Dealing with a toxic parent

floppypancakes

floppypancakes

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Joined
Jan 28, 2019
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6
Location
Singapore
#1
Hi, this is my first post.
I would like to share my experience and struggles of dealing with a parent who has and still does contribute to my debilitating anxiety and depression since I was young. I hope to hear from you about your experiences too.
This is the first time that I am opening about this because all along I've been second guessing myself and thinking everything is okay when clearly, looking back, there was plenty of emotional abuse that has caused me since to live in constant fight or flight, and often times distancing myself when that particular parent I have is at home.

That parent is my dad. Whom when I say 'dad', I feel extremely disgusted inside (am I allowed to say that?) because I've always seen him as a stranger who one has to walk on egg shells holding their breath if they have to be under a roof with him.
I've never had any good memories of being with my dad. And if I do, I disregard them because of the trauma he has given me as early as I could remember.
As a toddler, I wasn't allowed to cry. If I do, he would be ready with a cane to hit me (as far as I know, a lot of asian parents used that as discipline). For my case, I was young, but I know that I was only crying but not doing anything wrong. My parents found it difficult to understand why I'm crying. I was an easy and big crier since young.
I am lucky that I have a better relationship with my mum and my siblings, and all of us would usually hide together when my dad throws a tantrum.
At home, we were never allowed to show our negative emotions. I have a brother who has autism and that only caused my dad to create a ruckus whenever my brother had a meltdown. It gives the whole family anxiety when my brother starts to cry. We would lock ourselves in a room so that he would not be able to pull out his violence.
As young as I can remember, I would never talk to him. Talking to him is equivalent to triggering anxiety. He talks too much, I can only think of expletives that could potentially spill out of his mouth. I can't make eye contact with him. I could never look at his face. For years, I don't try to. I pretend he's invisible. I did everything in my mind, to protect myself from potential harm. I wish he could disappear. I have recurring dreams of threatening to kill myself with a knife in front of him or him trying to kill me. It would mess up my mind and make me feel like it'd be better off if I was the one who disappeared.

I could go on and on about the troubling memories I have that my siblings seem to be indifferent to but for me, I still get triggered.
The thing is, I've been more rebellious at home. I wanted to validate my own negative emotions, only to be told I was rude and he was the good person. He always claims he is, and seems to think he was never in the wrong. He triumphs in my pain and is only happy with revenge when I confront only to end up in tears after being triggered by the flashing memories of trauma he has given me (one of which was when he burnt photos of my brother, whom I am very protective of and emphatise with the most).
Till this day, I am still in this position.
But I've been trying to stand my ground, which still scares the shit out of me. When I display my anger, he tries to guilt trip me into thinking that he is the one caring for me while I am the ungrateful daughter. Only he can be angry, but when he's angry, he claims to be calm and moral.
Recently, this episode happened to me. And so now, he tries to hurt me by doing childish things such as putting away all my paintings I have done and trying to make me feel scared of him. He becomes manipulative and purposely does his actions really loudly to grab attention, which I try to ignore. I used to be crying and breaking down by now, but today, I was determined to be stronger. Of course my heart is pounding, everytime I hear words of threat hurled towards me, but I try to remain emotionless and non-responsive so that he would realise he is wasting all his energy on me. I am not feeling any good with all the other worries I have outside this realm. I am dealing with avoidant personality disorder and social anxiety. I have been feeling nauseaus and waking up with an intense racing of the heart and a very painful stomach. I am afraid of potential violence because from my childhood, I know he can be unpredictable with his impulsive actions. What if he burns my paintings? What if he throws away things that matter to me? What if he locks me out of the house? Now I'm trying to hide everything like I'm preparing for a fire. I am afraid, but for some reason I can't feel anything else anymore.
I know people who are worse off with violent parents or parents who degrade their child. My situation is tricky because although there is this underlying problem with him, it always appears like nothing happened after every episode. No apologies, no discussion. And back to trying to appear like a good parent as he sees on tv. I am confused and I am tired of the games he plays with people, not only with my family, who has suffered the most under his wrath, but with people outside and relatives too. He is spoilt, his siblings give in to him, his siblings are protective of him and view us in a negative light. I feel so filled with anguish, I wish I would soon be able to buy a house and move the rest of my family away from him.
I know that without him, our lives would be a lot better and we would have more freedom, compared to living in his prison.
You know what's the worse part to add on on top of this? He has cancer. And I don't know how to feel about it. The problem comes with him being at home more often that I feel constrained.

What are some good coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety? Especially when problems such as triggers add on to worsen it?
My mind is racing.

Thanks for reading!
 
daffy

daffy

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Dec 16, 2007
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hiding behind the sofa
#2
Hi Gerald and welcome. You don’t say how old you are but I guess your fairly young. I can empathise totally with you as I went thru this but with my mum who was very violent and belittling. Have you spoken to your mum about this, emphasising how it’s affecting you and your siblings. I say this because we never told my dad and didn’t discuss it till we were both in our 50s. And untold damage had been done by then.
If your mum is scared of him and knows what’s going on can you speak to a grandparent, or his siblings. If your young enough you can phone child line 08001111 and they may be able to offer some advice. You dad is a bully and needs to be told this.
 
