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Was What My Mom Did My Fault?

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

The problem started with my mom using psychiatric hospitals to punish me. If I did something that upset her like fighting with my brother, talking back, suspended from school, ect. She would call the psychiatric hospital and tell them I was suicidal and was going to kill myself. Of course that wasn’t true. She wanted to punish me but didn’t want to take the time to do it herself. So she would have me put in the hospital instead. She did it several times over the course of my childhood (10-18).

The problem from it was I was abused in the hospital (spinal injury from being held down, locked in the solitary room from 7pm-8am) not because I was acting out, but because this particular staff member was the kind that liked to show they were in charge. Stuff I told my mom about but she would tell me I was lying to get out.

Had additional problems in school with bullies and me getting blamed for starting fights and being locked in the schools solitary room for hours on end (special education school).

Then she took me to the hospital again to have me admitted, but they didn’t think I was suicidal this time around and wouldn’t take me. Next thing I know she’s trying to get me put in a group home, that didn’t work out either. So then she takes me to child services and tells them I am hitting her and my brother and they are afraid for their lives. I never hit her once, and brothers being brothers, yea we fought. Child services was about to take me up until they told my mom it would be $600 a month she would have to pay to them for child support for my care. Then all the sudden I wasn’t hitting her and my brother anymore, the story changed. She ended up taking me home.

She never took the time to hear my side of the story from the schools, and never tried to sit down and figure out how to deal with the bullies at school. Basically in short, she never was on my side.

Anyhow, long story short I developed PTSD from the hospital visits. And lost the connection with her I once had before all this stuff. I confronted her about 2 years ago about the hospital visits she lied to get me put into or the spinal injury that resulted from a visit, the lying to get me put in a group home and not believing me about the abuse at school, and the bullies. She told me she didn’t feel guilty at all, and that if I was a better child it wouldn’t have happened in the first place. I broke off contact with her about 14 months ago.

Basically I was wondering what you thought about the situation. Do you feel she was right for doing/saying what she did? Was she right and it was my fault that what happened, happened? Thanks.


Dear Stanley, I do not know all of the facts nor do I know her version of the events but based on what you wrote, what your mother did to you was wrong and I would consider it a form of child abuse. However, I’d like to add in one caveat. I have worked with individuals who were severely mentally ill but were unable to recognize it. They would experience psychosis to the point where they’d engage in bizarre, uncontrollable or dangerous behavior. They’d subsequently have to be committed to a hospital against their will by their families. If asked, these individuals would adamantly deny that they had a psychotic episode and they’d express anger at their family members for putting them in the hospital. It’s almost as if they had no memory of the psychotic event or were oblivious to the fact that it had happened. From their perspective, they were fine one minute and the next they were forced in a hospital for “no reason.” I am not saying that this was what happened to you. That is probably not what you experienced. What I am saying is that though it’s unlikely in your situation it has been the case for other individuals.

Based on your version of events, it seems that instead of trying to find ways to discipline you your mother found it easier to commit you to a hospital. I am not clear if she was doing this as a form of punishment or if she was unable to punish you herself and out of desperation took you to a hospital. I am also curious about whether your mother only did this to you. How did she treat your brother? How did she discipline him?

You asked if what happened to you was your fault. I respond to that question with a resounding no. Even if you were misbehaving and out of desperation your mom had you committed to a hospital it’s not your fault. You were a child and she is an adult. Children need love, guidance, attention, discipline, and much more. If she needed help with parenting or discipline then she could have sought outside assistance or counseling for you, herself or the family. There are other ways to handle a misbehaving child (you may not have even been misbehaving) that does not involve having the child involuntarily committed or placed in a group home. There may be reasons to explain her behavior but there are no valid excuses for it. What she did to you was wrong and unfortunately you suffered greatly for it. You’re left with the burden of physical and emotional scars.

It may be for the better that you and she are not in contact. You did not say why the split occurred but perhaps the space will give you a chance to heal. Don’t let the past dictate your future. What happened to you was unfortunate but as an adult you now have the power to positively affect the direction of your life. I hope you are able recover from you physical and psychological wounds and live a happy and productive life. I wish you luck and thank you for writing.

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