It took me hitting rock bottom before I could find my way out

I’m writing this long after the people who set me on a path to a physical and mental breakdown have gone from my life. To write about this whilst they were still a presence in my life was too difficult to contemplate.


For you see, my mother and father did their best, I know that. What they don’t know is the abstract terror, depression, lack of self-worth, and sense of abandonment that they instilled in me as a child.

I did not feel safe. My mother feared my father, he was a very angry and controlling man, nothing was ever good enough, and she failed to protect me – and herself. If I misbehaved (we’re talking minor misdemeanours such as blowing the runny mince beef stew that was on my spoon to cool it a little too hard so that some was blown off the spoon) and had been sent to bed without food, she would sneak some up to me, she set no boundaries, she dealt with conflict covertly or not at all, therefore I never learned how to set boundaries against unacceptable behaviour.

At age 11, I found myself helping my mother evict and divorce my father. Those days were terrifying. My mother chose to distance herself from our home when my father was there to keep the peace, to prevent arguments and angry outbursts and occasional physical and sexual abuse – which I had heard of but didn’t understand, I just knew I wasn’t safe.

I would find any excuse possible to not go home when he was there, and my mother wasn’t. But inevitably I had to go home - my best friend lived next door and at 8 pm I’d be sent home. Sometimes I could pretend I’d gone in and ride the buses until they stopped running. On some occasions, when I got home, I’d be dragged out of the house to look for the "whore" that was my mother. Those were terrifying times.

Once my father had finally left, I naturally didn’t want anything to do with him. He had been the perpetrator of such fear and I was an angry teen that was out to blame all around me with as much vehemence that I could muster – so my mother told him that I never wanted to see him ever again. And to this day, I haven’t.

During this time, my older brother mostly hid, in his own world, protecting himself the best he could. I was the one that became the mediator, the protector, and the rescuer. We’ve yet to speak about those times, the elephant in the room.

During my teen years, I became a mixture of an anxious, depressed, and somewhat suicidal person. I took a lot of pills once, told my mother, and she told me that I was being ridiculous. I withdrew even further, I stopped eating, and the school did their best to hold me accountable. My mother’s way of reprimanding us was to threaten to smack us with a wooden spoon.

By the time I was 14 or 15, I regularly skipped school, smoked, drank in pubs, and went to nightclubs. My predicted A grades diminished to barely scraping through the necessities, and my anger at the world was targeted at anyone in authority. My mother was either unaware or couldn’t care less. To this day I will never know for sure, but I suspect the latter. It was convenient for her not to have to deal with anything that was problematic, she couldn’t rescue or that questioned her image of self-grandiose.

As a family, we were poor, my mother blamed my father for providing a pittance for child support, she struggled with physical and mental health and was unemployed for a while. I started work when I was 13, I knew that nobody was going to care for me other than myself, so that is what I did.

In 1987, when I left school, I looked for the highest-paid job I could do, knowing that my home would be sold when I was 18 and I would be on my own. My mother would move in with her boyfriend, and my brother and I were to provide our own accommodation - no surprise there! I left school on a Friday and started full-time work on the following Monday, my goal, was to be self-sufficient for nobody else could be relied upon.

I met my husband-to-be when I was 17, and we got on well. He was a strong character, and we had a lot of fun together, several heated disagreements, but I could deal with that, it was easy, and I was used to it.

We got engaged and had our first child when I was 21 and married the year after, in 1993. This I was not prepared for, emotionally or physically. The tiredness and post-natal depression dampened my ability to deal with the strong character of my husband and he became controlling - there was nothing to counter this part of his nature, so it was unleashed.

Our second child was born and by this time I had pre- and post-natal depression. My husband couldn’t understand depression, he was unsupportive and dismissive for his own reasons, and I now completely understand why. By the time our children were six and eight, in my eyes, our marriage was over. I was criticised, undermined, controlled, ridiculed, and gaslighted. My husband struggled with early fatherhood too, and neither of us was very good for the other. It really hit home when the headteacher handed me a domestic abuse card for I saw this as normal and my fault.

