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#440: “It’s time to get out of my abusive home, but I am afraid to accept help.”

Ahoy thar.

Cliff notes time! Over the past four years, I:
- dropped out of high school for Multiple Reasons
- got a fantastic very-part-time clerical job which, although I don’t **LOVE** it 24/7, has great co-workers and doesn’t take up too much brainpower (which is good because I have a history of overloading myself and panicking)
- realised my Dad was full-on abusive towards me for much of my life (physically and emotionally), and more recently realised that my Mum was at best ignorant about what he did and at worst complicit, and has also been abusive at times (much more minorly, but still).

I’m still living with my parents. Having talked it over with my wonderful psychologist and with a friend who is also a survivor of abuse, I’ve starting to think that I have to Get Out. ASAP.

My problem is that I have no idea how to do that. My friend has offered either to help me by giving me some money or by putting me up for a while, but the latter would mean leaving my pretty-damn-decent job to move to another city.
The former? Well, Dad often liked to tell me, “You’re a failure who will never amount to anything and you’ll be a burden on society all your life,” so I’m sure you can understand why I don’t want to take anyone’s money unearned (I did check, by the way – I’m not eligible for government assistance because I’m not studying full-time, able to work 15 hours a week, theoretically able to pay bills, over 18… You get the picture). I’d do the same for hir, yes, but when it’s me? Jerkbrain says no.

I’m the biggest introvert I know, so I don’t think a sharehouse would be a good idea for me, but I don’t know that I can afford to live on my own, both financially and because I forget to eat when I’m not around people. And the rental market is not too keen on first-timers at the moment. Besides, the most I’ve ever been responsible for in my life is a mobile phone bill and some goldfish. Exaggerating, but you get my point.

I don’t know what to do. Have you any recommendations? Stay at home just-for-now, find a flat immediately, move cities, try and find a friend to share with? Take someone else’s money to escape, or use my own (rather limited) funds? Those are my only options, I think.

Also, the fact that I don’t even have a high school certificate makes job-finding harder. Just to make things extra tricky!

Yours sincerely,
Ms Kittenwhiskers (because that’s a much cooler name than my real one!)

Dear Ms. Kittenwhiskers

I don’t think your dad’s mean words (or the version of your dad who lives in your brain who is mean to you even when he isn’t around) gets to decide what is and isn’t okay re: accepting help from people. Dad and JerkBrainDad also do not get to decide what constitutes failure.

This is how abuse distorts reality:

Needing or accepting help does not make you a failure. 

Being an abusive dad whose daughter is planning to flee for the rest of time makes him an actual failure as a parent and a decent human being.

Your dad’s abuser logic is something like “You will never amount to anything and leaving won’t work out in all these scary ways (therefore you must stay here and let me keep abusing you).” He’s trying to infect you with that logic.

My suggestions for you are:

Sock as much money as you can into savings. Work extra hours if you can. Consider a second part-time job. I know you don’t want to overload yourself, but think of it as maximizing the time you spend outside the house. You found this job, they obviously value your contributions, try to find an additional one. Even if it doesn’t pay off immediately, the work you do assembling your resume and applying for jobs will give you some practice and valuable feedback you will benefit from later.

Go visit your friend who lives in the other city. Spend a little time looking at the job & housing market there and getting a feel for the place and see if it’s actually someplace you could see yourself living. You don’t have to decide anything, but take a step toward making that option more real for you, take a little break from being at home, and spend some quality time with your friend.

Also start looking for roommate & rental situations where you are now. I know you are scared of living with roommates, but take a step back: You already live with the world’s worst roommates. Your parents would like you to believe there is nothing better out there for you. I don’t believe them. It doesn’t cost you anything to look at some roommate listings and to go meet a few people.

A door you can close under a roof that you put over your head with your own work would be pretty great, right? One way you make a rental history is to actually rent a place, and if that has to be a share for now you will survive it. Plenty of super-introverted people have lived with roommates and are looking for roommates now. My last share-house had an unwritten “No morning chitchat rule” and it was glorious. For someone out there your desire to be alone all the time makes you the ideal roommate.

Research how you can get your G.E.D. or whatever they call high school equivalency where you are. There has to be a tutoring & testing program that can get this done for you. Or in the meantime, take some free online classes in something that interests you and build up a little area of expertise. Maybe ask your friend for a Lynda.com membership (there are free trials to see if you like it) that will let you learn tons of software skills that will be marketable in many ways. While you’re at home your parents might even assist you with this. Do not be afraid to take advantage of whatever support they can provide you. Even if you secretly* are planning to leave. You have to take care of yourself and cannot afford guilt right now.

