and I on holiday in Cornwall on our family WhatsApp group. I must have been 13 or 14. And she wrote to our family group how I was ‘always looking after her when it should have been the other way around’. But as soon as I strayed from that path of serving her, as soon as I wanted some independence and happiness for myself, she turned against me. She didn’t just turn against me, I think she really did hate me. Compared to her who having sex with my dad when she was 14, under my Grandfather’s roof, I was the most innocent, hardworking, sensible and frankly boring teenager. The first time at 15 when a boy tried to kiss me and put his tongue in my mouth I was horrified and completely shocked. But I had to grow up and as soon as I wanted to experience normal things like friendship and romance she acted like I was betraying her and made me feel dirty and disgusting for wanting these things, ordinary things that my school friends wanted and enjoyed.

My three eldest brothers have many, many examples of her violent behaviour they could share. If they chose to tell the truth, to be brave. If they stopped pitying our mother, the victim, for just a moment. If they stopped taking the path of least resistance. They joke about it sometimes but it affected them deeply. This wasn’t normal discipline or ‘just smacking your kids’. This was screwing their faces up in her hand, punching them so hard their head bounced of the wall behind them. I can see she was probably mentally ill herself, having some kind of extended breakdown, trying to bring the boys up on her own. She sees herself completely as a victim, someone who ‘tried her best’. But that’s a lie. She didn’t try her best. We were the victims, we were children. No one teaches you to be a parent. You have to find your own way. And I accept she had a very difficult time because of the toxic relationship with her own mother. But she ALSO had a father who adored her, spoiled her and gave her security and love. She had my Great Nanny Rose as a confidante and loving protector. I had NO ONE. I grew up in isolation, the adults I should have been able to trust let me down and if I dared to try and confide in anyone or ask for help I was punished for it.

Dear Diary

When I first moved in with my second husband N, the man who has stood by me for almost 17 years, we found my old diary in a box of papers. Inserted inside was a letter to Esther Rantzen from Childline. 0800 1111. That number is still so clear in my head. I’d never had the courage to send my letter or to pick up the phone. But it shows how bad things were. Had I sent that letter, I’ve no doubt we would have been taken into care. Would that have been a better life for us children? I don’t know. But I know I regret not finding out. I regret letting my guilt at wanting to escape suffocate my hopes of a better life, a normal life where the parents didn’t beat up on their children. N was horrified when he read that diary. He was so upset he decided to confront my mother. He wanted answers. He wanted her to appreciate what she’d done and for her to apologise to me. But of course, a brick wall went up straight away. She refused to entertain the conversation, she even got one of my brothers to tell him to back off and ‘keep out of it’. The horrors of my childhood were to stay firmly swept under the carpet where they couldn’t offend or upset anyone.

Turning point

Let me take you back now, to when I dropped out of university. I was 18 years old. I came home that day to find all my possessions in bin bags in my mum’s front garden. Literally everything apart from my pets. She had the audacity to phone my dad, the man who hated and abused me all my childhood and he turned up in a van with his brother. They’d decided I should live with him. Can you imagine what that was like? I was 18 years old, and the only adult I’d ever properly loved for the second time in my life was banishing me from her home. Dad got his brother to drop us in Bromley high street. He necked several pints in a pub while I fearfully sipped a lemonade. Then we walked the length of the high street and each time we reached a public phone box he phoned her and called her a c**t. He was crying and punching the metal phone keys until his fist was mashed and bloody. Then we walked to the next phone box and he did it again. And again. She had forced him to take responsibility for me but he didn’t know how to and didn’t want to. By the time we got back to his flat, his knuckles were crushed and misshapen. A bloody mess. I lasted about 3 weeks living with him. To be fair to him he tried to be kind. He bought me vegetarian ready meals and he did my ironing (he ironed everything, even underwear. To this day I don’t iron unless I absolutely have to). All the time I was with him, I felt like he could hardly bear to look at me. I think I reminded him too much of mum. I never felt safe around him. I hated him hugging me. It was so false and it just felt wrong receiving affection from him.

