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Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

>Firstly, I just want to thank everyone for all their support on my last few posts about my childhood. I was slightly apprehensive about posting them – I knew I felt like I needed to write about it, but I felt like people would see them and think ‘oh whiny, irritating, obnoxious brat who has had no real problems in her life’ because I suppose that is how I think of myself. I suppose in my mind if you have experienced trauma of some kind then mental health problems are perfectly understandable – it makes sense that if, for example, you are abused as a child, then you may grow up with some issues. But I have always felt like I have no issues and therefore I am a fraud in some way – that there must actually be nothing wrong with me, and I am making it all up, because if there is no reason for it then it can’t exist. Particularly given that one of my diagnoses is BPD, which is almost synonymous with trauma. Of course I know rationally that a) not everyone with BPD has had a traumatic childhood, although it is a large majority according to studies, and b) that not having experienced this does not make my problems any less real. But it is hard to always think rationally about things like this, and deep down I do just feel like a fraud a lot of the time. There have been occasions when I have convinced myself that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me, and that I am making it all up, even if I have been feeling desperately suicidal all the time. Sometimes I feel like I need to tell someone that I have been lying for all these years, and wasting all these resources, because actually there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. Except there is. And not having a reason for it – not being able to justify why I have these problems and feel the way I do makes it even harder to deal with in some ways, because I feel guilty and weak and confused. Professionals always ask about triggers and what caused things, and when you can’t tell them, not because there is something too hard to talk about, but because there actually isn’t anything, it does make you feel like you are wasting their time in some way. So thank you very much for all the responses. They meant a lot, and actually felt very validating. At first I have to confess that I wondered if people were taking the piss, because there was all this sympathy coming from people, and I didn’t see what there was to be sympathetic about, because there was nothing traumatic in my life – there were a couple of difficult periods, but everyone has them. Pandora, who experienced such real and terrible trauma in her childhood saying ‘This is heart-breaking to read’ about my childhood, which in many ways was so privileged, and normal, and ostensibly happy, just didn’t make sense to me – I didn’t understand how she, of all people, didn’t just dismiss me as a whiny brat after everything that she has been through. But I realised that these comments were coming from people I trust, and who would have no reason not to be genuine in their response, and so I tried to take them at face value. Which was hard, but I do believe that they were meant, even if I don’t understand why, and I want to thank you all for that.

I think talking it all over with L has helped too. I saw her yesterday. Although I usually send her pretty much everything I write between sessions, I hesitated over sending this. It felt like such a trivial thing to have written so many thousands of words about, and obviously she knows a lot of what happened in my childhood anyway, both from my notes, and from what I have told her before. Plus it just felt too much like navel gazing. So I debated with myself about whether or not to send it, and in the end decided I would, but to point out that it probably wouldn’t be of any relevance, and veered off into navel gazing, and that she really didn’t need to read it. Again, I was surprised by her reaction. For some reason she was impressed that I had been able to write about it, and didn’t think I would have been able to do that until recently. I have to admit that she made a lot of sense (she generally does to be fair!) and talked about how as a child changes in your life can completely change your whole view of the world, because everything seems secure and safe, and then something happens to destroy that, and as a child you don’t know how to deal with that, and so even things that on the surface are not massively traumatic, ie not neglect or abuse etc, can have a big impact on you. Or something along those lines. I don’t have the type of memory to quote what was said in appointments verbatim, particularly as I had only had 3 hours sleep before that particular appointment. She also said that seeing your parents unable to cope can be really difficult to deal with when you are young, as you have always relied on them and expected them to look after you, and if you are suddenly faced with a situation where they aren’t coping and you have to look after them then it confuses everything you know basically – they are supposed to look after you, not the other way around. She said she could completely see why I would have formed attachment issues after that, although we did also briefly talk about biological predisposition to things like that, and the nature vs nurture debate. I think I probably have characteristics and personality traits that would probably have made me vulnerable to mental health problems regardless of my circumstances, although of course it is difficult to judge how much of your personality is what you were born with, and how much is a reaction to environment etc, for example I am a perfectionist, which is a very common trait in people with mental health problems, and particularly eating disorders. But was I born a perfectionist, or was it somehow the result of my upbringing? I suspect that particular trait was one I was born with, as my dad is also a perfectionist, although my mum absolutely is not – ‘it will do’ tends to be her motto! I suppose you can never know how much of your character and life is a result of your experiences, and how much is just you, as you came into the world. You can guess, but you will never know for sure. I think an interesting case is identical twins, who obviously come from a split embryo, and therefore should be born with all of the same personality traits I would have thought, and are then brought up in exactly the same environment, and presumably treated the same, and yet can end up with such different personalities. I don’t know how that happens. How can one egg split and form two very different people, even when they have had the same upbringing? It is strange the things you think about when blogging. That is never something that had even crossed my mind before, and yet now it seems fascinating. Or maybe it is tiredness making me think that, since it is now 5:30am, and I wasn’t actually very late up today….. Time for sleep I think.

