It’s A Parent-Child Thing

We all know what it is like to have arguments with our parents, most of us probably got on better with one of our parents than the other. Certainly it’s part of growing up and maturing, the fight for independence and the struggle for the parent to let go of their baby whom they have cared for, for so long. The question which sits in my mind though, is: ‘When does an argument become emotional abuse?’

This is a very personal subject, and I don’t particularly intend to put anyone across as a villain or criticise anyone, merely to explore the thought process that occurs in my mind at times like these.

So when does a series of arguments become emotional abuse? Let’s not look at it in terms of the dictionary definition, but let’s look at the effect it has on a person.

19 years of age. Living at home. Suffered from anger issues, a short temper and emotional issues since the age of about 12. They call it ‘depression’. I’m not a label, it does not define me and it never will. However, it did help me to tell my parents. My mum, she’s a very intelligent person that is obvious, but certain things have happened which have caused her outlook to become blinkered, and this is where the conflict occurs. The war of attrition as the waves crash down upon the rocks, gradually wearing them away to require either a compromise of soft defences, or a more hardened approach of re-inforcing that cluster of rocks preventing any penetration. I digress slightly. The conflict results in blame, arguments, “fights” and hatred being spouted.

Streams of consciousness enter the atmosphere & it becomes like a book. Dialogue is merely these streams of consciousness battling against each other. Nothing actually goes through, we both listen but do not hear. Shouting and screaming. It’s better than the alternative, but it’s far from perfect. “I can’t live like this anymore” comes the cry after half an hour of my thoughts being battered against her mind, trying to worm their way in to make that breakthrough and create an understanding. What happened?

An offer of money for a box to change to digital TV or no TV. We’ll give you £25 and you can pay the difference. I’ve just spent £102 to get my laptop fixed and money is not exactly in abundance right now. “Can I?”. Immediately the words are regretted because it results in an argument which centres around the idea that I have spoken in a “tone of voice” which she does not like. The irony here is that tone of voice is subjective. The ‘discussion’ continues & the annoyance is there due to being accused of something which is not true. The blame comes my way, it’s all because I spoke in that tone of voice. The frustration eminating from my heart and mind is blatantly obvious by now as I throw the cup down in frustration as she mocks my reaction, walks away knowing full well that it will anger me further. Why? Knowing full well it will anger me further, why does she do this? Is it some sort of petulant act of childishness, or is it just a form of regaining that control she lost when I grew up? Only one person knows the answer. The frustration boils over as whenever an explanation is forthcoming I am interrupted by a reaction designed surely just to wind me up further.

There is much more to it, & to be blamed for something constantly is perhaps a form of emotional abuse, but as noted, there is far more too it than this.

What causes this? Mental health issues? Perhaps. Really though, it is just emotions & personalities. Define it as depression if you so wish, but I do not see it in this way. How you see yourself is entirely your choice, depression is a serious condition and certainly something I experienced. Past tense. For now it is just a label to say that because I react in this way to life, I have depression. There is a chemical imbalance in my brain, the positive impact of this new medication suggests this is true, but depression does not define me.

Let us take that the two people here suffer with mental health issues, predominantly depression. What is it like to live with a parent with a mental health issue?

I love my mum, there’s so much I regret from my childhood about how she treated me, but instead of that being violence and abuse, povertyesque conditions, it was love. I love her because she loved me. I feel her actions contributed to who I am today, and whilst there’s so much I want to change about the past & some things about the present also, I love the way my mind works. The speed of thought, the analysis and the questioning of everything. Even something like football and the way it changes over decades, I was knackered and it was 1am on the DLR on the way back from Portsmouth, I asked my friend how football had changed, what he thought of the way I think, this that and the other. I explained the speed that my mind worked and how I love it. For this, I have my mum to thank. She protected me from harm for fear that I, her baby, would be hurt. She could not bear to see me hurt and that was born out of her unconditional love for me as her son. So despite the many negative aspects to her somewhat overprotection of me, there were some positives.

What does this have to do with living with a parent with a mental health issue? Well it needs saying that my mother loves me & I love her, regardless of what may be said in this blog, on my twitter or elsewhere. Love is there, and it will always remain, but we are at each other constantly.

