Relationship breakdown with parents
I will try and keep this succinct, but it is an ongoing problem and may take some explaining. Sorry in advance...
I am 21 years old and live with my parents. I went to uni in September 2019 but had dropped our by November due to severe mental/physical health issues. My physical health is more or less okay now but my mental health problems have persisted & are considerably worse. To give a little context, my parents have both taken antidepressants as long as I am able to remember & I have now been taking them & seeking other treatment (e.g. counselling, CBT, psychotherapy) since I was around 15. My parents mainly seem to get either periods of low mood (mum) or anger (dad). I have had depression for what feels like forever and developed anxiety in the past 5 years or so. I have self harmed since I was 10 (from hitting myself/walls etc to burning/cutting). I went to the doctor in December and told her I was suicidal and she told me I wasn’t a priority. I’ve been trying and trying to push this since because I need someone to help me (self soothing worked for a while and I’m trying so many self help books like The Chimp Paradox, but I can’t break the cycle).
I used to have a pretty good relationship with my parents, aside from the usual teenage hormones & stress on them & me. Recently, my relationship with them, particularly my mum, is breaking apart & I don’t know how to address or even process this. The part that is hurting me the most is that they seen to blame it entirely on me. I KNOW & have admitted to them that a big part of it is down to me but they seem unable to accept that any of it is influenced by them.
This is where it might get difficult to explain because I may need to give examples. I feel there is a mood in the house. My parents seem to be separate sort of 30% of the time, getting at one another 50% of the time (mostly coming from my mum) and okay maybe 20% of the time. My dad doesn’t listen which makes my mum frustrated & snappy at him. Sometimes I think she’s OTT about things but I can see why it is frustrating. I caught myself mirroring her behaviour towards him growing up & try my best to catch myself out when I’m doing it.
In the last 12 months, my mum left her job as a colleague bullied her out. She’s gone back (after spending months not looking) to a new job which pays less & consequently we are having monetary issues. She seems to enjoy the actual activities at work but also somehow is very negative about it. I used to voluntarily pay £50 keep a week to them but I was recently fired from my job & unable to do so. They are clearly unhappy about this, and keep getting at me about how I don’t contribute. The latest is: ‘you don’t contribute therefore you should do more housework’. I am being 100% honest when I say: my room is spotless. The rooms I use regularly (the lounge, the bathroom) are spotless because I clean up my mess & that of other people using it - without being prompted. I cleaned the whole downstairs (none of it was mine but I don’t mind doing that to make it easier) last week & within an evening it was back in a state. The three of them (sister, 12) are the messiest individuals I’ve ever met & doing the housework for 6 months has shown me that it doesn’t actually take that much! But they get at me about that anyway. This is the most innocent of the problems.
What is really hurting me right now is that I am anxious to be around my parents. I find myself coming to the end of the working day at my new job & finding reasons to stick around. I’ve got an evening job because the thought of going home makes me really uncomfortable. There’s always an atmosphere (mum’s in bed, saying she had an awful day and is tired, or someone is arguing with someone etc etc). I don’t think they realise how they sound a lot of the time. When I walk through the door I dread the ‘how was your day?’ because ‘okay thank you, yours?’ doesn’t cut it.
They don’t like me to sit at the table during dinner as an observer of the conversation & have a go at me if I’m not joining in (‘Are you GOING to talk to us?’). A few days ago, we were out at a cafe & my sister was chattering away, my dad sat on his phone & both ma & I had tuned out and were staring off as you do sometimes. Mum obviously came back to earth before me & suddenly was saying ‘Are you GOING to speak to us or just stare off?’. These kinds of interactions happen literally daily & have done for months but they don’t see that they’re often doing the same things. I responded ‘sorry, you were staring off as well mum’. And she got up and stormed out the cafe. Another one recently has been me trying to speak with my dad about the situation and him telling me they want me to engage at the table but I have nothing to say. ‘Of course you do don’t be stupid!’. I really don’t feel I do. There is nothing I could say that is worth contributing. I pointed out during this conversation with him that often, if it is just him, mum & I at the table, they aren’t talking either. If they want a conversation, they should be the one starting it in my eyes. But that wasn’t good enough for him.
