Jennette McCurdy: ‘When I was little, I didn’t realize it was abuse or trauma’

Jennette McCurdy starred in iCarly with Maranda Cosgrove and Sam & Cat with Ariana Grande on Nickelodeon. Following her success, Jennette disappeared from the spotlight. We’ve since found out she quit acting following the death of her manager mother, Debra in 2013. Unfortunately, a lot of horrible details about Debra and how she treated Jennette have also come out and it just gets sadder every time I hear them. Jennette wrote a memoir called I’m Glad My Mom Died. The title is shocking for all of two minutes and then you hear things like how Debra encouraged eating disorders on Jennette and forced her into unwanted and problematic situations. While speaking with Anna Faris on her Unqualified podcast, Jennette said that she was so susceptible to the manipulation because she didn’t recognize the abuse or trauma going on around her.

On finally having closure: I think closure is a hard thing to come by, if it is even possible to come by. But I think that’s what the book helped me with. I think there was some attempt to find closure. Now, I’m able to have this experience with my mom where I can just miss her.

To just have ‘oh, I miss her,’ and it can just be that. Instead of, ‘I miss her, I want to throw something, I’m angry, I’m hurt, I don’t want to miss her, I do miss her.’ It was so f****** complicated for so long, and now it does feel easier.

On not recognizing abuse: For me, my brothers were playing Nintendo Goldeneye while my mom was chasing my dad around the house with a knife. It just becomes so normal, and a part of everyday routine. When I was little, I didn’t realize it was abuse or trauma. I just thought ‘The boys are playing 007, moms chasing dad with a knife, grandma’s crying with toilet paper on her head’.

On turning down the Nickelodeon hush money: I was 21 and just coming from a place of self-righteousness,” said McCurdy. “And then immediately after the decision, going like, f***, that’s a lot of money. I could have put my nieces through college.

On her boyfriend’s support: I didn’t know what healthy looked like, with my pattern of unhealthy relationships. I thought that a certain amount of enmeshment was normal, or a certain behavioral pattern, or the loop of the relationship where it’s the tension and cycling fights— I thought these things were normal, and maybe they are for products of dysfunction. To be able to be in something where it’s really good communication and validation of the other’s emotions and not having to take on the others’ emotions and be able to provide support, it’s changed my world very sincerely. I didn’t know this kind of thing was possible.

[From Yahoo]

Anna asked Jennette where she would go to find respite from the chaos in her home. Jennette said there was nowhere to go because in addition to everything else, Debra was a hoarder. It doesn’t surprise me to hear Jennette did not recognize the trauma going on around her. Many people in that situation take time and/or space to recognize what’s happening. Even those who grew up in “normal” situations can have unhealthy thoughts said or taught to them from all kinds of influences. I read the excerpt about Jennette’s beef with Ariana Grande during their show and in addition to some valid criticism, part of the issue was Jennette’s jealousy that Ariana had a “much easier upbringing.” I could see that. I imagine it crushed Jennette to realize her costars had families with some level of normalcy and she had to return to absolute tumult.

Jennette’s answer about not taking the Nickelodeon hush money broke my heart a little too. She’d been so positioned as the provider that instead of recognizing her autonomy in not selling her silence, she worried about what she might’ve denied her nieces. I’m glad she didn’t take it because it let her write this book and work out everything she needed to to get closure on this awful chapter of her life. And I am thrilled she’s dating someone she can trust, especially now that she has such a wider perspective on life.

Photo credit: Avalon Red, Instagram and Cover Images

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18 Responses to “Jennette McCurdy: ‘When I was little, I didn’t realize it was abuse or trauma’”

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  1. Mila says:

    It’s quite amazing what you realize when u grow up. So much unacceptable behaviour bc kids’ do not know what is okay or not!

  2. Peanut Butter says:

    Growing up with an abuser one’s entire childhood, adolescence, and beyond is a person’s “normal” until s/he gets out & has the opportunity to (painfully) learn that other families do it much differently. It’s impossible for a child to know any differently, unless they’re lucky enough to have access to a wise, trustworthy, outside adult. But abusive parents don’t want outsiders seeing the family dynamics and are great at shutting that down. I wish Jeanette all the best and admire her for her honesty and courage.

  3. Emmi says:

    I plan on reading the book but right now I’m not in the right headspace for it. I watched an in-depth review on youtube though. She wasn’t the only one of her siblings who was abused by her mother so really, how is a child supposed to recognize it? If that’s your normal. Her mother was apparently also a master manipulator.

