I have often wondered whether the abuse I suffered as a child played a part in my fibromyalgia’s development. What I’ve read recently makes me think that’s entirely possible.
My mother and I are now more accepting of one another, and of our respective perceived flaws. We have forged a new relationship. But I know we’ll never have the closeness she has with her other children. And I’m the only one of seven with a chronic illness today.
Growing up, there was never a time that I felt loved and accepted by my mom. She was physically abusive at times, with very little provocation, in my opinion. She was always verbally and emotionally abusive, addressing me as “she,” “it,” or “thing,” or worse. She never called me by name unless my dad or another adult was around.
I will never understand what I had done to cause her to treat me this way. I’m the second oldest of seven children, the oldest girl. My mom was different toward each of my brothers and sisters, more the mother you would expect.
I found out much later that her mother had behaved much the same way toward one of her daughters. My mom is the oldest of eight, and I believe her experiences as a child affected her as an adult.
I also think sometimes it can be a generational thing. My mom was 20 when I was born.
Suffice it to say that I had a stressful, unhappy childhood. My friends and books became my anchor, my escape, and my window to joy. My dad was, too.
My dad was always the parent I talked to when I was going through a hard time and needed a listening ear. He was there for me when I went through a divorce at 26 and had a child out of wedlock at 31. When he got older, we used to Skype together. I miss those times. When my dad died in 2011, my symptoms got so much worse.
According to the study, “Childhood risk factors for developing fibromyalgia,” published in the journal Open Access Rheumatology:
“The Adverse Childhood Experiences section of the BRFSS [Centers for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System] survey revealed interesting and informative data that helped strengthen the belief that traumatic childhood experiences are correlated with the development of FM. Specifically, the responses on these survey items helped clarify which specific childhood events increased one’s risk of developing FM. In general, it appears that negative experiences in one’s childhood that are specifically targeted against the child (like being physically abused by one’s parents) tended to be more statistically significant than negative events that simply surrounded the patient as a child (eg, parents physically abusing one another, but not the child).”
This has been an emotional column to write, but a necessary one.
No child should go through life feeling unloved, treated in less than a loving manner. As I mentioned, my mother and I have a new relationship as adults, but there will always be a strain between us.
I will say, though, that what I went through made me a better mother. I’ve chosen to love my (now-adult) children well, and make sure they know how precious they are.
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