The Creativity Cure

A do-it-yourself prescription for happiness

Leaving a Bad Family

One of the most difficult psychological challenges in life is to walk away from a toxic relationship or a bad (soul murdering, cruel, not there for you) family. One clings and denies because the reality is hard to accept. If one can face the truth, feel the loss and move on, much better things and people await. Read More

Magnificent Article

Thank you! You have no idea how much your article means to people like me who come from toxic, hateful families. Most people from normal families cannot conceive what it is like to grow up in a steaming cauldron of endless hate and abuse.

As one who went "no contact" with my toxic family, I can only tell others in the same situation who consider breaking the toxic ties that the best is yet to come! Changing the trajectory of my life has made it possible to embrace my REAL family - friends who truly care.

Dear So True, Thanks for your

Dear So True,
Thanks for your kind words and congratulations on your courage.
Best to you,
Carrie

better late than never

I have always felt that no matter how much I was tortured, neglected and ridiculed- that because I was born into it- that just happened to be where I belonged- It took me 50 years to do the "right thing" for my soul and survival-For the first time in my life- I know how "inner peace" feels, this article just validated what I knew had to be done-before it was too late.

Dear Anonymous, Thank you for

Dear Anonymous,
Thank you for sharing this.
Carrie

not always so simple

A member of my family has absented himself citing just such issues, however, in this case it is not true, his examples often did not happen at all or have been grossly distorted and used to justify his own self perceived failures. Unfortunately he went to a counsellor, for six whole weeks, who, perhaps understandably given they only had his version to go on, reinforced his views and he used this to justify "leaving" his whole family, not just the section he had issues with. The pain has been incredible for his family

Dear Anonymous, No, it is not

Dear Anonymous,
No, it is not simple. I am sorry for this breech and do hope that your family can come together in a positive way. It is painful to be the subject of a distortion. It is so important to think about what might be left out of a story in order to be most helpful. I hope that truths that serve all can surface.
Best to you and yours,
Carrie

I wish I could leave, but I can't.

I am 27 years old, unemployed and in college working towards an ultimately worthless liberal arts degree. America's economy has clearly demonstrated that there is no practical (i.e. economic) value in wasting four years of your life reading about Ancient Rome or Pre-Socratic philosophers when you could have applied that time to something that would give you a greater ROI and a more clear-cut career path. Add to that nobody but fast-food joints and major retail chains is hiring these kids, and that there are really only so many burger jobs to go around, and you've got a recipe for disaster. This is why I'm unable to leave. I have no job besides a part-time nothing job at the college computer lab, and no prospects for a job once I graduate, that is if I graduate and don't fall apart completely by the time next June rolls around.

Why do I want to leave? Let's see: I am a basket case today because of my father's alcoholism and violence (towards both me and mom) when I was a child, and threats of "taking me" from mom if she filed for divorce... his own family was well-connected (even had judges on the payroll) and would have crushed my mother's custody battle by depicting her as "unstable" (regardless of whether it was because of, you know, FEARING SHE WOULD LOSE HER CHILD TO A MANSON FAMILY OF CRAZY DRUNKS)... she stayed, they blackballed her out of ever having a job again, and she's stuck with him until death do them part... to alleviate some of the unwanted time together we stay for some of the time at my grandmother's house, who is dying now at 95... the house technically belongs to my aunt (at least it will after grandma dies), who because she lives there (as in it's her official home address) has the final say on whether Hospice people come; grandma wants it but she's a paranoid hoarder who "doesn't want ANYONE IN MY HOUSE"... the place is squalor and a fire hazard, with newspapers and periodicals and cardboard boxes and clothes with flammable polyester/rayon blends from the 1970s that she hasn't worn since Watergate strewn everywhere around the house, even on top of the heating vents... she gets physical at times if you try to throw anything out, and we've even had the cops here on more than one occasion... when once I threw out some of the newspapers in recycling, she called the cops, called me a thief, and threatened to press charges... she's a Fox News-loving bigot who actually locked (or closed herself off) in the bathroom because we had the cable guy come and he was black... ironically the black guy helped fix cable so that she could watch more Fox News... the other fire hazard involves out-of-code electrical outlets that every so often shoot random sparks, and are covered up by the living room draperies... Sounds like plenty of toxicity if you ask me.

