I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Walking Over Eggshells by Lucinda E Clarke
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform on July 29th 2013
Genres: Abuse, Africa, Child Abuse, Family & Relationships, Family Life, Mental Health, Parenting, Psychology
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Walking over Eggshells by Lucinda E. Clarke is both a heartbreaking and a heartwarming autobiography. The short description above gives you the basic storyline. As you can read, it focuses on the damage that an emotionally abusive mother (later diagnosed with a severe personality disorder) can inflict on a daughter.
It’s a well-written, tightly edited and professionally produced book. It gripped me throughout. Below I highlight just two features of the book. I then interview the author to discover if there are any practical ways that someone with an emotionally abusive mother can survive, and even thrive.
Why is Walking Over Eggshells heartbreaking?
When a 3-year old girl decides to run away from home because her mother doesn’t like her, you begin to suspect something is terribly wrong. When she’s five and realizes that no matter what she does, it’s always wrong in her mother’s eyes, you realize that life is going to be tough for her. For a 12-year old to be sent to bed just when her favourite TV programme was starting, because of her “list of sins”, then the words “emotional abuse” come to mind.
There are too many traumatic events and experiences described in the book to mention here. Suffice to say that it’s a miracle that the author survived them all to write about them so honestly and eloquently.
Why is it heartwarming?
Walking Over Eggshells is uplifting because the author’s courage and inner strength shine through. She is knocked down repeatedly, but gets up and moves on with dignity. Despite having a husband (not her present one) who contributed to her stresses rather than relieved them, she manages to bear and bring up children virtually single-handed while holding down a career. In the face of decades of emotional abuse, she eventually learns coping mechanisms to turn her life around.
In addition, the author’s humour shines through. So although the subject matter is dark, there are many moments of lightheartedness, even fun. And her experiences as she follows her wacky husband from job to job, across the UK, Kenya, Libya, Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland, are simply amazing.
How to cope with emotional abuse
This for me is the real value of a book like this. What can a daughter of an emotionally abusive mother learn from it that could help her in her daily life?
There is a lot in this book – particularly towards the end with the identification of her mother’s severe personality disorder – that will undoubtedly be of great benefit to victims of mental abuse. But for a quick overview, there’s only one person to turn to …
Interview with Lucinda E. Clarke
If today you met a young girl – a teenager for example – who described a similar type of emotionally abusive mother to yours, would you have any advice for her? If so, what would it be?
I would advise her to look up the traits of each of the personality disorders on the internet – there are several checklists on reputable sites like Mental Health America, or, if in the UK, the NHS has an excellent site – and see if her mother falls into any of these groups. She should watch carefully to see how her mother interacts with other people, especially family. Does she fight with them as well? Does she switch her behaviour on and off like a tap? Does she cause conflict between others? If the abuse is too hard to handle, then I would advise her to speak to a teacher, counsellor or a social worker for help and advice. There are also agencies like Childline which offer the chance to talk.
What would you say to a young girl with an emotionally abusive mother who was so scared of disobeying her mother that she felt unable to ask for help from an outside source?
This is a tricky one. She could try talking to another family member if she can trust them to not get her into further trouble. In my personal case, it was at the back of my mind that I needed an education to support myself and enable me to leave home. So I hung on in there until I’d qualified as a teacher, and was lucky enough to travel away from home to college. If you can find anyone to confide in, it really helps to talk, as so often you are made to believe you are the problem; that everything is your fault. Once you realize that you are just an average teenager, it removes a lot of the guilt.
Narcissism does not only apply to women, I understand that many fathers can also be a nightmare to live with. The other partner is an enabler, always giving in, always placating; this is another red flag to look for. Where there is more than one child in the family, often one is a ‘golden’ child and the other the ‘scapegoat.’ This favouritism is very common. I was so wrong to think if I had brothers and sisters, or a father, life would have been great. That is very unlikely.
Have you come across emotionally abusive mothers who have read your book? If so, do they identify and relate, and seek help? Or is such a person totally unable to self-diagnose?
No, not one mother has contacted me – although I’ve had many, many heart-rending emails from other victims. If the diagnosis is a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the sufferer will never see or admit to being in the wrong – they are incapable of compassion or sympathy other than for themselves. As a result, they will never seek help and will rant and rave if you suggest they are at fault. They see no other point of view but their own.
If a reader was to read your book and say “that’s just like my mother!”, what would you like to say to them?
If your mother is still having an unhealthy influence on your life, then the only permanent solution is to go ‘no contact.’ This is not an easy thing to do, but Narcissists will break up marriages, set your children against you, and tell wild, untrue stories about you. Back away and if you can’t break off entirely, cut visiting and access as much as you can.
What would you like to say to that emotionally abusive mother?
Anything I said would be met with amazement and of course I would be wrong! Honestly, you can only feel sorry for people suffering personality disorders. A physical disability is easy to see and understand, but these afflictions are hidden away and denied, even by other family and friends. Frankly, I would be wasting my time talking to her.
You write of your sense of missed opportunities and wasted potential. (Although many readers will agree with me that you have accomplished a huge amount in your life). How do you come to terms with “what might have been?”
Pragmatism I guess. Luckily I had the chance to go to university and get a degree and then later I pursued a career in the media. My life has been anything but mundane, enough to fill three memoirs, but that comes with the price of an uncertain and nerve-wracking day-to-day fight to survive.
What practical steps can a woman take when she wonders that even though her emotionally abusive mother has passed away, she is “ruling from the grave?”
Learn to accept there are things we cannot change. Sadly, there are triggers everywhere: a wildlife programme where the mother puts herself in danger to instinctively protect her young; heart-warming family movies; scenes of happy mothers and daughters sharing secrets in the local coffee shop. I’ve coped through forgiveness – which I hope doesn’t sound pompous, but I had my ego knocked out of me by the age of five. I now feel so sorry for my mother, she was such an unhappy woman. Above all, maintain a sense of humour wherever possible. It got me through.
Thank you Lucinda for giving us your insights, both here and in the book. I am sure Walking Over Eggshells will be a tremendous help to many people in similar abusive situations.
Thanks for the opportunity, which I really appreciate.
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