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>From the time when my dad moved out when I was 12, things continued in the same way for quite a few years. He would come over some evenings. He would come on holiday with us, and stay for a while over Christmas. At some point he started spending the weekends here. Then there would be times when I wouldn’t see him for a couple of months because of my mum or I getting upset about it all and cutting contact with him. Neither he, nor my mother, were seeing anyone else. It was a fairly strange relationship, as it was so uneven. My mum desperately wanted him back, and so everything was on his terms. He came over when he wanted, but if he wanted to do something else instead then he would, and my mum would get upset, which would generally lead to a period of her not wanting to see him. If she didn’t want to see him then I generally didn’t see him either. I hated going to his flat – I only did it a handful of times over a period of about 6 years. I didn’t like seeing that he had his own life away from us, and I didn’t feel comfortable there. So generally either he came here, or I didn’t see him.

At 16 I finished school and went of to 6th Form College to do A levels. It was a relief to leave H and co. behind – I don’t think I have seen anyone from my year group since I left school over 8 years ago, apart from briefly bumping into a couple of people, including her. Maybe she is a nicer person now. I hope so. I did ok in my GCSEs, but didn’t get the results I should have got, because I did no revision. That is something of a pattern for me. I think my fear of failure is so intense that I take it the opposite way and work on the premise that if I haven’t tried then it doesn’t matter if I have failed or done badly, whereas if I worked really hard and still didn’t do as well as I should then I would have no excuse – I would just be a failure.

Anyway, 6th Form College was a much better experience than school in many ways. It was literally 10 times the size in terms of student population, and obviously they were all aged 16 – 19, rather than 4 – 16 like my school had been, so there were rather more people in a year group at college – about 50 times more…. C was going to the same 6th Form, and I also knew a couple of other people, through performing, who were going there, but that was it. Oh, and a guy from my school, but I rarely saw him. In theory everything should have improved for me in college. I had friends, and obviously I was studying the subjects I wanted to etc. And in some ways it was great. I had some really good teachers, one of whom I am still in contact with now – he came to see me in Carousel. The main problem with it was that I didn’t want to be there. In the summer between finishing school and starting 6th Form, I had done a 2 week Musical Theatre summer course at one of the drama schools in London, and absolutely loved it, and therefore resented going off to study academic subjects when I wanted to be doing performing. I wished I was doing a Musical Theatre BTEC rather than A levels, so that I could be doing what I wanted to do. In retrospect I am glad I did A levels, and I don’t think my parents would have let me not do them anyway, but it resulted in once again my attendance being pretty poor, because I couldn’t be bothered with it, and so that, combined with not doing any work that didn’t absolutely have to be done, and not doing any revision at all, meant that I finished my first year with pretty poor results. I didn’t dislike college – as I have said, I had friends there, I enjoyed some of my lessons. I was very fortunate in that the Head of Music/Performing Arts seemed to think the sun shone from my arse, and so I got quite a few opportunities in that area. I was in the college choir, and got all the solos – I sung the Once In Royal solo 3 years running at the carol service (yes, I stayed 3 years – more on that later), as well as various other solos. I was always asked to perform in all of the concerts, and to record songs for the music tech students etc. In my 3rd year they did Les Miserables, and I pretty much got to choose my role, although that was actually a new member of staff directing that who had never taught me. We had a couple of auditions, and then were waiting ages for them to decide casting, and one day I asked if they had cast it yet, because I said I wanted to include it in my UCAS personal statement, and wanted to be able to say what part I was playing (oh the arrogance!) and got the reply, ‘well we haven’t finished casting yet, but I am assuming you would like Eponine as you sung On My Own in your audition?’ I said I would please, and that was that settled. College gave me a confidence in my abilities that school never had – in college there were 2000 people, all of my age, and yet I was the one who got the solos and the leads, and who the staff knew, even if they didn’t teach me. At school there was a lot of nepotism going on with casting, and so I never got leads, despite being the only person who regularly performed out of school (and regularly was cast in leads there). So college was good for making me realise I must be better than school had lead me to believe. My first year of college was fairly uneventful. I went to lessons some of the time, stayed home some of the time, did some of the work, didn’t do some of the work. I was still doing dance and singing lessons outside of college, and some shows, although I had started doing less by that time.

