Title: Looks Can Be Deceiving

By Rachael Moss, Epione Trauma Trainer


I’m someone who would be categorised as ‘middle class.’ I’m considered someone who is ‘lucky’ and comes from a ‘privileged’ background. I cannot argue with this, as its true. However, more can be going on that first meets the eye. I often reflect on why I didn’t turn out ‘as expected;’ why I find people hard to trust and many relationships unsafe.

For decades, I’ve lived with a deep sense of shame and would often hide my experiences and background. I felt that I could never speak up about things I was feeling or experienced, as when I compared myself to others, I thought ‘how dare I.’

When I reflect on the Adverse Childhood experiences scale, and while I understand this is not a validated clinical tool, I still score extremely low. While the ACEs research has given us deep insight into the prevalence of ACEs and increased likelihood of negative outcomes in adulthood in the absence of buffers, we know there are many more traumatic experiences it doesn’t account for. For example, bullying, poverty, and bereavement to name a few.

I recently learned a term that’s helped me understand my situation more clearly – ‘affluent neglect.’ This is when children will experience neglect, usually emotional, but are brought up in wealthy environments, with access to food, resource, education etc. This can often conceal children experiencing neglect, as it is assumed they are protected from danger and their needs are met.

Before I move on. I am not saying I had a terrible childhood. Rather, I’m sharing this to raise awareness and hopefully provide more comfort to anyone with a similar situation to me.

I was the first out of three siblings born in the 1980s. I was fortunate to have my mum look after me while my dad worked. He was a successful medical doctor. He would leave the house at 7am and come back around 7-8pm. He would be on call and work late into the night on research projects and speak at international events. I don’t really remember him much, he was there physically (most of the time), but emotionally absent. He tried his best by me and spoke about how I should stick in at school, go to university, eat brown bread, lots of fruits and vegetables.

Sometimes it was too much. I have a distinct memory of him showing me his pay slip and feeling an insane amount of pressure to succeed. I was told on numerous occasions that I would amount to nothing and be a failure. I used to blame him for this, but I don’t anymore. I understand he tried his best with the lack of tools he was given growing up with extremely strict, pressurising parents, who didn’t meet his emotional needs.

I struggled in school. I remember trying to hide the answers to my maths exercises in primary school by leaving several pages blank between exercises. But I was found out and remember being ashamed that I couldn’t do it. At this time, I has been in 3 different primary schools and by age 8 I was suffering from migraines. I was lucky enough to attend Scotland’s second-best state school. I struggled there too. I remember reading aloud in front of my English class and the teacher stopped me and said, ‘you read like you are trying to catch a bus.’ I remember feeling so rubbish. I loved craft and design at school. But I was bullied significantly in those classes. People used to throw food at me because I was too skinny and follow me after school saying I was ‘posh;’ a ‘snob,’ that everything was ‘okay for me.’ It didn’t feel like this.

I went completely off the rails from 14-17 years old. I took drugs, I drank alcohol. I self-harmed. I stole. I vandalised. The police repeatedly brought me home. I was on attendance records at school, frequently in the behaviour support base (doing lines) and suspended. I was hospitalised on several occasions, including when I ran through a glass door and on second occasion when I got my stomach pumped on a school trip. I even threw my dad’s laptop down a hill although have no memory of doing this. But he keeps a letter of apology I wrote to him and often reminds me by showing me the letter.

I was referred to the Children’s hearing system. This was in the 1990s and my parents were told to sort matters out ourselves. I suppose we were too middle class for any form of support. My mum did attempt to get me to attend counselling, but I refused and have no memory of why.

It’s probably of no surprise that I failed school. This reinforced my inherent belief that I was a failure and would amount to nothing. After all, that’s what I was told growing up. I ended up in retail, which was good while it lasted and decided to go to college to get my Highers when I was 23. I then went onto university and got 2 degrees in psychology. I did this for myself. I wanted to understand myself more and prove that I wasn’t a failure.

When we think of trauma, I guess many people will think of traumatic events, like domestic and sexual abuse. To give a fuller picture, we also need to be aware of what people didn’t receive, which can be anything from their emotional needs being met or being believed. This can also contribute to an overwhelming sense of disconnection from the self, other people and how we view and trust the world in general.

Today, I use my personal and professional experience to help raise awareness so we may see it’s sometimes about what’s not happening and reach more children experiencing affluent neglect.

Thank you for reading.


Video Library

Browse our video library. Learn more about us or watch inspiring talks

Epione Video Placeholder
Epione Video Placeholder

Some of our trusted partners

Angus Council
Community Justice Scotland
East Renfrewshire Logo
Glen Isla
McLean Logo
falkirk council
Fife Council
Victim Support Scotland
Perth and Kinross Council