Sad inner child
Anxiety,  Depression,  Mental Health,  Relationships,  Suicidal Ideation

How Family of Origin Affects Mental Health

Sad inner child
Soul Collage – Sad Inner Child

I come from a family of six and we are all a year apart. I have two older brothers, an older sister, a younger brother, and a younger sister. I am a middle, middle child. And what do they say about middle children? They are typically the lost children, those who have gotten lost in the shuffle and don’t get a lot of attention, well for more on children growth and formation, read here about the Benefits of Soft Play. This is true about me. Because I didn’t get a lot of attention from my parents, I sought out the attention in the academic world. I made straight A’s and was always the teacher’s pet. I got loads of attention from my peers because I was always the one blowing the curve.

Emotionally Unavailable Parents

I love my parents, but they weren’t emotionally available. My mom had her hands full with six kids and relied on us to take care of each other for her. My older sister Beth became my surrogate mom and she is the one I would turn to when I was having emotional turmoil. My dad was busy working all the time, trying to provide for his family. I know my parents love me, but I don’t remember either of them ever hugging me or telling me that they loved me. They do now that I am an adult, but I just didn’t get that kind of attention as a child.

Family of Origin Intensive Workshop

When I was in my thirties I attended a Family of Origin Intensive Workshop to resolve my family of origin issues. I participated in an exercise where we were supposed to imagine ourselves younger and talk to our inner child. Usually in this exercise the therapist has the client imagine being crucial ages such as 5 years old, 8 years old, and as a teenager. However, because of my circumstances with my mom having her hands full with three other kids at my birth, my therapist had me imagine being born. She wanted my inner child to talk to my mom when I was first born. In the exercise I told my mom to give me the baby (me) because I knew she didn’t have the capacity to take care of me. I told the baby I loved her and that I would take care of her.

Struggling with Depression and Anxiety as an Adult

As an adult, I have struggled with anxiety and depression. I think this stems from when I was five years old and my family moved from Jamaica to Houston. My mom never talked to us kids about the move before it happened. One day we were in Jamaica

with our grandmother and the next day we were in Houston with our aunt, uncle and cousins. In Jamaica they start school a year earlier than in the United States so when I transferred to school in Houston, I was put in first grade as a five year old and was a year younger than my peers. I had a hard time adjusting emotionally and I cried every day. I cried so much that my teacher designated a desk for me with a kleenex box on it. My older sister Beth struggled being younger than her classmates as well so we were both put back a grade so we would be with kids our age.

 Origin of Depression and Anxiety

I have learned through therapy that five years old is a very crucial age. And being that I suffered trauma from being uprooted from my home and transferred to a strange environment in another country, I developed anxiety and depression that carried into my adulthood. I have experienced severe depression with suicidal ideation and suicide attempts and severe anxiety with panic attacks. I love my mom, but she was not emotionally available for me as a child and as a consequence I developed emotional disturbances as an adult. I have worked hard to overcome my anxiety and depression as an adult. It is possible to be rehabilitated and get over childhood trauma, but it takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, and resilience. I’d like to say that I have overcome these difficulties, though, and am now a happy, healthy, and productive member of society.

What are your mental health challenges?

What struggles have you had as an adult because of your family of origin? How have you worked to overcome these mental health challenges? Please share in the comments below.

The author is not a health care professional or medical professional and the contents of this website are for informational purposes only. Whilst the information and opinions found on this website are written based on information available at the time of writing, and are believed to be accurate according to the best discernment of the author, the content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any health concern must be assessed by a doctor. If you think you require assessment, call your doctor or local emergency department immediately. Reliance on any information provided by the author or the contents of this website is solely at your own risk.


  • Madi

    This is a powerful, Mary, and I think an issue many are dealing with. I know that as a mom it is something I think about all the time. How do I make my kids feel noticed and seen even when we are busy and even as they see me working from home and can say mom is “busy” how do Iet them know I am never too busy for them. This gives me a lot to think about. Thank you for sharing your experience and your triumph.

  • Kat Fitzpatrick

    Great post, Mary. I remember the tremendous sense of relief that I felt when I began to understand that “all that I was” came from much more than my own personal experience. I think this subject deserves a much greater public understanding – – so glad you are sharing the insights of it.

      • Erica Addis

        What an interesting topic! I’m a middle child and I often look at my middle child (now a teenager) and wonder if he is going through the same issues I did. I was 5 when my younger brother was born, and I have recently undertaken work on myself to remove blocks that formed at that age, such as ‘I will never have enough’… My son’s younger sister was also born when he was 5 🤔

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