I had just started my second year of college, and so was just 17 when the next thing happened in my home life. My mum picked me up from the bus one day and was very upset – she had received an anonymous text message saying that my dad had been seeing someone for a year and that she should divorce him. It turned out that it was true – we never did know for sure who sent it, although the assumption was that his girlfriend (another 25 year old who worked for him) had got the number off his phone and sent it, although she denied it. Whilst he wasn’t living at home, and it was now 5 years since he had moved out, he hadn’t seen anyone in that time to our knowledge, apart from the initial affair, and had generally spent quite a lot of time at our house and with us. Of course in retrospect we realised that for the last year he hadn’t been spending weekends with us like he had been before that, and that he had been coming over less often, but since everything always had been on his terms anyway, we hadn’t really questioned it before. I was very upset – not that he was seeing someone, but that he had been lying to us for over a year. It really hurt me a lot, and I think made me lose a lot of trust in not only him, but people generally. I still can’t comprehend how and why he would lie like that for so long – it wasn’t like he was living here – they were separated, and had been for quite a few years. My mum was absolutely devastated. As I said, she always wanted to be with him, and this news was just too much for her. She refused to tell anyone – she wouldn’t even tell her friends or my siblings initially. She kept saying how ashamed she felt and how stupid she was for not knowing, and how if people knew they would laugh at her and think she was stupid. I think that for her too it was more about the secrecy, and not knowing than it was him seeing someone else, although obviously that hurt her too. Yet again, he broke up with her once we had found out. So we were back to keeping secrets (although we had never actually stopped) but this time it was just the two of us, as there were no siblings or friends or counsellors involved this time. And it really was role reversal – she was so upset, and had absolutely nobody to talk to apart from me, and so I listened to it all. Obviously I was older by this point, but she was really leaning on me quite heavily, and I couldn’t rely on her at all emotionally. And I started to crumble. Not in front of her. I didn’t let her know how much I was struggling. But I was struggling more and more. My mood was low and I started purging frequently.

I had a really great teacher at college who I started talking to. She was really supportive, and for a while I talked to her every week. I suppose really she was the first person I ever talked to about anything emotional at all – I had just never talked about feelings before to anyone. She was really helpful – without her I don’t know if I would have gone on to get other help. She listened, and she got me information and a self help book for bulimia. She was also the one who encouraged me to go to my GP to get help (who gave me anti depressants and referred me to the CMHT), and also to see the college counsellor in the meantime. I was very attached to her. I think my issues with attachment can be attributed in some ways to my relationship with my parents, although as I said before, even when I was very young I was very possessive with friends, so perhaps it has always been in my nature. But it was after my dad left when I was 12 that I started getting really attached to people. Never men – it has always been women, who I suppose I see as maternal figures, who I have become attached to. I feel like it should be men, since it was my dad who left and wasn’t there for me, but I suppose emotionally I wasn’t getting what I needed from my mum, and therefore begun to look for it elsewhere. There have been a number of people I have grown very attached to – wanting to be around them all the time, and for them to care about me and look after me, and I suppose essentially to parent me. It is weird because my mum and I have always been very close, and yet I have always had these fantasies of whoever it is I am attached to at the time (only ever one at a time) taking me home to live with them. But I suppose it is due to my mum not being there for me emotionally when I needed her, because she was struggling so much herself. Maybe that is why even now I find it very difficult to talk to her about how I am feeling. I think I can also attribute my eating problems to my parents to some extent. My parents have very different relationships with food. My mum is tiny, but eats a lot of food, a lot of which is crap, and by rights should be enormous. She rarely weighs herself, and doesn’t understand why I don’t just eat what she does – she can’t seem to comprehend that her metabolism is not normal. My dad is much more careful about what he eats – he is a healthy weight, but he weighs himself daily, and hates it if his weight goes up, and will cut out unhealthier foods until it goes back to where he wants it to be. As a teenager he used to frequently comment on my weight, and suggest that I should try to lose weight, frequently citing my career choice as the reason why I needed to be smaller. He doesn’t do that any more, probably because I haven’t been as big as I was as a teenager, although even then we were still talking healthy BMI range, just nearer the higher end of it. But he does still ask me how my weight is, and will make comments about what I am eating sometimes. As a family they (we?) are very sizeist – I have grown up with negative comments about overweight people etc, so I think that, along with comments about my own weight, coupled with a desperate need to feel in control of something when my life felt so out of control, was really fairly likely to lead to an eating disorder.

