My Struggles Managing Interpersonal Relationships as a Survivor of Child Abuse

This was initially intended to be a question entitled "How do you tell someone something that you've been hiding for a long time?" But it got to the point where I could no longer decrease the characters without cutting out essential information. So I decided not to bother. If you have an answer to the question, it would still be much appreciated. Otherwise, react however you wish.

Some information worth sharing
Some information worth sharing

For some background, I grew up in a very toxic household. My parents were violent and manipulative with my brothers and I, and it effects each of us differently. In my case, that means severe anxiety and social anxiety, and a very strong aversion to loud noises. I'm 20 years old and I still jump at the sound of the door opening.

The violence stopped when I was about twelve. My father ended up getting help for his anger issues, not because he was hurting us, but because he just wasn't happy. But then my parents lied about it ever occurring in the first place. They would say that I imagined it, or that I was just saying it to hurt them. My mother went as far as inspecting my room for drugs that we both knew I wasn't using. My brother who is close to my age and actually remembered it didn't want to talk about it, which is understandable. I thought that I was going insane. I knew that my family had a history of schizophrenia, and I spent years believing that I was losing my grip on reality. My parents refused to let me see a psychologist. I later found proof that what I remembered was real, and I didn't want to believe it. I would rather believe that I was insane, than admit to myself what my parents, who were supposed to love and protect me, had done. I tried to deny it until I no longer could, and it resulted in me having a mental breakdown my junior year of high school.

I also had to deal with the effects on my brother. I'm the oldest by two years, and for a long time I felt like it was my fault that my brother was hurt. He became violent for a time as well, and would hold knives to the throat of our baby brother. My parents wouldn't do anything about it, as they denied that there was any problem, so I would step in, and would often end up at the sharp end of a blade.

The point it, it's something effects my behavior every moment of every day. It's also something that I don't typically talk about. It's not exactly light conversation, but also because I don't want anyone to report my parents. My youngest brother is still a minor, and they're better with him. He is happy, and he has a stable living condition. I can't take that away, and if that means postponing my own recovery by bottling it up for a few more years, so be it.

I've told a few friends, usually in a very long and emotional conversation that goes until about 3 am, but I'm more likely to tell someone who I know has a strained relationship with their own parents than someone who gets along with theirs, even if I generally trust the latter person more. It's easier to tell someone who I know will understand, at least a little.

I've been thinking lately though, and most of my very close friends know by now, except for one, who happens to be one of the closest, and who I've known for a long time. I just feel like it's something that he should know. I feel like by not telling him I'm being secretive. It's also complicated by the fact that pretty much everyone says he's romantically interested in me (or they assume that we're already dating), and that while once I was opposed to the idea, I'm not so sure anymore.

Obviously he knows that I struggle with anxiety. Everyone knows that, as the social aspect makes it hard to hide. Most people assume it's just the way I am. He also knows that I'm very concerned with child welfare issues, and child abuse in particular. I'm pretty sure he just lumps that in with me liking kids. Either that or he just hasn't pried about it. He knows that I had a breakdown in high school, because I was in denial about something, but I haven't told him what it was.

The main reason that I haven't told him is that I know he practically worships his own parents, and not without reason. They're wonderful people. I don't think he would understand. I've talked with him hypothetically about people who have done similar things to what my parents did, and in most cases he finds them absolutely unforgivable. I'm still very close with my parents, and I don't blame them for what happened. They've never apologized for what they did, and they still do bad things sometimes, but they're my parents and I love them despite the fact that they've done irreparable damage. Things are getting better now, slowly. I want to be close to them, and I don't know if he would be okay with that, knowing what they've done, and knowing that by maintaining a relationship with them I continue to make myself vulnerable to people who are still more than capable of hurting me.

I worry that he would either become angry with my parents and no longer be able to be civil with them, or that he would feel the need to treat me like I'm made of glass. From my experience, those are the common reactions of people who are protective over me finding out about something that hurt me, let alone something as big as what I'm considering telling. Both examples usually result in me cutting off my relationship with that person.

