Depression

I got really depressed starting when I figured out my mother was abusive. I had been somewhat depressed before because things were hard at home and I did everything I could to avoid processing them. But when I finally started too, it was really hard. I tried to piece together a whole lifetime of an unhappy home life and deal with all the anger. I realized I was depressed when I never wanted to do anything. But I was really scared to admit it because it felt like a death sentence. I thought by admitting it I would be stuck in it. So I kept pretending I was okay.
After I moved to England with my dad and sister, knowing I did not plan on ever having contact with my mum again, I spent a huge amount of time crying and just feeling miserable. I not only had to deal with processing the abuse and recognizing it’s effects on me but I also had basically just lost a parent.
After I had spent a month being so unhappy, I admitted that I was depressed. But I didn’t know what to do about it. Sometimes I felt that there wasn’t even anything worth doing about it because happiness couldn’t possibly feel any better (it’s a weird mindset).
Being on a gap year and living in a new country with no friends (outside my family) and no contact with people my own age (they all are off at university), I spent a huge amount of time home by myself. I didn’t want to leave the house or do anything and that only made me more unhappy, which made taking action even harder. It’s a really horrible cycle that you work yourself into.
But my dad and I knew something needed to change and I had to be brave. So, I started volunteering everyday at a charity shop. As time passed, I started to feel little twinges of excitement on my walk there. It helped a lot to be with people and have a purpose.
At the same time, I found a really helpful depression reading: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/dealing-with-depression.htm. It talked about how depression is really hard but with lots of little pushes, it’s possible to get better. I found the section on negative thought processes especially useful to stay in a healthier frame of mind. So, I read it every morning and reminded myself of the different parts throughout the day. I believe that this also made a significant difference in my recovery.
The other thing that I believe really brought me back was getting into my first choice university. It reminded me that good things really can happen, even if in the past there have been tons of disappointments.
So, by January of this year, I felt all better. I get excited about things, feel hope for the future, and am interested in activities. And, because I overcame something so huge and conquered many small fears along the way, I am much more confident than I ever could have imagined. It’s really amazing to be better and in a certain way I’m grateful that things got so bad or I might not have pushed myself so hard to get well.
What I suggest to anyone else dealing with depression is first to admit to it. Having depression does not mean that you are depression. It is not a perminant aspect of your identity just because you have it at some point. It’s just like a haze that will lift. But you need to recognize it’s there to get better. Then, I suggest using the reading I mentioned earlier. It gives tons of coping strategies and advice. I think that if you implement all of it’s suggestions, you could get better. And obviously in some cases medicine is necessary and that’s perfectly fine. Everyone’s path is different and all that really matters is that you take the steps you need to heal.

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Surviving

I thought I should do a post on how I got through living with my mother in one piece. Basically, I really threw myself into academics, as well as sports and volunteering to a lesser degree.

It can be extremely difficult to motivate yourself to do anything when things are bad at home, but it’s the only way that you’ll be able to stay sane and not have your life entirely wrecked by your parents. For me, I took as many AP and honors classes as were offered. I really love learning so this added some goodness into my life and was something else to focus on. Some nights I really struggled to do my work because I’d just been yelled at for an hour or something like that but I never made the connection. I always just thought I was really lazy. So remember that if sometimes you can’t perform at the level you want to, it’s because you have so much else on your mind. But overall I got the grades I wanted and got into my first choice for university.

So, I recommend finding something you love and really putting your all into it. It will help you get through all the unhappiness at home and once you’ve escaped it will ┬áleave you with more options and opportunities. It’s kind of a lemons into lemonade situation because you use your difficult situation as motivation to build a good life for yourself.

And you don’t have to pick academics. You could focus on a sport you really love or spend lots of time volunteering. You could develope a business or write a book. The point is that you should find something that you enjoy and is productive in one way or another.

Anyway, that’s how I got through it all and I hope this is helpful to someone!

