So I’m on here looking for some advice about something that’s been going on for a couple of years now, and escalated to a point where I don’t know what to do. Also wondering if anyone else has been in this position also and how they might have dealt with it.
So for starters it’s about my relationship with my parents. I was an only child until I was 9 living in quite a remote place and my mum was a stay at home Turkish mum. I only say her nationality because it becomes a bit more relevant to the issue later. We were very close, but she micro-managed everything, which as a child I didn’t mind at all. The issues started between us after my sister was born, when I was 9, and mum started working again. I love that she went working again and respect her for building a career all on her own again, but it shifted things between us, and as I entered puberty, I was almost treated like my sisters third parent. So at the age of 10 I could do everything for a 1 year old any mother could do. I loved looking after her and I love my sister dearly, it’s just that as I got older I began to feel more and more pressure to be a role model to my younger sister. This usually manifested as me withdrawing (also most teenagers do this anyways) but for me it became this fear of making a mistake. Over the years this grew into me and I just got a bit sullen and apathetic if not cynical and sarcastic. Then something big happened, at the age of 12 I was assaulted by strangers whilst we were on holiday in Turkey. I never said anything to anyone because I didn’t really understand the nature of the ‘fight’ and the real implications of it only really hit me in college where I had multiple breakdowns. But again I never said anything, because I was afraid I had done something wrong. Additionally up until my sister was born my father was chronically depressed.
As a child I often avoided him, and growing up I learnt not to speak openly because he would always sneer or correct the way I was speaking constantly. So I stopped talking to him pretty much altogether for a couple of years. I was still relatively close to my mum at this point, and talked with her openly about things I thought would make her proud. We still fought a lot, and she never apologized, I was always the one that had to, but after doing so everything was fine again. Then I turned 17, I got the opportunity to go to the international boarding school my parents taught at. I really wanted to go so I went. It was close to home so I would see them as a family every week, and my dad was also my german teacher. It was a mixed sex boarding school and what can I say I was 17 and naturally had my first crush which turned sour quickly. I learnt quickly that having any sort of romantic relationship with anyone at school, would be fed back to my parents without my permission. As the two years of school passed, I felt my privacy more and more violated. Rumours spread and honestly my mental health just plummeted. I felt trapped and unable to talk to anyone. I would come home and hear about graphic rumours about me from my parents who were incredibly unsympathietic. My mother called me a whore and my father said that my study room at college was not a ‘prison cell to fuck in.’ I was a virgin at this point, with all my sexual interactions with boys being kissing and mainly embarrassing. I was horrified that they would say things like that and mum broke down crying saying she was so embarrassed to have me as her child, that I was sleeping around, that she didn’t bring me up to be like this etc. Dad then saw the situation escalating as I got quieter and quieter, so he took me outside. Now my dad is British so in a sense here comes the cultural difference, he thinks that teenagers make mistakes and yes theres boys involved and that’s completely normal. We had a chat about how mum’s upbringing could be why she was reacting so badly to these rumours and for the first time ever since my young childhood, I felt like I could trust my dad and was close to him. I felt protected and good in his company. At this point he was on his antidepressants regularly and generally nicer to be around. So weeks passed and my mother didn’t talk to me. Little did I know that this was about to become a regular pattern and projected again and again. I think it was about 6 weeks, when I finally caved in and apologized to her even though she had believed rumours over me. In those six weeks I talked to my pastoral carer at school about my problem. Importantly, she was bound by confidentially, but I later found that she went to my house and talked to my mother about what I had said to her. During this period I was also talking to the school counsellor, after the breach of confidence I noticed the counsellor and my mother eating lunch together. I stopped talking to anyone.