Despite my mental health problems, my second year of college was better than my first year in many ways. I think primarily because I felt safe there – it filled the same space for as rehearsals had when I was younger and my dad first left – it was somewhere to escape to. I suppose in a large part because college contained the only person I really trusted to talk to – at this point I had been referred to the CMHT, and at some point during the year had an assessment there, and was then on the waiting list for the rest of that year. My attendance was better, and although I was having problems concentrating, I actually did better than I had in my first year, although still not nearly as well as I should have. And then my second year came to an end, I had A Levels, and I didn’t have a clue what to do next. I was terrified of leaving college, because that was where my only support was. I had no plans to go on to university or anything. And in the end I just couldn’t face leaving. So I stayed on an extra year. I retook the first year of English Lit, because I had got 2 grades higher for my second year than I got in my first year, and then I took both the first and second year of Sociology at the same time, so that I got an A level in a year. I also worked part time at the college, as a Learning Support Assistant. Just before my third year started, I started seeing a Clinical Psychologist at the CMHT, primarily for help with my eating disorder, although during the year my mood got worse and worse, until I attempted suicide at the end of the year. This academic year was 2004/2005, and so was 6 years after my dad had first moved out, in 1998, and 1 or 2 years after we found out he had been seeing someone again, in 2003. During this time he had started spending more and more time back at home – staying there more often, and by some point in 2005 he was more or less living back at home, although he still kept his flat, and spent occasional nights there. But he was back home. The perfect fairytale ending right? And they all lived happily ever after….

I do not by any means think that my problems now are caused by my parents splitting up. As I said before, I don’t think things were quite right when I was even younger than that. But I do think it probably exacerbated matters. I find it really difficult to admit that my parents splitting up could have even contributed slightly to me having mental health problems now. What is the statistic – half of all marriages end in divorce or something like that? And people go through much worse and don’t end up with a slew of psychiatric diagnoses, which makes me think that either I must be really pathetic, other people must be really strong, or my problems come from absolutely nowhere, and it is absolutely nothing to do with my parents. I flit from one view to another depending on my mood. But I can see that L had a point when she said how difficult it must have been having to keep it all a secret, and having to try and contain my emotions to avoid upsetting my mum. That was difficult, and probably isn’t a typical experience of parents’ splitting up, although of course I don’t know for sure. I almost feel guilty for having mental health problems when I have been through so little in comparison to other people. Ok, my parents split up, but so what? That is hardly uncommon. And apart from that I had a good childhood. I got to do whatever activities I wanted, I had a good education, I was loved and looked after. I certainly was never abused in any way, or neglected, or anything else terrible. Nothing bad happened to me. And yet here I am, at age 24, with 7 years in the mental health system, multiple suicide attempts, multiple admissions, numerous CPNs and Psychiatrists and other professionals, medications, etc etc. I feel ashamed of myself for being so weak. For having these problems, when others go through so much worse and yet cope so much better. I really do feel guilty when I think about it. I don’t understand why I am in the position I am in, when there has been nothing serious in my life to cause me to feel like this. I can see that my teenage years weren’t perfect, but they were not bad enough to lead to this. So what is wrong with me? I have absolutely no idea.