I’m not allowed to not be in the mood, ever. I ALWAYS have to be in the mood for them to chat with me & for me to be happy and engaged and upbeat. I have pointed out to dad that part of the problem is that when I am not in the mood, I answer their questions but my answers aren’t long enough, or positive enough. This kind of pressure on all of our exchanges has me already up in arms when they ask me literally anything because I am already expecting a negative reaction from them. I really want to sort this now because I’m sick of hearing that I’m ruining the atmosphere (by being with them & depressed at the same time, but I’m also not allowed to NOT hang out with them), I’m breaking my mum’s heart, I’m making them feel like shit parents... I feel they are allowed to say anything to me but I’m always on eggshells (e.g. when I try and address the dynamics of the situation, they never acknowledge that any of it is down to them because they see their intent as positive, I couldn’t say to them ‘you make me feel like a crap daughter and a crap person’ because that would make them feel guilty and sad).
Sorry, there’s so much more to say. I know this sounds small and insignificant but it happens every single time I speak with them bear enough, and if I go through a patch where it is okay, they forget about it the second my mood drops. Tonight I was asked if I wanted the butter at the table. ‘I’m alright thanks’ got the exasperated response ‘what’s the matter??’. I just snapped at her and said ‘nothing!’... she got up & stormed out. I can’t even reject butter in my baked potato without having said it wrong or something.
I know I’m not a model daughter and that I’m difficult but at this point I’m sick of hearing that my mum ‘needs me,’ from dad, ‘you’re breaking her heart, she feels like a rubbish mum, she needs support too!’. I can barely keep my head above water at the moment. I feel like shit. This is the one relationship I thought I didn’t have to worry about breaking down & it’s going & it’s basically my fault & I don’t know how to begin addressing it. I’m constantly fantasising about worse ways to hurt myself (I’m not going to, don’t worry, just ideation). I just don’t feel I deserve to be here. I’ve said time & time again ‘if it weren’t for my family I would have killed myself’. I feel like my one lifeline is disintegrating.
What do you want?
Don’t worry about your post being too long! More info the better I think and If you want to add more then do
Could you please go and google narcissistic parents and tell me what you think ?
Sounds like there is a lot of tension in your home, I can see why you don’t want to be there! Doesn’t sound like there is much communication going on, it’s all depressive and angry. Not healthy! If they’ve both on anti depressants for as long as you can remember then it’s sounds like this has been going on since you were really small and they don’t want to change. Your mum job, being bullied at work and earning less money will contribute to your mums sadness.
When you started to self harm at 10 did they get you any help ?
Your parents can’t seem to talk to you properly about you leaving uni.
You seem to be trying to talk to them and being the mature one but your met with angry comments. You are guilt tripped into thinking your not a good daughter. And anything you do, do around the house isn’t good enough. yeah it’s really disheartening when people undo all your hard work! It’s very passive aggressive behaviour they are showing you. Do you see? So I don’t blame you for not wanting to sit down at the table with them, if it’s going to be very negative and make you feel awful about yourself. Don’t believe their negative comment if it’s not true.
You could write everything you are feeling down for them, try and explain it that way? sounds silly I know, but that way they can’t interrupt you, you get to say what you want and you can’t be meet with you mean, untrue comments.
They need to look at how they talk to you too, calling you stupid etc is not on. That bashing you self esteem.
Uni (we are roughly the same age, I go to uni I know what it’s like!) isn’t for everyone so don’t be hard on yourself that you dropped out. You went and tried that’s the main thing. Some people go thinking it’s the right thing for them, but they can’t get past the homesickness or for whatever reason. if you have bad anxiety it’s going to trigger it off then everything feel worse.
CBT and self help books are good but only really effective, if you’re in the right frame of mind and actually want to do things suggested and you continue to follow through for a while until you feel completely in control again. But they do give helpful tips and a good understanding of how our minds work. With you going to counselling, trying CBT in the past, does show is that you do want to help yourself, which is a really positive thing.