I just wanted to be able to decide what my parents knew about me. And I was never given that choice. At home if I stayed the night I would close my bedroom door, and wake up to mum opening it again and asking why I was always closing it, or her going through my notebooks, at one point dad read my diary and shouted at me for what I had written in it. It was a diary from that time mum had called me a whore and I had stopped talking to everyone and felt so lonely that I wrote my feelings down. So finally I stopped writing my feelings down to. The last year of college, was just about getting through. I finished, got good grades and a place at a good university in London. So I moved to London for my studies. I called home every week and it seemed like everything was ok. Mum cried on the phone every time we talked but things were relatively stable and I finished the year with good marks. I really didn’t like London and at the time an exchange year was offered, I jumped on the opportunity and got a place at Melbourne University in Australia. So I spent the next year in Australia. I absolutely loved it. I called home most weeks, but at one point I don’t know exactly when it was I started hearing resentment on the other end of the phone. It started as you don’t call enough and resulted in you don’t care about us and you’re ill. It’s true I didn’t call enough by their standards but I did call enough by mine. At one point I did not call for a month, that is true, but at that point I felt such anxiety about calling home that I avoided and procrastinated the call because I knew it would be a fight. They came and visited for Christmas and everything seemed fine, my dads parents also came along and we had a lovely time. Eventually they left. Around this time I met my now boyfriend. He was someone who listened and whatever I ever said to him he acted like a vault. I started talking about my feelings and we wrote letters to one another long distance and even whilst we were in the same place. To this day I know he hasn’t said anything personal about me (that doesn’t concern us both and only me) to anyone without asking me first. He’s respectful and knows where respectful boundaries lie, we have amazing conversation and I feel safe and protected around him. I had my final term in Melbourne and things were going well between us, but quietly seemed to be getting worse between me and my mum and even quieter between me and my dad. Finally things came to an end, and I came back to the UK, but we decided to go long distance.
I came home and was surprised at the level of home sickness I felt towards Australia. It was a place where I had finally gained the privacy and boundaries that I wanted between me and my parents, and finally a place where I could talk openly without the paranoia of things ending up back with them. I relaxed and laughed and had fun without overthinking everything. Finally. So coming back home it was a shock and I had to adapt quickly. I was sad and quieter than usual. This is the point at which my mother started saying that I was depressed. She pressured me and I went to the doctor who prescribed me antidepressants. I went back to London to finish my degree, this time I moved in with old college friends who I trusted and it was nice to live with them, but the antidepressants wouldn’t let me sleep. I think I didn’t have a proper nights sleep for 3 months before I secretly stopped taking them. They made me even more depressed because I couldn’t sleep and had no energy and it was interfering with my grades. I told my parents I was thinking about stopping taking them and they reacted badly, so I just lied. They think I took them for a full year. Time passed gradually, but there was still a hint of resentment over the phone, I went home for Christmas. Now for the first time my parents expressed their surprise that I was still with my boyfriend. They gently told me it was time to let go and to let go of my experience in Australia. I stopped talking to them about Australia in total at that point. As every comment or memory I reminisced they ridiculed and told me to get my head back to where I was. Which is true, I probably should have concentrated more on where I was but it hurt to be in a place so suppressing and anxious. My boyfriend came to visit for two months, January and February. My mother stopped talking to me. She didn’t talk to me for 3 months and I was filled with anxiety and anger that during the only time I could finally be with someone I loved since the last 6 months, she was punishing me for something I didn’t even know I had done. My dad called me and said he wanted a divorce from her. So I put two and two together and figured that she hadn’t been successful in punishing dad for whatever fight they had had and therefore shifted her focus onto me. So I relaxed and enjoyed my time with BF knowing that her punishment and silence was misplaced. I brought him home for 2 days to visit them, where they were tight lipped and quiet. Now important to note is that BF has pierced ears and tattoos. I don’t’ judge people on their appearance and actually find the look attractive plus he’s such a kind and respectful guy anyways, who gives a f**k? I truly believe that the way someone looks doesn’t reflect their character. But it seems my parents took one look at him and labelled him as a thug. He’s also got classic aussie humour and my dad got butt hurt about being called a POHM (peasant of her majesty, a funny nickname aussies call brits).
So we went back to London and enjoyed our last days together there. BF left to go back to oz, and I went home to check on the situation with mum. Things just exploded instantly. She accused me of not caring about her, about not being there for her, and I had said something along the lines of ‘ I have no banter with my mum’ to one of my cousins who naturally told her mum who told my mum who took great offence an used that as an excuse to not talk to me for 3 months! I explained to her gently that that was not my intention, and I would never want to hurt her intentionally. With that finally cleared up after I had apologized for a couple days she ‘forgave’ me. Then it started on my BF. She said I would have to break up with him and we were no good together and he wasn’t the kind of guy she had imaged me to end up with. I cried in front of her for the first time in years. It hurt me so much that the one thing that made me feel happy and safe was something she was going to make bad for me. That she was going to put pressure on me to break up with him. I put my foot down and said no, I love him and I won’t just break up with a SO just because you tell me to. She cried at this, saying I was hurting them with my decisions and was being dilusional and stupid and naïve.