There is some advice for getting out of a depressing living situation and taking some small tiny steps here. You’re already doing a lot of the right things.

If you do not feel safe at home, and you feel like you need to break free, accept whatever help you can find – accept it from your friend, accept it from the government. Accept it. What your dad calls “a burden on society” is actually vulnerable person who needs and deserves help. He doesn’t get to decide who is and who is not a failure and I think that you’ve listened to his logic about the world long enough.

I know you are worried about the possibility of mooching off your friend, and I think you should have a frank talk with her and work out an agreement around things like, if you moved in, how long could you stay? Is 6 months a good window? Would you be expected or able to do some household chores as a way to offset some of the obligation you feel? When she talks about giving you money, how much money and what would that really mean? Putting some kind of goal on things will reassure both of you, even though the initial conversations will be awkward. You say your friend has also survived an abusive living situation, so consider this: Being in a position to give you the help you need right now might be as much of a gift to her as it is to you. She is doing for you what she wishes someone had done for her. That is meaningful and great and not a gift to be refused lightly.

*On secrecy: Your parents do not need to know that you are thinking about leaving until you are actually out the door. Run this by your psychologist, and find a local domestic violence resource who can advise you. Often abusers will crack down, become more violent, hide/destroy things you need (like computers, identity records, financial documents, etc.) to make it harder for you to go. Make it your business to gather together your identity records (or get your own copies of them) and keep them somewhere safe that is not at home. Make sure you have a bank account that your parents cannot access and do not know about. Lock down your computer and be vigilant about security – clear your internet browsing data often, use “private browsing,” change your passwords frequently. It is okay to be circumspect and even to lie to protect your own safety. You don’t have to give them advance notice of your plans.

Ms. Kittenwhiskers, over the next year, you are going to do a lot of big, scary things that are outside of your comfort zone. I’m glad you have a therapist and a good friend by your side. Part of the fear and worry you feel now is being caused by living with abusive people and forcing your brain to live with their logic and their limitations. I for one am very excited to meet Future You, five years from now, who lives in a flat she loves and works a good job and has great friends and is in a position to help another scared kid like she used to be. She believes in you, so go ahead and believe in her.

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193 comments on “#440: “It’s time to get out of my abusive home, but I am afraid to accept help.”

  1. I have next to no words. Just…. love and hugs and good vibes from far away. I’m sorry.

  2. About six months ago, I offered to let a friends girlfriend stay with me so that she could leave an abusive home. (She couldn’t stay with him because of reasons.) She had been living with abuse for years but as her leaving date drew nearer (she was due to start university in the fall) her situation got dramatically worse. In May, she left in the middle of the night and got on a plane with a ticket I bought her.

    Full disclosure: parts of it sucked, for both of us. It cost me a fair amount of money and both of us a lot of privacy. But parts of it were great and all of it was survivable.

    Now, visiting her at university and seeing how healthy and happy she is… Every single time, it makes me want to hug myself with happiness.

    • This is a wonderful story, and an important one. Will taking Friend’s offer make everything magical and perfect for LW? No. It will cause some strain and there will be plenty of bumps in the road but that’s okay. You both made it out, friendship in tact and she didn’t have to face finding her feet on her own.