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>A lot happened between the ages of about 9 and 12. My brother moved out, to move in with his now wife. Although obviously before that he was out a lot with friends and at work etc, I do remember being upset when he moved out. My maternal grandfather, who I was very close to, died when I was 9 or 10. I remember going to see him in hospital, but he wasn’t the person I knew really. And then he died. I wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral because my parents didn’t agree with children being at funerals. I was sent to C’s house for the day to play. I have a vague recollection of playing in the garden with her, but feeling upset about my grandad dying, and everyone apart from me being at the funeral. My paternal grandmother died a few years later (I am very hazy about dates throughout my childhood). I hadn’t been close to her – she lived further away and I only remember seeing her about once a year. My mum and I went to see her in hospital, but I don’t remember anything about it, I just remember going. My dad was in Japan on a business trip when she died, and was still away for the funeral. I remember he wrote a poem which my mum read out at the funeral. I was allowed to go to that one. I suppose I was that bit older. I don’t remember much about it.

The main thing that happened in my childhood was my parents splitting up when I was 12. I remember that quite vividly. I remember seeing my mum upset a few times, and my dad comforting her, but I didn’t know why. Then one day, I was at C’s house, and my mum called and told me to come home. I didn’t want to because her cousins were there, and we were all having a good time, but she insisted. I went home and my parents told me that my dad was moving out. I was incredibly upset. I had absolutely no idea that there were any problems – it was completely out of the blue. My parents were the type of people who everyone expected to be together forever, so it was a complete shock. I remember getting very upset, and I remember my mum getting very upset. She phoned my brother and he came over. I was told initially it was just going to be for a few days, to give them some time apart, and I believed that. My dad took some things off and went to stay in a hotel. For some reason, they must have decided it would be a good idea if I went with him for the evening and went home later. I think my mum was too upset to look after me. So I went off to this hotel with him, and I suppose I went home later that night, although I don’t remember. I have only just remembered that he took me with him. Obviously it wasn’t just for a few days. He started looking for somewhere to rent. I went shopping with him one day and helped him buy things he would need – I remember choosing a duvet cover for him. It all feels quite surreal. Again, I am unsure why they thought it was a good idea for me to go shopping with him to buy things for his new home, when I was still being told it was temporary – it had just been changed from a few days, to a few weeks, to a few months. I was told at some point, I can’t remember when, that he had been having an affair with a girl who worked for him. I say girl, because that was how I thought of her. I think she was about the age I am now. It had been going on for some time, but nobody knew. As soon as he had moved out, he broke up with her anyway. I never met her.

My sister had been at university in Edinburgh, but was upset by my parents splitting up, and took a year out and moved back home. I am not entirely sure why it affected her so much, as it wasn’t her dad – my siblings have a different father to me, and although she always got on fine with my dad, she had never called him dad or anything like that – she never thought of him as her parent. But she did come home, and her attitude towards me had completely reversed. When I was a young child she had been besotted with me, and spoilt me. As I got older she was still very fond of me, and when she was living in London she used to take me there and we would go to a museum or something, and she took me to the ballet once, and the theatre another time. She used to buy me lots. I went to stay with her twice in Edinburgh. We were always close. But when she moved back for the year when I was 12/13 her attitude had completely changed. That was the point where she started having issues with me. She would say that I was a spoilt brat and a little witch and just generally wasn’t very nice to me most of the time. I certainly never, ever had any support or understanding from her.

Parents splitting up is nothing unusual – it is so common for couples to split up, and children just seem to deal with it. But I think in a lot of ways I didn’t. I think there are a few reasons for this. Firstly, it was not a straight forward case of parents not getting on and fighting, one moving out, then getting a divorce a little later. In fact, that couldn’t have been much further from what happened. There had been no fighting, or certainly not that I had ever witnessed, and our house is not so big that I wouldn’t have heard screaming matches. The separation itself was I suppose unusual to say the least. Despite my dad having an affair, my mum still loved him and did not want him to leave. And they still got on. As I have already said, I was told initially that is was just going to be a few days, then that time period gradually extended. But it was always assumed they would get back together – this was just temporary, and there was never any talk of divorce or anything. I think that my mum had convinced herself it was temporary, which meant she could easily tell me that. However, as it was a temporary thing and they had not actually split up, that meant that we didn’t tell other people. For years. Obviously a few people knew – family, and a couple of friends of my parents, and C and her family. But that was about it. It was all very secretive. My mum was devastated by him leaving. She didn’t cope well with it at all. I remember her losing quite a lot of weight, and she is naturally very tiny anyway, and being prescribed anti depressants. She went to see a counsellor. They tried couple counselling a couple of times, but my dad was very against it, and so it only happened a couple of times. Apart from a couple of my mum’s friends who knew, and this counsellor who encouraged her to punch cushions, she didn’t really have anyone to talk to, so sometimes she used to talk to me. We were very close, but of course I was only 12, and I didn’t understand why my dad had moved out when my parents got on so well, and everyone had assumed they would be together forever. I never told anyone about my dad leaving. My mum worked where I went to school, so nobody there knew, until one day in a PHSE class when there was something about divorce etc being discussed and I had to leave because I was feeling very upset. My mum then told my form tutor, who said she would avoid talking about that in PHSE again, but still nobody else knew.

