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The Harm Caused by Making Fun of Your Child’s Emotions

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I always knew there was something wrong with me. Since I was 13, I started looking for things that could be a plausible explanation for why I feel so different — because I did feel different. I always knew other people are way, way more “normal” and “sane” than I could be, but I was too young to realize everything wrong with me was actually a result of a great parenting style. Hah.

Since I was young, my emotions haven’t been given an outlet for relief. My father could be such a child at times; he would humiliate me in front of the family for days if I cried in front of him even once. Eventually, I stopped because who would deal with the constant reminder they cried, especially when they are being called weak for it?

I’m 21 years old right now, and I struggle with basic emotions. When I was a child, I would replace everything with anger because anger felt “strong” and “aggressive” and nobody would ever think of it as a weak emotion. Right? That’s what I thought. In my family, being sad isn’t an acceptable emotion and I doubt it ever will be. My mother always makes it a point to tell me I used to be a strong girl (and that I’m weak now) because I finally feel like I can cry. That comment doesn’t help, though. What sucks is that she doesn’t mean to hurt me — she really believes it.

Fast-forward to one year ago — the day I had a panic attack in front of my father. It was also induced because of him, no doubt about that. He worries too much and wanted me to send Uber details for a 10-minute ride. Because of my overprotective childhood — I never even learned how to ride a bike — I am a little egotistic about these things. I have to prove it to people (and in therapy, I found out, I have to prove it to myself) that I’m strong and independent enough. I don’t need people. I got this all on my own. (Even though I don’t, most of the time. I will still prefer doing everything by myself, though.)

Anyway, got a little sidetracked there. Back to the panic attack. So there I was — bawling my eyes out in front of him — and that man didn’t look at me once. Not once. He knew I was crying. I called for him to look at me, but his eyes were glued to his phone.

The next day was Father’s Day, of course, and also my parents’ flight back to their hometown. He pretended like nothing had happened the day before, but I wouldn’t let go of it. So, they used the best cards they had. “What if we die in a plane crash? Do you want your father to die thinking you don’t love him on Father’s Day?”

Well. That’s the story of how I apologized to him.

So, this is why I’m asking you to please never make fun of your child’s emotions. It truly traumatized me. Your kids need you. They look up to you. You don’t even know they are learning from you, but they are. The irony of all this is that I ended up exactly like my father. Emotions frustrate me — mine or others’ — and I truly hate myself for it. So, I’m trying to change now. Just because I have a personality disorder doesn’t mean I can’t try. I’d like to think that makes me better than my parents, even though it’s a twisted emotion. But I’m glad I am. No child deserves that. I really wish I could someday have the courage to tell my parents off for treating me that way.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). You wouldn’t know this, but I started writing this crying and now I don’t even remember how that felt. My emotions come and go, and I forget how it felt to feel them until I feel them again because I lack object permanence or a variation of it. Little kids learn at a very young age that if a thing is hidden, it’s still there — it’s just not in front of their eyes. I lack that knowledge both when it comes to my feelings and people. I forget my entire personality with a person after I don’t talk to them for too long. I forget why they mattered. I forget why I mattered to them or how they made me feel. I try hard to remember, and sometimes I catch a glimpse of it. But I really wonder what it would be like to experience life as a “normal, sane” person.

If you’ve ever felt like this, you can always share. Nobody feels more like family to me than a person going through the same thing as I am. I will always be here to listen.

Photo by Anirudh Venkatesan on Unsplash

Originally published: June 25, 2019
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