This is where my mother re-enters, she flourished being the rescuer, she could identify with her daughter and took on the role of my shining knight in armour. I was truly thankful and grateful, for without her I could not have achieved what I did. I divorced and rebuilt my life.

In 2002, I relocated, and met another man, he was and continues to be my rock. We have two children together and life was good.

Nobody is broken, we are all doing the best we can.

Except for an unforgivable act by my mother. The very moment I needed her to help my family whilst I underwent an emergency c-section and near loss of my unborn fourth child, which shook my partner to his core (he’s not easily shaken), she decided that she needed to teach him a lesson - do nothing, make life difficult – I still have no idea why but I could begin to see the patterns of her disturbed thinking, the blame, the lack of responsibility for one’s own actions, the victim mentality, the dragging down another person for some inexplicable reason that they seem to have dissed her.

The following year, the trauma of my life was catching up with me. The depression, the anxiety, the constant fear that everyone would eventually let me down and abandon me and the only person in the world that was there for me was me – and I was broken, the cracks were appearing, I could no longer deal with everyday stressors without being terribly affected by them.

In 2009, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue/ME, depression, and anxiety. I was so ill that I couldn’t work, and couldn’t care for my children, I was lost down a dark hole that I couldn’t see a way out of.

Thankfully, I found the 'Lightning Process'. It teaches you how to take back control of your thoughts, emotions, and decisions so that you can reset your body’s own natural healing system. I began running - a half marathon in 2013, and a full marathon in 2015. Physically and mentally stronger than ever before in my entire life.

Although this gave me back my life, there were still gaping holes in the foundations of my emotional intelligence. In 2016, retraining as an NLP practitioner, clinical hypnotherapist and life coach taught me the life skills that my parents couldn’t teach me because they didn’t have them either. With no uncles, aunts or cousins to draw upon either, the teaching pool was deserted.

You cannot avoid adversity, but you can learn to ride it like a surfer does a wave.

Now, when I look back, I can see that my mother was a covert passive-aggressive narcissist. Her later years revealed this from an adult perspective that now had emotional intelligence and knowledge, and my father, most probably a controller and a perfectionist as well as exasperated, which probably tipped him over the edge... who knows. I’ve communicated by letter a couple of times, but I guess the wounds of the past still hurt.

Piecing myself back together after years of trauma and abuse, most of which hasn’t been expanded upon in this story, has taken time, self-compassion and understanding. It’s been hard at times, reflecting objectively on my own broken strategies and the hurt I caused others by living life in chronic survival mode. Now I work with passion to help others recover, rebuild, and reconnect with themselves so that generational trauma cycles can be broken.

We all learn our strategies from our early years, I’ve learned that it doesn’t define you and you can change things for the better. Others can learn from your vulnerability and openness to share your journey. Nobody is broken, we are all doing the best we can.

If I can go from chronic illness to successfully running three businesses in 12 years, being fit and healthy in mind and body, there is hope for everyone. Maybe there isn’t a magic pill or wand out there but what I do know is that if you are willing to consistently look at how you can better yourself, you can make amazing changes, no matter your starting point.

I’m now 51 years old, I ran another half-marathon in my 50th year. I wouldn’t change any of my life’s experiences for they have made me who I am today. You cannot avoid adversity, but you can learn to ride it like a surfer does a wave.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 3BN
Written by Nikki Emerton
Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 3BN

Having spent the majority of my life not really knowing how to be resilient to life's ups and downs, I discovered NLP, hypnotherapy and coaching. I've found this invaluable in my own life and now use the skills I have learnt and the experiences I have had to help others change their thoughts and behaviours to achieve health and happiness.

Show comments

Find the right business or life coach for you

All coaches are verified professionals

All coaches are verified professionals