    • Living with Rachel was amazing, and I think it’s helped my healing process along more than anything else. I also left home earlier in the year, to study for my exams, when I stayed with a friend’s family. LW, I’m an introvert too, generally terrified of people, and conditioned to assume everyone hates me. I know it’s scary to have to rely on people like that, but I promise you’ll be surprised by it.
      When my mother kicked me out before my exams, a friend took my in the same day. Other friends – who, you know, I had assumed secretly hated me on account of me hating myself – all offered me sofas, spare rooms, for as long as I needed them. Rachel offered to take me in before even meeting me. I know it’s hard to think of yourself as being worth helping, LW, but people will want to, I promise. You’re a great person. I’ve seen a lot of people asking for help through Tumblr and Twitter – sofas to crash on, paypal donations, and such. I know it feels guilty, but think about all the people you’ll be able to help later on.
      The experience of living in a household that isn’t abusive is incredible. It’s really scary on account of being convinced everything you do is wrong, and doing things Wrong is the absolute worst possibility right now. But staying with the family, I was able to witness parent/child fights that ended in non-manipulative hugs and apologies, and with Rachel I was able to mess up and talk about boundries and everything else. You’ll learn to negotiate with people who want to help you, and not hurt you. If I’d had a choice, I’d have holed up in a room never coming out, but instead I was able to talk things over with people and meet other survivors.
      I recommend going with what the Captain said and not telling your parents until you actually leave. The closer you are to being independent of them, the more they will try and stop you. I packed my bags in the night and left without even telling my mother, but I had to leave most of my things behind.
      LW, whatever you end up doing, I’m sure it’ll be what’s best for you. And I know it’s scary, but there are people you can trust in the world when you feel ready fr it. And there are people who like you, lots of them, so many more than you’d think. All you need to do right now is survive however you can, and tackle any problems that arise with your friends as they come. And all of those problems will be much less bad than you’re imagining now, I do promise. They’re your friends for a reason.
      Best of luck.

      • Thank you for telling me your story, Lauren and Rachel :)

        It’s really scary on account of being convinced everything you do is wrong, and doing things Wrong is the absolute worst possibility right now. But staying with the family, I was able to witness parent/child fights that ended in non-manipulative hugs and apologies…

        I’ve had a few “reality checks” and mini-epiphanies recently. One was when I was in Other City and staying with some of my extended family. I messed up at one point – I burnt porridge onto a pot while cooking because I forgot to stir it. I went into the next room, all shaky and cowering like a scared puppy, and what happened was that one of my cousins said “oh damn, that always happens with that pot. Sorry, I should have warned you, or given you a different one. Anyway, we can just soak it for a while, the burnt bits should come off again.” No one screamed at me. No one gave me the silent treatment. No one said, “how did you manage to screw up PORRIDGE of all things? You never do anything right!” like happens sometimes at home. I knew my home life was less than good, but when I started freaking out because I thought a burnt pot would get me chucked out onto the street or something, and instead having it dealt with quickly and easily and without any yelling at all… yeah, definite reality check.

        • Yeah, quite a few comments here and elsewhere have helped to give me some epiphanies too, in part because I’ve never really spent time around other families. My mom would have reacted the same way.

  3. I cosign this entire thing. Wish I’d had it about three years ago or more. Good luck, LW, I am rooting for you!

  4. I want to give you so much good luck, LW. I so very much hope that everything works out for you.

  5. I have borrowed money from friends. I find the way to do it, without damaging a friendship, is to negotiate repayment terms and stick to them. That is when it is a loan. Your friend may prefer to give you the money, or to make it a gift but maybe someday if you feel like it you repay. That is something you negotiate with her.

    But here’s the thing. Your friend loves you. Your friend wants to help you. Your friend cannot reach into your parents’ brains and make them into loving, non-abusive people. She cannot magically endow you with a degree. She cannot hire you for a good living wage. So she’s offering what she can give you, freely, out of love.

    Her friendship on its own is priceless and incredibly important to you — and she probably knows that. But she’s also probably feeling helpless and kind of desperate herself, because she loves you and you’re suffering and it’s awful. What can she do? What can she possibly do?

    Some people have such a hard time accepting help, and you’ve got jerk parents and a jerkbrain telling you that you don’t deserve it. But you *do*. And you kinda need it, because the more help you’ve got, the faster you get out!

    If you can bring yourself to do so, please, accept the gift. Negotiate terms, so that you both feel comfortable with it; please be generous and compassionate with yourself when you do so.

    In the past I have taken substantial sums, calculated 8% interest, and paid it back monthly over years — even after I stopped being good friends with the person. I have had other people help me who really preferred to make it a gift.

    You’re worth it. You’re worth investing in.

    • The loan idea is the fist thing that popped into my head, too! I’d suggest being really explicit: “I will start paying this back to you in six months, at a rate of X, which I can manage on top of bills, etc.”

      Also, since we’re listing places online we went to learn things: I had a lot of success with codecademy.com I starts out really simply and it’s free.

      Good luck, LW! You sound really capable, so I’ve got a ton of faith that things will be fine.

    • Yes to all of this, especially negotiation of loan vs. gift.

      For myself, I hate money. I especially hate when the lack of money causes problems. I have a generally have a firm policy that I do not loan friends money. Mostly, the friends who might need a loan are often in financial situations where paying me back will either cause them serious hardship or just never happen and be a lingering negative thing in the relationship. I do not ever want to have money screw up my friendships.