Photo: Me age 17

Thank god, my boyfriend’s parents took pity on me. They asked me if I’d like to live with them. It was the kindest thing anyone had ever done for me. I had no money, nothing. But they took me in as a daughter and they were just ordinary working class people, they weren’t rich, they didn’t have a huge home. But they could see how broken I was and they could see how much their son loved me.

So I lived with them. I got a job in retail. I met my brothers in Sidcup to watch a movie occasionally or I saw them infrequently at my dads for dinner. I didn’t speak with my mum for a long time. I don’t know how long. Autistics have a funny relationship with time, it passes by us without us realising. I heard nothing from her until my beloved cat Fluffy died and she called my boyfriend’s house to let me know. Her voice was cold and unfriendly but so weakened was my childish heart that within seconds I was desperate to ingratiate myself with her and become part of her life again.

Let’s talk about Sex

During my 20’s I tried hard to rebuild my relationship with mum, with my boyfriend’s support. But I could never overcome my resentment and anger at how she’d treated me. It was made harder by the fact that she took so many different men into her life and her home after my dad finally left. Strangers that she’d invite to the house where my younger brothers were living. Some of them moved in to live with her within weeks of meeting. I did like one, DE. He was my youngest brother’s dad. I felt sorry for him and I could see he suffered with mental health issues like me. I was over the moon when A was born and it gave me a reason to visit her more.

Photo: Me age 20.

I adored my new baby brother. But Mum and DE’s relationship broke up when A was still tiny and suddenly she was seeing a another man, J, I think he was a policeman. He owned a boat and was married with kids. This really upset me. I have strong, quite old fashioned values I suppose. I felt ashamed that she was someone’s’ mistress’. I even overheard her saying that she’d stayed on his boat for a festival on the Isle of Wight and when she left she helped him change the sheets as his wife was arriving later that day. I challenged her about that years later and she giggled like a child and denied he was married. But she knows I know. One thing I’ve always struggled with about mum that is in stark contrast to me, is how overtly sexual she is. In her behaviour and how she talks about sex. Because of what happened to me growing up and how dirty she made he feel about my changing body and wanting boyfriends, I am very repressed sexually. I love affection (cuddles, holding hands) but I’ve only been able to relax if I’ve drunk alcohol and I have never fully enjoyed physical intimacy thanks to her. I feel self conscious and vulnerable and sometimes I almost feel like I’m going to have a panic attack if I’m touched in a certain way. So seeing mum throw herself at all these men was terrible for me. And for my brothers. During her fling with J, she asked me and my boyfriend to go to an open air concert with them. It poured with rain and she was dancing with a hot drink in her hand. She slipped in the mud and split boiling tea all over my chest. I screamed and yanked my top off, my skin was burning. She said something like ‘oh it’s like that is it’ and she pulled her blouse off and started dancing in her bra. I was mortified. Why would she do that? When we got back to her house I went upstairs to brush my teeth. I came back down and she was sitting in the lounge with J and my boyfriend and she’d put a porn movie on. I was disgusted. I started yelling at her and she laughed out loud and called me a prude. I went straight to bed so upset and confused. Why would a mum do that to her daughter? It was so humiliating and caused problems with my boyfriend because I was so confused and hurt that he’d allowed that situation to occur.

Then she was seeing another man. I found this out as my boyfriend and I went for a sleepover one weekend. I woke in the night to baby A crying. He was a toddler, one or two. I tried to settle him but he wanted Mummy. Mum’s bedroom was downstairs at the front. I called downstairs, ‘Mum! Mum! The babies’ crying’. No answer. I called again. No answer. As I walked downstairs I heard clear noises of her having sex. I felt outraged, I kicked open the door. She and this stranger were naked and having sex in the home she was bringing my five young brothers up in. Am I wrong for thinking this was bad? Am I a prude, a freak? To me it was disgusting. I screamed at her. I called her all the names under the sun. I thought she was immoral and I felt like my brothers weren’t safe with her taking strangers to the house.

