Dear Richard Madeley: 'My parents’ lack of kindness has me wondering who I really am'  

Dear Richard Madeley: 'My parents’ lack of kindness has me wondering who I really am'  
'My parents’ lack of kindness has me wondering who I really am'   Credit: RII SCHROER/KAJA MERLE FOR THE TELEGRAPH

Dear Richard

When I’m off-guard, or in the dead of night, the same question comes back to haunt me: why did my parents dislike me so much? Why did my father regularly state that I was there “on sufferance”? Why did he call me “the cuckoo in the nest”? Why was I always deemed “a great disappointment” to them, despite a successful career?

Why was I branded a liar – which I am not – and unreliable (ditto) when my younger, much-favoured (now estranged) brother constantly lied and cruelly let everyone down?

My parents’ marriage was clearly an unhappy one. My mother admitted (to a 15-year-old me) a premarital affair with a “feckless artist” and confessed that she married my father because he had “prospects” – which failed to materialise, leaving her embittered and resentful.

I often wonder if I am the daughter of that “feckless artist”. Is there any way that I could trace this, given the fact that I don’t know who he was, and both my parents are now dead? And what can I do to rid myself, once and for all, of this sneaking feeling of worthlessness?

Kyra, via email

Dear Kyra

Good grief! You certainly drew the short straw when it came to the great celestial parent allocation programme, didn’t you? I’m not even going to try to defend yours: they sound absolutely horrible – self-pitying, martyred, spiteful… What rotten luck you had to grow up under their baleful influence.

You are clearly self-aware, though, with a firm grasp of the essential realities at play here. Your parents transferred all of their unhappiness and disappointment with each other and their lives directly on to you. You were, in effect, their whipping boy. They didn’t give a brass washer about your happiness or the damage they were inflicting. Of course, they were denying themselves all the love and affection you might have showered on them if they’d let you, but that’s cold comfort now. They were a pair of emotional Scrooges – with no Jacob Marley on hand to redeem them.

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appNone of this was your fault. We can’t choose our parents; we’re saddled with them for good or ill. But we can move on, Kyra, I promise. Unfortunately, you’ve become stuck. Logically you know the hostility and cruel withholding of affection was nothing to do with the person you were, or the one you’ve become. But the damage has gone deep. It’s natural that you’re flooded with all those old doubts and insecurities.

You need a helping hand over the stile, because you simply can’t do this alone. Parentally-induced emotional damage is common, and you’re a textbook case: I am certain you can be given the psychological tools to break free from your unhappy past. So my simple answer to you is that you must get specialist therapy.

As to who your father was… I do wonder why your brother wasn’t treated as harshly as you. Those “tells” – the bitter cuckoo-in-the-nest jibes; your mother’s confession to an affair before you were born – could go a long way to explaining why you came in for special treatment.

At this distance it may be impossible to establish the truth (as you say, everyone’s dead) – although it might be worth visiting the place you were born and knocking on a few doors. There may still be a neighbour or two who remembers something; a rumour or a piece of gossip that could give you something to go on. If I were you, I’d put my reporter’s hat on and try my luck.

Meanwhile, I believe I speak on behalf of all the good and loving parents reading this who are as appalled as I am by your story, when I say: consider yourself hugged, Kyra.