At this point I want to say that yes I may have been naïve but Why would me being naïve as a 21 year old make her say that I was hurting them. How was my personal life such an insult to her???
So I stopped talking to them about him as well. My personal feelings, Australia, and him became an elephant in the room and I started to dread going home, knowing I would have to brace myself and be careful not to slip up and say anything that could trigger a fight or the silent treatment. I finished university. I was still with my BF at this point and yearning to go back to oz. My friends and cousins came to visit and I was studying for exams, my mother said she would come visit, and asked her please no, I have enough to do, I can’t host you too, I’m sorry. She said she wanted to help out, I appreciate that but it made me anxious the thought of her entering my personal home in London that I had away from them. I pleaded with her no, but she came. I found her sitting on my doorstep the next evening. I shouted at her saying that she didn’t respect my boundaries and decisions and that it was just nerve wrecking for her to just do whatever. What was the point in even asking me if you could come, if you were going to any way? I felt like my choice in our relationship had been violated and that she would never listen to me. I was 21 at this point. Things calmed down and we went for breakfast. I opened up about wanting to take a break and go back to oz that I missed him and wasn’t sure what to do in my future and maybe some time off would help figure that out. She cried again and told me not to that I would be making a huge mistake.
After she left what followed was the most anxious time in my life. My family would call and tell me I was stupid for thinking about going and constantly put me under pressure to not leave, whilst my BF was quietly waiting for my decision about where I was going to be. I finally applied for a masters in Edinburgh. He moved here and we’ve been living together for a year now. So I effectively gave in to my parents pressure.
Now all I hear from them is ‘oh is that man still here (he’s only a year older than me)’ and ‘when is he ever going to leave???’ It makes me feel aweful and isolated from them that they can’t just say that they don’t agree but then just leave it at that. Instead they constantly pick at it. I respect that they don’t like him, and I acknowledge that, as I have told my mother several times, but refuse to accept that I have just accepted their stance but will not break up with him.
Now the big one, my gran got ill. My mothers mother. She had a heart attack in turkey, then a stroke, and then open heart surgery, a triple bypass, and finally a heart murmour, glycaemic shock and whole lot in the space of six months. They moved her back to Germany at which point mum started to crumble. She became more harsh and accused me of not loving her family and that I didn’t care about them. I felt aweful calling them, and felt depressed and often cried after phone calls. I tried to call every week, but them she said I wasn’t texting her every day, she would send good morning and good night texts every day, how am I to respond to those?? Its not a conversation its just a contact call, and I never really felt the need to pointlessly chat with them. So she bullied me into it and now I text her good morning and good night every day and call once a week. Following that every call we had it was still an accusation of not being there enough and not caring and only going through the motions. It became impossible to talk to her without her crying and saying that I was being selfish and didn’t care.
I had a break from university and came home for a week, I went walking with my dad and my sister and it was a nice break from everything. On the drive home I opened up to my dad about thinking about what I was going to do next year and that the thought that I might try to emigrate came up. He seemed a little sad about it but said that if He were me he would do it and while I’m young it’s a good opportunity and the only time I can really be free before other responsibilities kick in. He told me about how his father had been offered a job in Oz but hadn’t taken it then regretted that for the rest of his life, so I shouldn’t not do anything I really want. Now I’d been thinking about going to Australia for 2 years now so it wasn’t a whimsical thought and been with my Bf for 3 years, and lived together for 1 where he came over to the UK. So I felt somewhat ok with talking to my dad about it. But not my mum. She’d just been visiting her mother and I knew she was going to be in a lot of pain, so I decided not to talk to her about this because I thought it was incredibly bad timing. I thought that was sensible to wait and also wanted to have a time where I felt more confident in myself and try to work out a way that it wouldn’t be a fight.
