Is My Mother The Reason I'm So Exhausted?

The stress of having too much responsibility in childhood can take its toll on our physical and emotional health as an adult

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Q - I have very low energy levels and feel exhausted almost all of the time. My doctor says there’s no physical cause that she can find, and that I should see if there’s a psychological reason. I’ve felt like this for as long as I can remember. As a kid I had to look after my younger brother and sister because my mum was often depressed and she was a drinker too. I was more like my mum's parent! Everything was so serious and tiring, there was no time for playing with friends. All this put me off having kids of my own – I just couldn’t cope. I feel old before my time, and wish someone would just take care of me for a change. Do you think my childhood could be linked to my low energy levels nowadays?

A - Yes, it certainly could be. What you describe from your childhood is called ‘parentification’ when a child has to take on the role and responsibilities of being like the parent. This deprives the child of their own childhood, and some of their natural developmental stages can be weakened or even missed.

As an adult the consequences might be that they continue to take on the role of looking after everyone else – at the expense of their own well being. They can seem ‘old for their years’ as they wipe themselves out in the service of others.

Alternatively they might actively avoid taking on responsibilites, and might also choose to be childless, and have the freedom they lacked as a child.

Or, they may be stuck in childlike behaviour as if making up for what they missed out on as a child.

Your inner child was overwhelmed with responsibility years ago, and perhaps also felt guilty for having feelings of anger or resentment towards your mother – who wasn’t behaving like a good enough mother (for whatever reason).

Your early experiences can be seen as being emotionally abusive and neglectful – because you didn’t get your emotional and social needs met in appropriate ways.

If there were other traumas in your childhood these will also have increased the likelihood of you having physical ailments nowadays. 

Your inner child had to push down her thoughts and feelings deep inside her - and these still block and drain your energy and overall health.

It’s time to speak up for your inner child and release whatever she wasn’t able to express all those years ago. 

You will then be able to see and feel for yourself the changes to your vitality and well-being - as you reconnect with your inner child’s passion and vibrancy.

Your inner child needs you to re-parent her now, and to become her new and much improved 'inner mother'. 

She needs to have fun, laughter and loving times, with lots of self-compassion and loving care. Her needs have to come first now, and you can begin to make up for what she previously missed out on - the unconditonal love that all children need and deserve.

I suggest that you get my free resources about recovering from a troubled childhood and see how these resonate with you (see here for the link).

You might also then be ready to process your feelings towards your parent(s) – whether they are alive or dead.

If you’d like some help with this then please get in touch with me at or find another suitably qualified and experienced psychotherapist to support you on your steps to emotional, psychological and physical well-being and freedom from the past.

Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR – where you’ll find a page of FREE RESOURCES to help you on your road to self awareness, empowerment and growth - and recovery from a troubled childhood... helping you to make peace with the past and to heal and reparent your inner child - Therapeutic self-development mentoring for women who want to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours - 10 online self-help workshops to help you with different troubling aspects of your life - the 'new paradigm in therapy' which exposes and revises an unhelpful sub-conscious belief system or S.C.R.I.P.T. (c)

Maxine Harley