While our memories are constantly revised and recreated, it doesn’t matter if things happened exactly in such and such a way. The truth is in the pudding. Who you are today is a result of what happened to you as s child, and if you are left with the feeling that it was traumatic and neglectful, my guess is it was.
It’s often hard for people to recognize that their childhood was not ideal or at least “normal” because it’s the only childhood they know. As young children we have no frame of reference, so if you grow up locked in a small room, and fed only bread and lettuce, you will assume that is what childhood is.
I’ll never forget a patient telling me, “I had a perfect childhood. My mother beat my ass every day.” To them that was part of their “perfect childhood.” They saw nothing contradictory with that statement or behavior. It was probably even seen as an expression of love.
It happens so often that people come to my office and say they have a had a perfect childhood, and after a very short time they describe all kinds of dysfunction, and sometimes very serious abuse or neglect. Sometimes it’s only in telling it to me and seeing my reaction do they realize something about it isn’t “perfect”.
It’s just as common for the family members to buy into the same fantasy, that all is within the normal range, and nothing is amiss. They often blame the child for anything that happened to them, which results in an adult feeling they are always in the wrong, with a very poor sense of self-worth.
It can take many years for someone to learn how to value themselves after being deprecated and invalidated throughout their most formative years.