Firstly, I want to apologise for being quiet and not getting back to you - I’ve not been in a good place. I do want to explain a few things to you so that you know where my head is at. I would like to talk about the things which have caused me a lot of stress in my life and which I am unable to speak to you about (although I have tried in the past but you either put the phone down or become dismissive). I realise that some of my memories may be somewhat skewed given that I was only a child but also, I know that during my many years of counselling, I have been well understood by those who hear what I went through as a child.
I really struggle with the distance between us. Yes, over the last 6 years we have been somewhat closer, but still not as close as I would like it to be. It pains me when my friends and colleagues talk about going out with their mums for tea and cake - having a close bond and doing nice things together. I’m not sure that we will ever have that close bond, Lyn. Sadly. I think too much has happened even though a lot of water has passed under the bridge.
Since having my autism assessment, I have reflected a lot on my behaviour and I do see that, to some extent, I have kept myself to myself. However, I did not get a full diagnosis and my psychiatrist has suggested emotional neglect and psychological ‘abuse’ and deduced that my ‘strong autistic traits’ could be due to trauma and autism or just the trauma itself. It is the things that happened growing up that I would like to write to you about because the pain doesn’t go away. Hence, pulling away and keeping myself to myself and getting on with my life as seeing you is a constant reminder of not being good enough or wanted – you clearly do not want me too close.
I certainly don’t want to cause upset but I think it will and for that I am sorry – I want to be heard.
Every year Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are particularly hard, and this is where I would like to start.
Father’s Day: obviously, I never knew my father and you, Col, are the only father figure that I can remember. As far back as Walnut Tree Close, my memory of you is you relaxing on the sofa, but my memory of that was of me crying and you telling me to ‘stop crying”. I was not held or comforted. I remember you reading us Thomas the Tank Engine before bed. Another memory I have is of Lyn screaming one morning, which I believe to be an upsetting moment for Lyn whereby she claimed to be holding the ghost of your baby that she had lost. I also remember Lyn telling me at the top of the stairs, “It’s all your fault!” As told to me many times when growing up was that my twin had died inside Lyn which caused her to need an operation. I remember visiting Lyn in hospital, little did I know she had had a full hysterectomy; she had lost the chance to give you a baby. I was told at a young age that my twin had died and caused Lyn’s insides to ‘rot’. Nan also reinforced that I was a twin. This might sound odd but, I always felt a bond with my non-surviving twin and wondered what life would have been like had he/she survived, and I always felt comforted by him/her spiritually. Conversely, I later learned that I was never a twin, but that Lyn had retained my placenta and she had a sepsis and was very poorly - so I am still at fault for Lyn not being able to bear you a child. Why was this lie allowed to carry on? And who would make this up? It was torment for me. Psychologically, this was damaging. I suffered guilt that I had caused you to never have your own children and guilt that Lyn had to go through all that. So, to me, not being picked up whenever I cried was because you both resented me, and I was just a reminder of that situation.
Lyn would often remind us that you had given up your teenage years and going out with friends to raise us (given that you were 14 years old when you first met her, and her being 20 with 2 young children). She also reminded us that you worked hard to provide for us, which was true. You being my father was my only reality and sadly my biological father is still a question mark over my life. I grew up feeling very angry at the man who supposedly beat my mum up and who apparently threw me out of a window as a baby and tried to burn Chris in his cot. Despite this, naturally, I still wondered about him, and I was still intrigued to know that side of me. - after all, we are all part of our mother and father. You were both privileged to know both your father and mother. I grew up knowing I was unwanted and that I will address with Lyn later in this letter. Col, I don’t feel that we really talked much and as I got older you seemed more the authoritative parent rather than a father. I also have bad memories, flashbacks, of sitting on my bed when I was in trouble and having to wait there until you came home. I knew that as soon as I heard the key go in the door what I was due - “Now then, young lady, what have you been up to? - followed by being told to lay on my tummy, knickers pulled down and my bum spanked until ‘I couldn’t sit down’. Lyn used to say this was normal and, after all, you had got the cane! - it was not normal by any means. This was abuse. Where was the talking to me, sitting down with me and communicating with this child? It was just punishment - be a good girl or be hurt physically. My friends didn’t get this punishment, their fathers were close; yes, they got told off, but nothing like I got. I felt controlled rather than loved - just to add to being an unwanted burden on you.
Mother’s Day: Lyn, you told me about my dad at a very young age, including what he did to you. I felt the natural need to love and protect you. I also felt very angry for the way he was and for leaving us. Chris and I would sometimes say to you, “Tell us about Bob - what was he like?” We would sit down with you, and we’d listen, like listening to an old story. Obviously, Chris has his own memories that I don’t have, given that he is 2 years older than me, and this played out by him hitting me for a long time. You only found out when you were bathing me due to being covered in bruises. Chris would beat me up whenever I didn’t do what he wanted. He would lock me in rooms, sit on me, suffocate me with cushions and boss me around when we were alone. He was subsequently sent to a ‘special school’ and his diagnosis was never discussed. I developed a temper to match his as I had to protect myself. He was seemingly rewarded for his behaviour with a computer given to him by the school and I was left with bad, traumatic memories - no one asked me if I was ok.