I found out many years later from my brothers that where were many more ‘visitors’. She has tried to justify her behaviour by telling me she’d never experienced real love, or being someone’s priority, so she sought love from anywhere she could. Well you know what, I don’t care. She could have sought counselling like I did. I was beaten and betrayed by both parents, I grew up isolated and alone. But I didn’t throw myself at every random man again and again and again. I didn’t prioritise these strangers, these random men, before my kids. They weren’t even good men. They were all mess ups. Maybe not physically abusive like my dad, but mentally abusive, financially unstable or utterly dependent on her. They slept with prostitutes. Stole from her. She married Big A as we called him, after only 4 months! How that relationship lasted so long I’ll never understand. There was an endless cycle of him cheating and leaving and coming back for more cheating. Who picked up the pieces? Us kids. Every time he left she was bereft, suicidal. It was so frightening for us to see. Then just as she was finding her feet, often months down the line and usually after her meeting another potential suitor, big A would come back and she’d forgive him.

I know I must sound really angry and bitter. That’s because I am. She messed up my life and all my brothers lives. I have five younger brothers. They have all suffered with mental health issues and four of them have struggled with alcohol or substance abuse. I strongly suspect there is undiagnosed Autism in at least 3 of them. Some of them treat women very poorly. They swing between all consuming affection and deep resentment. The others are overly dependent on their partners, financially or emotionally. They struggle to commit. They are dishonest about their struggles and conceal personal issues or money worries often caused by gambling. The hardest thing for me is that my two youngest brothers refuse to discuss any of this. O in particular insists it never happened. I can’t work out if that’s because he was so much younger than me that he didn’t understand what went on, or whether he chooses to ignore the facts and block it out as he is totally overwhelmed by any conflict. Certainly he gets very depressed and overwhelmed by other people’s problems. Certainly he enjoyed a more favourable upbringing as my parents separated when he was young. In the coming years my oldest brother J would cut all contact with my mother, though he still has a relationship with my Dad. Two of my brothers have a fractious relationship with her, torn between resenting her for the past and needing her support now with childcare. Two of them clearly pity her and see her as a victim, what can I say, she plays the role so well. What I do know is that NONE of them have continued to experience the very personal, hateful, insidious attacks I have suffered from her in adulthood. She worships her boys now and of course their children. She ingratiates herself with their partners. She gives them money she doesn’t have. She lets herself be spoken to like a doormat. But me? I am her rival. I am expendable. I am someone she proclaims to love but treats with hatred. As I said, the cycle of maternal abuse perpetuates on her side of the family…

Then came blessings

Photo: Me age 40 with my beautiful boys

Having children with my second husband N, was a positive turning point for me. I’d always been scared I’d repeat the mistakes of my parents but as a mum, I flourished. I read every book I could get my hands on, on positive patenting and gentle parenting. Our sons are nurtured to be confident and follow their passions. They feel safe. They trust us. They know grown ups makes mistakes and they know (decent) grown ups say sorry for those mistakes too. There is no physical punishment, no shaming, no humiliation. We talk about anything and everything. We are all friends, we are a team. N and I have worked hard to make our natural parenting styles meet in the middle. I am immeasurably proud of our beautiful boys. I love them with every part of me and it is that love that stops me from killing myself when I’m at my lowest low. They really have saved my life.

It may surprise you that I really wanted mum to be involved with my children. I wanted her to see what a good mum I am, I wanted her to be proud of me, I wanted her to love me for bringing our amazing boys into her life. Well, she has definitely been a better grandma than she was a mum. She didn’t look after them, or take them out like N’s mum did. She babysat on the odd occasion, usually with strict instructions that we were back by 10pm and had the boys ready for bed before we left. My eldest has occasionally slept over at her house when his cousin is staying with her, which he loves as he can stay up as late as he wants and use his iPad as much as he wants. But she’s good at talking to them and being silly with them. She buys them sweets and listens to their chatter about their latest obsessions. They are very fond of her.