I also feel like it would be wrong to complain about my physically healthy parents, knowing that he spent most of his childhood not knowing if his mother would live another year, and that because of it he struggles with his own mental health.

My Struggles Managing Interpersonal Relationships as a Survivor of Child Abuse
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  • gavbot723
    As someone who comes from a messed up household too (borderline mother = "interesting" childhood), I would say that if telling your story to your friend makes you feel safer, then it may be a good idea, but if you fear the fallout of it being bad, then perhaps err on the side of caution.

    If you need to talk to someone who understands this stuff, feel free to DM me, I struggle with this stuff too but I've learned some ways to check myself and make sure that when I do tell people, it's done so in a way where we both feel better afterward.
    Is this still revelant?
    • Anonymous

      Thank you. It's nice to know that someone gets where I'm coming from. I was honestly expecting that most of the responses would tell me that I was doing something wrong by keeping it from him, and I've been pleasantly surprised.

      I would love to take you up on your offer, but unfortunately that would require outing myself as the person posting this. I don't post anything on this subject that isn't anonymous. I still don't feel comfortable with the idea of it being traced back to me, even if my profile itself doesn't actually have anything personal about me. I still prefer it to be something that I let people know gradually. Thank you for offering though. You're very kind.

    • gavbot723

      If you should ever change your mind, I happen to also be a mental health counselor, and I take privacy of anyone, whether paying client or internet stranger, very seriously.

      I wish you the best of luck with your friend, and I encourage you as well to seek counseling, as for anyone who goes through trauma like you and I have should always get some form of professional help (and in fact, I still do) :)

    • ohshee

      Re Read your story let it out and change it i was beat when i was a kid and each time i would ask my self how could this person tell me they love me one day and then put welt marks all over my body with a belt the next day the first time I told my self I wasn't going to cry anymore when he hit me was the start of me becoming who I am to day .. And that same I told myself this is wrong I will never hit my kids if I have any there is a better way,, it's call spssttttt that's all I would have to do is make that sound then my finger saying come here. And than very. Quietly explain why you don't do what ever it was he was doing and then say ok go have fun think before you do something and how it might effect someone else and it was done,, now he's 6,7 EMT FIREMEN
      I think we are all different I think you are very smart and have found your way through this and by helping others get through this is ur calling most people keep it going as they become an adult

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What Girls & Guys Said

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  • This breaks my heart. One of the most beautiful and sweethearted girls I've ever met was the victim of child abuse. And, like you, she struggled with relationships. It was sad, because I loved her, and she was such an absolute prize that she should have been enjoying happiness with someone.
    • Anonymous

      That's sweet. I hope she's doing okay. Would you recommend telling him? Or would it just make him sad? It's not like he can do anything to change it, and I don't want to make someone feel bad just so that I don't have to feel like I'm keeping a secret that logically, I have no reason not to keep.

    • Yes, you should tell him. Someone with whom you share yourself completely in other respects should know that truth about your life. The question is, when? That only you can answer. And I think that answer is highly dependent on the trust you have between you, on how much you trust him.

  • RolandCuthbert
    I congratulate you on trying on sharing your experience and trying to talk about your struggles with relationships. But as you can see, we do very little talking about relationships and common issues.
    • Anonymous

      Thank you. :) I figured it wouldn't really get much of a response. I wrote it more to get my thoughts out there than I did to actually find an answer. I didn't think that anyone was likely to give me an idea of what to do that I haven't already considered. In the past people on this forum have given me ideas as to what another person might be thinking, but in this case I think I know my friend better than I can describe to the internet in 2000 words or less.

      I appreciate your response. And thank you for recognizing that talking about things, even anonymously, is itself a big step. That was a big thing for me, as I spent years being told, and myself denying, that it had ever occurred in the first place.

  • FictionalCharacter
    Thanks for this. It is a relief to hear someone shares the same experience as I have and (still am). I won’t get into details as I’m trying to heal and move forward with my life. While still loving my parents and respecting them. I do love them. They make up what they can and provide what they can. They’re trying. I’m grateful and love them.