Winning: How to “Beat” An Abusive Parent

Summary: by being happy and taking care of yourself, you win. Your parent has not defeated you and, even if that was not their conscious goal, their failure to destroy you means you came out on top. And even better than that, you are happy. So by making your life what you want it to be, you not only have the benefits of a good existence but have beaten your oppressor in a fulfilling and spite-free way.
The other day I was doing my workout and I saw in the mirror how strong I’ve gotten.
Since the summer, I’ve been doing FitnessBlender workouts because I was constantly getting shin splints from running. I’ve always been fit but have never been particularly strong because I don’t build muscle quickly. But, doing the really targeted body weight strength and cardio has actually worked really well and makes me really happy. And working out is entirely about me and making what I want out of my life. So, I realized that by just taking care of myself and my happiness without any focus on my mother, I had won. I am who I want to be despite 18 years of her soul-crushing abuse. And I didn’t need anything bad to happen to her to feel that I had come out on top. I just needed to be happy with my life.
I wouldn’t say that I feel entirely over everything she’s done or that I don’t still get pulled down by her. But the epiphany that making myself happy in a way that had nothing to do with anyone but me would set everything right in my world has helped me understand that I just have to focus on myself and who I want to become and not worry about making her suffer or anything else.
I hope that’s helpful. I know its a cliche that “the best revenge is happiness” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. There’s a youtuber called Jenn Im and I heard that quote from her the first time. I don’t know what she struggles with, but she has said that focusing just on enjoying your life really helps overcome what people have done to you. So, it works for at least two if us.
I suggest that you keep it at the back of your mind because at some point you will have an experience that allows you to really see the truth in it and from then on it will help you. But before your own personal epiphany, nothing I suggest will be that helpful. You really do have to learn it for yourself, even though that’s annoying!

Anger

I still feel really angry at my mum a lot of the time. It’s been about 7 months and I still can be overtaken by rage about what she did. A lot of it comes from remembering what she did and then being furious that she felt she had a right to be so awful to me.
Yesterday I was watching Malcolm in the Middle and I remembered the scene where Lois apologizes to Francis for being a bad mother and he feels so unsatisfied when it finally happens that she gives him money to try to make him feel better. When I watched that with my mum, she said, “I hope one day you don’t decide that I was abusive and then make me give you money.” At the time I said, “No, no, I could never think that about you!” (I didn’t know what she did was wrong yet). When I remembered that I thought, “Maybe she’s known what she was doing the whole time.”
Whenever I would ask her to change ways that she related to me (like not telling me she hated to be around me), she would become so angry and then start crying about how I didn’t think she was a good enough mother and I didn’t accept her no matter how hard she tried. She’d work herself up so much that she would forget what I had asked her to change (or would later claim that I had upset her so much that she had to block it out).
I just think it is so incredibly selfish that she would take a situation where I worked up the courage to ask her to change something really hurtful and would twist it so that I ended up being the one apologizing and consoling her. She got herself out of everything for years by playing on my sympathy. She was so manipulative.
Now that I’m gone she still won’t take responsibility for anything even though I think she knows what she was doing all those years (she claims to have basically no memory of anything from “PTSD” that she’s never been diagnosed with). She wrote me this email in November that basically said, “I’m sorry I didn’t do things right all the time.” That may sound like a really good thing but she has made apologies like that to me before and then has not changed anything and has later denied having ever said sorry. There was one time she lay on my floor weeping about not being a worthy mother and begging me to tell her what I needed from her. All I said was that I wanted her to accept me just as I am, but she never changed anything and said that none of that ever happened when I brought it up later. So, she gave me another fake apology in November and then when she saw my dad she went on and on about how she “bent over backwards” to accommodate me but she was happy I hadn’t gotten back in touch with her because she didn’t miss me yelling at her everyday.
Anyway, all of that makes me feel like she was just manipulating me for years and getting out of absolutely everything but was fully aware that she was hurting me and chose not only to continue but to trick me into believing she was a good mother who I tortured.
Anyway, it’s very frustrating that I am still so angry with her but it’s important that I get it all out whenever it comes up or I’ll become depressed and never deal with any of the issues she’s caused. Suppressed anger is a major cause of depression, so it is really important for anyone who was in an abusive home or just had any sort of disappointment to get their feelings out for as long as it takes for them to feel entirely better. And, it’s also essential to deal with the things that have hurt you so that you don’t end up in future absuive relationships because that is what is normal to you. Many people go from an abusive home into an abusive marriage because they never processed what happened to them and recognized what is and isn’t okay in a relationship. So, basically it’s really important to feel your feelings even if it can be very uncomfortable and take way longer than you expected.

