An Open Letter to My Mother

I wish you knew the pain you've put me through the last 26 years. The suicide attempts I once made on my life. The memories that haunt me. How I spent many years believing I was worthless. How I still hear your voice in my head sometimes telling me that I'm stupid.

Dear Mother,

I wish you knew the pain you've put me through the last 26 years. The suicide attempts I once made on my life. The memories that haunt me. How I spent many years believing I was worthless. How I still hear your voice in my head sometimes telling me that I'm stupid.

When I was six-years-old and our family still had our German Shepherd, Billy, you and I would sit in front of our house chatting, while you fed me Vietnamese rice porridge. You'd ask me, "Do you love me, Thuy?" I always said yes. As the years went on, I wanted to ask you the same question because I honestly didn't know the answer.

I spent most of my childhood watching TV because you never spent time with me. You never picked up a book and read to me. You never hugged or kissed me. You never asked me how I was. You never took me to the park. You hated answering my questions.

For five years, I hid the fact that I needed glasses because I was absolutely terrified of you. Terrified that I'd waste your money. I would ask to sit in front of the school classroom so I could see the blackboard clearly. If I couldn't move seats, I'd squint as much as possible, copy off the person next to me, or make up some lame excuse as to why I couldn't do the work.

Eventually, I couldn't hide my secret any more. I told you, and you did just what I was afraid you'd do. You got mad. Every time I needed a new prescription, you said I was wasting your money. So I'd wait. Wait until my eye sight got so much worse that my only option was to tell you I needed new glasses.

I felt so anxious when I lived at home with you. I would bite my nails incessantly. You told me if I didn't cut the habit, no man would ever want to marry me. My hands would be too disgusting to hold, you said.

The day you shattered my soul was the day you asked me to lie to Dad. My twelve-year-old sister came home with a $200 phone bill and you decided of your own accord, that I would lie and claim responsibility for it. You stood there as Dad shouted at me and said how disappointed he was in me. You did absolutely nothing. And when I told you that I'd had enough and for you to tell him the truth, you promised me you would but you broke your promise. I found out months later when he yelled at me for the same thing.

You stood by when your brother, my Uncle, called me fat. He humiliated me in front of his son, my partner and my sister. You forced me to apologise to him for being angry. You said to me, "Don't worry, you'll lose weight and you won't be fat any more."

Whenever I cried about anything you did or said, you'd shout at me, "Why are you crying for? At least you didn't get hit!" I felt like my feelings meant nothing to you.

But mum, in spite of everything, I want you to know something.

Even when you made me feel absolutely horrible about myself, I never hated you.

I never stopped loving you.

You see, about six years ago when our family thought you were going to die, it was one of the most heartbreaking times of my life.

You were too sick to even attend my wedding. You lay in your hospital bed, unable to move. The doctors really thought that you weren't going to make it.

I saw Dad cry for only the second time in my life and it broke my heart. I couldn't believe that the person who drove me to school every day for 13 years was going to die. It pained me to see you so weak that we had to hold your cup while you struggled to drink through a straw.

I promised myself that if you got better, things between us would change and I would forget who you weren't and learn to appreciate who you are.

You've put me through a lot of emotional pain, but you are still my Mum.

You are the Mum who proudly tells her friends that I'm doing a great job raising three young girls.

You are the Mum who cooks my favourite dish and calls me over to collect plates of it.

You are the grandmother who looks at her grandchildren with such love and adoration.

You are the person that taught me that life isn't easy and you have to work hard for what you truly want.

You are the daughter who suffered tremendous hardship in Vietnam and escaped communism by boat to start a new life in Australia.

I know that you gave up a lot for us four children. I know it wasn't easy for you and Dad to put a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and try your hardest to provide for us so we could have the life we deserved.

I know that you may not have always been there for me, but you always tried to be the best mother that you could be.

I know that I can't change how you treated me back then, but I can change how I see you now.

As much as the memories of the past hurt, I'm glad that you never left us six years ago.

I'm glad that we've gotten a second chance at our relationship.

I'm still glad that you're my Mum.

Love from,

Your Daughter


Thuy Yau is a freelance writer who believes in learning from negative experiences. She is very passionate about psychology and personal development. She lives in Perth, Australia with her husband and three young children. Check out her motivational blog at Inside a Mother's Mind.