The childhood that never was


I recently had a conversation with my mum. She was of the notion that she had ‘invested’ in me and expected a certain outcome. Said she, ” I raised you for 25 years and I am yet to see benefit”. Perplexed and stunned I asked her why she saw me, and my siblings, as investments in the stock market? She was the one blessed with children and the means to provide for us, so if she saw us as produce of her hard efforts then she’d feel entitled to certain outcomes. Unless I fulfilled that impossible image, I was a failure. I had to reach there in order for her to let out a sigh of relief and allow herself to look at me with an eye of satisfaction.

It quickly descended into a quibble and she asked rhetorically what there was about me to be grateful about? My attitude and lack of reverence? As if that’s all I was. She stormed out of the room and I felt like I was 8 again. She will never be pleased with me, I saw that now. I learnt very early on that love was conditional on my performance. I had to be nice enough,smart enough, neat enough.

I had a perennial carrot dangled in front of me that I thought if I amped up just a little bit, I’d be able to catch. Alas, how futile this was. It only worked to fuel my perfectionistic streak and inside I was as empty as a black hole; my soul had been sucked into mum’s vortex of exacting expectations. I was exceptionally ambitious since my young years; I was always eager on being on top of my class. I’d take note of the things mum liked such as cleanliness and then I’d surprise her on Saturday mornings with a sparkling clean kitchen. I was 9. I was studious, obedient, I had no social life whatsoever because my parents thought this was detrimental to my studies. I convinced myself that I didn’t need anyone and adopted books as friends in lieu of real ones.

I borrowed life and happiness on credit. I thought sometime in the future I’d be awarded the love I was craving since a young child. I was always tiptoeing around them and I don’t remember being childish or playful, ever. My stoicism and poker face was something that troubled most adults that saw me. Even in my daycare, my carers were so concerned about my reserved demeanour and muteness that they approached my parents about this.

I must come across as rude and ungrateful to you, reader. Maybe I am. But I can’t disown my feelings in favour of keeping good thoughts of mother. I’ve done so my entire life, refusing to attribute any evil to her and in turn I’d berate and hate myself. I’ve been suicidal since the age of 15 and I’ve made six dangerous attempts. Six. Six sickening attempts where I was teetering on the edge of life, gaping down the abyss of death. It was only after I forced myself to find the common denominators in my desperate attempts to silence the pain, that it was all pointing back to mum. Now, I’m not blaming her and heaping my actions on her. That’s victim behaviour. But I was bullied. I was burnt out. I was never recognized. Ever. I was the family’s scapegoat,golden child, do-it-aller. I was like a parent to my siblings; it was always said ‘ Mulki and the kids’. Mind you, I’m followed by my twin brothers who are a mere 20 months younger than me! Yet, I was parentified from a young age to take over mum’s role. I’d reprimand them ( my siblings) ,advice them, solve family issues, take care of my sickly grandmother,manage the family finance, be the troubleshooter, the domestic manager, the diplomat,the secretary-. I spread myself so thin that any member’s problem was my problem and I felt compelled to fix it. It weighed me down mentally and physically. I developed fibromyalgia and severe depression. Yet, I was never acknowledged for this. It was only during my slip-ups that my accumulated mistakes + interest would be paraded in front of me. If I took on the plethora of roles, it was my ‘duty’ and something expected of me, and if I fell short, well hell would break loose.

My thoughts are incoherent, I’m critiquing my bad writing skills and I want to send this to the drafts instead of publishing it. But I promised myself I’d be honest with myself no matter what’s at risk. I had a bad dream last night after the quibble and a subsequent burst out at something I supposedly said ( could hear her ranting to my brother in the kitchen). I dreamt that she whipped me and beat me till I was bruised and swollen all over. I then decided to do something I was always too afraid to do; I packed my things and left. Though this occurred in my dreams, I think something substantial changed within me. I endured emotional abuse all my life because I thought I wouldn’t survive on my own. I was nothing, I was nobody without her. I was told over and over again like a catchy slogan that she could walk away any minute and be done with helping me, but that it would be detrimental to me. That no-one would love me or help me. I’d be ruined if it weren’t for her. Every hardship, every headache,every illness that’d happen to her was because of me somehow. I was indebted to her for life and should compensate by living up to her expectations. It sucked. I think she was living through me, that she wished I’d be everything she aspired to be when she was younger, but couldn’t. I think she put me through the same pattern she suffered as a child in an extremely dysfunctional family.

