Yesterday I was struck with insta-jealousy when I overheard this tiny snippet of a conversation. “My dad’s my rock. He helps me so much and keeps me sane. Whenever I am stressed or hurting, I can talk to him and he helps me feel better.” I was completely and totally raging with envy as I listened in on this stranger’s conversation. And then I went home and cried about my random encounter with a girl who’s dad loves her.
I do not have a relationship with either one of my parents today. I’ve talked about this a little bit, and it’s still a fairly fresh development in my life, so it’s difficult for me to write about. I grew up in an abusive home. When I say that, a lot of people don’t quite understand what that means. An abusive environment looks very different for each individual situation. One in four women in the U.S. will or already have experienced domestic abuse, which is physical or verbal abuse from a partner. Parental abuse is a different monster, and one that is potentially able to reign in longevity over the course of a life.
Physical child abuse is defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as any physical injury that is nonaccidental. Emotional child abuse is defined as any pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. I’m a survivor of a combination of both.
A lot of people don’t understand how you can still love the person who abused you. When people ask me how I feel about my parents, they are often shocked to hear me say that I love my dad very much. If there is one thing I were able to change in this world, it’d be giving my dad the mental health help he needs. I love my parents, and it is a constant source of pain for me to have to keep them forcibly out of my life. There is nothing I want more than to have two emotionally healthy, functioning parents. But I don’t have that, and it’s hard.
The reason I’m sharing this today is because when I was struggling with the realization and decisions that have led me to the healthy life I have today, I felt entirely alone. I didn’t know of anyone who could relate to what I had gone through, and I didn’t know how to survive it. If you have a happy, healthy relationship with your parents, I am so glad for you. That is a beautiful gift. But if you don’t, I just want to let you know that you are not alone in that situation. There are others who have gone through this, and survived it. And you can too.
I think there’s a certain stigma when talking about abusive home environments, and I just would like to say that there is nothing wrong with you. Victims of abuse are just that – victims. There is nothing you have done to deserve that kind of treatment. There is hope and healing for sufferers of parental abuse. Please know that.
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