I think it was four years ago now that she relocated from Kent to Sussex, where we lived. None of my brothers lived in Kent anymore, in fact two live overseas. Only my youngest brother was still living with her. I thought we’d see her often after she moved. But especially over the last two years, she became quite reclusive. On a weekend she would travel to Ramsgate to care and clean for my elderly grandparents, still nobly tolerating the spite that spew forth from my grandmother’s mouth whilst my grandfather made excuses for her vicious words. The constant traveling wore her out and she would return home to her house in a mess courtesy of my youngest brother and her long suffering German Shepherd who would soil the floor from lack of being walked. When she came home from those visits, she just wanted to hibernate at home. She would go days without calling me which would always make me worry and I’d end up getting cross with her for not returning my messages, messages she’d insist she never received. It usually felt like unless she wanted a lift somewhere in our car, or to borrow money off N, then she was not interested in us. I wrote to my Grandfather, privately, expressing my fears for her health and asking him to be mindful of the strain she was under trying to combine her job and run a home whilst looking after him and my Nan who lived five hours away on the train. But of course I’m invisible. He completely ignored my letter. My mum told me he’d read it and he was ‘very upset’ – he was not used to any woman challenging him. It became clear to me that he was content to see mum sacrifice her health to care for them. It was her duty in his eyes. She didn’t have a partner, she didn’t even drive, so in his eyes it was an easy solution to his care needs. My mother meanwhile loved them slavishly and unreservedly, desperate to earn my grandfather’s approval and tempt a kind word out of my grandmother’s mouth.

This last year I started taking Mum to work maybe two days a week which meant we’d see her on those mornings. She’d come early and make the boy’s toast while I showered. Then I’d drive her to work. I enjoyed those brief catch ups. And that was the extent of our time together. When the Covid 19 pandemic started, we would meet her on the beach for socially distanced dog walks. She was very down so I was always trying to do thoughtful things to cheer her up. I’d buy her a nice candle or bubble bath. One day my sons and I drew rainbows for her windows and used street chalks to decorate he driveway. Seeing how low she was, I knew a fallout was coming. That’s always the pattern. She is unhappy with something in her life so she lashes out at me. Never my brothers. Her boys can walk all over her, talk to her like mud, take money she hasn’t got, she even cashed in one of her pensions early to bail one brother out of debt. In contrast, I have never asked for anything. Not a penny. Even when I had breast cancer it was N’s mum & step dad supporting me through chemo and helping us move house. Mum was there on the periphery but always with her own distractions and her own agenda. I think she quite enjoyed the attention of having a pregnant daughter battling cancer. She always gives the impression her life is so hard and so complicated that any problems I might have would pale into insignificance. It was easier just to keep my worries from her.

Now, I want to explain the pattern of conflict between my mother & I so you can try and understand what it’s been like for me as an adult versus as a child. These are just a few of many, many examples that stick strongly in my head.

The ticking time bomb

A few years ago we rented a farmhouse together for my brother A’s birthday. His birthday always clashes with our wedding anniversary. Every year I would try and explain that N and I wanted to do our own thing but she usually guilt-tripped us into going away with them or meeting up with them and this was one such time. The farmhouse was gorgeous and had a swimming pool, with a perfect location in the Kent countryside. The first night we cooked a big meal all together and everyone was in good spirits. Except, Mum was a bit down because Big A could only stay the one night. I think he had to work. I knew she was upset but she wasn’t making a fuss. She was just quiet. She did however keep complaining about the house. Little niggles, like she thought it wasn’t clean. It had a septic tank which overflowed so we couldn’t use the water for half a day – she acted like the world was ending. In the end N pulled her up on it. He told her to stop being negative as everyone was having a great time and the house and pool were lovely. I could tell that she was furious he’d told her off but she didn’t argue with him, she would never argue with a man.

Meanwhile our baby son L, was really poorly with a virus. He had a fever and was covered in hives. I literally spent most of the first 2 days in our bedroom, looking after him.

I think it was the third day, we were meant to be going out for a meal. In front of everyone she suddenly announced she wasn’t coming. I asked why and she went on full attack. She said I’d been ignoring her. That I’d deliberately left her out of conversations. All this hatred came pouring out of her mouth then she ran to her room. I was totally devastated and crying, I would never treat anyone like that, let alone my own mum. I followed her in floods of tears and asked why she was doing this. She told me to get away from her. I told her she couldn’t keep doing this, turning all this hatred towards me, blaming me for stuff that was nothing to do with me. She just ignored me, told me to get out of her room. I cried all night. My brothers were all awkward not wanting to take sides.

The next day we were doing an Easter Egg hunt. In the garden she suddenly started talking to me like nothing had happened. No explanation. No apology. She just decided to stop. And me being pathetic, weak me, I accepted it because I was so grateful the conflict was over.

