It can be excruciatingly difficult to recognize that your parent is toxic. Because your parent can love you, and you likely love them. Familial toxicity is often something you only realize exists once you’re an adult and you've often got to be grown to untangle the reality of what happened to you. It's a lonely process, because above everything, toxic parents will deny that they're toxic parents.
There are many different kinds of toxicity, from pushy stage mother to those who are entirely absent.They range from alcoholics to inadequate parents to verbal abusers. However, while they may come in stripes of all colours, some of their effects on their children can be the same. Even if you had an alcoholic, chaotic parent while someone else had one who suffocated them, the two of you will likely have some things in common.
I started realizing I had a problem very early into my first relationship, I found it very difficult to trust. If parents, who are meant to be our main caregivers and providers of structure, are in some way deficient or can't give us real support, then we find it difficult to create supportive attachments when we grow up. Because of the particular model we have (whether it's a parent who exploded, was constantly overcritical, vanished, or demanded perfection), we don't have a healthy view of real, caring relationships, and we always subconsciously believe that we'll be treated as our parents treat us. I am slowly learning this isn’t true, that not everyone is going to be overly critical, not everyone is going to vanish into thin air. This can lead to self-sabotage, destructive relationship behaviour, neediness, or a variety of other attachment problems. At the root, we're worried that our relationships will fail because we've never really experienced a fully successful one.
I freak out when I fail a test or or lose a race, do you do this because I feel you. Find me on Twitter, and let's compare battle scars. Children of toxic parents often tend to have a thoroughly terrifying reaction to anything that isn't stellar success. We had to be “perfect” to be loved and perfection comes at the loss of our sanity.
It's thanks to a lack of what my therapists calls my "substance" — the part of you that is nourished by self-care, that can take shocks or harsh treatment, because you maintain a certain amount of belief in your innate value and worthiness. It's created by years of affirmation and security, and without it, the smallest knock sends us lurching into misery. We're never good enough, we're worthless, we have no real core, etc.
I have extreme reactions that confuse the Hell out of me. One time my boyfriend came home like 40 minutes after he said he would be home and I was like “hey, honey I’m making supper for you, hope you had a good day” like a 1950’s housewife then another time he came home 15 minutes later than he said he would be and I blew up. I sometimes freak out at things that don't seem to be connected to anything, this seems to be issues leftover in my head from a toxic upbringing. I've carried over a parent's violent disapproval about my life. These feelings could include guilt, irritation, fear of abandonment, or irrational anger.
Tracking these reactions may make you feel as if you're going crazy. For someone like me who is generally a very logical person it can often be completely contrary to your conscious decisions, and you likely don't even realize where they're coming from.
Whether you grew up with a verbally or physically abusive parent, a manipulative one, or any of the other kind, your own emotional life will have always come last in the hierarchy of the household. And it's likely that your emotional decisions are still governed by what they're going to think, rather than what's best for you or your relationships. You're used to pushing your own hurt, anger, or worry to the back of your mind, because expressing it always led to problems instead of expressing your emotions you’ll lock them up until you blow up.
Many children of toxic parents find it exceptionally difficult to identify who they are once they grow up. You've spent so much time suppressing your real self, from your emotions to your reactions, to deal with the onslaught of your parents that you haven't had a chance to pay attention to your own development.
Your sense of confusion and distance runs very deep indeed. This is a key one. Self-esteem is your sense of self-worth or personal value, children of toxic parents often have a severe deficit in that department. It goes back to the "substance" problem, how you weren't given the support necessary to build a core of self-belief. But it goes further than that. Many children of toxic parents suffer from an "inner critical voice" which tells them (like their parents did) that they are stupid, worthless, unworthy, complete failures, and/or general trash.
I am slowly working through my issues and yet sometimes when I feel I’ve taken a few steps forward I feel like I take a million steps back. It’s a struggle everyday to be a better person, to be better than who I was yesterday and to communicate with those around me and not to run from them.