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When Childhood Emotional Abuse Gets in the Way of Mental Health Recovery


When I first started writing this piece a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure whether or not I would be able to finish it. You see, I had just come to terms with the fact I grew up in an emotionally abusive environment and that it affects my everyday life and recovery. I struggle with addiction and anorexia. Both of which involve having to deal with emotions and set boundaries when trying to recover. Neither one of which I have much experience with.

I grew up in a house full of yelling and screaming and threats of abandonment. Where when I said I was hurt or upset, I was told I shouldn’t be. The only way I didn’t have my parents in my personal space was if I was never home. My parents’ way of dealing with me was saying, “no,” yelling and using empty threats. I got kicked out for the night when I got my first tattoo. But if you ask them about it, it never happened. There are a lot of times like that in my memories. And I am having to come to slowly accept that, to use old school family therapy terms, I ended up being “the lost child” in my family.

The problem is that now, I have to learn to accept I have feelings. And not only do I have feelings, but my feelings have value. And nobody can take that away from me. I have to learn if I stand up for myself and try and set a boundary, not everyone is going to threaten to leave. And if they do leave, I need to learn to be OK with that. Because now, these thought patterns are hurting my ability to recover. Because I am running. Running from feelings, running from people who I need to set boundaries with, running away from pain that may never actually come. Because I grew up never knowing what was around the corner.

I’m going into more intensive treatment soon. For me. For me to be able to discover the person who I can be once I process how my childhood affects me now. Because I can’t keep running. And neither can you. There is help out there. There are other childhood emotional abuse survivors. And the more we share our stories, the more we can heal.

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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Thinkstock photo via Archv.