To everyone else we kept up the facade of being a happy family. I don’t know why. After my dad left, in some ways things didn’t change much. He used to come over and see us some evenings and weekends. He still came on holidays with us. He always came and stayed for the Christmas period. I have never had a Christmas or holiday without both of them being there, despite my dad not living with us. I have friends who I didn’t even meet until years after my dad who had left who thought that my parents were together, because my dad would come and stay when needed, and they would still do things together. My dad phoned every day and spoke to both my mum and I. The few people who did know that they had split up said how lucky I was that my parents still got on so well, and that he still spent so much time with us, but actually I think it was just really confusing. At first of course it just perpetuated my belief that this was a very short term arrangement. Later I didn’t really know what was going on. Sometimes there would be a period when either my mum or I would get angry with him, and refuse to speak to or see him, sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months. If I was still speaking to him but my mum wasn’t then he would take me out, although I only remember that happening a handful of times. If I wasn’t speaking to him but my mum was then they would still talk on the phone but he wouldn’t come over. If neither of us were speaking to him then obviously that was that.

One of my strongest memories of that period in the first year or so after he left, or perhaps longer, was of how incredibly distressed I used to get when he came over for the evening and then left. He would come over, and we would all be getting on fine, and it would just seem normal. And then he would leave. I think pretty much without fail this made my hysterically upset. I used to sob for hours. I remember trying to chase the car up the road as he drove away, crying hysterically. When I was really upset I used to lie down in the road outside the house. My mum used to try to get me inside in case someone saw me. She used to cry as well. We would both just cry inconsolably sometimes. And most of the time he was coming over at least a couple of times a week, unless it was a not speaking to him period. So it was an emotional time. It was at this time, when I was 12, that I first remember wishing I was dead. I wasn’t suicidal, and I certainly wouldn’t have acted on the thoughts, but I do remember thinking it.

I was also increasingly unhappy at school. Probably partly because I was unhappy generally, and partly because I was being bullied. Not badly – it wasn’t physical or anything. But I didn’t have any friends. I went to a very small school, with very small year groups and classes. From age 13 or 14 onwards there were only 5 girls in my year – before that there were maybe 3 more. One was H. The one who used to lock me in her bedroom when I was little. H was a bully – there is no denying it. When we were younger, up to the age of 11, there had been far more girls, and there was a little clique of popular girls, who could be quite nasty, and did tease her, although I always stuck up for her, despite her not always being nice to me. However, they all left at 11 to go to other schools, and somehow, when we started back at school in September, she was the leader of our year group. I have no idea how that happened, but she had a very strong personality, and somehow just took over. She didn’t like me. She made best friends with the one remaining girl of the clique who had previously bullied her – this girl was actually quite nice, but rather sheep like, and would just follow others. Throughout school from 11 to 16 I was very lonely. Some days would be ok, but other times I would just get constantly teased. I was very naive and young for my age, and one of the things H liked to do to embarrass me was stand there with everyone around her and ask me what certain words and phrases meant – about sex or drugs, or other things I just knew nothing about. Of course I never knew, and then everyone would laugh at me. And then the usual childish name calling. Despite not doing much in the way of work at school and perpetually leaving things until the last possible minute, I still did well, and so got the usual ‘boffin’ comments etc. And things like making sure I didn’t have anyone to sit with in class whenever possible, and obviously staying away from me at break and lunch times. Nothing major by any means, but all things that were upsetting and confusing to me as an 11 – 15 year old child. Particularly as some days she would suddenly turn and be nice to me and ask me to sit with her and things like that. I never knew where I was. My attendance rate at school got worse and worse. More and more illnesses – some real, some minor but exaggerated, some psychosomatic, and some just faked. I was at an age where I could actually stay home from school rather than go and spend the day in the sick bed, so it was even more appealing.