      If they insist they want to pay me back, that’s fine. If they actually pay me back, that’s fine. In my head, though, I still think of it as a freely-given, no-expectations, no-repayment needed thing.

      To put it in CA terms somewhat awkwardly (apropos, I think), the sandwich is love and sometimes we make the sandwiches with money instead of bread and PBJ/meat/cheese/tunafish/pickles/etc. (you can’t buy plane tickets with PBJ, unfortunately.)

      This is totally a thing to Use Your Words about and negotiate with them! They may prefer it to be a loan! Or a gift! My comment is meant only as a perspective of honestly no-expectations no-looking-down-at gifting to counter your parents’ utterly shitty perspective.

    • “You’re worth it. You’re worth investing in.”

      Perfect comment.

      I understand that it is hard to believe you are “worth it.” Your mindset (as is mine) has been affected because the people who are supposed to care about you the most are degrading and abusing you, so you’re probably thinking, “Why would anyone else even want to bother with me if my parents don’t want to?”

      Your friend clearly cares about you, and hopefully you can talk about what you’ve written here with her.

  6. At least where I am, there’s a network intended to provide just the help you’d need to move out, fast, and get set up. It’s worth checking locally to see if there’s a group like that where you are – often, they’ll get people and truck together to grab your stuff and move you out whenever your abusers aren’t there, and even help with moving expenses or new furniture if you need to change cities. Helping people like that is just what they do, so if you find a group like that, take their help with a smile and don’t let your dad’s untrue words stop you.

    You are strong, and brave, and awesome – remember that.

    • That is really awesome. I am going to look to see if there’s something like that in the city where I live. If not, I might try to find others to help me start something similar. Thanks!

  7. Yes yes yes and yes- great response. LW, you are doing a scary thing, but the great part is, once you are out, the scary stuff will be way less likely to really hurt or damage you the way your abusive father currently can.

    I urge you to take the money and help that’s offered to you- do your homework, figure out if the future will be livable and how you can pay it off, and take it. There are so many parts of this that *could* suck, but there’s nothing that sucks quite as much as where you are now.

    You are not a failure. You have succeeded already in getting your head out of the terrible place that your family of origin put it. That is astonishing and incredibly difficult and you’ve done it. There is hard work ahead and it will take you away from the terrible home you’re coming from.

    I know we’re internet strangers, but I am rooting for you to make it out.

  8. I co-cosign the Captain’s advice. Every last bit.

    Damn near everybody needs help from time to time. There is no shame in it.

    One of the hardest things for me to do after growing up in a “bootstrap” household was to ask for or accept help from people who genuinely cared about me (asking for help from strangers was easier). I was taught that it ruins relationships, that it makes people resent you, that asking someone for help or accepting help when it is offered will cause them to lose respect for you, that the act of admitting I needed help would cause people to deliberately make my life harder, that accepting any sort of help always came with strings of emotional blackmail, that I had to be situationally flawless and perfect and totally self-reliant or else I didn’t deserve assistance, that the only admirable thing was to give and give and never, ever complain or set limits, never, ever take. <— That right there is a completely ass backwards and fucked up way to live. You do not have to live that way. Self reliance is an admirable life goal, sure, but it is not nor should it be the criteria by which a person is determined to be worthy of their humanity. Interdependence* is not the same thing as co-dependence, accepting help is not the same thing as helplessness.

    *I define interdependence as "accepting from another person that which you'd gladly do for them." Or, as my best friend told me once a long time ago, "I know you can [solve problem] by yourself, of that I have no doubt, you are very capable and that is why I love you. What I am saying is that you don't always have to, and I am offering to help, and will not think the less of you whether you accept or decline what is offered. You help me all the time. I would love a chance to return the favor." (paraphrased from long conversation)

    You can do it. You are worthy. Listen to the people in your life who say encouraging and supportive things and who treat you as a capable person, move toward those voices and let the jerkbrains of the world fade away.

    • I was taught that it ruins relationships, that it makes people resent you, that asking someone for help or accepting help when it is offered will cause them to lose respect for you, that the act of admitting I needed help would cause people to deliberately make my life harder, that accepting any sort of help always came with strings of emotional blackmail, that I had to be situationally flawless and perfect and totally self-reliant or else I didn’t deserve assistance, that the only admirable thing was to give and give and never, ever complain or set limits, never, ever take.

