Friday 6 January 2012

Guilt is Powerful

So here I am again, trying to find the words to write. I'm not feeling particularly eloquent so please bear with me! It's been a while since I last wrote... I've started seeing a new therapist after a while of not really doing therapy (at least not in a productive way - my last therapist was more of a hindrance than a help tbh)... I've started my PhD, which I'm so so happy about (feels like its been a huge fight to get to this point but now I even have a scholarship! How awesome is that?!) and I'm still battling with illness which I guess is character building but I'm not enjoying it much!

There's something I want to write about but I always feel very wary about writing anything more detailed about my past , I suppose partly due to fear, partly due to shame and partly due to not wanting to dwell on negative things. One of the things I've had to come to accept recently though is that sometimes facing hard things and talking about them and acknowledging their effects, is not the same as getting caught up in negativity... It's just being real and finding the courage to admit things to myself and to others who might care about me.

So, I suppose this is one of those times. I hope you don't mind listening.

As any abuse survivor knows, recalling what we've been through and trying to make sense of it, can be a seriously confusing thing! We often doubt our own memories or have blanks, we struggle to piece things together and when we discover more information that we didn't know before, the confusion can enter a whole new level.

I grew up believing I ruined lives... that I wasn't wanted, that I was hated even. I grew up hearing the words "I wish you had never been born!" on a very regular basis. I was taught that the emotional well being of both of my parents was my responsibility. Any violent outburst was my fault. Any suicide attempt was my fault. Any abandonment was my fault. Everything was my responsibility.

Image: Idea go /

When I was 16, I was at breaking point. I couldn't take the abuse anymore. I couldn't fight to survive least, not if I stayed there. I had to get out. It was the hardest decision of my life. It meant leaving my younger siblings there, something that up until that point was the only reason hadn't tried to run away. But I knew, if I didn't get out then, I never would, and neither would they. I don't want to say where I managed to go because I'm concerned to stay anonymous. I did manage to go somewhere that I could continue my education in safety, with safe adults taking care of me with other children, far enough away that it felt safe.

Anyway, when I was old enough to leave that safe place, my mother was threatening to kill herself if I didn't go back home to look after her and my siblings. It wasn't a threat I took lightly. I knew it was a very real threat and I believed she would carry it out. The emotional and psychological turmoil I went through over the following weeks was awful. I was a wreck because I knew if I did what she wanted, I'd be back where I was and would probably never leave... Whilst at the same time if I didn't go back I would be responsible not only for her death but for leaving my younger siblings to deal with it. I made the horrible decision that I still battle with guilt over now, to not go back. She responded by taking a massive overdose and if my youngest sister hadn't have found her in time, and if the paramedics hadn't have been as skilled as they were, she would have managed to do what she tried to do.

I spoke to her about that day yesterday and am now feeling very confused and even more guilty. Apparently there was more going on than I was previously aware of...

I don't speak to her often but she's more stable than she used to be and I have good boundaries. It's hard having contact though because she still won't acknowledge the extent of the abuse she inflicted on me and my siblings. She acknowledges what my father did and I guess that's easier for her to do. But she doesn't even remember that threat she made to me. I know for a fact she did and I have battled with it for a decade since it happened because the guilt is not easy to get rid of... But her version of events is always different and justified somehow. 

Image: jscreationzs /

So what I didn't know was that whilst this was going on, my brother was having a break-down. My mother found him "in that corner of his room" rocking and cracking his knuckles. My heart shatters at that image. I know it only too well. He was terribly abused and that was how he responded when things had got particularly bad. My mother apparently was shocked and "concerned" at that sight. I'm not sure that's as caring as it sounds. Knowing how she was, I imagine that she lost it on him for being ridiculous or something... but she doesn't remember it that way. Whatever happened, it resulted in him getting up and leaving that house and not going back ever.

My mother called the police and social services (I can't quite get my head around that lol) only to discover to her horror that he was at his school with the headmaster because of her actions. He has told someone and the headmaster and social services made sure he never had to go back to that house again. After that was when she threatened me with her suicide and followed through on that. My youngest sister discovered our nearly dead mother. And she refuses to speak to me now.

I told my mother "you know ----- blames me for that?". She replied "oh, no she knows it was your brother's fault!"

Sigh. I know now (at least logically) that the only person responsible for that suicide attempt was my mother. Not me. Not my brother. My mother won't accept responsibility, even now. My brother has never been back and now only has contact with an aunt and uncle.

I still battle with guilt for leaving my siblings with her.. for not being there to protect my brother for whom my heart still breaks... for not going back when I knew that threat wasn't an empty one... for not being there to find her unconscious body instead of my sister... for not being there. That guilt is soul destroying and I wish I knew what to do with it. I wish I knew how to deal with the confusion and the emotions.

Guilt is powerful.


  1. first....cheering for you that you're working on your and double wow and that you got a scholarship...very awesome!!!!

    I know exactly what you're saying in this post....the guilt. I struggled with it for a long time. I finally had to let it go and realize some of my guilt was shame...that I felt I just wasn't good enough and the biggest thing...I couldn't fix nobody but me. Stay strong and I'm glad you're sharing your heart.....

  2. Thanks Sarah. :) I'm sorry that you understand but thankful for your wisdom, and encouragement. I think you are right - dealing with the shame is a big part of getting past the guilt. Thanks for listening. PH x

  3. your story hits home on some points but is so foreign to me at the same time. it amazes me more and more how many different situations can ensnare us in a position that loads us down with guilt and shame. i tell myself that i don't struggle with guilt anymore, but i'm not sure if it's completely true judging by my behavior and some of my thoughts. glad you stepped out to see a new therapist. i did the same thing last year after going about a year without seeing anyone. it is helping a lot, though i know i still have a long way to go.

    thank you for sharing your thoughts. you are indeed a survivor and a go-getter. phd, what? that's great!


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