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You Did Not Turn Out Fine

TW: physical and emotional abuse

By Olivia BarkerPublished 2 years ago 3 min read
Top Story - April 2024

When I was a kid, my sister and I would spend our free time doing normal kid things like playing with dolls or watching tv when our mother would walk into our room and glare at us. Nose upturned, lips pursed in disapproval. My sister and I would immediately sit at attention wondering what we were doing that was so wrong while our mom would go into her room and grab one of my dad’s belts.

I always told myself that I didn’t have it that bad. That I was one of the lucky ones because my mom stopped beating me before I became a teenager and that she had only used a belt (except that one time when she used a power cord). I never got any bruises or broken bones. I turned out fine.

If you asked my mom, she’d say she turned out fine too. She was raised by a single mom that worked constantly and expected her to take care of her younger siblings. She was beaten with anything her mom could find: a switch, a belt, a ruler, a broom. She wasn’t allowed to do any extracurricular activities or go out with friends. She wasn’t able to go to a four year college even though her younger sister got to. My heart broke for her even though she used the way she was raised to pinpoint all the ways she’d gone wrong raising us. We weren’t afraid of her, she’d said one night when I was trying to make a case about whatever we were arguing about. Probably a birthday party she wouldn’t let me go to or a nail polish color she wouldn’t let me wear. She wanted us to be too afraid to disrespect her. If we were afraid of her we wouldn’t question her or talk back or have opinions.

My mother was afraid of her mom. I believe she still is. Either that or she’s exhausted from a childhood of constantly having to guess what kind of mood her mother was in. I don’t think she cares what happens to her mother. She only used to visit her so she could see us. Most of the time they would end up fighting over something and mom would storm into the back where we were watching tv and tell us we were leaving. We’d hug our grandmother goodbye trying not to breathe in the smoke from her Kools.

Having a mother wound is a complicated and heartbreaking experience. I love my mother, but all of my maladaptive behaviors can be traced back to things that she did to me. As much as I want to defend my mom who says she did the best that she could, I also have to say that it wasn’t enough. Being told that I had nothing to complain about because I had clothes, shelter, and food made me feel guilty for wanting emotional support from my parents. Or from anyone for that matter.

Society’s definition of fine is people pleasing, walking on eggshells, not knowing how to emotionally regulate, the inability to be vulnerable, self sabotage, communication issues. I may not be able to set boundaries, but at least I’m not mass murderer.

I know overcoming the effects of generational trauma is something I have to make a conscious effort to choose every day, but I’m doing the work. I’m unlearning my defense mechanisms every day being in a relationship with someone who isn’t abusive. I’m not used to anyone listening to me expressing my wants and needs without making me feel ungrateful and turning it into a fight, but I’m growing.


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Comments (14)

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  • Lorelai Fayea day ago

    "I'm not used to anyone listening to me expressing my wants and needs without making me feel ungrateful and turning it into a fight"..... this hit home on such a level that I never though anyone else could ever possibly understand. Being told I was too emotional, needy, dramatic, over-exaggerating, lying, that I talk too much- these things kept me from being able to express myself to the people who were supposed to care unconditionally. I learned at an early age that love comes at a cost, even for those who say their love is for always. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for being brave and courageous even to use your voice to heal your past wounds. For those of us on a similar journey, we appreciate that there are others our there who are trying to break the generational chains.

  • Sapphire Ravenclawabout a month ago

    This story (or a similar one) is true for so many. People will often say they turned out fine despite abuse because they don't recognise that they didn't turn out fine, that they were abused, and they're possibly continuing the cycle. I went through abuse that I didn't realise was abuse until I'd escaped it. It wasn't usually physical but a lot of shouting and other types of abuse. I gave my children as much freedom as I was able, I gave them choices and opportunities that I never had. And I've tried to be there for them, letting them express their feelings without having to worry about arguments or ignorance. The last part of your story really resonates with me. I'm so grateful that my husband does listen and lets me say what i need to. It took some time to realise I could do that. I am glad you're learning to heal yourself, but sad that you had to go through all that.

  • The Dani Writerabout a month ago

    This is such a powerful story and I felt every line. I felt somewhat sad feeling that people often parent the way they were parented unless a conscious effort is made to break generational patterns. A substantial percentage don't develop the awareness. People also have parented on societal constructs/templates when they had nothing else. Stringent rules, resources, support, assessments, etc., for a drivers license, buying or renting, starting a business, but have a kid and need REAL and PRACTICAL help beyond the basics of feed, clean, and clothe... Aaaaaand people also parent from deficits, e.g. I wasn't allowed to choose my own clothes as a child, so I give my children LOTS of choice (kinda making up for what I missed.) Substitute "clothing choice" for anything else (positive or negative) and it works. This is one heck of a journey that doesn't come with nearly enough roadmaps. Sad. Having said all of that, I'm still glad you made it here in one piece (or pieces) and can write about it and heal. Pleased that this was a top story feature so that many can see it gain insight--maybe even parents who need to make changes, or children who can seek help. Much love and light to you ❤️

  • Christy Munsonabout a month ago

    Your words captivated me. Nearly every last one of us is a prisoner to our torments until we find a way to break the chains - literal or figurative or actual. Your haunting, painful, real Top Story unearths the hard truths with a tenderness and integrity that honors your path. I'm pleased to hear you have a romantic relationship worthy of you. Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Anna about a month ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • ROCK about a month ago

    Hi Olivia, I, too, had a confusing, abusive (verbally and physically)relationship with my mother. I am 61 and still feel cheated out if something good. I see it in other mother-daughter relationships and we talk about things, but it always goes back to excuses, " I didn't know what I was doing, I didn't have a relationship with my mother, etc.) I raised my only child by perhaps being empathetic, present, helicopter-mom to the point that I was snowed emotionally by my own kid. She can lie to me, or at least used to, and my eyes were blind. I wanted to be fun, spontaneous and all things my mom wasn't but then it made me too easy. Does anybody ever get the parenting thing right? I feel your pain and know the feel of a belt on my bare skin. Does writing help you? It helps me sometimes. This was very heart wrenching, honest and I appreciate your candour.

  • Brenda Murrayabout a month ago

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  • I'm so sorry that your mother did all those things to you. Great story. Don't ever think that kind of behaviour is normal it's not. And you area a survivor. It's very compelling story. Congrats on Top Story.

  • Harbor Benassaabout a month ago

    Poignant observations and powerful scene setting. Congrats on top story!

  • The Writer about a month ago


  • angela hepworthabout a month ago

    Olivia this was amazing, so powerful and true. So many people who say they “turned out fine” just haven’t accepted or dealt with their trauma. Wishing you all the love and healing in the world ♥️

  • Melissa Ingoldsbyabout a month ago

    That's incredibly hard i could feel the chill in the air from the way your mother would walk into the room and glare and everything would instantly change: so palable and viscerally damaging. Also I love the picture of Coraline.

  • Rachel Deemingabout a month ago

    I love your writing, Olivia. I love its frankness, its rawness, its everyday tone which belies so much that is not usual and should never be. I hope you are doing well. Would love to see more of your writing on here.

  • I hope you know that you are a smart and beautiful individual. I see this especially in your passage, "I know overcoming the effects of generational trauma is something I have to make a conscious effort to choose every day, but I’m doing the work." May your heart heal during your journey! 💙

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