Recently the question, “What were the effects on your life from having an emotionally unavailable parent?”
Whether due to a medical condition, a drug or alcohol problem, or an emotionally immature parent.
My experience is one that due to dire circumstances, resulted in the emotional absence of both my parents.
I was the youngest of my parents six kids. They had a very unhappy marriage. It was riddled with violence through the first four kids. They tried to pull it together just before their fifth and sixth were born; the violence stopped and we became an alcohol free household.
My parents tried to get their footing through various extreme church/religious practices and self-help trends but never really recovered from their own childhood traumas, which resulted in years of poverty, dysfunction and conflict. They lived from crisis to crisis. In fact, their home burned down when my mother was eight months pregnant with me and they moved in with her parents.
They had a lot of drama! I was brought home to loud, chaotic misery.
By the time I came along my dad was older with a few health issues, his routine was to leave for work every morning at before 6:00AM (just as most of us were waking up); he came home and went to bed by 6:00PM (just as most were coming home). He often seemed like a shadowy figure to me, one that everyone seemed to be afraid of.
My dad and I had as much interaction as possible in the hours he was present. He gave me a lot of good advice and skills as far as ways to look at life…but he just wasn’t consistently available.
As for my mother, she had spiraled into mental illness before I was born, struggled with severe codependency, fears, delusions, and prescription pill abuse. She was a steadfast manipulator, as she was pretty well known as “THE Church Lady.” She doesn’t drink, cuss, etc., but she is addicted and unwell.
Opiates became her main addiction by the time I was 12 years-old after she was in a car accident. Abusing narcotic pain medication and Ambien is her routine to this day. Prescriptions, weekly doctor visits, buying extra pills from relatives and friends after she runs out, along with frequent pain clinics are now her way of life (all while condemning others with the Bible).
Not shaming her, these are just the facts. It’s been frustrating and painful.
That was life in our loud, rowdy household in a nutshell. The theme of the home was urgency, crisis, religious outrage and misery. There was not a lot of emotional support, or guidance regarding how to live. I certainly did not feel a presence of love.
Due to lack of healthy conversation, love, guidance or care-taking…many things about me were feral as a child.
I was sent to school with very little awareness as to why I was there. Often dirty, not prepared, without lunch money, etc. That didn’t make me feel sorry for myself and to this day I do not, but it certainly made me feel lost.
When you are a welfare kid, or a child who is uncared for you develop a sense of shame so deep within that it can take decades to unravel it, if you even become aware that it’s your issue.
Family shame can stunt your life.
The effects were that I had zero self-worth. Zero. I hated myself more than anyone else could ever possibly hate me. I absorbed blame and shame like a sponge. I took on every problem, or difficult personality as my fault. If someone was an angry or mean person, I thought I caused it. All roads led back to how “bad” I was, in my broken perception.
This thinking set me up for many years of chaotic, codependent, blame-shifting, advantage-taking relationships, and friendships.
However, hating the dysfunction and misery, along with despising myself and my life drove me to spend a lot of my young adult years going to the library, and seeking out classes, counselors and teachers out of desperation to figure life OUT.
Or better said, I was desperate to figure a way out of my life.
The issues and my response to them, over time, had a profound effect that gradually overlapped the damaging effects…my history made me a seeker, and it saved me.
I became a seeker of truth, recovery, information, confidence, therapy, health, wellness, logic, sanity, healing, forgiveness, PEACE, and improvement anywhere it might be found. I looked for it all. I wanted ALL of it!
Years later, when my son became addicted to prescribed opiates after a football injury, I went right into seeker mode again to find out the best possible responses. He’s now six years out of that and living a great life.
As a result of my upbringing and what it led me to do to survive it, my life is healthy, and full of joy. I have worked hard to have safe, kind, healthy connections with the people close to me. The difference of who and what I allow into my personal life is now based on health, self-compassion, wisdom and trusting my inner guides of intuition and peace.
Life is actually pretty great on this side of the early madness. Which is why I openly and as real and raw as possible write, talk, tell, podcast, and speak about all of the above.
The passion of my life is to tell anyone who needs to hear it – No matter how dark, no matter how low and disadvantaged you started out, no matter who dropped the ball on you… you can have an AMAZING life as an adult.
You can recover from anything! If you do the work to heal, all can be made well.
I wish you well,