But I don't have any other outlets (pun intended) to leave, even temporarily, besides school, because I can't afford my own car or insurance and can't get a job without a college degree -- even though chances are good that with a liberal arts degree I'll be washing toilets at the gas station. I refuse to apply for public assistance because I would feel ashamed of having to beg Joe Taxpayer for a roof over my head. You see, I'm one of the "undeserving poor" that some other article here talked about, someone who is able-bodied and able-minded (well, not an idiot, though I am obviously bonkers) but is seen as shirking responsibility. I'm not; I am legitimately dyscalculaic and cannot, for the life of me, do math, perhaps the sole required skill for any of the good-paying jobs in 21st-century civilization. The only "jobs" for wordsmiths are to go write trivia articles for Wikipedia and Cracked for pennies on the dollar or zilch. Although I suppose you need math at Wendy's too if the cash register breaks down -- but that's just basic decimals, not trigonometry.

"And did you know, without trigonometry, there'd be no engineering?"

"Without French majors, there'd be no fries."

The only way I'll ever leave this family is to be six feet underground. Of course, they will be too, perhaps even further down because they're so prone to "digging in their heels"!

Dear Anonymous, This sounds

Dear Anonymous,
This sounds like a really tough situation and my heart goes out to you. Without trying to offer trite answers, I will say that sometimes there can be answers for the future that are hard to see in the present. If you find a way to strengthen your self with good supports outside the home, people to talk to, activities to join, solutions can emerge. Stay strong. Maintain the clarity that you have.
Carrie

Thank you for this great article

When I was 14- I had had enough. From the time I was 8 years old-I was treated like a full grown adult- The "Cinderella" in real life. Do the laundry, babysit the siblings, wash the dishes and etc. I never had the chance to be a child. I am now 57- raised my own family the best I knew how. Gave them unconditional love and worked 2 jobs to provide for my 3 children, making sure they would never have to worry about where their next meal would come from. ( Like I did) Then I put myself through Nursing school- and helping others who had given up hope of ever having a loving life-became my passion. I never knew where my inner-strength came from and how I persevered under incredible odds. I had no role models growing up.
After 24 years- I got divorced-because after raising siblings and 3 children- "I just wanted a break"- something no one I knew could ever understand. I wanted to have one day where I didn't have to plan every single minute of my day. A day to not feel guilty because I wanted to just go for a walk- by myself.
A day to feel free of overwhelming responsibility- not to be confused with being irresponsible.

I wanted a small taste of what being a child may have been like.
I survived for 3 years on the streets at 14- figuring it out as I went; learning to be resourceful beyond anything I could imagine.
Praying & wishing to find someone who could just understand one thing about me. Forgiving parents- that didn't want me.

Leaving at 14 was so frightening- and no one ever looked for me.
I found my way to school from wherever I stayed the night.
I kept this hurtful secret from my friends- they thought I had the "perfect life" by the way I talked. I became good at keeping secrets.

Today- I have experienced significant life losses- but somehow always rise above the ashes. I no longer yearn for the childhood I never had- but I do yearn for unconditional love and hope to find someone with whom to share the rest of my life- not because I need them to take care of me- but because I have so much to offer and have the ability to love so much more than I have ever been given. I left my toxic family so young- but I wonder what would have become of me if I hadn't.