Why?

Why your parent would abuse you is one of the hardest things to deal with.
You know them well enough to know that they are not literally a monster (everything is a shade of grey). So, if they don’t hurt you just because they are “pure evil” then it feels like there has to be some rational reason–which would be that you deserve it.
But that’s actually not the case at all. You’re parent is not Satan nor are you responsible for what is going on. The real reason is more complicated, making it less satisfying initially, but it is important to know the truth.
I’ll talk about my mother to explain how a person should go through understanding an abusive parent.
My mother has Borderline Personality Disorder, which seems to me like it is based on never being comfortable in your circumstances. If you want someone with you, you believe that they will abandon you and overreact to anything that could possibly be construed as them leaving. If you spend a lot of time with someone you love, you end up feeling stifled and penned in by them so you have to push them away. And these are not exactly conscious choices. These normal stimuli give you really strong emotional reactions that you don’t see as unusual or even noticeable, so you react in a way that you feel is completely rational but is really hard on people around you.
For example, the summer I started looking at colleges to apply to (before senior year) I wanted to spend more time with my mum because I was aware of how little time we had left living together. This caused her to automatically tell me how unbearable I am to be around and avoid me as much as possible. To her, this was not strange at all but for me it was incredibly painful.
I am not justifying what she did, but I think it is important to understand that it really had nothing to do with me. And that’s how it is with most abusers. Whatever they are doing is entirely based on trying to make themself more comfortable. If your dad beats you when he’s stressed out over work, all that is going through his mind is wishing he could control his circumstances and knowing that he can control you at that exact time. It’s kind of like empathy melts away for a bit and nothing is relevant to the abuser except their own feelings. So, don’t ever think it could possibly be your fault. It doesn’t even relate to you from the point of view of your spouse or parent in that moment. Maybe after they will say “you provoked me” but really it is about a flood of their own emotions covering up their ability to see you as a real person.
Even though I believe all this to be the case, I don’t think it’s okay. Everyone is given challenges in life so we are all responsible for becoming self aware and choosing not to hurt other people. There is this really awesome TED Talk by a woman with schizophrenia who says that medicine never worked for her: instead she listens to what the voices are really saying and that keeps her in reality. So, if her head is saying “defend your house” it really just means “you don’t feel safe” and from there she can remind herself that she is and not do anything harmful. So, if someone with that severe of a mental illness can control her impulses, then no matter what problems a person is born with they always have the option to transcend them and not hurt other people.