In regard to my being in this world: you told me you didn’t want me and had tried to use a knitting needed to attempt aborting me. I honestly wish you had succeeded. I never felt loved, nurtured, or wanted. Luckily, I spent a lot of time away from this and Chris when I stayed with Nan and Grandad. They were only loving, nurturing, and giving - I only have fond memories of them growing up. At the age of 14, I came home from school to find you sitting on the floor during prayer and you were crying. I comforted you and asked what was wrong. You told me that you didn’t want me. As usual for me, I put my feelings aside and hugged you. This made such a devastating impact that my already low self-esteem plummeted, and I became depressed, and I felt more alone. I was already struggling with friendships.
I remember sitting at the dinner table in my younger years and telling you both that I was struggling. I was taken out of St. Joseph’s, a catholic school, and put into a regular school on the council estate where I met some really rough kids. Yes, it was a remedy to being bullied in one school but neither of you spoke to me and sat me down to perhaps listen and/or advise me. At the new school, I was still bullied, the change in school made no difference, and again I was teased and pushed around - just like at home! I ended up just doing what was wanted and gave into peer pressure to some degree. I ended up being caught up in a one-time event of shoplifting and it was me who ended up getting us caught as I was not savvy enough nor was it in my nature to do such a thing. I had no idea what I was doing. My friend, my bully and I got taken down to the police station by car, while they were laughing and joking, I was crying, knowing well what my punishment would be. I was then locked up with the girl who bullied me in the first place who then kept telling me to gently scratch her back and, if I didn’t, she was going to punch me. She was one of the biggest bullies in my year group who was renowned for punching people in the face, no holds barred. I remember we went to Cornwall that year and every time I went into a shop, Col would make me put my hands behind my back and ‘not touch anything!’. I was also grounded indefinitely. I was 10/11 years old. On the day we had to go back to the police station, I felt scared not knowing what else would happen to me - you told me I could have to go to prison for young children. I wanted to hold your hand, but you shrugged me off and reminded me of what I had done, and it was not a time to hold my hand.
Sarah McDermott was also a bully. She was a strong character who pushed me around a lot but again I just wanted to be liked. I was out playing one day when she and a friend called me over to have a go on her bike. I didn’t see anything wrong in having a go given that I loved and wanted my own bike. However, she dared me to go down the hill with my feet on the handlebars. I said no but said I’d do it with my feet on the lower cross bar where the pedals were. I soon found out when I tried to stop that there were no brakes, and I began to wobble, totally unable to put my feet on the pedals as they were going too fast. The only thing I could do as my speed was increasing was to swerve to the left and hopefully land on my tummy. When I was picked up by two people, I soon found out I had lost my newly grown front teeth – I was devastated. I remember Grandad taking me to hospital and I was crying. I don’t recall you soothing me, but I felt that you were ashamed by me. I was then left to stay overnight, probably to monitor me, but you were again stern telling me not to wet the bed. I didn’t feel loved or soothed, but ashamed. The hospital ward was horrible and, yes – I wet the bed. You were not happy the next day to learn of this. From that day on, Col found it amusing to call me ‘stunt rider’. I had already begun hating myself as I had a horribly short haircut and then broken teeth. I didn’t want to smile and became very self-conscious. Eventually I got my teeth replaced with crowns. After a year or so, starting to reach puberty and becoming more aware of fashion, I asked for a ra-ra skirt and stilettos, which is what was fashionable with a lot of girls at school. I asked if I could have some. You said, ‘don’t be so silly, you’re far too big for stilettos, you’ll break the heels off’. The same for wearing a belt – it would make me look ‘far too big’. I was not that big! And what a dent in my self-esteem! I was plump, but a lot of girls get plump and grow out of it – I was not obese, I was growing up. At 13/14 I remember trying a 1,000-calorie diet, which is classed as a Very Low-Calorie Diet, not good for an adult, let alone a young teenager. But your focus was on my diet.
Food seemed to be such an issue, now I realise that I have significant sensory issues. I recall stew, casserole and roasts were a regular staple for our family, but I hated even the smell of stew and casserole, even to this day I cannot stand the smell of stew. I was often the last one at the table and often found my gravy gone cold with a layer of fat congealed atop the unwanted food. Every mouthful made my hair stand on end! One day, you took the food, put it in a food blender and poured it cold back onto my plate – just because I said I couldn’t chew the meat – ‘Now you can eat it!’. As a parent, I never made a meal again if my children didn’t tolerate the food and our mealtimes were certainly not sat in quiet and focused on food. It was a time for me and the girls to get together and talk about the ups and downs they were having. We would share together and discuss difficulties, so that we could remedy any issues. If they didn’t like something, I would encourage them to try it. Most kids, even those I went to school with, were given children-type foods.
