They treat me like garbage and make me feel worthless
This is eating me up inside, mostly because I feel guilty all the time. I moved back in with my parents and a sister, and it has not been going well.
We argue all the time, scream and fight. They tell me I’m the worst daughter in the entire world. They curse me out. I curse them out. I say awful things I don’t mean. They say things even worse.
Cary, I hate myself after I talk to them. I hate being around them, I hate living in their house, and I hate the way they treat me.
But Cary, I don’t want to be like that anymore. I’m trying to move out of my parents’ house, but even that is a problem due to finances. Also, my mother won’t even let me take my “bed” (which was a gift as a teenager) or a laptop (also a gift when I had graduated high school), out of spite. She knows I can’t afford those things, and knows that without them, I cannot work. My mother has been the worst. She resents me, the life I’ve chosen. In any circumstance, she will pick anyone else in the room over me. In a recent fight, she told me she wished I had never been born, that she didn’t consider me to be a member of the family anymore, and that she hoped I’d be happy in hell.
Cary, my family doesn’t want me to be a part of their life anymore. I hate them, because I feel so darn guilty all the time. Every time I see them in their house, they tell me how worthless I am, how everything that has gone wrong in the family is my fault, how I’m an awful person and awful daughter, an awful sister. I’m stressed out all the time from being in their presence. I’m utterly miserable, and I know that if I don’t get out soon I’m scared of what I’ll do. I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, which is made worse by being around my family.
This “family” puts down my dreams, and tells me that if I “change my ways” they will change their behavior. But Cary, they won’t, and I don’t think I want them a part of my life anymore.
Recently when I was out, I was so miserable about my circumstances that I broke down, and drunkenly sobbed to my ex-boyfriend how much I hated my life. I told him that sometimes I wished I was dead.
Please, tell me what to do.
Dear Guilt-Ridden Daughter,
There is nothing wrong with you. You are beautiful, you are well-loved, and you are exactly the way you are supposed to be. You need somebody to tell you that.
Your family is not going to tell you that. Your family is screwed up. I’m sorry if that’s offensive, but lots of families are screwed up. I think Tolstoy put it this way: “Un-screwed-up families are all un-screwed-up in the same way, but every screwed-up family is screwed up differently.” At least I think he said that. Maybe it was not worded exactly like that.
Anyway, what you need to do is build a wedge between you and your family. Get some space between you and them — physical space, mental space, emotional space, economic space.
If you can find a clinic or therapist or church or group of people to talk to about what you’re going through, that will help. Also, anything you can do to cut down interaction with your family will help, while you get through this bad period.
Don’t get drunk and cry about it. That won’t help. If you’re going to cry about it, fine. But don’t get drunk and cry. The drinking ruins the crying part and the crying ruins the drinking part. Cry sober. Then, if you still feel like getting drunk, go ahead.
You were crying to your ex-boyfriend. Will he help you? Will he stand up for you? Can you stay at his house a few nights a week? Or will he want to put his paws all over you? If you can get out of that house for a few days here and there, that will help — unless your ex-boyfriend wants to put his paws all over you and you don’t want that. It’s not worth it. I don’t know the circumstances how you broke up and all. That’s for you to figure out. The main thing is, you want somebody who will put your own interests first; you don’t need one more person taking advantage of you and dragging you down.
Here’s another thing. Take this truth in. This is hard but it’s true:
Your family is never going to give you what you want.
If you keep hoping they’ll give you what you want, you’re just asking for more pain, trouble and disappointment. You know that feeling that says you’re a worthless pile of crap? That’s what you get when you let yourself want what your family will never give you.
You’re not a worthless pile of crap. You’re a beautiful human being. But every time you walk into that house hoping to get the love and affection and understanding that you crave, you are asking them to make you feel like a pile of crap again.
So don’t do that. Don’t hope for what you can never get from your family. Let it go.
You can find love within yourself. You can love yourself, and you can find other people who will love you the way you are. If your ex-boyfriend loves you for who you are, even though you’re broken up, value that. He probably sees the good in you.
Don’t sleep with him if you don’t want to, but accept his support. He probably cares about you. He wants to see you happy.
I’m telling you that you’re a beautiful human being, that you have a future, you have value, you’re the way you’re supposed to be.
I know that is true. I don’t know it because I’m some kind of totally special person. I know it because I have been where you are and I have come through it. I had to find some value in myself that didn’t come from my family or anywhere. I had to find some inner value. I had to stop crying and look in the mirror and tell myself, Dude, you, too, even though you’re a screwup sometimes, you are a beautiful human being, you are loved, you matter, you make a difference, and you’re the way you’re supposed to be.
And all the rest of that corny crap. Sure, it’s corny. And some people will laugh at me for being corny. That’s OK.
Don’t let your family get you down. They’re a mess. You don’t need them. You matter. Your life is worth something. Stick with the people who care about you. Tell yourself you matter. Give yourself some love.
You can get a bed of your own. You don’t need that bed your family is holding over you. Don’t fall for it. You can get a futon. You can sleep a lot of ways. You don’t need that laptop, either. Not if it comes with a price of your freedom and your self-respect. Don’t let them hold that over you. That robs you of dignity and power.
Get out of that house as soon as you can. Meanwhile, interact with your family as little as possible. If that means not speaking to them, try that. If that means changing your schedule so you encounter them less often, do that. If you don’t talk, it’s less likely they will yell at you. Just move around quietly. Maintain your own center, where you are strong.
You will find your own way. I know you will.
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