The same thing happened last year, Autumn time. I picked L up from school at 2.45pm. It was a Tuesday. Mum didn’t finish work until 3.30pm but I’d agreed to wait for her so she could come in the car to see my nephew and sister in law for tea. I’d bought cans of drink and sweets for everyone in the garage and the boys and I played I-spy until she finished work. The second she climbed in the car she was moaning. She’d had a terrible day, people were horrible, she was exhausted etc. So I said, ‘Come on Mum, no moaning, we’ve all had busy days. Let’s go and have a nice time’. Straight away she started shaking. Her face twisted and in front of the boys she started shouting ‘how dare you start on me?!’ I was so shocked and upset; I could see she was about to cry and I felt awful for her. I put my arms around her in a hug and said ‘I’m sorry Mum. Please don’t cry. I’m sorry I’ve upset you’ but she pushed me away forcefully, screaming ‘don’t touch me’ and got out of the car. I was begging her to get back in but she stormed off crying. I felt heartbroken. Because I loved my mum and watching her walk away across the road in the cold and dark made me so utterly sad. I couldn’t bear to see her hurting. But then I started feeling angry, why was she doing this to me again? What had I actually done that warranted her behaviour? I felt so cut up that she wouldn’t let me hug her and all the old feelings started flooding back…panic, fear, what will she tell my brothers? What will she tell Grandad? That powerless feeling knowing she will be verbally destroying me to people I love and they’ll believe her because she is such a convincing victim.

After that day I vowed no more, I decided to stay away from her for good. We are bad for each other and my mental health took such a dive every time she melted down at me. I told my brothers. I deleted myself from the family WhatsApp group. I knew I had to take these steps to protect my sanity. And for a few weeks I felt ok, calm, safe. But Christmas was coming. My brother O and his and girlfriend were visiting from Ireland. He started messaging me telling me not to spoil Christmas. He said I was being silly. He said I had to think about everyone, not just myself. So I messaged Mum and asked to meet up. I said I wanted to move on but I needed to discuss things with her as I had to protect myself from this situation happening again. I said I couldn’t get over the past and I needed her to understand how it affected me and I needed to hear she was sorry. And at first she agreed we would meet. But then at the last minute she messaged me. She said she didn’t want to meet, that it wasn’t helpful. She said she had nothing to be sorry for, she was a victim and I had to accept that. So I was yet again devastated, that I wasn’t even worthy of a conversation. I couldn’t believe she could just put up a barrier like that. But like the pathetic idiot I am, I did nothing. I met up with them all over Christmas. It was awkward at first but she acted like nothing had happened and of course I loved her so seeing her softened me and made me feel sorry for her like I always do. Looking back I can see that yet again, I was just her easy target. When she blew up at me she was really unhappy. Her job was going badly as she was allegedly being bullied, she never had any money, no partner, she had seemed low for a while before it happened. I genuinely think she has no one else to take it out on and maybe she convinces herself that I deserve it because in her eyes, my life is so much better than hers. She’s sees I have a kind husband, my own home, a little bit of money…I think she honestly resents that. But I earned those things. I worked tirelessly for many years in my career. N didn’t come from a wealthy background, everything we’ve achieved has been down to our hard work alone. And yes I have had 2 lovely husbands. Because I’m sensible enough to choose decent men having learnt from my mum exactly how NOT to act and how NOT to choose a partner. Shouldn’t she be happy that I’ve been successful at these things?

The most recent confrontation occurred because a few minor things had happened over the space of a week that really hurt me. I knew I wanted to address them with her but I also knew I needed to tread carefully so as not to trigger a massive fallout . I constantly try to improve myself and learn about myself and I know my directness and blunt talking upset other people. I truly believe that my initial messages to her where I raised the issue, were thoughtful and caring. I just wanted to make her aware that she’d really hurt me and for her to apologise so we could move on. I just needed to hear she was sorry. Just once.