When I got to age 14/15, I remember watching out of my bedroom window one evening, something I had always done growing up. I happened to have something catch my eye and noticed the shadow of the boy who lived opposite us who was in his bathroom shadow boxing. I had no attraction to him, but it just made me laugh. You were walking past my room, and I mentioned I had seen him. You tore me down quicker than I could even take in what was happening. You called me a peeping Tom and shouted down, ‘Colin, have you heard what your daughter has been doing?’ You tore shreds out of me and made me look so small, even calling me a slag, slut and whore. I was taken aback and tried to defend myself. It was an innocent situation made into something much more sinister than it was. When I was about 15/16, I came home from school to find my diaries sitting on the kitchen table. My stomach sank and my heart began racing. I knew what was written in those diaries! I had even gone through the extra effort to hide them. You thought it ok to go through my personal things and then shame me once again, saying I was just like my Aunty Christine. I was growing up! Many of my friends were out drinking, smoking, sleeping around, taken drugs – I was at home writing about my crush. Yes, I tried smoking a few times, but I was by far quite different to my peers, and I was often teased for my ways at school, due to wearing unfashionable clothes, wasn’t allowed to wear make up and I remember also being told to take my nail varnish off - Col would say I looked like a tart. It was a very strict upbringing with very restrictive boundaries, lack of love, care and emotional support.
At 16, I started working in a hairdressers, mainly because you sent me out to get a job and not come home until I found one! However, I started my job in hairdressing and really enjoyed it. One day, after months of asking for proper training, my manager agreed for me to bring in family/friends for me to practice on. I immediately thought of you and so wanted you to be proud of me. When I asked you, you shot me down and said, ‘I’ve already got a hairdresser, thank you.’ It felt like nothing I did was ever enough for you. I was an embarrassment and, yes – the child you wish you had never had! However, I only had to ask Nan once and she came in regularly to have her hair done.
I then left there as I was not getting the training I needed and ended up starting a hairdressing course at college. I hated the uniform as I struggled with the material, another sensory issue associated with autism and conscious of not being a size 8. I was frustrated at having to start all over again, given that I had been doing weekends and evenings in the hairdressers to have to be taught how to meet and greet clients. I felt lost and confused.
At this time, you and Col had become Christians and your evening parties of drinking and smoking were becoming a thing of the past. I had a serious problem though in that I had feelings for a girl; while I was having a relationship with a guy. I was so screwed up – my boyfriend was gorgeous, but I had such strong feelings for this girl, it sent me in a spin. I came to speak to you about it. I knocked on the living room door – you opened it. I asked if I could speak to you, but you quickly said, ‘I’m praying’ and the door was shut on me. That was the second time you closed me out and probably the last. I knew I couldn’t confide in you. I still had feelings of insecurity about my weight and previously began walking to and from work, taking laxatives and diet pills, my confidence still so low but I had to keep going. Those remarks from Chris and Col calling me Michelin, Penny Jane Biscuit Barrell and Fatima took its toll!
I was friends with Laura who understood me well at the time and we got up to the normal things 16-year-olds do. I remember struggling with her as she was a very intense person and gave me little space - but she was brought up in a relaxed atmosphere: I remember being shocked that she was allowed to eat what she wanted from the fridge!. Still, she was a friend. I think I had gone on and on about her and told you I was breaking off the friendship. One day you and I went swimming – perhaps this was our chance to bond? Laura and her mum also happened to be in the pool. Laura and I saw each other and immediately the friendship was made up. You told me not to make friends with her. You got annoyed with me and I said, I can be friends with her if I want to. You got out of the pool annoyed with me and I went home to Laura’s. I don’t remember a lot of this situation but I think it got heated and I said I wasn’t coming home.
That night I was sitting in Laura’s bedroom, and I got a call from Laura’s mum from downstairs. Col had turned up and dumped all my belongings in bin bags and left them on their doorstep. That was it – I had left home. I was stunned. Col could have come in and asked me what had happened, but I guess it was my time to leave home, still only 17 years old.
