When Gin Funder, M, posted in the Mummy’s Gin Fund Facebook group asking for advice about how to cope with trying to make Christmas special for her children after such a traumatic childhood, none of us realised the depth of the wounds that needed to be healed.
In true #nomumleftbehind fashion, as well as imparting wisdom, virtual hugs and advice, Gin Funders swung into action and started donating to one of our amazing MGF #boxofkindness. Our incredible volunteer admin, Rebecca Asker, immediately started rallying gifts, vouchers for days out, hand made Christmas treats and all sorts of amazing things. She spent hours sourcing items to make M’s family Christmas special and to remind her of the thousands of Gin Fund hands holding her up and cheering her on.
Rebecca contacted many Gin Fund supporters, who generously donated their time, money, skills and love. Special thank you to @icklejens_sewing_room, @paulaturnerphotography, @blossomandthreads, #greenwichandlewishamsyoungpeoplestheatre, @therosendale, @pipandliloriginal, #thesidcuppartners, @penguinukbooks, @77bakes, @thegladesbrom, #canoncars, @giraffesnaps, @hypecoiffurebrixton for their generosity.
M has written an open letter to all of Mummy’s Gin Fund, please take the time to read it and know that – even if you didn’t donate – you are part of a movement that is genuinely changing people’s lives. By joining MGF’s #nomumleftbehind mission, you are making a difference. You are in #teamginfund, #teamkindness and #teamcommunity and we thank you for it.
Over to M,
“How do I begin? Well firstly I need to thank all the generous individuals and companies that came together to provide my humbled little family a truly memorable Christmas 2018! You certainly brought the magic and sparkle to Christmas and I feel overwhelmed by your generosity. I received the MGF #boxofkindness nearly 2 weeks ago now and it’s been difficult to put into words how thankful I am. I am still in shock but was keen to write and hopefully help you understand how much your kindness has meant to me and my girls. I am certain that this Christmas will be the beginning of happier memories and that my wounded ‘inner child’ can finally find the peace I have been searching many years for. I will never forget the moment MGF reduced me to an emotional wreck when I opened my door to see Rebecca standing there armed with a piles of boxes all for us.
I joined MGF as a lonely mum of two adjusting to life recently separated from significant family members. At the same time I’ve been battling social anxiety, general anxiety and depression for many years. I wanted to confront my isolation which was why I joined MGF in the first place and|I’ve already met some lovely friends as a result. Then the influx of Christmas posts kept appearing and I started having that familiar wave of anxiety and negative associations I have tried but failed to hide every Christmas. My ‘Terrified of Christmas’ post on MGF threw up lots of ideas for gifts, personalising Christmas and outings on a budget. I also received many words of encouragement and kind messages of support. Complete strangers offered me gifts which I declined because I didn’t feel worthy and to be honest I know I am not the only person battling my way through hardship. I was just thrilled to feel supported as I prepared myself to tackle rather than avoid Christmas – this year I was determined I wouldn’t hide away and I would try to enjoy it as much for myself as the girls. The penny had finally dropped when I posted on MGF, my post had helped me face up to the fact that my negative associations had started to take the magic out of Christmas for my children. I decided it was definitely time to lay the ghosts of the past to rest once and for all.
Having survived a tortured childhood where I experienced Domestic Violence for over 16 years in the family home due to my parents dysfunctional relationship, my fathers compulsive gambling, his alcoholism as well as all the mental health aspects of living through something like this. My family life wasn’t what any child should have endured. I attended over 7 Primary Schools, always feared making strong friendships due to us often fleeing in the middle of the night to yet another Domestic Violence Refuge or temporary safe haven.
School was always a welcome distraction, I was never bullied there but my home life rendered me extra super sensitive, emotional, fearful and extremely angry. On the outside I was a quiet, reserved warrior who somehow knew from the tender age of 8 that I would be the only one brave enough to face the fear and try to put an end to the torturous weekends and family Christmases we endured. These were not Christmases filled with love, hope, kindness and happiness but more often than not consisted of black eyes, broken bones, shattered dreams, loss of spirit and hope – I quickly learnt that Santa wasn’t listening when I made my silent wish every Christmas Eve just to have a ‘happy family.’
Christmas time was especially horrid and although we had gifts and a roast dinner and often celebrated with others my dad was socially awkward. He would get angry at the flip of a hat and spend it intoxicated after losing his wages his gambling addiction (Horses). I was always hyper aware of his mood swings and often resorted to pouring alcohol down the sink hoping not to get caught out. I lived in a constant state of high alert, unable to relax and full of anxiety. Yet no matter what any of us did nothing would suppress his rage. Eventually even my parents limited circle of friends and family stopped visiting or were told never to set foot in our house again. I absconded from school just to spend a few precious hours with my Grandfather.
