I’ve been afraid of my mother ever since I can remember. One of my first memories is of my father picking me up in his arms; I was red faced and my eyes blurry from endless tears, and the words he chose to comfort me send shivers down my spine: “Mummy’s gone. It’s OK, Olivia. Mummy’s gone now.”
I’m 27 now and I’m still afraid of my mother. Just thinking about her can be enough to make my skin blotch and my heart race. Last week she turned up to my work, uninvited, and I had a panic attack.
Mothers aren’t supposed to be the cause of your pain. They’re supposed to make it go away. They’re supposed to hold you and tell you everything’s going to be OK. They’re supposed to say that thunder is just angels bowling, that it’s not silly to think there might be monsters under your bed. They are the ones who are meant to say it’s okay to be afraid, and not the thing you’re afraid of. But most importantly they’re supposed to love you no matter what.
My mother has never loved me. She’s incapable of love – real, parental love. Any love she might have once felt towards me was the same “love” someone might feel for their shiny new car; I was my mother’s possession. I belonged to her.
The fact she was a psychopath didn’t dawn on me until my friend pointed it out. I never thought that the way my mother treated me was abnormal. I certainly didn’t see it as psychopathic. But then, I’d made excuses for her all my life: it was the cancer’s fault, or it was her parents’ fault, or it was her unconditional love for me that made her need to have so much control.
My mother craved control, and she thrived on impulsivity, constantly uprooting me. In the first 16 years of my life I’d lived in four countries, 13 houses and been to countless schools. Whenever she thought I was becoming too confident, too comfortable or too independent, that was it – it was time to move on.
But when my mother told me that she loved my cheating, controlling, cocaine-addicted ex-boyfriend more than me, I finally reached breaking point. This was the time where more than ever, I needed my mother to hold me and tell me that I would be OK. But instead, she used the man who was abusing me to get to me, and unwittingly broke us apart.
This was the turning point in my life. I wasn’t going to be passed back and forth between two people who enjoyed hurting me, vying for who had more control over my life. I wasn’t a prize to be won. I was my own woman, I was 23, and I decided then that I would cut her off.
I’ve just finished writing my memoir. It’s about growing up with a psychopathic parent, and writing it with my best friend brought back memories I’d pushed away for years. I remembered being a toddler, locked in the bathroom for Christmas Eve night because I had an ear infection and was crying. I remembered being told I wasn’t worth living for after my mother survived cancer. I remembered being thrown down the stairs because I had a “boot face”. I remembered being humiliated and belittled, I remembered being told I was fat, stupid, a whore.
I’m not special or unique in the abuse and pain I have suffered at the hands of my mother. My pain doesn’t trump that of others, just because I’ve written a book. But this platform has given me the opportunity to reach – and hopefully inspire – other people. If sharing my story can help others find the strength to break free from their abuser, and not let their pain hold them back, then I will be a happy woman.
I’ve broken free from my mother a stronger, tougher, more content person. I’ve found my worth now. It took all my strength to find it, but now that I have it I will never let it go, and I fuel it with an unwavering belief that you cannot let your past pain define who you are.
Now, it doesn’t matter that my mother never loved it. It’s OK, because I’ve filled my life with people who do love me. People who respect my strength and don’t try and knock it out of me, people who say I am worth living for.
My biggest accomplishment is the surprise on people’s faces when I tell them about my mother, the simple look of shock on their faces that all this has happened to me. They exclaim what a well-rounded, generous, friendly and happy person I am. How could I have such an unsettling and awful mother? The truth is, I am all these things because I’m open about it all, I laugh at the ridiculousness of her, I don’t let it fester in my heart.
If you say it, it can’t hurt you.
Olivia Rayne, writing under a pseudonym, is author of My Mother The Psychopath, published by Ebury Press
Life Less Ordinary is a weekly blog series from HuffPost UK that showcases weird, wonderful and transformational life experiences. If you’ve got a story to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org with LLO in the subject line. To read more from the series, visit our dedicated page.
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