Living in a toxic household comes with many things. You feel like you can never trust anyone; like you can love or be loved; like you don’t deserve anything. You feel stuck. You try to find places and things to make you feel safe. For me, it was writing.
I could create any world I wanted where the hero would face the same problems I did but always came through at the end. The main character became my role model. She would go through everything I went through: abusive parents, a toxic household, feeling left out at school, being in the closet and, many other things. Unlike me, my main character would be able to overcome these obstacles. It was something that I longed for but couldn’t do.
I felt like I could live through her, instead of her living through me. My reality became hers. I wanted to be like her. It’s funny because she came from me, so in essence, she was me. Everything I knew I could become. She stood up for herself, left her toxic household and met amazing people who would love her for who she was. I used this character as a model and I decided to also leave my home. I knew the distance between my abusive household would help me grow.
When I had brought it up to my parents they were very resistant to the idea. They did not want to hear about it. I had to use the excuse of wanting independence and needing to be close to the school and learning about life outside the home. I wanted all of those very badly but the main reason was getting away from them. I just had to make it seem different. It was very disheartening that they did not support my decision at first, and it was not fair since they owned an apartment in the city. My mom would try to scare me out of moving by telling me about countless crimes committed against people like me. My father was angry about the money, even though it would not affect him. It was frustrating that my own parents were working so hard to keep me dependent on them. I realized I did not have their support no matter what I did and decided that I could make my own choices.
I moved out halfway through college and transferred to a city school. Of course, moving out did not solve all my problems, but it gave me space and a new place to breathe. I finally felt safe. This feeling was so new to me. I was able to do whatever I wanted without negativity or having to bend my will for someone else. I was not on constant guard anymore. I could begin to move forward and better myself. Life however hits hard.
I decided to start therapy because things became very difficult. I had just lost my job and I was living with an abusive roommate. I could no longer stand how I was allowing people to speak to me, including my parents. I could no longer stay silent. My patience was wearing thin and the resentment in me was begging to come out. I felt like at times I couldn’t breathe.
Therapy taught me that I needed to put myself first. I could not try to act in a way where I thought I would gain people’s trust. I couldn’t live a lie where everything was okay.
I realized that no one around me was going to change. But I could change. I used to hate hearing this because I would ask why couldn’t people realize how hurtful they were being? Why couldn’t they see that they were hurting me? There had to be someone who could notice how hurt I was. There wasn’t anyone but me and moving away gave me that perspective.
Therapy taught me that I needed to love myself. That meant no more people-pleasing. No more hiding how I felt for the sake of others. I needed to get back the confidence that was taken away from me. I needed to get that internalized hatred out of my mind forever. It would be hard, but not impossible.
Yes, moving out slowed down the abuse I was receiving but I was still receiving it. I needed to set some boundaries for myself. I was no longer going to be the person who puts other people first or accept insults. If something made me uncomfortable, I was going to honor that and focus on myself. Dealing with guilt-tripping was hard at first. People who usually hurt others are not used to boundaries and will sometimes take it personally. That is on them, however, and setting boundaries are important.
Once those boundaries were in place, I realized that I wasn’t who I needed to be but I felt like I could become the person I was meant to be.
I started to express myself without getting shut down or feeling ashamed. I was able to find a good barber and I kept my hair short, despite my mother taking it personally like it was her own hair I was cutting. I began to wear the clothes I wanted to without fear. I explored who I was. When you are in a safe environment, you can rebuild yourself and receive the help that you need. With that comes independence which brings confidence.
Not all of us have the means to move out, but if we keep in mind that we have power over ourselves, we can begin to heal. For those still living in abusive households, remember that this is only temporary. For the time being, focusing on yourself is the best option and remembering that you deserve the world. Things will get better. For those still living in abusive households, remember that this is only temporary. I believe in your strength, and the world is a better place with you in it.
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