The things that happened to my mum and siblings were horrific but for me I remember the physical violence at 10 years of age which ended with me in hospital for experimenting with make-up. We had already fled the family home and just started to settle somewhere new months earlier, I was determined to study hard and for the first time in ages I felt free to enjoy a normal childhood. Unfortunately this was short lived and despite my pleas, after less than a year my father somehow wrangled his way back into our lives and we were soon on our way back to London, the incident was swept under the carpet along with all the rest and no charges were ever brought against my father. As I walked through the door into the same house where all the horrible memories were I felt numb. My heart sank and I navigated my way through childhood and adolescence rather robotically.
I needed to speak out but I was very afraid. Having been told for many years I was neither important or special, couldn’t be taken seriously, had no friends and wasn’t respected. I had sub-zero confidence in myself or any adult around me. Every occasion I attempted to be honest, I’d been accused of lying, causing trouble or told to keep quiet. I started believing I was the problem despite my inner voice nagging me to keep fighting and to never give up. I tried on many occasions to stand up for my right to be treated respectfully by confronting my father the 6ft 4 beast himself. I would often try to speak to my mother in confidence too but she always let him know and that betrayal hurt me more than anything. I was trying to protect her too and made many excuses for her but she was obviously concerned about the repercussions and as his enabler – it rarely ended well for any of us, yet I often felt as if I was the only one who found his behaviour abhorrent.
I tried to understand how my father a 19 year old Area Manager with impressive qualifications grades ended up becoming an addict and and abuser. I naturally assumed that education was the key to a successful future but it’s not always the case and I doubt I will ever get the answer as to how or why his life went down such a destructive path! I couldn’t understand how he appeared to have us all under his spell and it took many years to realise he had manipulated and brainwashed not only us but managed to convince himself that his delusional thoughts were facts. He regularly used the fear of God, committed himself to various faiths to suit his need to control us. I recall him carefully selecting and reciting passages for hours at a time not for comfort, but as a weapon in his armoury to further satisfy his delusions. We were all expected to jump however high he saw fit whenever he spoke. He was always assessing and analysing us, even when you thought he was just reading the newspaper he was analysing, judging and then punishing all of us – we lived in fear of a wrong move, a creak on the floorboards, giving a wrong answer and our childhoods were very restricted despite the so called family outings and camping holidays. I would wet the bed out of emotional distress and getting something wrong which would result in further pain for us all. The only thing I had control over were my thoughts but even those would play tricks on me. I kept a diary well many diaries, I would wrote poems and read as much as I could but I had to do so in secret as the consequences for going against him an educating myself differently were severe.
As a female I was expected to be content dedicating my life to cooking, cleaning, looking after my two younger siblings and being obedient. I often spent my childhood cleaning paintwork until my knuckles bled, limping from the painful slap marks he had imprinted on me if I made the slightest mistake. I couldn’t ever reach his standard of perfection no matter how hard I tried as it was impossible but I spent many miserable years trying to please him and impress him, I believed if I showed him love and kindness he might go easier on me but even that failed as a plan and I was becoming traumatised by family life.
My relationship with my mother disintegrated as she felt I was constantly “rocking the boat” because I wouldn’t allow myself to be controlled, she was unsupportive of me and as I grew older I found the more she enabled him out of genuine fear the more arrogant, jealous and abusive he became. It felt like I was the only one not wearing rose tinted glasses. It took me many years to realise the complexities of such relationships – if you can call them that. I myself went from one disastrous relationship to another whilst all the time refusing to love or be loved. I was terrified of falling for somebody so deeply to the point where they would have any control over me.
I had nobody to confide in who understood me and why I felt so strongly that the abuse needed to end. My mother couldn’t give me the unconditional love I needed either, but I desperately needed her reassurance and for her to support me. Instead I was blamed for drawing attention to our family situation as everybody ‘swept it under the carpet’ I became extremely angry and often felt like something was wrong with me for wanting the situation to end. I contemplated suicide but I didn’t actually want to die, I just couldn’t risk another mistake fearing it may cost us our lives. I soldiered on trying to think logically about how to get our family help in whatever way I could.