But no, my dad told her himself the day after I left home to go back to Edinburgh. She left me cryptic messages such as ‘is this true??’ to which I responded ‘can I please have more context?’ and she replied ‘your plans.’ My heart sank at ‘is this true?’ because I knew then that I couldn’t even talk to my dad in confidence and he had done the worst thing possible, tell her when she was in an awful emotional state anyways and not let me tell her myself. I talked to him about this saying I felt that it was common sense that it should be me that tells her, but he refused to see my point of view. So I just left it. He isn’t someone and neither is she to accept that they may have handled a situation badly. So I called her and she cried, calling me selfish and to just let go of BF and of Australia and how could I be so selfish to even think about going in September. I never said September to my dad. In fact I was planning on the following January so I could live at home for 4 months and try to repair whatever is going on between us.
Since than my dad didn’t get a promotion that he had applied for. (this is also an issue, he keeps applying for promotions but doesn’t get them and then gets angry, but on the other side, he gets drunk at work socials and insults everyone. He’s incredibly sarcastic and scathing when he’s drunk and as a child I always stayed in my room when he was drinking). He spiraled, He’s drinking, he comes home from work and then goes to the pub. I call my younger sister (13yo) every 3 days or so and text her every day. Each time she sounds more and more tired, asking me what she can do to help and how mum and dad are just really depressed. She 13 for christs sake and already anxious about near everything. I put down the phone most times and cry myself to sleep.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t have the strength or the emotion to give to my parents in this time of their need. I’ve felt so betrayed in the past and so hurt that I can’t see past that, and also because every little thing that my mother disagrees with now, turns into at least a month of silent treatment.
Everything was fine between me and mother when I was home but since my father told her about what I was thinking even when I call, she speaks to me as if I’m dead. My father also talks as if I’m dead to him.
Look I understand that I’m not the most affectionate person and my mother really is. She’d always be stroking me and kissing me on the mouth etc and it used to make me feel really uncomfortable. Sh’ed always be touching me or wanting to cuddle constantly, but it put me on edge, and waking up with the bedroom door open when I’d closed it before sleep just made me anxious, like I had no physical or mental space. When I finally became old enough I asked her to stop and she was very upset seeing it as a rejection of her love. I don’t express my feelings like her and in the past every time I have expressed my feelings with them, they’ve reacted badly and effectively punished me so I’m hesitant to show them anything of myself now. They think I’m ungrateful and I can feel by the way my father looks at me now that he doesn’t like me as a person, and it really hurts that they act this way towards me. I guess the way I act towards them also is hurting them, but I don’t know what else I can be doing. I can’t fake what they want, they want me to be back home and if it was up to my mother living at home. Ill be turning 23 in a month… I call, I fulfill all my duties towards them and I really care for and talk to my sister as much as I can. I love her dearly and would do anything for her, she’s innocent in all this and really the only person in my family I can actually relax around and I often find that she’s worried about things too but doesn’t tell my parents about these worries.
There’s just so much hurt going on with them that I don’t know how to take it on. It just seeps out of everything they say or touch or do. Dad’s just depressed constantly and coming home and either verbally abusive, by sneering at most of what I say or putting me down constantly, or constantly complaining about work. I feel like it just bounces off mum now the negativity from him, but obviously my sister can’t handle mum being depressed and my dad being the way he is. And I feel like mum has resentment towards me and him because she wants to be in Germany to be with her family, but we’re keeping her in the UK. I’m lost, and it’s really destroying things between us. I want to have a normal relationship with them, and actually support them, but currently I cant be home, and being home would be bad for me as well because they just lash out constantly. But I worry for my sister being home in such an isolated place feeling like she should be doing stuff to help out when in reality she’s too young to worry about these things and the mental health of her parents.
I wish I could be that person that drops everything and goes home to help them, but I want to also be able to live my live and move on from all the negativity and tension and live a happy life, just getting on with things without the guilt tripping and egg shell walking and silent treatment and constant bringing up of past times I’ve hurt her. I’m just tired and anxious constantly and worried. Going to family therapy would not work btw, anything I would say in that room with the therapist would be used a weapon against me when we get home. I feel like my only options are to just do what they say or just keep my distance. But I can’t because of my sister, so I’m doing this weird distance/bending to their will at the same time thing and it’s confusing. Even now I'm scared of putting this out there just in case they find it and get upset again.