Poopy Doll

Poopy Doll

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Jun 13, 2015
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Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
#3
Geralddinner, WELCOME to the Forum. My mother was the abusive bully in our family. Some day you will get out of that house or the cancer may solve the problem (terrible thing to say but true). You could get a head set for music and just listen to the music and not your father ??
 
K

ken979

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Joined
Feb 12, 2019
Messages
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Location
london
#4
I'm struggling with toxic parents too :unsure: Im 39 and now it's taking it toll on me. I'm thinking of posting my story on here as well.

Is this the right section on the forum to post
 
floppypancakes

floppypancakes

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Joined
Jan 28, 2019
Messages
6
Location
Singapore
#5
Thank you for the advice and care!
It has been almost a month since I wrote this post and through this time I was hesitant to come back feeling a little guilty and regretful for what I have wrote. I had to deal with understanding that my parents came from complex families and are struggling themselves with their own demons...
Despite that I will not disagree with what I have wrote, even if it hurts to be confronted with the truth that I never came to admit mysel to, and much less others(I have always been in denial and in fear) until now of the conflicts between my parents. My parents make me really confused with their fights and sometimes they pretend everything is alright when clearly it isn't and no one is happy. I guess that is why it is difficult for me to validate this problem among many other issues I deal with on my own.
As much as I wish to leave, I can't help but still carry their baggage with me as though it is my responsibility to have my family functioning in a better manner (I have 2 younger siblings and one has autism).
I kept thinking about this toll of emotional abuse my mum has to take and the tolerance she has for my dad whilst being his caregiver. It is insane and I wish she could just seek help. (Which I subtlety try to convince her to seek but I think she has been putting it off) As mental health care is often seen as a taboo in Asia, it is all the more difficult because I guess my parents are afraid of how others would perceive them if they even try to receive help or let others around them who are close to be aware of their marital problems.
I am honestly really tired of dealing with this. I am seeing a counsellor myself and I just kept telling myself that this is not my problem, their marital problems have nothing to do with me... It isn't my responsibility to salvage it or even tell them to get a divorce. But it is difficult... Having to deal with coming home and guessing the atmosphere out if it has been an okay day or a day full of threats and petty fights that would trigger my anxiety. Their moods can sometimes cause me to be in endless ruminating thoughts of my unhappy childhood and depression. (Like I don't have enough of that already, haha)

I hope to hear more from people who deal with toxic parents or issues along these lines too.
Typing it all out and sharing it with others has been cathartic.

Have a good (or okay) week :)
 
4EVRHSP

4EVRHSP

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Mar 11, 2019
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...
#6
Hey there!

I really relate to your story. I, too have toxic parents except it's the other way around for me, my mother is worse than my father. It doesn't help that they are asian as well which makes things a whole lot more complicated. I really believe that asian culture has a lot to apologise for in terms of making things worse for gen y'ers. Asian parents quite frankly have no idea about what kinds of emotional responsibilities they have towards their kids who are no longer living in the culture they are a part of and are very much westernised.
 
E

elfbark

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Apr 21, 2019
Messages
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Location
Australia
#7
Hi Floppypancakes,

I'm sorry to read about your story, but glad you have the maturity to reflect upon the shortcomings of your parents marriage. This is certainly not your responsibility. Your parents need to resolve this, not you.

Anxiety and depression, together, is a difficult problem to analyse and identify permanent solutions. As much as personal events can trigger such episodes, you must stay health, fit, exercise and be physically active.

These external actions will counter balance the neural activities in the brain that produce chemicals when in that fight or flight moment. To improve yourself in such fight or flight episodes, take up competitive activities that improve your self-esteem. You mention your art and painting. Enter competitions where your art work is judged. Or enter your artwork in art exhibitions where your work is showcased. I know this sounds scary and cause anxiety, however it will help you learn to cope with such episodes of fight or flight. Its about self-esteem and confidence. Start with activities you can control and develop strong self-efficacy and locus of control.

Never second guess yourself or your instincts.

Asian culture, in a westernised society is very difficult, and something you may not be able to change, however you seem very self-aware of the situation. I wish I was when I was in my early 20's. It has taken me over 20 years to acknowledge the many toxic things about my parents.

You need to protect yourself emotionally, before protecting others. Exert power, and shift the control of power away from your parents. How you achieve this is difficult to map in a forum. But you need to understand that parents, from birth, exert parenting power. However, as you mature and become an adult, you start to be self-aware and understand that they have no power. When they acknowledge they have no power over their children, they resort to fear, manipulation and play emotional games.

Do not fall for this. Be the fight and not the flight in this kind of exchange. Stand your ground. Be firm in your resolve. I am not suggesting any violence. But do not show fear.
 
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