I went against the family code of secrecy many times, I pleaded to relatives, rang the police, told friends and regularly rang Child-line but I never gave my real name. It was only when I was 13 that I confided to my school counsellor. By that point I had been in trouble for absconding, and I had been having sessions to help my ‘difficult attitude’ and it was to her that I tentatively confided about the abuse. I finally broke down the wall of silence I had built up inside me. Mrs Bloomfield gave me one of those squeeze the life out of you cuddles I had always imagined my mother would. Very quickly things started happening, she had taken me seriously and she believed me I was so relieved I couldn’t contain my tears and the floodgates finally opened. She didn’t just nod along and ignore me but by that point I had so much pent up anger and frustration about the bubble my parents were living in that I felt flawed, embarrassed, ashamed, deeply hurt as well as a traitor to my parents. I knew I had so much to say and couldn’t contain it any longer but I was hurt at all the other adults who let me and my family suffer and I still find it difficult trusting people for this reason. I always tried to find the positives as I wanted to help my younger siblings have a healthier happier upbringing but as the eldest I already felt it was somehow too late for me. I was only 13 by this point and completely exhausted, my head had been working so hard for so many years that I was suffering mentally.
Despite having performed well at primary school, breezed my SATS and predicted fantastic grades for my GCSE’s I wasn’t happy inside, I was terrified of becoming just like my father – an educated man himself who somehow still became an abusive addict!. I ended up achieving only 5 A-C grades just scraping a place into college and by the time I was 16 I had already been living rough, in temporary accommodation and hostels as well as with friends. College was tough but studying was more an escapism rather than me actively pursuing a career. I passed my course but my heart wasn’t in it and I had no passion for anything. I had good friends and never got in with the wrong crowd but I always felt broken and too scared to take risks.
Social Services were involved with our family and I along with my siblings were placed on the ‘at risk’ register. There was an Emergency Injunction in place and eventually my father was sent to a rehabilitation centre by the courts for up to a year – not for abusing us but for endangering the lives of others with his reckless drunk driving. My mother seemed totally lost without him. I had just wanted her to be happier. I hoped she would come to realise my intentions and one day be proud to call me her daughter. Unfortunately her sadness, bitterness, anger and perhaps the reality of everything made her sink into depression. She refused counselling and therapy and for several years she turned to alcohol herself. This made me angry with myself and I felt responsible for her suffering. I was never allowed to forget the anguish I had caused her and despite many many attempts at reconciliation our relationship is unfortunately irreparable.
At 39 I’ve spent most of my life coming to terms with these horrors and having children of my own brought so much past pain to the surface. I have had to rid myself of the toxic individuals in my life yet I failed to notice how toxic my own pain was. My girls are beautiful on the inside and out and I cherish them and tell them so every day. I would love to tell you all how successful I am now and that life is amazing but I am still on a journey to heal from my past and I am not quite there yet but I will never give up. I have bundles of perseverance and patience and I was born a fighter. I didn’t come this far in life to ever give up. When life is difficult I remember myself at 8 years of age – that shy little girl, my ‘inner child’ who never knew how her story would end. That child who fiercely battled and persevered every day of her life never willing to give up on those she loved, That was me and although I have made mistakes life is about choices and I have been very honest about mine. I am not afraid of the skeletons in my closet as that closet has no more secrets but I am still searching for the key that enables me to truly come to terms with my past and live a fulfilling life.
I do not have much to show for life in a materialistic sense but I have my girls and I am a firm believer that knowledge is power and time is a healer but everyone needs reminding from time to time that they are cared about. The MGF #boxofkindness gave me that reminder and brought huge smiles to my girls. We have already been out twice doing Christmas themed things, I’ve made a countdown to Christmas Advent stocking for the girls who have been busy opening some of the delightful gifts we received. We are at a wreath making event this weekend and will soon be seeing Snow White and Santa at the Glades. The beautiful Christmas Eve box donated with their names inscribed and the personalised decorations in amongst the other goodies have been safely hidden away. I know MGF has tagged all those who contributed in another post but for those of you that weren’t mentioned I am so very touched by your generosity and literally everything has been thought about from table decorations, Christmas decorations, food, indoor baking and fun activities to do in half term, wonderful gifts both useful and fun, spending money, outings, alcohol, Christmas Eve night in essentials even bloody Pyjamas and a babysitting coupon. I mean it couldn’t be more perfect – except for the giant box of tissues to wipe my eyes as I was crying nearly 3 days straight.
Finally if you are still reading this I hope my story will inspire you, understand why its important to never judge a book by its cover. I hope it encourages you to continue communicating with your friends, family and your children. Live honestly and true to yourself, never give up hope and try to seek help, reassurance, friendship as well as reaffirming to yourself everyday why your life is important. Please continue donating to good causes, making a difference to those less fortunate and thank you for caring and supporting me and my girls through the #MGFboxofkindness xxx”
If you have been affected by this post, please contact The Samaritans.
The Samaritans provide emotional support for anyone experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Call them on 08457 90 90 90.
Their helpline is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.