    But reading this myTake now makes me feel not as alone and different from others as I thought.

    As embarrassed as I may say. This past and my personality does affect me ever being in a relationship. I’ve always studied my parents relationship and my upbringing. On to what to avoid and what I thought was normal.

    Every punishment or insult, I think I deserve it. I think it’s part of the norm of what I grew up with. Even an act of kindness is foreign to me. That it scares me and I question it, to the point I push it away.

    I have pushed guys away and still do. To spare them from me and to protect myself. I always question myself if I’m incapable of love even though I crave for it.

    But slowly I’m learning that no one can love me the way I love myself. No one can also heal me the way I can.

    I’m a work in progress, on healing and going to path that I don’t know where. Hopefully somewhere nice. That as for partnership goes, I honestly think I’ll find someone once I’m probably middle age or old lol. That way we both don’t have enough energy to play mind games with each other. And we’re now happy and content with what we learned in life while we were young.
  • spartan55
    I can't say that I had a bad childhood, but I've experienced plenty of trauma in other areas of my life. I just wanted to say my heart goes out to you. You seem to have a good head on your shoulders. Good luck to you.
  • trentboy
    Disclosure is an entirely personal choice. It comes with risks such as stigma and prejudice, whenever I have come out to partners or friends about my background I've had mixed responses ranging from deep compassion to anger and disbelief. Disclosure has undoubtedly lost me a few good people over the years and I fully empathize with anyone who would rather keep their experiences private.

    I was 30 when I finally acknowledged the abuse and trauma I experienced, and it was another survivor of abuse who helped me recognize that I was also a victim. I confronted my family and was essentially ostracized. I have no contact with them anymore, that's probably the hardest thing I've had to overcome.

    Nowadays, generally speaking, I keep my experiences private but I am fully open about my mental health issues. I explain what those issues mean on a day to day level and what behaviors people might expect from me if I'm under a lot of stress. Since coming out about my mental health and, what I like to call, my 'unhelpful' behaviors the relationships I've developed since have undoubtedly benefitted. We have a level of intimacy and trust far deeper than I would have been able to have otherwise, also it's helped encourage other people to be more open about how they feel.

    Despite the risks of disclosure, given the choice, I wouldn't change a thing. After many years of feeling unworthy and small, I feel genuine pride in who I am and how I've dealt with my experiences.
  • THE WALL OF text !!!

    NOOOOOO!!!

    It's not a perfect world, there will always be people raping. Muslims raping little yazidi girls as sex slaves, Muslim men grooming gang's raping little vulnerable British girls driving them from one gang rape to the next in their taxi's 10 years later 1,400 girls later and it's still happening. Rape of Nanking, Bosnian Serb war, How the Red army raped every girl in Germany after WW2.

    Look I know your life might feel like a piece of shit but in all honesty you have it pretty good compared to some women around the world.
    • Anonymous

      I never said my life was bad. Honestly I'm a very happy person. I struggle with anxiety and several phobias, but I'm not depressed. I bounce back pretty quickly. I learned that I had to from a very young age. What I wrote has nothing to do with whether or not my life is good or bad, or whether or not I'm happy. I'm in a pretty good place now, despite everything, and I know that I'm lucky for that. My life is better than most, not because of anything that's happened to me, but simply because I've always the ability to be happy despite bad things happening. That doesn't mean that problems don't exist though. And that doesn't mean that nothing should be done about problems that do exist. I wrote about one thing that happens to bother me. It doesn't mean that my life is bad though, nor did I ever think it was.

  • Morparvin
    I feel for you girl. please stop tormenting yourself do whatever makes your free.
  • leahzrc
    I was abused as a child and I don't tell anyone. Nobody needs to know I feel like
  • Good take
  • Anonymous
    Thank you, it's so good.
    • Anonymous

      I'm confused. What's good?

      I'm also going to assume that you're being genuine though, and say you're welcome? And thank you for a positive response.

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