I don’t think she’s doing this to me, or have been doing this to me on purpose. I think she’s been abusing me because she’s been abusing herself. She never appreciated me because she can’t appreciate herself. She parentified me as a young child because she was parentified.

Hopefully, by breaking out of this inherited vicious cycle perhaps she can come to terms with her troubles.

10 responses to The childhood that never was

  1. Midnight Blahs – Author

    this was my most difficult piece to post but also my most freeing. this post serves as a beacon of hope for me at the moment. i’m happy i could muster this.alhamdulillaah

    Liked by 1 person

  2. People (even family) can be detrimental when they consider you as part of their structure and not a creation bound for freedom. Even more so when they believe they have ‘built’ you, into their structure. Even more so still, if their structure has many’ built in’ flaws like most. Ive often thought that theres a generational exile within family units, from the parent to a child or vice-versa. Knowing each generations contextual differences and understanding both points of view is critical although this is rare. Ive always felt that the only things that should be passed on from one generation to another should be positive experiences. But unfortunately its a negative inheritance. the passing on of negative experiences. The passing on of debt. Actually it would be the passing on of the debt collecting as tradition. A debt that can never be paid. (!) The flawed machine cannot correct itself in its offspring, in fact they (the children) are the ones who get the concentrated, passionate mass of genuine flaws and mis-direction, these that are links in a chain that can go back in time quite a bit. All of us bring our own genetic code our own flaws and virtues, we are all different. But we are all bound for freedom and happiness. Knowing how to get there is lifes only lesson. Trust your instincts and be fearless. There might be some wonderful opportunities waiting for you. I really hope you dont mind me commenting on this matter. When I say ‘freedom’ I dont mean it in any religious context, only in the personal, academic, spiritual way. I think I might’ve written too much, my apologies in advance.


  3. Midnight Blahs – Author

    Fret not, I appreciate and welcome your insight. It’s comforting knowing that one is not alone in this predicament, not because misery loves company but because emotional abuse occurs in an isolated vacuum that forces one to internalize it.
    Thanks 🙂


  4. Your mother has black-and-white thinking patterns, and that is not healthy for her or for you. I suggest you remove yourself from the situation and not worry about her unreasonable demands. It’s your life, and only you have the right to dictate how you live it. Good luck!


    • Midnight Blahs – Author

      Thank you Millie Ho for your comment. I appreciate that you took the time to impart your advice.

      Though it’s obvious that I should turn a deaf ear to the unreasonable demands, it’s not so much about her as it is about me. I chose to share this because I know that emotional abuse is rampant but very silent. The recovery isn’t linear; it’s like shedding skin or a journey where every step taken to not succumb strengthens you till you find yourself on the other side of the fence. The fence being strong emotional boundaries that keep toxic people out.

      I just thought to explain this because someone might read this and berate themselves for not being able to simply take certain measures. Experiencing abuse is not something that can be translated, so it is my hope that others can find solace in my story.

      Again, thank you Millie for your input. I’m truly honoured 🙂



  5. rachelvankoughnet

    We are like the same person. Because you wrote this I now have so much courage. I have learned about boundaries (?? When you are parentified boundaries make sense for others but seem off limits to you, like you HAVE to go all in and fix your parent’s problems) recently in my adulthood and it cost me my unhealthy relationships. Now I’m grieving those toxic relationships but prefer grieving to being abused. I’m trying to get the courage to say: you’re hurting me (a phrase that was necessary but taboo growing up) and this piece helps tremendously. I’m glad you published it. I hope I can be less vague in my own writing in the future and have the courage to hit publish too. Thanks.


  6. Midnight Blahs – Author

    It warms my heart, Rachel, that you found strength in my writing. I like your blog, and I see that you’re an INFJ & an empath like me. We tend to have porous emotional boundaries which is why we are so easily thrown off course. A big part in reclaiming myself has been in strengthening my boundaries.

    Always trust your instinct,your heart. Always. Therein you’ll find the answers you need, if you only could tone down the mind chatter. All the best, Rachel and once again, thank you for sharing your plight



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