The ridiculous thing is, the thing we fell out over was so minor really. She’d had my 14 year old niece staying with her and as a joke (I think) my niece told me she’d had her nipple pierced. I was shocked and worried by this but mum seemed to find it funny and she said she’d felt it so she knew it was true. Over the next few days I fretted over why my niece was doing such grown up things behind my sister in laws back. A few days later N and I met mum and my niece on the beach. Almost immediately Mum told N about the piercing. He was also horrified and said he thought it was very sexualised behaviour for a young girl. However my niece begged us not to tell her mum. The next day Mum told me they’d spoken to my sister in law on the phone and confessed about the piercing. I immediately messaged my sister in law apologising that I hadn’t told her the news myself. At which point my sister in law told me there WAS no nipple piercing. It had all been a hoax, apparently at my expense.

Well now I was very upset with mum! I couldn’t understand why she & my niece would play a trick like that knowing how gullible I am and how much I worry.

So I messaged mum to say I was really hurt, hoping she would apologise.

Unfortunately mum then went into full breakdown on me. She was the devastated victim, saying my ‘accusations’ were untrue. She wrote that she knew nothing about the nipple piercing!! She said that my memories of my childhood are false, that I should be grateful for the upbringing I had. She said that I was the one at fault and a ‘threat to her mental and physical well-being’ because I accuse her of things. She said I was taking my struggles out on her which is ridiculous when she knew how well I was doing and how happy I’d been, in fact she kept telling me how well I looked and how happy I seemed in the weeks building up to this incident.

Her reaction showed me that she still had so much control over me. So much power to break my heart and stamp on my mind. She can’t see that she treats me how my grandmother treats her and so, so much worse. The saddest thing is I really loved her and all I’ve ever wanted is to make her feel safe and happy and for her to love me back.

I keep wondering is she knowingly cruel to me or does her poor mental health mean she can’t see what she’s done and continues to do. Either way, her messages prove she feels very hurt whenever I try and address problems with her and she sees me as a negative influence on her wellbeing.

For all these reasons I have severed contact with her. It’s the best thing for me and the best thing for her. I don’t want to be her victim anymore, 45 years of gaslighting is enough. My heart feels broken but I know it’s the right decision because I can’t keep letting her hurt me like this. I have my own family now and they come first. I will worry for her and want good things for her for the rest of my life, but I can’t help hating her too.

I wish I was stronger. I wish I could be all zen and forgive her and ‘let it go’. And I would try, if it was all in the past. But it’s NOT in the past. Because countless times in my adult life she has turned against me and rejected me and judged me and I just can’t cope with it any more.

The last laugh

Unfortunately that was not the end of her destructive influence on my life. She was not content to just let me go, to let me be free. I’d written to her reassuring her that I wanted her to still be a grandma to my sons and that she could arrange contact with my husband. But that wasn’t enough for her. I’d disobeyed her. I had to pay the price. So my Mother has been on something of a campaign to discredit me and destroy my relationships with my extended family. To isolate me from anyone who may have been able to support me.

First she tried to convince my husband that I was a liar and having an episode of poor mental health. But my husband rejected her accusations, told her my mental health had been excellent before this incident, told her to accept responsibility for the past. She replied ‘at least I know where I stand’ then she blocked him on social media, effectively severing the communication channels by which to arrange contact with our sons.

Next my brother O bombarded N with abusive messages calling him a coward and a ‘yes man’ for not taking sides AGAINST me.

I had written to my brothers, apologising for bringing stress to their doors. I briefly explained what had happened to cause the final relationship breakdown and my decision to terminate all contact with mum. I asked them to check in on her and begged for their understanding. I asked them not to choose sides. My brother O, replied with an abusive and demeaning message. I reference it at the start of this blog. He truly seems to think I’m making this all up. That I’m mentally ill. That it will all blow over if I just SHUT UP. How to describe how that makes me feel? Crushed. Invisible. Pointless. Of no value whatsoever. He doesn’t care about me. He cares that my husband and I continue to look out for my mother so he can live his best life on the other side of the world with his girlfriend. He needs me to tow the line. To be the dutiful big sister. To guard our mother in his extended absence. My brothers D and A, totally ignored my message. No check in to see how I was, no questions asked. Utter silence. I have invested so much love and time in those boys, whether helping with homework or job applications, befriending their girlfriends, healing their broken hearts, helping them navigate their relationship with our Mother. So to me their silence is both heartbreaking and cowardly.