Thank you for this great article

When I was 14- I had had enough. From the time I was 8 years old-I was treated like a full grown adult- The "Cinderella" in real life. Do the laundry, babysit the siblings, wash the dishes and etc. I never had the chance to be a child. I am now 57- raised my own family the best I knew how. Gave them unconditional love and worked 2 jobs to provide for my 3 children, making sure they would never have to worry about where their next meal would come from. ( Like I did) Then I put myself through Nursing school- and helping others who had given up hope of ever having a loving life-became my passion. I never knew where my inner-strength came from and how I persevered under incredible odds. I had no role models growing up.
After 24 years- I got divorced-because after raising siblings and 3 children- "I just wanted a break"- something no one I knew could ever understand. I wanted to have one day where I didn't have to plan every single minute of my day. A day to not feel guilty because I wanted to just go for a walk- by myself.
A day to feel free of overwhelming responsibility- not to be confused with being irresponsible.

I wanted a small taste of what being a child may have been like.
I survived for 3 years on the streets at 14- figuring it out as I went; learning to be resourceful beyond anything I could imagine.
Praying & wishing to find someone who could just understand one thing about me. Forgiving parents- that didn't want me.

Leaving at 14 was so frightening- and no one ever looked for me.
I found my way to school from wherever I stayed the night.
I kept this hurtful secret from my friends- they thought I had the "perfect life" by the way I talked. I became good at keeping secrets.

Today- I have experienced significant life losses- but somehow always rise above the ashes. I no longer yearn for the childhood I never had- but I do yearn for unconditional love and hope to find someone with whom to share the rest of my life- not because I need them to take care of me- but because I have so much to offer and have the ability to love so much more than I have ever been given. I left my toxic family so young- but I wonder what would have become of me if I hadn't.

Dear Smicar, Thank you for

Dear Smicar,
Thank you for sharing your moving story of strength, generosity and integrity. It is helpful when we know that someone can create beauty from ruins. Best of luck in every way.
Carrie

thank you for your best wishes

Thank you.

Responding to "not always so simple"

I'm debating whether to leave all or part of my family now after being marginalized and recently ostracized over false accusations by an alcoholic sister who has negatively fixated on me beginning in childhood. She is endearing and charming to everyone else in the family who all rally is support of her because her life is filled with personal crises of her own creation. She can be so angelic, but when she is drinking (which occurs daily but she has convinced everyone else she has been sober since the 80s) the hatred aimed at me feels psychotic. When she is still sober and it is just the two of us she is sweet and endearing with me too, but drinking and being in the larger group triggers her negative emotions. You mention that your family member left the whole family, instead of just the "section" he/she had issues with. Did the other sections who regret his/her leaving stand up for him/her? That's the issue I'm really dealing with in debating whether to leave everyone or just those who colluded to exclude me. If you don't stand up for a wronged family member he/she will likely perceive it as tacit, if not overt, approval of their mistreatment and abuse. Is it ever appropriate to stay in relationship with someone who approves of your mistreatment? This question may or may not be germane to your circumstance but if it is that may be a question to ask yourself.

Dear Anonymous, Thanks for

Dear Anonymous,
Thanks for this articulate attention to a complex problem. Those who "collude to exclude" can be especially hurtful because the hope (dashed) is that they know better or care enough to act. Communication and even confrontation are worth a try but if you must move on, it can be done.
Best to you ,
Carrie

yes

I left the home of my insanely dysfunctional, abusive, dangerous family at the age of 20, after years of living in terror and despair. at the age of 25 I cut all contact, having had it made obvious that not only was I considered a pariah, but that, since I ended the abuse and tyrannical hold that certain members of it had been keeping over me, I was also considered to have besmirched the family name. The fact that what had been happening to me,and others was criminally,as well as socially unacceptable was, apparently irrelevant to them. 20+ years later, I am told by someone who does know them, that if my name is brought up, I am accused of all kinds of things: that people are told that I was disowned because I was worthless.. that I am a liar and a fantacist. I prefer to be safe and alone, thank you

Dear Anonymous, Thank you for

Dear Anonymous,
Thank you for contributing. Your strength, your capacity to walk away is commendable. Stay safe, find the joy in solitude. Find people who protect you and can offer a togetherness that is life affirming, not defeating.
Best,
Carrie

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Carrie Barron, M.D., is a psychiatrist and co-author of The Creativity Cure: A Do-It Yourself Prescription for Happiness, which she wrote with her husband, Alton Barron.

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