I [f26] recently had an epiphany about my mental health/behaviour/self awareness, and need some perspective, or help, or just someone to talk to. I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression, and some ptsd from my abusive past. I was talking to a friend who was upset that her family wasn’t inviting her over for Thanksgiving dinner (I live in Canada). This is the first year that I’ve lived alone, and I realized that I was kind of upset that I wasn’t doing anything for Thanksgiving either. But I never enjoyed our family dinners, any family dinners. After comforting my friend, I started thinking about why I would be upset that I wasn’t going to be having dinner with my family even though I knew I hated those events. So I started thinking about how I would describe my family to an outsider. I’ve tried to do this many times, but never really had any success in getting to the root of any of my issues with my family until then. I described it to myself in a way that gave me a sudden epiphany about my family dynamic and the way that I affected me.
Every single day, my family sat down to dinner. And I was scared. I sat as still as I possibly could (while still eating), I tried to make no noise, I didn’t look up from my plate, beacuse I was scared to set off my dad. He’s a very angry guy, and the slightest noise often set him off to screams and sometimes violence. My mom, my sisters, and I always did our best to avoid any sort of confrontation, whether it was chewing too loudly or accidentally scraping a fork on a plate. The entire time I sat there so scared that I or anybody else would set him off, because once one person did, no one was safe. This wasn’t true just at meal times, though that is the thing that helped me come to my realization. Anytime I was with my dad, I was afraid, and I tried to be as insignificant as I could be so that I wouldn’t set him off. For a long time, it felt like my sisters and I were allies, and that we could work together to help avoid any incidents. But eventually, my older sister started to act just like him, but only towards me. After he would leave the table and go to his room, everyone else would relax, but I kept being scared. The same things set her off, she could be even more violent and cruel, and it was specifically aimed at me. I realized in my self reflection what this did to me. In my mind, I believed that I wasn’t allowed to exist. I know it sounds weird, but I don’t know how else to phrase it. I had to limit every action and every sound. I couldn’t react to their anger, or it would be worse. I often hid in my room to try to avoid conflict, but sometimes they would come to me and seek it out. There was nowhere in that house that I felt safe. I finally moved out, and started living with roommeates in university but somehow I was still afraid. I wouldn’t do anything in any part of the apartment other than my room. I would only prepare food or do dishes when no one else was home, I’d eat and study in my room, and wait til everyone else left in the morning before I could shower, so that I woudn’t disturb anyone. I’d do laundry in the basement of the building only in the middle of the night, making sure I didn’t make any noise on my way out, so that no one would see me, so I wouldn’t be bothering anyone. I live alone now, and these behaviours got better for a while, but recently, I’ve been acting in the same ways that I did before. I come home, I shut down, I don’t reach out to friends. I don’t talk to anyone unless they talk to me first (which is why posting this is a huge deal). I shut down for months at a time, only going to work and then coming home and sleeping in my bathtub because for whatever reason, it’s the only place I felt safe for a while.
I don’t want to keep doing this. I am trying to get it into my head that I am allowed to exist. I am allowed to be a person and to make noise and to have relationships with people. Coming to this realization has already helped me a bit. I cleaned some of my apartment for the first time in a long time this weekend, but I am worried that my old habits will come back, and I will isolate and not really do anything to help myself anymore. I think this is a really big step into understanding what I need to do to make my life a little better, but I don’t know how else to go about recovery. Any advice would be appreciated.
Tldr: I’ve been scared my whole life to just exist around my abusive family, and because of it, I isolate my self in an unhealthy way frome everyone. Recently realized that I am allowed to/deserve to exist, no matter what their reaction.