Zara’s troubled relationship with her mother dominated her childhood and stretched through her adult life.
It was only after finally opening up to a counsellor, that she began to come to terms with it and understand how her mother’s actions had impacted on her own feelings.
And Zara* is keen to thank her counsellor publicly – and tell others about how counselling changed her life.
“My counsellor helped me accept who I am and know that I’m not a bad person,” she said.
“She really understood; she was able to provide insight into different things at different times.
“She didn’t say very much, but what she did say was remarkable. It really wasn’t just somebody sitting across from me, listening at the right time, and nodding and saying ’yes’. It was far, far more than that."
“Counselling was brilliant. It was life-changing.”
Zara first sought the help of Northamptonshire-based counsellor Jill Hermon after her grandmother died.
She had been close to her grandmother throughout her life, including during times when her relationship with her mum was difficult.
“When grandma died, for some reason I couldn’t understand, I just couldn’t talk to mum. I just found myself being an awful daughter to her. I thought ‘what’s wrong with me?’. My mum’s in her 70s. She’s grieving herself. Why am I being like this? After about four months, I thought I’m going to have to go and see a counsellor to sort myself out.”
Zara, who is in her 40s, went to see Jill, and they started to get to the root cause of what the problems were.
Everything started coming out
“In the first session, she asked about my early life, and everything just started coming out,” said Zara.
“My mum constantly said cruel things to me and made it impossible to see my dad who left due to her behaviour when I was seven.
“Sometimes she didn’t provide many of the basics such as food and clothes. I spent a lot of my teenage years staying at friends’ houses and avoiding being at home. The barrage of abuse didn’t stop until I Ieft home. I didn’t just feel not accepted but hated by her”
When Zara went to university, she decided to move on with her life.
“I pretty much parked everything that had happened. I decided to put it under the carpet and forget about it.2
No one knew
“I felt like I needed to pretend I’d had a normal life, in order to have a normal life.
“I was really close to my grandparents, who were my mum’s parents, and I didn’t really want to break up the family.
“By not speaking with my mum or challenging her on anything that she’d previously done, I just got on with my life.
“I met a lovely man, got married, had children, had a job and was really lucky in life.
“But all this time I knew that no one really knew about my early life, not even my husband. He didn’t know about my traumas with my mum.”
Talking to Jill was the first time Zara had spoken about her relationship with her mother.
“A large part of my counselling was understanding what had happened in my early life and my reaction to that.
“I was a really naughty teenager, I drank, did drugs, had these dodgy boyfriends, did not come home sometimes.
“I always thought no wonder mum was like she was to me, if I behaved like that. I thought things were my fault and I was a bad person. I thought that I was now just pretending to be a good person."
“My counsellor helped me understand that these are normal reactions if you feel hurt by someone who’s supposed to care for you; if you don’t have any acceptance.”
The other element of Zara’s counselling helped her to communicate the relationship with her mother, to her husband and her friends.
“I felt that if I told anyone, my whole life would fall down. I felt that I wasn’t good enough."
Able to accept who I am
“A big part of my counselling was working through those 20 years of my early life, being able to accept who I am and what happened and articulate that to my husband and friends.
“She never rushed me. We had three months of total turmoil and there was crying and everything. There was a lot of ‘oh my god, did that really happen’.
“I really needed to go through all that and face what had happened.”
Lot of trust
She added: “There was a lot of trust between us as counsellor and client. That needs to happen for you to open up, share your story and feel like you can communicate.
“But there was also the appropriate level of challenge. So, if she felt I was going off on the wrong track, she just seemed to be able to steer the conversation in the right way at the right time.”
Zara finally felt able to tell her husband and close friends the full story about her relationship with her mother, and her troubled childhood.
“Everyone I have spoken to has been really kind, interested and understanding.
“Nobody’s shunned me because of my unfortunate early life.”
She recently had her final session with Jill, after a year and a half of counselling.
Sense of closure
And she contacted us as she wanted to publicly thank her counsellor and share her story about how counselling helped.
She added: “I can think of my early life now and accept it.
“I’ve got peace. I’ve got that sense of closure. I don’t feel like my world will come tumbling down now.”
She added: “Counselling has been hugely beneficial to me. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
To find a counsellor or psychotherapist who can help you visit our Therapist directory.
*Zara’s name has been changed to protect her and her family’s identity.
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