'iCarly' Alum Jennette McCurdy Opens up About Healing From 'Intense' Physical and Emotional Abuse by Her Mom

Jennette McCurdy "finally" feels "free" following a years-long path of healing after enduring "intense" physical and emotional abuse from her mom. McCurdy, who notably starred as Sam Puckett on the beloved Nickelodeon series iCarly opened up about her relationship with her mother, Debbie, who died of cancer in 2013, in a recent interview with PEOPLE, sharing that it "was only distance from her that allowed me to get healthy."

Reflecting on her early years, McCurdy told the outlet that her "earliest memories of childhood were of heaviness, and chaos," as her mother's "emotions were so erratic that it was like walking a tightrope every day. The mood fluctuations were daily." McCurdy recalled how her mother's outbursts would often turn violent and how she witnessed physical fighting between her parents. By the time McCurdy was 6, her mother "became obsessed with making me a star," a dream she once had for herself, and while McCurdy was "cripplingly shy," she felt "like my job was to keep the peace. And I wanted to make my mom happy."

It wasn't long after that Debbie's fixation with her daughter and her looks began to take on a new, more dangerous tone. McCurdy's mother began bleaching her hair and whitening her teeth when she was 10, introducing her daughter to calorie counting when she was just 11. When McCurdy landed her breakout role on iCarly, which debuted in 2007, she was suffering from anorexia, which later transitioned to binge eating and then bulimia. McCurdy revealed that when she was 17, her mother insisted on performing vaginal and breast exams and never let her shower alone. McCurdy said her mother's abuse caused her to be "so repressed and delayed developmentally," and it was only after her mother's death, after which she continued to struggle with eating disorders and experimented with alcohol for the first time, that she began to make changes.

"It's a risk to change your life, but I made it my mission," McCurdy said. "I did not know how to find my identity without my mom. And I'm not going to lie. It was very hard to get here. But now, I'm at a place in my life that I never would have thought was possible. And I finally feel free."

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While McCurdy did not return for the iCarly reboot on Paramount+, she hasn't bid farewell to the entertainment world completely. In 2020, McCurdy returned to acting successful dark comedy show I'm Glad My Mom Died, a "thought-provoking" one-woman show that details the "intense" physical and emotional abuse she endured at the hands of her mother. McCurdy told PEOPLE of the show and her life, "even though it may seem black and white, there's a fullness to my narrative. Life can be dark — and messy. Nobody has a perfect life."