My two eldest brothers don’t speak to me. I managed to alienate them by standing up to them during the breakdown of their respective marriages. They both felt I should side with them, despite the awful way they treated their wives and the issues that subsequently caused for their children. I’ve had my fill of abused women and damaged children, enough to last me a lifetime. I love my brothers but I will not condone their behaviour now matter how much of it could be attributed to the abuse we experienced growing up. I tried to support BOTH people in their marriages. I told them I was on the side of their children. But they could not forgive me for judging their mistakes, and as much as that hurts me I wouldn’t change my actions because I know I was right to stand by their wives and children.

I wrote a letter to my Auntie, a letter I used as the basis to help me write this blog. The same Auntie I ran to, crying and soaked in urine all those years ago. I needed validation. I needed to know she believed me, I needed to know she remembered, I needed to know I wasn’t mad. I can’t describe the relief I felt to receive her support. To know that she knows, she remembers. Of course she’s in an awful position because Mum is her sister. And Mum has declared her a traitor for betraying her by accepting my email. What does that tell you about my Mother? That she is demanding family members take sides, that anyone who isn’t on her side is committing treachery? I’ve asked no one to take my side. I don’t want to hurt her or isolate her. I just wanted these family members to HEAR my truth, to ACCEPT my suffering and my decision to emancipate from her.

I wrote to my Grandfather. I again, asked him not to take sides. I didn’t want him to believe her lies about me. I didn’t want him to stop loving me, to alienate me. I grew up thinking my Grandfather was a wonderful man. Intelligent, strong, loyal. Everything my father wasn’t. But his message to me, that I received only yesterday was the most hurtful, damning, unjust communication I have ever received. It shook me to the core because it revealed he was NEVER the man I thought he was, that was just my fantasy, my naive Autistic brain choosing him to be my hero. What a terrible mistake I made believing that.

Here is my hero, my Grandfather’s message for you to read. I am including it here for every person who has ever been gaslighted by someone who is supposed to love and protect them. I want those victims of gaslighting to know that I BELIEVE them. I UNDERSTAND. We are subjected to cruel psychological manipulation, repeated attempts to control and silence us, to shackle us, because that is more convenient for our abusers and their allies than admitting the truth and trying to put wrongs right.

Darling.

I found that half way through your missive, I had to stop reading.

If this cruelty you speak of, occurred, why has it not come to the forefront before?

Nanny and I love you and the two boys very much. However, we are not prepared to be involved in your campaign to get the family to take your side against your Mum (as you tried with your siblings).

I realise that you have a problem mentally, however this is an illness and cannot be used as an excuse for outstandingly bad behaviour and (often) nastiness.

We are so, so sad that things have turned out the way they have. However, perhaps you are right and a clean break from the family is the best way forward.

Most of your problems, have been inherited from your lunatic grandmother, on your fathers side of the family and your alcoholic father himself.

Lastly, we are so disappointed in Nick.

We thought that he would be man enough, to look after you properly, which is not being a yes man, but to give you counselling and guidance. (Which you obviously need.)

Please don’t reply or contact us again, until you feel better.

Love to you and the boys.

Xxxxxxxxx

I can’t tell you how I cried when I read his message. The emotional overwhelm. The distress I felt knowing my grandparents would die without me ever seeing them again. Without them knowing the truth. The hatred I felt towards my mother then, hit me like a tidal wave. Her lies, her cowardice, her wicked intent to destroy my connections with every other member of my birth family to protect herself….

I will never forgive her. My love for her, that undying, pure, childlike love, the 45 years of making excuses for her, trying to understand her, trying to forgive her because she was a victim too…all that died when I read my Grandfathers message.

Moving on

Photo: Me and my World

I can honestly say that despite everything, I have a massive capacity for love and I will forgive anyone, anything, if they are sorry and want to work with me to put things right. But this experience has taught me that I can’t force my Mother to apologise, I can’t force her to tell the truth, I can’t force her to revisit all the beatings and the terrible dehumanising things she said to me about my sexuality and my personality and relationships over the years.

I accept she is the byproduct of her owns mother’s cruelty and her father’s apathy, but I’m choosing to break that cycle of abuse.