The sheer bloody mindedness of us both creates conflict, and our inability to channel our stress and emotions in a positive way is a recipe for disaster. We both struggle. When you have a bad day and get in a bad mood, what happens? Often you become snappy, aggressive and somewhat withdrawn. Try living like that every day, and combine with it two people who refuse to give in. The 19 year old admits some wrongdoing begrudgingly to keep the peace, but the mother is blinded by her own problems, seeing things only from one perspective.

This blog entry does not appear on the surface to explain what it is like to live with a parent who has a mental health issue, it just shows conflict between parent and child, but deep down there is much more than that. The devil is in the detail.

What is hardest is to see the impact I have on her. The conflict that already penetrates my mind every second of my life is further exacerbated by the frustration at the suffocation of me as a child, but the realisation that the actions were out of love. The love is therefore repaid albeit not very clearly. How? Well when I see my mum struggling with her emotions, breaking down and crying, getting angry for (seemingly) no reason, my heart sinks a bit. I don’t want her hurting, regardless of the fighting we have. I love her, but she feels suicidal, she is depressed, low and somewhat alone. Solemnity, sorrow, scared. She’s scared, I’m scared and we both know it. Yet there is a silent acceptance of each others’ desire not to discuss it, that being my fault as such, my way of relucantly punishing her for her previous actions, for I cannot break the chains which are held tight due to the fear and embarrassment of the past.

Living with someone who has a mental health issue is difficult, but it shows your strength, their strength, the power of love and hope & the rays of light that shine through every now and then. Don’t be afraid, just show your love, because love is most powerful, moreso than hatred, loathing, of hopelessness.

Matt

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About itsoktotalk

22-year-old who has suffered from and is well on the way to overcoming mental health issues. I'm just like anyone else, and want to support people to let them know it is OK to talk about their feelings. Don't be afraid to speak out. It's ok to talk.

Posted on April 18, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. This is a really powerful article, and touches on some very sensitive subjects. I think you have opened up an area for debate, and made a balanced opening contribution to it. Thank you!

  2. I disowned my mother when I became a mum, and realised that she didn’t have a maternal bone in her body! To her, I was just a convenient means of keeping her partner ‘happy’ and someone to do the boatwork (not housework, we lived on a narrowboat) I was the quintessential ‘red-haired step child’. Got away from them at 16, but stayed in touch until I discovered how a mother should really feel about her child/ren, and have not looked back since 🙂 x

  3. I really relate to what you’re saying. I have dysthemia (chronic low-level depression), and it can really affect my thought patterns. I have to watch out for that on a daily basis.

  4. Thank you for sharing – I wish that I had had the courage at that age to talk about what was going on instead of just pretending that everything was OK. I think it would have save years of pain and frustration

  5. Just read this as a mother who suffers from depression and has done for many years, and as a mother who came into conflict with her eldest son when he lived at home (he is now 22, he left home last year). I am now in tears and I feel the guilt more than ever, I know that is not what the article intended, but that is how I feel. He knows I love him probably too intensely or at least he feels it too intensely. I have been angry with him at times that have made me feel so mad and feel so guilty at the same time in a way that I have never been angry with my other two children. I feel now I have inflicted this nasty illness on him (he is now on anti-depressants) and it makes me so sad, so very sad and so very guilty. I have apologised to him in a heart to heart in more recent times. I have not asked forgiveness because there is no point it will not change the past, but if he should ever get to this page then I want him to know how much I love him and how much that hurts.

  6. I think this a marvellous post. I have experienced bouts of clinical depression and anxiety for many years and I have frequently wondered, and written about, my concerns about how my mental health issues affected my two kids (now 18 and 21). I feel grateful that despite my fragility (where I hope any abuse was levelled at myself rather than at them) they seem to be confident and wonderfully tolerant young people. You are obviously a strong and supportive young adult and like Paula I would voice that guilt your mother is undoubtedly feeling at any possible impact her mental ill-health has had on you. You are brilliant to get the message out there – depression and anxiety affects whole families not just an individual.

  1. Pingback: Articulated Thought | eitheory.com

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