      This is EXACTLY how I was raised and you are right, it is TOTALLY fucked up.

      The LW deserves assistance. Everyone does; humans are social and we are interdependent. This idea that we’re supposed to be lonely needless islands is such a hurtful myth.

    • Oof. That’s a perfect description of the environment I was raised in too. I’ve gotten better at accepting and even (occasionally) asking for help when I need it, but I still have those nagging “you’re going to make everyone hate you and disrespect you by being weak enough to want help” type thoughts when I accept any sort of help or support from my friends.

      The big thing that helped me learn to accept help was to simply accept what people say at face value. So if my friend says, “hey, I know you’re short on rent this month, how much do you need? I’ll cover the difference,” yeah, she could be secretly hoping I’ll say no, or she might really resent me accepting the money… but a)that’s really unlikely, and b)it’s not my job to read minds and magically know what’s really happening in someone’s heart and mind if they’re not saying what they mean.

      The interesting thing I found with my family (YMMV of course) is that, in their case, my parents DO resent people who want their help, and they DO lose respect for people who can’t/won’t do everything for themselves. So when they say that “everyone” will hate me for needing anything, they’re not intentionally lying, they’re just projecting their own worldview onto the rest of the world. I’ve made the mistake before of asking for and receiving emotional and financial support from my parents, and they always end up being resentful and nasty about it, even though at first they act like they’re happy to help. That’s on them though, not me.

    • Great description of my life and assessment of the situation for the LW.

      “Emotional blackmail,” that’s perfect. My mother always says, “I gave you life.” Although it was definitely no secret that my birth was unplanned.

      • Oh my favorite (sarcasm) is the line about “your parents raised you for 18 years/wiped your butt when you were an infant/etc., so you oooooooowe them.” As if CARING FOR A HELPLESS CHILD is anything other than the bare minimum (pretty much literally) of human decency, or any kind of reciprocal agreement thing.

        • Exactly, as if a child asks to be born, nonetheless…never mind to a mother who seems to feel burdened by her birth.

        • Which is funny, because some of the reasons have for having kids are kind of selfish. Which doesn’t make them bad reasons, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being selfish sometimes, but an awful lot of parents *wanted* kids. It wasn’t entirely a noble sacrifice with nothing in it for them.

          Also, ugh, I had a friend in high school whose mother told her that she hadn’t been planned or particularly wanted and that was why she didn’t have a middle name but her older brothers did. That’s just fucked up. You don’t tell your kids that. Even if you didn’t really want them you owe them a certain standard of decency.

    • Wow, this makes me grateful for how I was raised as far as this subject is concerned – and that’s a first. I was simply taught that there is no help, ever, for me; that which I cannot do for myself will not get done and noone will ever have my back. But at least once I started to unlearn that (and I am by no means done) there was no shame or discomfort attached to receiving help and support.
      I am so sorry to hear what this was like for you. I cannot imagine the strength and courage it must have taken you to unlearn that kind of conditioning.

    • Ugh, this “you are a worthless drain on society if you ever need help ever” crap is *so hard* to break free from. I moved out of my shitty home environment when I was 18 and haven’t looked back, and I *still* struggle with this 7 years later, even after having a wonderful group of uni friends who were full of sandwich-love. In fact, today, my perfectly lovely boy made me cry because I was whining a bit because I wasn’t feeling well, and he joked that I could either take pain killers for my pain or he was going to need to because of my whining. He, being perfectly lovely and super empathetic, meant “I hate seeing you in pain to the point that it actually makes me hurt and I just want you to feel better, and I’m making a light joke about it.”

      I heard “The hassle you are causing me by whining is worse and more deserving of attention than the fact that you are actually in pain.” Because that’s the shit I grew up with and have gotten from Darth exes. AND IT IS NOT OKAY. IT IS NOT NORMAL. And nobody thinks that but abusive assholes and the resulting Jerkbrain in your head.

      It takes a lot of work to shut up the Jerkbrain on this, but tell it to go fuck off. Most people are not jerks, and most people genuinely want to help you out of love. And there is nothing wrong with accepting the help. People helping people is okay. IT is normal. And awesome.

