Home Abuse I Find It Hard to Support Myself Emotionally

I Find It Hard to Support Myself Emotionally

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From the U.S.: I am the youngest of four children. Mother and sister are schizophrenic. Mother has been affected ever since I was a kid. Sister’s case is severe and started about 15 years ago. One sister was epileptic and prone to violence but committed suicide 12 years ago. Father is old but still keeps busy with his work and I feel he has long neglected the family running after his work. Eldest sister is married with a kid. I have witnessed violent fights at home and all the chaos that comes with schizophrenia.

I never liked being at home due to the bad atmosphere and so i got fed up and took the first chance I got to move out of house. This was 12 years ago. I left the country and came to US where I pursued further education and am gainfully employed now. I have been always aware that my family is different and so have always been ashamed of it. We never have proper conversations or bonding at home. Even now when I go home we hardly talk. Even my outside relationships see the same issue — I cannot relate with anybody.

I was once in a serious relationship and we broke up and i took years to get over it. I recently started liking a girl again and she too liked me and we decided to get married. Initially she was not ready since I ‘hid’ my family stuff from her. But once she saw it for herself she backed out. I convinced her that it would not be a problem for ‘us’. She accepted but I feel she still considered me dishonest after hiding the family stuff. It still is dicey as she said she needs time and I think she will most likely break up with me. I will surely be heartbroken but I think I am okay with it.

I just moved to a new city. That along with the fact that my family is in a faraway country and I don’t really talk a lot with them AND I don’t have a lot of friends to connect with, its making me feel very low and terribly lonely. I would love to lead a normal life. I am not sure how, when the time comes, I will be able to support my dysfunctional family when i am finding it hard to support myself emotionally.

Please give yourself credit for coming through a difficult childhood as well as you did. Despite the lack of support, you managed to get a good education and a job and you’ve been in serious relationships. Not everyone from such a dysfunctional background has been able to achieve so much.

It’s not at all surprising that you find it difficult to lead what you believe to be a “normal” life. Children learn what they experience. A child from an emotionally chaotic background generally doesn’t learn the coping skills most of us need to handle the usual challenges of life. Further, it is difficult to learn how to cooperate with others, how to respond to normal emotional needs and how to communicate with others when the models for doing so aren’t able to do it themselves. That probably has a lot to do with your lack of friends or a significant other.

I do think you should take it slow with your girlfriend. “Liking” isn’t enough of a reason to marry. Your statement that you will be okay with it if she breaks up with you makes me think that the relationship isn’t deep enough or developed enough to be considering marriage.

My guess is that your girlfriend can understand why you might want to “hide” your family background. But neither of you will be able to forgive you if you don’t do what you need to do to recover from it.

From what you wrote, I don’t think you have a mental illness. But you do have a serious lack of people skills as a result of your upbringing. For that reason, I recommend that you work with a therapist for awhile. With the support of a therapist, you can learn and practice the many skills you weren’t taught as a child. Having such skills will make it far more likely that you can be successful in marriage as well as with friends and on the job.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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