When I was 13 my dad cheated on my mom. They were high school sweethearts and (to my knowledge at the time) had a really amazing marriage. After that event however, I found out pretty quickly that wasn’t the case. During that time my dad had a lot of self hatred, and that manifested through how he would treat us. He would shower us with gifts and fun things to do because he was terrified that we would hate him as much as he hated himself. So he put on a persona of the “fun” dad so we would never see the truth. When my mom found out he was cheating on her, he wanted a divorce. He had no remorse for what he had done and didn’t want to be in our lives anymore. That was understandably pretty hard for my mom to take, considering they had been together for 20 years at that point and had 5 kids; the youngest of which being a newborn at the time. My mom didn’t want a divorce though. She’s pretty old fashioned, a promise is a promise, and she made one to love my dad in sickness and in health. So she asked him to go to therapy, which he reluctantly agreed to do. My parents don’t like to talk much about what happened in that period in our lives but what I do remember is kissing my father goodbye to go to his therapy session, and not seeing him for the rest of the summer. He has be instituted in a mental hospital because his therapist was convinced that my dad was so full of self hatred he would try to hurt or kill himself on the way home. So he didn’t let him go home. That was 5 or 6 years ago. And even though my dad is taking medication for his anxiety and depression and BPD and even though we’ve all become better communicators with each other since then, it still effects us deeply to this day. I don’t think my mom will ever fully trust my dad again. I don’t know if it’s because i’m older and more mature now than I was when i was young and ignorant, or if it’s because he really has changed but my dad is way more emotionally detached than he used to be. I’m not saying he’s neglectful by any means, but the rock solid fun dad I had when I was a kid is long gone. Because of all this shared trauma (among other things I haven’t even mentioned) my mom and I became very close. I’m the eldest of the 5, and was old enough to understand the weight of our situation and help out with the rest of the kids while my mom was slowly spiraling, grasping for some sense of clarity in her world that was rapidly changing before her. It was changing for all of us. She depended on me in ways most parents probably shouldn’t depend on their 13 yr old kids. I was there to listen to her when she needed to vent about my dad or her life, I would give advice or be a sounding board for how she thought we should move on from here. I would listen as she talked about letting people go, and struggling with her own identity issues and religious conflict. And I was okay with it. I understood the importance of being there for someone in those places, and I knew she was desperate and alone so I did what I knew I could to help. But as much as i didn’t mind it, it took a toll on me without me realizing. Suddenly, I was listening to everyone. I was offering to be a sounding board for all of my loved ones, absorbing their problems like a depression sponge and holding it all in so they wouldn’t burst and hurt themselves or others the way I had been hurt, or worse. I didn’t realize until years later how harmful that habit was and still is. I know it can be a good quality, but it’s so incredibly draining. Especially when no one around you knows how to be a listener because you are the listener. When I moved out of the house to go to college, my mom took it the hardest out of everyone. Her baby girl was leaving her, and even though the house was still full of my siblings and my dad, i guess she thought that no one else would listen to her or treat her like anything more than the house maid who makes dinner and kisses your booboos. When I dropped out of college because of my own growing issues with depression, I felt like a disappointment to my parents. I had always had a fear of disappointing or upsetting my parents but I think that feeling perpetuated when I dropped out because it was almost as if all of their heartache in letting me go was in vain. I had (and still do have) no sense of purpose, no plans for the future, and not even a regular sleeping or eating schedule. I was living in a filthy room, barely showered or got out of bed, and lacked the motivation for anything. I’m still struggling with those issues. I feel like my mom suffocates me with her love sometimes because she loves me with such an intensity and unconditional passion, that it breaks my heart because i know I can’t live up to her expectations and be the person she needs me to be. I love both of my parents so deeply, but I want to have a life and be allowed to make stupid decisions. But I can’t because i’m constantly in fear of disappointing my parents.
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