      • I hope this doesn’t come across as concern trolling, but just something that resonated with me was the possibility that not having taken painkillers was also part of the ‘not allowed help dynamic’. Obviously you may have your own reasons for not having done so, or you may have taken some that your bf wasn’t aware of, in which case ignore me, but certainly in my family (and in my best friend’s family too) the ‘you must suffer and not have help’ thing really manifested strongly in things like medical self care. Taking an ibuprofen for a headache or seeing a GP when there was a problem were made into a really big deal, complete with gatekeeping and pseudo medical reasons why you shouldn’t get any help.

        Just thought I’d mention it because realizing this and allowing myself to do things like take medication or seek medical help really helped me to move away from some of that conditioning in all aspects of my life. Perversely, learning to accept help also helped make me more independent.

        • OMG
          OMG
          We NEVER got to go to the doctor for “little” things and we weren’t allowed to stay home from school unless we passed a sickness check from my father and I never take painkillers unless it’s like a 7+ on the pain scale. Tbh part of that is that aspirin/panadol does shit all for me, but even though I now go to the doctor every three months for prescriptions I still “forget” to mention other health issues I’m having because I convince myself it’s not that important. I never actually made that connection before!

          • Likewise, we never had checkups that weren’t mandated by school, never really went to the doctor. I personally only went to the doctor if I had a health episode in a really public way, like where my teachers and peers would ask about it the next day.

            Now I haven’t had insurance for years and am currently looking for inclusive, culturally-sensitive, sliding scale healthcare establishments (primary care, mental health care, etc). It does make me mad that I “couldn’t” go to the doctor when I had insurance.

    • I feel you on your upbringing too. ESPECIALLY this line:

      “that I had to be situationally flawless and perfect and totally self-reliant or else I didn’t deserve assistance”

      That’s the rub, isn’t it? Because during the periods where your life is pretty well sorted, you don’t actually NEED any help. And when you DO need it, it’s only proof that you have now failed and are therefore Undeserving.

      So, SO fucked up. Please, LW, back away from this logictrap. It’s teeth are serrated and ouchy.

    • Oh! The other thing I did early on when I was having trouble accepting help because of this toxic “help is for the weak” stuff–I turned two parts of my Jerkbrain against each other.

      Now, let me preface this by saying it’s not particularly healthy in the long-run, nor is it good practice to accept any part of the Jerkbrain as truth, because it is a pile of bile in the brain, but I think that sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get out and get into a better place where you can eventually shut up the whole thing. And thus using a less-damaging part of the Jerkbrain to shutdown a more damaging part is tolerably okay coping strategy.

      So where I grew up in general and in my family to a toxic degree, it is considered very poor form to not accept a gift. Or to accept a gift gracefully, but not really need/like it and quietly get rid fit later. (Yes, it is offensive to HAVE negative feelings about a gift, even if you’re nothing but grateful and polite to the giver. YOU MUST LOVE IT AND KEEP IT FOREVER.) This is a bit cultural, but extreme in my family. My mother actually refused to buy me any Christmas gifts this year because I gave away a crockpot she gave me a year ago (to a very good friend who cooks a lot and squealed with delight when I offered it and whose partner ran up and hugged me later) when I moved thousands and thousands of miles away with no space for it in my only two suitcases. Then she yelled at me for something unthinkable I did 2 years ago that she had never previously mentioned being upset about: she gave me a present, but I rarely used it. But my good friend and roommate loved it and used it all the time, so when he moved out, I let him keep it. UNTHINKABLE. Anyway, I’m rambling, but I imagine you see what this Jerkbrain does.

      So whenever I was offered help I knew on one level I really needed to stay safe/have a place to live/a job to support me/consistent food to eat/emotional support from good friends/help when I was sick or injured, but that my Jerkbrain knew that accepting made me a weak drain on society that everyone would hate and I wasn’t in a place to tell the Jerkbrain it was a dirty liar, I would turn other Jerkbrain against it:

      “They’re offering you A GIFT, rz, who are you to REFUSE THEIR GIFT? An ungrateful vagrant? You must accept the gift. Gracefully! Or you’re a giant jerk.”

      Then, I got the help I desperately needed without feeling crushing guilt, I accepted the gift, so no guilt from that jerkbrain, and my friends and supports were actually lovely and didn’t resent me at all for needed/accepting help. And it helped me eventually get to a safe/healthy place where I could get past all the bullshit. Everyone wins.

      Not sure if you have that part of the Jerkbrain, but I thought I would share my Jerkbrain-trickery.

