I think my parents are verbally abusive

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker


I’ve never tried to kill myself, but I’ve cut myself dozens, if not hundreds of times, and must wear long sleeved shirts until they fade. My sister has tried to kill herself, and is now on Anti-Depressants. I believe that I am now mentally sound, and I am working full time. Work is excellent, I’ve received raises and without going into detail things are going great. I believe that every part of my life is ok except for two parts.

My siblings, and my parents.

As I’ve said, I’ve cut, been diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, and been told that I don’t accept any limits placed in front of me. And that’s only what shrinks say from what know. They don’t know that I’ve slept for weeks on end, hated myself, binged, then ran miles and miles for a month until I relapsed. All those diagnosis have been withdrawn and any Therapist that I’ve met and spoken to now always says that I’m a high powered, functioning, energetic inividual, until my parents come in and tell them everything I used to do.

I think that a lifetime of being yelled at, being told everything that was wrong with me, why I would fail unless I did this or that, that I had this or that problem because I didn’t do this or that, gave me problems. It made me insecure and doubtful of myself, and since the people that I was supposed to look up to basically told me everything that was wrong with me since I was born, I believed I was garbage. Until I was lucky enough to leave and overcome that.

The thing is, my siblings are still stuck in the house. Every time I think of a milestone that I overcame outside of my parents house, and how difficult it was, I start crying. Because I think that all three of them will have to go through it. And I’m not sure if they can.

Two years ago, I was the most insecure, apathetic person you could meet. I spoke in a monotone, couldn’t hold a job, didn’t have any friends, and my left arm had dozens of scars, which had spread to my shoulder, chest, and right thigh. I was offered a job, and a month later got the opportunity to move out because of my Aunt. That, combined with free access to Seminars or conference calls that a Company Consultant did to motivate a sales force, and a very close friend that made me realize that I’m not retarded, not ugly, not weird, and do have potential, fixed me.

But the farther I go, the more I look back and realize how messed up I was, and I worry about how unhappy my brothers are.

My 17 year old brother was found truant last year, and is now in a special programs school overrun with junkies and delinquents, he also speaks in monotone, barely has friends, and either walks in circles for hours on end or plays xbox. He used to want to be a Navy Seal until he became diabetic, now he doesn’t know what he wants to do. My 13 year old brother routinely fails classes and takes summer school. My 8 year old brother had to do a grade over again, and whenever he’s not with people that he’s not comfortable with, shuts down completely.

I hope that I’m wrong, but it seems like all of them are insecure, hesitant, don’t want to leave a comfort zone, and if they do, are not confident. They are afraid of trying new thing or being wrong. And they don’t speak much in public, as if afraid that an adult will chastise them.

I blame it on my parents. I have memories of being 5-6 and having a string of cusswords said to me in a tone of voice that would make any adult either cringe or beat the $%@! out of someone. I wasn’t hit much though. Not anymore than the usual, and definitely not physical abuse.

I’ve never gotten along with my parents, but after getting into the nastiest yelling fight with my father, he does not interfere with me. I drove my mother to Austin one night as a favor, and wound up telling her the next week that the only reason I took 9 hours out of my night to do that was because I felt sorry for her, because she was such a #@&*$ that no one else would, not even her husband. I realize that even though they’ve yelled, and verbally abused me, they care about me, many, many more times than I could ever care about them.

That, in combination with the fact that I’m very physically fit and am now much more confident and secure than they are, means that I can almost do whatever I want when I’m with my brothers(which I am every weekend unless work interferes), and that they don’t mistreat them when I’m there. But I don’t know how to help them.

My mother has tried many times to blame my brother’s diabetes on me due to the fact that he runs long distance like I did, and I have no idea what else they do when I’m not there. I’ve overheard my father threatening to spank my youngest brother, but I yelled at him for something else and he didn’t talk about it again. They used to threaten to get a restraining order on me, since they think I’m challenging their authority by not adhering to their every whim, but I responded with saying that I’d call a civil service agent and they back off.

Every once in a while, I feel bad for being a bad son and a general all-round $#%hole to them. I ignore them, blatantly disregard them, and show more affection for a cat… But I feel that I can’t ever feel anything for them until they stop being vindictive, hateful control freaks that make my brothers feel like #%!@.

Like I said, I don’t know what to do, but I don’t want my brothers to go down the same path that me or my sister went down, because I was very, very close to all sorts of garbage. I’ve been in jail, done drugs, and it just wasn’t good… My sister is on anti-depressants, and drinks regularly, she’s crashed twice in the last year, and my that’s only what I know. Can anyone help me?

A: You’ve already done a great deal to help yourself. You’ve taken charge of your life and you’ve started looking forward instead of back. You grabbed on to some good luck and took advantage of opportunities that came your way. Good for you!

Not everyone gets the parents they deserve. Not every adult can manage the sometimes overwhelming job of being a parent. When parents yell, blame, curse at their kids, and punish it’s usually because they are terribly insecure or they didn’t have good role models for parenting themselves.

You’ve overcome the many ways your parents undermined you. But here’s the hard part of becoming more mature than they are: If you use the same methods to get through to them (yelling, threatening, and saying hurtful things), you are keeping that family style going. The next piece of healing for you is to refuse to participate in that kind of behavior and instead get the help that the family needs.

I applaud your efforts to support your brothers and prevent them from hurting themselves as you did. Even if you can only be at your family’s home on weekends, you are giving your siblings a role model that you never had. You could take it a step further and line up some family therapy for all of you. If your parents won’t go, you could still invite your brothers and your sister to go along with you to help them learn the lessons you learned but at an earlier age. If you feel that your parents are crossing the line and are being truly abusive to your siblings, you could also make a report to child protective services in your state. In most states, protective services does everything they can to keep a family together while at the same time working on changing the situation. Do a little research to find out what kind of help they can offer.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Nov 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). I think my parents are verbally abusive. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/11/03/i-think-my-parents-are-verbally-abusive/