Dear Mesmerizing Meg: Are my parents abusive? Like, we get into fights and then the next day, I get an apology with a gift. They tell me to get out of the house, and at the same time, they tell me that I’ll never be able to afford living on my own and getting an apartment. They tell me I should live with them and then the next day they yell and take stuff out on me. I get yelled at constantly and sometimes my dad threatens to physically do stuff to me, but I know that they both love me very much and would never hurt me. Both of my parent have been depressed all my life and they both never socialize. I feel worthless, that no one would truly hire me for a job, and that I won’t ever make it financially. The most embarrassing part is that I’m 24. I’m just so confused because my mom will yell and yell at me, and I would just cry for hours in my room…and then she writes me an apology letter the next day with money, a gift, or food. I know she loves me and she doesn’t mean what she says, but I’m confused if this is normal or abuse. My parents have never been there emotionally and even when my bird recently died 4 weeks ago they just said “it’s just a bird” and I kept trying to explain to them that I was grieving, I felt like a lost a family member who was my best friend, and I don’t know why i was stupid and talked to my mom about how I haven’t been coping, was hurt, and heartbroken. I just wanted my mom to be there but perhaps she’s also right that at age 24 parents shouldn’t have to talk to their kids about this… I’m trapped and I just want to die.
Kind querent: Get out! Get out while you still can! It’s time to leave the nest! Lord above! Your parents are horrible. They’ve got you trapped in this dysfunctional dynamic by convincing you that you can’t make it on your own. Please don’t buy into it. You CAN make it on your own. I truly believe that you can. Here’s what I’d recommend: you need a roommate situation or a room for rent, due to affordability issues. Do you have any friends who could take you in if you promise to start contributing to the rent in a month’s time? Spend that month moving in and finding a job. Yes, people will hire you. You’ve been brainwashed into believing you’re worthless, but you aren’t. And the only way you’ll ever get un-brainwashed is to move out! As long as you’re still living with Depressing Mom and Depressing Dad, you’ll remain brainwashed. (And even if you were to become clearheaded while still living with them, that could make them up their game and legitimately put you in danger.) Get the hell out of that house! That’s step one. Step two is to get a job. Any job. You can do it. I know you can.
Dear Mesmerizing Meg: I got a call from my former mother-in-law, Pam, asking for my help moving programs and data from her old computer onto her new one. I really liked her when I was married to her daughter, Alice, so I agreed to help her. She offered to pay me, but I told her I don’t charge friends for my help. Much to my surprise, about a week later, I got a call from Alice asking me not to help her mother anymore. She said her mom should be calling her [Alice’s] current husband for help, not me. I told her that I would have a hard time not helping a friend that asked for help. About 6 months later, I got a call from Pam asking from my help again to get her computer up and running. I told her about what her daughter Alice ask me to do. Pam said Alice had told her the same thing and she asked Alice’s husband for help with her computer, and he fouled it up so bad it would not boot up. I went to her house and fixed her computer problem. I am having second thoughts about helping Pam again. Am I going to cause Pam a problem with her daughter or is her relation with her daughter none of my business? What would you advise I do in the future? THANKS.
Kind querent: There are two ways of looking at this. If I had an ex-husband, and he was spending time with my mother, I’d freak out all over the place. (Bear in mind, you’ve never met my mother. She’s a special kind of narcissist.) I’d be terrified that my mom was trying to get personal info out of him about our failed marriage, and about me, etc. Now, I’m not saying that’s the case here, but if you can assure Alice that you’re just helping Pam with her computer (and not telling her a whole bunch of divorce secrets), then that would be decent of you. Outside of that, which Alice hasn’t even said is an issue, you aren’t doing anything wrong. (I’m just saying, though, that that would be the only valid reason Alice could have for being a brat.) Tell Alice that your decision to fix the computer is between you and Pam, and that the most important thing is for Pam’s computer to work properly. (Don’t add any details about what a computer destroyer Alice’s new husband is.) It might also be good to check in with Alice and ask her how she’s doing, although you certainly don’t have to. If you’re worried about Pam, because you’re afraid you’re causing problems between her and her daughter, I wouldn’t dwell on it. Pam’s choosing you to help her with the full knowledge that her daughter’s putting up a stink about it. So it’s really Pam’s decision. Personally, I think it’s great of you to fix her computer for free. Very gentlemanly. [Nods.]
TRIGGER WARNING: CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Dear Mesmerizing Meg: I’ll start by saying I am fine and I do currently see a therapist. That being said, I don’t really have anyone to relate to, even some who have experienced other types of sexual abuse. If you can, I’d like to know your own tips and advise or more.
Child-on-child sexual abuse is more common than one might think but I know mine was especially strange. For a few years around age seven, I was repeatedly forced into a male position (I am female) and did sexual acts with a relative at around my same age. It is hard to have this person in my life, but I know it’s not her fault. Still, at age twenty, I still struggle in romantic relationships. I find it strange that when a partner asks me what I want sexually, it triggers me. I often feel gross and shameful. I would like to talk to anyone who can relate, and for anyone in this struggle my heart goes out to you. Thanks for reading.
Kind querent: I greatly appreciate your attitude of forgiveness toward the close-in-age person who did this to you. I’ve worked in residential treatment facilities with male sex offenders as young as eleven who were prepubescent, and the cycle just turns from person to person. They were acting out sexually because it was done to them by someone older, and so on, and so forth.
Your romantic struggles sound completely normal and understandable. Being triggered by being asked what you like sexually makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve dealt with a lot of shameful feelings too from being physically abused. I read a book a few years ago that really helped. It was by Beverly Engel. She’s written a lot of books, so I’ll let you choose the one that best suits your situation. (One of her books that’s more tailored toward sexual abuse might be better for you than the one I read.) I think it could be useful for you to really explore the feelings from a self-help book. It can help you address why you feel ashamed, when logically there’s nothing to be ashamed of. (Been there.)
For romantic relationships, I’d advise you to go really slow. You’re only twenty, and you’ve got a long time to figure it out ahead of you. You’d need a significant other who can understand and appreciate your need to take things slowly. You might not even be ready for a romantic relationship yet, and that’s okay.
Don’t worry about how you can’t find anyone to relate to, given the uniqueness of what you experienced. I’ve found that we can relate to each other on smaller things that have some deeper connection. For example, I can relate to the shame you’ve experienced, even though I wasn’t sexually abused. The common factors that link us don’t have to be so incident-specific, if that makes sense. I wish you the best!