I then had to go to the CAB to get advice. Then I had to go to the DSS to get benefits. Not a nice place to be at all but I got things sorted and I found myself living at the local hostel. The world felt a different place to be, but I felt free and much less oppressed. I left home in Feb 1991 and my 18th birthday was in the July. That day was the worst day of my life as I was living in the middle of Ash with a group of people I didn’t feel comfortable with. I had moved in with them as my girlfriend at the time was moving in with them, so I had to, too. I didn’t receive a card from you, and I felt so abandoned. I had a massive panic attack for the first time in my life and this culminated in a nervous breakdown. My self esteem at rock bottom, alone and separated from my family; also, Nan and Grandad had moved down to Portsmouth. You had told me that Grandad had a breakdown just before I left home and you had said I must stay away from them to give him space, despite them being as close to me as a parent would be. Later in life I found out that they were both confused as to why I had stopped visiting – they were hurt and thought I had forgotten them, when in fact, I would never have forgotten them, ever.
Living in Ash was hard, and I wrote regularly to Nan and Grandad, and they wrote back, but I was struggling. I was having regular panic attacks and developed a sleep disorder, and I was unable to eat. My dreams often consist (even today) of a regular dream while living in Walnut Tree Close and there is a ghost in the roof. Such a horrible reoccurring dream which the remnants stay with me all day. I have dreamt of seeing you and Col, but you are both turning away from me and refusing to talk to me. I am begging to speak to you, but I am shunned or ignored. This pain and hurt causes me to choke in my sleep and I wake panicking, heart racing – and now I have the diagnosis from a London sleep clinic of a Parasomnia. I dream I am eating nails; bits of plastic or metal and I spit them out in my sleep and actually wake as I spit on my own carpet. I have trouble eating which links to my history with food and my own hatred for my size. The only thing that has helped me to eat without panicking is to drink wine before eating, and the only way I could stop my parasomnia was to drink wine before bed. I developed a habit of using alcohol to numb anxiety, deep sadness and loneliness.
I remember calling you up on occasions and asking if we could meet and you just said you were busy, and busy on another day I suggested, and busy on any other day I suggested. I gave up. Again hurt. This has all been too much hurt to take.
I then called the house one day in 1995/6 to speak to you and couldn’t get hold of you. I called the neighbours next door and they said, ‘didn’t you know?’ – they told me that you had tried to end your life and was sectioned. I went to visit you and we spent a lovely time in the garden. You were probably on medication, but it was such a lovely time. Chris and Col were in the TV room watching the football. They were not bothered that I had turned up to see you or that I wasn’t even told that you were sectioned. I think Col was not too impressed that I was there even!
I remember also in approximately 1997 when I bought my first property, you called and asked me if I was sitting down. I had previously told you I wanted to go looking for my dad. You told me that you weren’t sure who my father was, that it could have been my dad or his brother. You also then told me that I was never a twin. Why would this have been made up in the first place? Even Nan had said I was a twin.
I then gave birth to my first daughter in 1998 and moved away with my husband. We had also got married in Gibraltar on our own, as 1. I didn’t have parents who would help pay for my wedding, 2. a father to give me away, 3. a figure for a beautiful dress, and 4. a close-knit family or any friends to attend. I have struggled with friendships all of my life and I only found out why later in life.
I then split with my husband while living in Doncaster and was expecting our second child. My house was repossessed, and I spent most days traipsing my daughter and I to and from the solicitors while trying to save my house. Sadly, I lost it. I gave birth to my second daughter and had to raise her from day one on my own with a toddler. I asked if you could help me get back down south but you said you couldn’t help me, but you did come up and see me and gave me £100. You also said sorry.
My ex-husband duped me into living nearer him in Romford where I later found out he was taking me to court for custody of my girls. At the same time, I found Tim, Bob’s brother – my uncle or father? We had a DNA test and it showed we were unrelated, only likely to be cousins or second cousins. This was devastating!
I won the court case and was given permission to move back to Farnborough. My girls would go to their dads’ regularly and I would spend many Christmases alone.
On my low days, I honestly think that I wish you had succeeded or had me adopted, perhaps I would have been given to parents who wanted children? I often listen to my colleagues talk about their mothers and the lovely times they have going shopping or going for cake. It saddens me and reminds me of not being wanted. I recently found you on Facebook, just like my colleagues have their mums on, too! I was so happy, given that we had mended our rift when I married again, and you got on well with my second husband. But you replied when I said ‘hi’ on Facebook, you said you only use Facebook to look at the Guildford Facebook page. Another rejection. I then went to find you again and you had your picture removed but even to this day, I can see you are still on there, but not connected to your own daughter.
The part that upsets me also, and this is the part other people are often surprised at, is that I can you by your first name. I get asked often why I do that – I don’t even notice any more. All of this is odd and so abnormal. So, forgive me for pulling away and living my life away from this toxicity. What is so upsetting also is that you send my children cards, who barely know you, and you have the audacity to sign it ‘from Nanny and Grandad’ – crazy! Inconsiderate and hurtful. You said if I call you Mum, you must call me Daughter - therefore, the same applies to the grandchildren, right?
So, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are filled with pain - I hate it.