Maybe family counselling would be worth a go? If your parents won’t go then maybe take sometime trying to find a good counsellor or keep posting on here coz writhing it all out will help. Exercise is really at relieving stress and anxiety so try go for walks, yoga, Pilates or whatever you fancy. There are meditation apps you can listen to on your phone. Social with friends when you can, if you have few or no friends then try and make one at least. Take it slow at first and build it up and get some support around you.
The other person I would be a little concerned about is your 12 yr old sis (and any other sibs). Whether you are close to her or not, she will be picking up on the tension and it’s not healthy. Like in the cafe, she tried to make it ok by talking a lot, thats her way coping . Her witnessing your mum storming out was not great! So (if you’re not already) take her under your wing and be her friend/big sister. when you can, spend time with her. I’m kinda thinking how long is it going to be until all of this really does start affect her? where she becomes anxious too?
Take her to the cinema, shopping, something you’ll both enjoy. Drop her off at a friends house or take her and a friend somewhere fun. Let her know she can talk to you. Become a team, not distant from one another
Hi. Thank you so much for your response. Genuinely warmed that you have taken the time to reply so extensively.
I’m comforted that you have read what I’ve said & not felt I am the one being awkward. I know I can be, and I know they are often correct that I’m snappy etc. I am however glad it isn’t only me that feels it’s not just my fault. I tried to make sure my post was as unbiased as it could be
My sister and I used to have a very strained relationship (I know that sounds silly because I am 10 years older, but when I was 9 & she came along I think I blamed her for my parents not knowing how sad I was). We get on a lot better these days but she is quite spoiled. I don’t know if that’s because she’s the baby or something else. E.g. my parents took her to art therapy & she sort of gets her own way about everything. I was never taken to therapy as a child because my parents did not know what was going on, I hid it really well for years.
I did have a conversation with my dad last night after I posted this, but I still don’t feel I can make myself heard. I confessed to him that there are just some things I can’t share (e.g. that I have self harmed for so long, amongst other stuff). I don’t know if he really heard or not but I think he thinks he did.
He keeps telling me I need to talk to my mum because isolating myself won’t help. I’m not isolating myself, I just don’t want to be on their company. But then they’re frustrated that I can interact normally with friends... it’s all very complicated. I just wish I could break through the wall they have of ‘we are doing this with a positive intent so it must be the good & right thing to do’ and hear me when I say I just want them to go away for a bit y’know
I will try writing it all down, even if it's just for me. Thank you xx
You don’t come across as awkward at all. It sounds like you’ve been through a hell of a lot in your childhood and teen years. Now you're trying to shift through it all, so you can try and move on, it will take time. It’s a normal thing to want to do.
I think if you’re being told you’re awkward & snappy etc, a lot, then you're going start to believe it. You said above you find yourself mirroring what their behaviour (or your mums) and that was really noticeable in the examples you gave.
It’s good that you're trying to communicate with your dad. Even if he doesn’t hear you, it might eventually sink in. I think I do see they want to help you or know you are ok, but they also need respect that you don’t want to talk and you are an adult. It’s probably too painful for you right now.
You are going to be different with your friends, probably because you feel comfortable and you can be yourself with them. And you get to escape from what’s going on at home for x amount of hours.
With your sister it sounds like she’s The Golden Child (go and google). I can relate, I have a sister who's the youngest and my dad spoilt her a lot. If she threw a tantrum she got a present. Drove my mum mad. He treated me but mainly my brother (middle child) very differently. At the time you do resent them but it is down to the parents or parent. As she got older she’s began to understand more what happened and that it wasn’t fair. She’s now a normal teen who I get on well with.
Yes, write it all down, even if it is just for you and no one else. You can take your time with it and add to it. It will probably bring up all sorts of emotions but it will be very therapeutic at the same time.
Keep adding if you want to
It is not unusual for young persons your age to begin to distance themselves from their parents. In fact, it’s necessary!
. Like the baby bird who gets pushed out if the nest and must learn to fly, maybe falling more than once, but eventually learning to do things on its own.
The problem is that you have parents who cling to you. Why? Perhaps they themselves are too emotionally attached to you. Perhaps the marriage is not strong, so focus is on the child to keep them occupied.
Why is it that you dropped out of uni? Was it really because of what happened at school or was it from parents who upset you because you left home, with their neediness and piling on the guilt for leaving home?