In restrospect, when I look back I am quite confused by some things that did, or didn’t happen. A lot of it feels very painful to think about, but I feel pathetic for thinking that, because so many people go through such horrific things, and parents splitting up should surely not have affected me at all in the long term? But when I was talking about it with L she pointed out that actually it was probably quite traumatic for me, as a 12 year old, to be in such a confusing situation, and to have to keep it all a secret. During the appointment, when we were talking about it, I would get little flashes of vivid memories, and some of them were really quite painful. I remember one day being at a friend’s house to play, and her mum was one of the few people who knew that my parents had split up, and I remember her asking me how my mum was and how she was coping, and me just desperately wanting her to ask ME how I was, and how I was coping. But nobody ever did. My parents obviously knew what a state I was in, as they saw it. My siblings never once asked how I was. And apart from that very few people knew, and those who did only thought about my mum – after all, it was her and my dad who had split up, not me. It was nothing to do with me. Except of course it was. But I never had anyone to talk to. My mum had her counsellor she used to go and see, and even my dad saw the counsellor a few times on his own, because my mum wanted him to, but I never had anyone to talk to. I was never asked if I wanted to talk to a counsellor or anything, and there wasn’t a school counsellor, and even if there had been I wouldn’t have been able to speak to them because it was a secret of course, and my mum worked there, which also ruled out talking to any teachers. I remember one time when I was particularly upset my mum asking if there was someone I would like to talk to, and suggested a couple of people I knew from performing. I said that maybe it would help to talk to this one girl (although in retrospect it wouldn’t have been fair – she is only 5 or 6 years older than me, so would have only been 17 or 18 at the time, although of course that seems completely grown up when you are 12) because her parents had split up when she was younger so she would understand. And my mum got very upset and started crying because I had said about this other girl having parents who had split up too, because of course my parents hadn’t split up – it was a temporary arrangement remember? And so she got very upset and left my room, and me talking to someone was never mentioned again. So I learnt to bottle everything up. Because actually, I didn’t have a choice. Of course I could talk to my mum, but that just resulted in her getting upset every time, so that didn’t help at all. I was angry with my dad. My siblings didn’t seem to care, or even think about me. And the few other people who knew would ask about my mum, but not about me. And there was no option of counselling or anything like that. So I learnt to put on a happy face, and started developing my happy mask. Looking back on it now, I don’t know why my mum thought that she needed a counsellor, and that my dad needed a counsellor, but that I didn’t need anyone. It seems strange in retrospect that she could see my lying in the middle of the road sobbing hysterically and not think I perhaps needed to speak to someone. But I think she was genuinely in such denial about the whole thing that it didn’t even occur to her. My dad had just moved out for a little while, and would be coming back, and so maybe she thought there was nothing to talk about. I don’t know. But I think that actually it would have helped me to speak to someone – both then, and further down the line. Because of course by the time I got older I had become an absolute pro at keeping my mouth shut and keeping everything bottled up, and not telling anyone anything, and never mentioning feelings or emotions, that I think I had become completely detached from my emotions and how I actually felt, and so consequently found therapy virtually impossible.

There is more to come in the saga of my parents’ relationship and my childhood/adolescence, but this is quite long enough already, and I am feeling vaguely emotional, although I don’t know why, so yet again I will continue this tomorrow….

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>So, my childhood. I didn’t talk about all of this with L, but I decided I wanted to write about all of it, to put it into context. My childhood memories are fairly sketchy. I only remember odd bits here and there. I have no memories from when I was very young, and really very few before the age of about 10. And even after that, I know certain situations happened etc, but I don’t remember how I felt about them or anything. So a lot of it is quite hazy.

I always think of myself as having a happy childhood, and I think it was overall, and certainly was compared to the experiences of many others, which means I am always reluctant to criticise it in any way. But there were downsides. For a start, I never fitted in. From as far back as I can remember I just didn’t fit in with most other children. I was more comfortable with adult company, which is probably unsurprising, given that I have 3 older siblings, and the closest of those to me in age is 12 years older than me. So I was used to being around adults the majority of the time. When I was young, and I am thinking back from when I was very young up to about the age of 11 or so, I was probably what Lexie would refer to as a ‘pretend child’. I spent hours and hours sitting reading. I would wander around stately homes and gardens with my parents. I was always beautifully dressed. Overall I was pretty well behaved. Which is lucky really, because punishing me generally consisted of sending me to my room, where I would become engrossed in a book, and when told I could go back downstairs reply that I was ok in my bedroom reading thank you. I went to dance classes, and was a Brownie, and had riding lessons. I did well at school. I was intelligent. I had a reading age far higher than my actual age. I got all my spellings right. I think I was generally fairly amenable, although my parents may say otherwise of course… I got on well with my parents. I got on well with my siblings. My sister (yes, the one who now hates me) absolutely doted on me as a young child. So in that sense I was a good child, with a happy childhood.

