Hearing Robyn aka @almost_eveything_off_ebay talk of being ‘Estranged from her Mother’ stopped me in my tracks. Of course I knew what estrangement was, but had never met anyone who described their relationship like that. My mind boggled as I tried to fathom how that might impact you as a person, here Robyn gives a glimpse into how it’s shaped her outlook.
· Just because someone gave birth to you doesn’t mean they’ll be equipped to mother you and that is no reflection on you
· I’ve been estranged from my mother for two years now. That’s our longest period of no contact though there’s been a year here and there throughout my adult life
· I never had a conventional relationship with her– she had me at nineteen and left us when I was nine
· Both my parents were addicts but there was a gulf between the way they parented – my dad is warm and supportive and effusive. My Mother is cold and manipulative and unpredictable – she can be affectionate just to take it away in an instant
· I was desperate for her to like me as a child, I still carry that with me but it’s not the focus of my life anymore
· My first memory is of my mum holding me by the neck in house when I was about four. That was a treat to confront in regression therapy. She was physically abusive until I was in my early teens and continues to be mentally abusive in unpredictable bursts.
· The legacy of abusive is both positive and negative: I like to think I’m pretty emotionally intelligent as I learned to read people young but I suffer with anxiety as I was constantly on high alert
· She has never been this way with either of my siblings. I’ve found that to be the case with lots of my friend’s who’ve had similar experiences. It helps to make the victim feel like it’s their fault, I think
· Part of the reason she hasn’t been this way with my brothers is that having me was the thing that robbed her of the future she’d hoped for.
· An unwanted child being born is not something that child should be punished for. Also saying ‘I wish I’d had an abortion’ repeatedly isn’t kind. She already knows you wish that.
· It took until my mid-twenties to get to a stage where my whole life wasn’t defined by being the child that wasn’t good enough for a mother to love.
· When my amazing Nan died, who I’d never really realised had been my mum in all the important ways, I realised I’d been focusing on the wrong person and that was overwhelmingly freeing.
· My husband also came into my life in my early twenties and showed me that people can be reliable and nurturing and forgiving and patient. He made me hopeful that we could make a new, incredible family of our own.
· I created my own rag-tag bunch of pals and we were therapists and confidants and people who would sit you on their knee when you were coked up off your tits at 2am and stroke your hair till you stopped crying cos your mum didn’t like you. They were unconditional and constant. They still are even if they aren’t the main players in my life anymore
· So all these things came together to provide a weird emotional scaffolding and I started to be able to say no to my mother and take periods of estrangement when I needed them
· One was when she tried to leave Jamie and I to take the fall for her cannabis factory when an electrician clocked some dodgy wiring but that’s another list entirely
· I’ve painted a horrible picture of my mother but the truth is when we aren’t estranged and she’s not being a dick she is funny and clever and beautiful – she is a woman you’d gravitate to at parties
· That said she’s 100% a narcissist. She believes her own stories. She thinks the world is against her. She cannot remember (or maybe consciously acknowledge) the majority of things she did to me. But narcissists are all the things I listed above – charming and fun to be around and playful – that’s part of the problem
· This particular period of estrangement is the longest and has been the hardest as it feels more permanent
· Don’t ever think that estrangement is easy. It isn’t. It’s making a conscious and considered choice that’s in direct conflict with what your heart is screaming at you to do. It’s putting on your oxygen mask before you put it on the baby
· This time I can’t see a way back because she took it too far and I don’t know if that’s that I’ve reached my limit or what she’s done is unforgivable – it’s hard to get any perspective on it
· Six months ago she told my brother she didn’t know who my dad was (something she’s alluded to a lot when she feels she’s losing control over me) because she’d been raped. We’re fairly sure that’s a lie but if not she spent my late teens weaponising rape to use against me and I can’t deal with either scenario
· One helpful element to this is my family are finally on board with me being no contact which is really helpful
· It broke my heart when my dad and uncle said ‘if that were true, she’d have already used it against you’
· I think about her dying and not being there
· I think about reconnecting and how I can’t take the risk because I know how damaging she is
· I don’t actively miss her. I must want to call my nan three times a week, there’s not much I miss about my mum because I know very little about her as a person.
· A big part of me choosing not to have kids is I see a lot of her in myself and can’t risk putting all that on another person. Knowing that there are elements of me that are so like her is hard to admit. I am impatient, have an explosive temper and can be really fucking hurtful.
· That said I love the comfort that people who’ve been estranged have got from creating these new wonderful families for themselves. It’s a beautiful, redemptive thing
· It’s important to know there is no shame in being estranged – you aren’t being cold or selfish. Someone has made it impossible for you to accommodate them in your life because of their behavior towards you. That’s their fault.
· When people don’t get it I say ‘what would you say if she was my husband’ and it tends to click
· An astonishing amount of people understand and are in the same boat, there’s a sad little comfort in that. That you’re not alone. Not that you wouldn’t wish it away for them in a second
· Some people will stick with the ‘she’s your mum/he’s your dad’ line even after you’ve explained the situation. Don’t pay them any mind – they’ll have their own reasons they can’t digest what you’re saying
· Nothing is final. You can go no contact and then reconnect if it’s right for you. Everyone has the right to change their mind. Just do what’s best for you in this moment
· No one should ever make you feel difficult to love and if someone persistently does then maybe there isn’t room for them in your life
· There are lots of useful forums on estrangement – Sali Hughes has one on Facebook which is really helpful
. There are also more books than you could read in a lifetime on the subject
· In the end you know better than anyone else what’s right for you.