My priority is my children and my husband because they are MY family and they love me for who I am, they SEE me for who I am. They accept my truth and they will help me survive it.

Thank you for reading to the end. If my experience resonates with you, PLEASE share my blog. Help me connect with other people like me, children who are the products of abusive relationships who want to break that cycle, to start again, to NEVER repeat the mistakes of their abusers. Gaslighting is real. It is so, so dangerous, it has driven me to the brink of suicide. It is, in my experience, far more harmful and long lasting than physical abuse. But you can stop it. By telling YOUR truth. Don’t be shamed. Don’t be silenced. There may not be justice. Your abusers may never be punished. But you can SURVIVE. You can BREAK FREE. Take back the control over your life. Live well. Nothing but the truth.

Lizzy Van Tromp

26/08/20.

10 thoughts on “Nothing but the Truth – A story of Abuse and Gaslighting

  1. Thank you, much of what you’ve written resonates with me. It’s hard but sometimes a detox of toxic people in one’s life, even if a parent, is essential for moving on and focusing on one’s own family, future and happiness.
    You are not alone!

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    1. Thank you so much. The isolation I feel is crushing but I have never been so sure that I’m doing the right thing. I have wasted 45 years being sad and scared and controlled by their judgement and manipulation. No more. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog x

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  2. I relate to this on so many levels. Thank you for sharing. People don’t believe me either because my abuser is such a talented liar. It is torture for me to be so isolated from those I love but going back isn’t a choice I can make. Good job breaking ties. It is not easy.

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    1. Thank you so much for relating, the abuse I’m receiving from my brothers has only intensified since I released my blog. It is crippling how my mother is turning all my extended birth family against me and in doing so, she is preventing my children from having a relationship with all of those people. She says I’m a liar and that I’m in a mental health crisis and need help. Actually, I’ve never felt so sure about what I’m doing in my whole life. This situation reaching boiling point has shown me the true characters of people I trusted and called family. They don’t deserve to know me or my husband or my sons. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve suffered in this way too. Stay strong, I really pray the truth comes out in the end for both of us, even though it will be too late for the people who’ve shunned us. I will never go back xxx

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  3. Thank you for sharing, I’ve always felt like the outcast in my family and my feelings were always dismissed. Even now in my wreck of a marriage I feel like he’s gaslighted me too. I’m awake now, and stronger and I know what I have to do. I hope you continue to take care of yourself.

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    1. Thank you so much. I hope you can get away from the people who are mistreating you. It’s so hard, as I’ve experienced the people abusing you will only accelerate and increase their abuse when you try to break away. They try to discredit you and undermine you. You can and will rise above this as will I. Bullies can’t win unless we let them x

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing your pain. Your story and your ability to love despite everything you have gone through is so incredibly encouraging and hopeful.

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    1. I really appreciate your kindness and empathy. Writing is the best way I know to process what I’m going through. It’s like spring cleaning my mind. I’m really glad you liked reading my work.

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  5. I can relate to so much you speak of. It’s so hard to explain to people what your mother & father are like as most I know have never experienced it. It’s gruelling living this kind of life; re – experiencing your childhood almost on a daily basis as so many triggers happen. I feel too heavily tired to say more just now. I’ve tried so incredibly hard in every way I can think of to lead a positive productive life, but my childhood always pulls me back to despair. x

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    1. I’m so sorry to hear you’re struggling. I can feel the hurt in your voice. When I was diagnosed with symptoms of post traumatic stress several years ago I didn’t entirely understand it. But now I do. The crystal clear recall of each horrendous experience does mean you keep reliving the worst bits of your life again and again. That’s why I write about my life. It is so tiring processing it all, but writing it down feels like an exorcism in a way. They WANT to silence me. They want to discredit me. Even last night I received awful messages from my brother masquerading as a follower with a fake account. Every bit of abuse they hurl, every lie, every slanderous comment, it just proves to me how much they fear the truth and how much they want me to shut up and go away. I hope you can find a way to escape your abusive past and be free. I’m very much a work in progress but I’m determined my life will matter, it will count, and my children will have the love and laughter and security I never had. xx

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