    I recently had an aha moment. I love both my parents, they love(d) us (my father passed two years ago) and I didn’t have a bad childhood at all but they were certainly fighting a lot. All the time actually. And tried to involve us in it. It’s horrible to drag your children into your nasty shit. This weekend I was on a train and a woman sat down near me. Her daughter came and tried to calm down mom. “Do you want me to sit with you?” – Mom: “No, go to your father. Tell him I’m really angry. He did xyz on purpose and I’ve had it.” It went on like this for 3 minutes and the girl kept trying to make mom happy but the mother was so caught up in her marital shit that she couldn’t even see that the girl was completely overwhelmed and sad. My pulse went through the roof, I had a serious physical reaction and nearly told the mother to get her shit together and not do this to her child. Because this isn’t something you do once. This was standard for this family, you can tell if you’ve lived it.

    But during my childhood, I didn’t reconize just how shitty my parents’ behavior really was.

  4. Zapp Brannigan says:

    The toughest thing I have ever done was sit in front of my therapist and say that I was neglected and abused by family members. It felt disloyal, I felt ashamed to admit what happened and it hurt like hell that I had to admit other adults turned a blind eye to what was going on. It felt like I was worthless, because if my family could do this and others wouldn’t step in to protect me, that meant I deserved what happened, I wasn’t worth anything to anyone. It takes a long time to undo that conditioning. For anyone walking the same path I wish you well.

  5. Stormyshay says:

    I listened to the audiobook which she narrated. She has really overcome a lot. Her mother was an absolute nightmare. I highly recommend the audio version. I wish her all the success. She did not have anyone in her corner to protect her.

    • Ms. Downs says:

      I listened too. That part where she’s talking about her mom and her voice breaks was so real and raw. I’m glad she or whoever produced it kept that part. So well written I highly recommend.

  6. Lucía says:

    I wish nothing but the best for her.

  7. AmyB says:

    I can relate to this so much. I fell in an eating disorder (anorexia) after I graduated college when everything that defined me was gone. – successful swimmer at the National level, excellent student. When I got into therapy and was asked about MY childhood, I too felt it was normal, everything was fine. But it wasn’t, it was a highly dysfunctional dynamic and it was only through the therapy with my psychiatrist that I was able to come to terms with it. It’s so true – if this is all you know, of course it seems normal.

    My daughter used to watch iCarly, so I am familiar with this young woman. I wish her well in her continued recovery.

  8. Fig says:

    I just finished her book and she’s such a survivor. She does go into graphic detail about her bulimia and it’s heartbreaking

  9. Concern Fae says:

    Yeah. It wasn’t until I was in a day program at a mental hospital and someone there for some really dark stuff said “Holy shit!” to something that was just normal and everyday for me. I often wished I were a drug addict, because at least there’s a script for that, people know how to process it. Weird family stuff without physical injuries is just uncomfortable and alienating.

    • Concern Fae says:

      Also, I was listening to The Skating Lesson, a podcast on YouTube, and the guy had read the book and said that her family felt like so many figure skating families he knew about.

  10. Iceanna says:

    These posts are sometimes hard to read because I also come from such a sad background. But I must say as someone who fought hard to be free of the past with not so many resources ($$ for therapy), this site has helped me a lot to put a name to things and understand that my “normal” was not necessarily the right normal. Thanks to my Celebitchies! I really appreciate you.

    • dawnchild says:

      I agree and have the same experience of sadness from being unprotected by those who were supposed to be my first line of defense. Not only that, but they continue to inflict pain by doubling down on their narcissistic behavior even after I’ve grown up, so there’s really no happy ending to being in narcissistic, immature families. It’s also generational trauma, so it’s worth learning about it in order to break the cycle.

      The only things you can do is learn as much as you can about what went wrong, have compassion for yourself and even for them (if possible), put up healthy boundaries, and parent yourself as needed to make up the lack of what you were given. My outsider status was painful at the time, and occasionally lonely even now, but I also feel (in retrospect) that it brought great gifts of independent thinking and taught me to disregard/distrust spurious sentimentality and shallow social conventions that hid toxic behaviors. If being in that community came at such cost/pain, then it becomes easier to walk away. And then, so much more opens up to you. I found my family outside national, cultural, racial, religious and conventional identities for which I’m always deeply grateful. Perhaps I never would have had I not felt like an outsider where I was born and raised. So there is that, fwiw.

  11. Ms. Downs says:

    Until I read the book I didn’t realize she grew up Mormon. Those details were so interesting.

  12. Andrea says:

    I really wonder what the legal agreement for that hush money would have looked like. Unlimited term NDAs are illegal in California and if she had signed one it would have been invalid immediately. But undoubtedly Nickelodeon knew that.

  13. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    I listened to her audiobook and I highly recommend it. I couldn’t stop listening.

  14. Lilpeppa40 says:

    I just finished reading her book today actually and man is it heartbreaking. Her mom really fucked her up. Glad she’s healing and I wish her the best.