The less positive things were that as I mentioned, I never really fitted in with my peers – probably because of being a pretend child. I had a best friend (whom I will refer to as C for this post), who I met when I was 4, who lived just down the road from me, and we were at school together until I moved school after a couple of years. I was very possessive over her. I wanted her to play with me the whole time. I wasn’t interested in playing with any of the other children – she was my best friend, and she was the only person I wanted to play with. I don’t remember it, but I apparently used to come home from school incredibly upset if she had been playing with other people instead of me. Early attachment issues, or is that too psychoanalytical? There was another girl at that school (who will be referred to as H for this post) whose mother used to look after me after school when my mother was working, and when I switched schools, she also switched half a term later. She was a very strong character. A bully essentially. Again, I don’t remember it, but apparently sometimes when I would go there after school she would lock me in her bedroom and leave me in there and not let me out. Sometimes she would be nice to me. Other times she wouldn’t. When I moved school at 7, I left C behind, although I still saw her a lot, and whilst I got on fine with the children at my new school, again, I didn’t really fit in. I wasn’t ‘cool’ in any way. I was certainly not one of the popular girls. I would try and tag onto some of the other less popular girls, but I remember often finding myself alone. I was also ill a lot – I had a lot of problems with my ears – constant ear infections, multiple burst eardrums, various other infections. I spent an awful lot of my childhood on antibiotics. My mum generally used to still send me into school when I was ill, as she worked there, and I was too young to stay home alone, so I either went to lessons, or if I was really ill I went to the sick bay. I didn’t enjoy school though. From a fairly young age I remember exaggerating how ill I felt to try and get out of going to class. I remember pushing near the bottom of my neck to make me retch so that my mum would think I was sick. I am not sure why I didn’t want to go to school, as it wasn’t like I struggled with the work or anything, and it was a nice school. I just didn’t want to go.

I have also had issues with food my entire life. Not an eating disorder, but I have always been an incredibly fussy eater, to the point where it has interfered with my life. In some ways I am slightly better now with that, but overall the foods I will eat now aren’t very different to those I would eat as a child. When I was inpatient on an eating disorder programme they said I had always had disordered eating because of how fussy I was. I don’t know whether or not this is true, or what is behind it, or if it contributed to my eating disorder in later life, but there have certainly always been issues surrounding food. I was always very attached to my mum. I suppose most children are, but I didn’t like her being out or away from me. I would stay the night with friends, but I remember getting into a terrible state when I went on Brownie camp once. I absolutely hated it. I was horribly home sick, I had issues with most of the food, and I just wanted to be at home. The whole time felt like torture, and all the other children were having a great time. Obviously none of these things were major problems. Ok, I didn’t really fit in with my peers and was teased a bit, but most kids are. And I was happy at home as far as I can remember.

Up to this point I would consider myself to have had a happy childhood. Although if I look back on it I can see signs that maybe things weren’t quite right even that early on, ie up to the age of 11. But I don’t know if that is just going into the realms of navel gazing. But things like being very attached to certain people, and feigning or exaggerating illness to avoid school, when actually there was no reason to not want to go that I can see do strike me as not being quite right. I also always had a need to please people – generally adults rather than peers. But there have always been issues with relationships I suppose. And of course issues with food. There was no reason for me to be unhappy, but I wouldn’t say that I was happy, and I don’t know why. Maybe there has always been something wrong, although I don’t know what. But overall everything in my life was pretty simple up to this point, and there was no reason for me to be unhappy. It was after that that things became more complicated, but I will finish writing that tomorrow, as the more I write the more flashes of memory are coming back, and I need some time to process them. There was nothing I would consider to be traumatic, or anything more than an awful lot of children go through, and not nearly as bad as lots, but I still feel like I need to write about it. The appointment with L yesterday got me thinking a lot, but I will go into more detail regarding that tomorrow.

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