Talking to a teacher

If things are bad at home, teachers are supposed to notice and help. But it doesn’t usually work. When I was 16 my mum abandoned us entirely, and things were really hard. Someone should have seen that. And my mum was verbally and emotionally abusive basically the entire time I was in school and again no one realized.
It wasn’t until I figured out something was wrong that one of my teachers saw it too. He said we could talk about what was going on with me because he’d been through the same thing.
It turned out he knew my parents were getting divorced and thought that was taking a big toll on me. It was really hard trying to explain what was actually wrong and feeling like I had to justify and prove it. It wasn’t that he wasn’t kind or understanding but I don’t know if he had actually ever dealt with this before.
This shouldn’t be the case. Teachers need to be better equipt to deal with all variations of child abuse. It’s not fair on them to be so caught off guard by it and uncertain how to act and it’s not fair to kids who are brave enough to open up. Teachers want to help and victims want to be helped so there needs to be a better system.
It can be helpful to have someone to talk to, in which case teachers are a pretty good option. The only problem is that they are mandated reporters, so they have to file with CPS if any minor is being abused. This is a problem for two reasons. The first is that it scares kids off from asking for help or talking to someone because they know how much trouble they would be in if their parents found out. The second is that teachers only seem to report physical and sexual abuse because neglect, emotional abuse, and verbal abuse seem “not that bad.” My teacher did say “it hurts as much as getting hit” but he didn’t report anything even though I was a minor. This keeps a lot of kids from getting help and perpetuates the “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” attitude towards child abuse. And certainly physical abuse is awful but so is verbal. Physical abuse hurts your body and causes you to feel fear and shame, so it does hit both targets. But so does verbal. Verbal Abuse makes a person feel worthless and this often leads to self harming (I don’t know anyone from a verbally abusive home who hasn’t cut or had an eating disorder or done whatever else).
So, I do recomend talking to a teacher about what is going but you have to measure your expectations and talk to them about how they will act on the information you give. That way you know what you will get out of the relationship and can make the most of it.

Waive Noncustodial Parent

This only applies to people going to school in the US.
If you have an estranged parent like one who left you as a child (or any other time) and is not really in contact with you, this applies to you. Or if you and your parent left and you are not in contact with the other parent, then this also applies. I’ll do two examples to make this clearer.
(1) Your dad left you and your mom to go live in Texas when you were 8. He sends a card on birthdays if he remembers but other than that he isn’t a part of your life. You know your next door neighbor better.
(2) Your parents got divorced and you, your dad, and your sister moved to England to get away from your abusive mother. You have broken off contact, she doesn’t pay child support on you, and you don’t plan on seeing her again. (This is me.)
Hopefully that makes it clear who it applies to. Basically if asking your parent to pay makes about as much sense as asking your neighbor, then you could get them waived.
At this point, you should write to the school’s you are applying to outlining your situation. Have some detail so that they take you seriously enough to send a noncustodial parent waiver petition.
This petition will have general information asking who you live with, when you last saw or spoke to your other parent, what sort of contact you have with your parent, how much (if any) child support is paid, etc. Then it will ask for at least one letter from a “professional familiar with your situation” which means that you need a teacher or religious leader or any other authority figure outside your family to confirm that your parent is absent (and absuive if applicable). There also may be an option for including a police report or restraining order if you have either of those. After you get these documents, it’ll be your turn to provide details. There will be a space for you to explain the situation in your own words. They really need to understand, so in this case more detail is more. Make sure that you make everything as clear as possible and include concrete examples to help them get it.
Once you turn this in, they may call you with questions. They called me. They wanted more detail on my mum’s mental health issues, who has been the provider, how we are financing our move, and what it was like to live with her. If your not comfortable giving this information, they do understand. So, you won’t be judged if it is hard for you to give it. But you really do need to answer their questions and be thorough if you want your parent waived. It is a bit uncomfortable but it will be worth it in the end and they try to make you feel safe while you share because they know it is hard. Fortunately for me, I’ve spoken to a lot of people about my mum so it wasn’t too difficult.
After this you really just have to wait for their decision. They say just a couple weeks but mine took nearly a month. I think it’s based on how confusing your case is. Mine was very complicated so I think they had to spend more time on it.
Anyway, I hope that helps. And it really is worth making an effort because you could get your parent waived. Then you won’t have to deal with them refusing to pay or using it to mainpulate you and make you feel endebted. But, if it doesn’t work out, don’t worry. There are always ways to make any situation tolerable. Mostly it’s important to not feel guilty about them paying a remember that you can repay them by being a good parent to your children (it’s all about passing good things on).