      • Except that sometimes gifts come not with strings attached but with great bloody cables of conditions and you owe mes and because you took that thing I freely gave you you no longer have a right to say no to my demands, no matter how unreasonable… So sometimes you have a perfect right to say “thanks, I’ll pass.” It all depends on who you’re dealing with.

        • Yes, fair. But I was speaking directly about situations like the LW’s–an awesome friend wants to help me out of love and I know that intellectually but Jerkbrain is telling me I I do, I’m a drain on society and no one will ever love me. This is a trick for beating Jerkbrain, not blindly accepting any gift that comes your way. (As I mentioned, I think the MUST ACCEPT ALL GIFTS thing is totally unhealthy and bullshit, but I also think it’s okay to play your unhealthy quirks off each other to get out and get help.)

          • Absolutely! I was actually thinking of the part of this LW’s story where her mother wants to buy her a place to live…. While I think she is entitled to take what she needs financially to get herself established, I wouldn’t want her to feel like she has any kind of duty to accept their “generosity” to the extent of a home-purchase, because somehow I don’t think these folks have the knack of giving without expecting anything in return, just for the pure joy of knowing someone you care about is happier for it. I suspect if she lets her mother buy her somewhere to live, there will be an expectation that mom and dad can drop by and expect to be welcome. And the LW needs to have her turf be HER turf too much to let that happen.

        • More in reply to your second comment in this thread: Yes, exactly. I’ve tried to make it clear to my mother that it’s just too close a relationship for me to be comfortable renting a property from her, even though it would be technically going through a rental agent (my parents both already own houses that they rent out, and they go through agents rather than doing it themselves) – one degree of separation isn’t enough, you know? I’m already very uncomfortable with the dash of nepotism that got me a job… how much worse would I feel if it was nepotism that got me a house? And if they were the owners of the house/flat/whatever, I’m willing to bet that they would feel they had the right to have a key and let themselves in whenever (despite rental laws saying “oh no you don’t”). I don’t want anybody but me to have a key! Which sounds selfish, I know, but I’ve never had a key to a space of my own in my life.

          • It doesn’t sound selfish, it sounds sane!

          • super, super smart and sane.

            Don’t take the poison apple!

          • Or, less metaphorically, I think this is also related to your feeling that a sharehouse is a bad idea – wanting you to stay, your parents have shined up some bad ideas that you are rightly leery of (them owning your housing) and dulled down the most accessible and probably cheapest leaving option (shared housing or staying with a friend for free).

            Whatever solution you think up, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be better than where you are, and it has to actually happen. You get to decide what mix of fast, cheap, and pleasant counts as “better than where you are” but remember that manipulative parents will make staying seem less bad than it is (we love you, we want to help you, we have the best house and the best food and blah blah blah) and leaving seem scarier than it is (you can’t do it! You will suffer! People don’t really want to do you favors! Other people are harder to live with than we are!).

          • @ Rosa
            Yikes! You have just perfectly described my mother. She’s been telling me how “crazy” I am for refusing her offer to buy me a house, so I am glad to see that people agree with me on this.

          • Even calling it “buying you a house” is kind of gaslighty if the idea is that they would own it, you would rent it fom them. That’s just them buying a rental property, keeping their hooks in you.

          • Oh God yes. There were actually two options – one was that they would buy a property and have it as an investment and let me live in it, which would mean I could, say, live in a house which I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford, like a character house, which is one of the biggest dreams I have for a place but is incredibly unlikely. The other option was that they would give me a big loan (like my grandmother did for Mum in her day, apparently) to enable me to put a deposit on a home and pay off the first few months of a mortgage. Which is nice, in theory, but a mortgage would be hard to get out of if I decided I wanted to move interstate or overseas, and I’m only 21 – I don’t need to buy a house!

          • This is a surprisingly popular ploy among parents who can afford it. They don’t even have to be highly toxic, just more controlling than the offspring appreciate. I worked with a dude whose wealthy parents paid for his child’s private education – provided they got to choose where she went. For instance.

            (or exactly as controlling as the offspring appreciate – I know a number of people, including one of my cousins, who accept both the money and the strings and seem to enjoy it.) But if you’re already feeling like they have too many strings tied to you, it is a bad deal. That “free rent” is decidedly not free.

          • “I don’t want anybody but me to have a key! Which sounds selfish, I know, but I’ve never had a key to a space of my own in my life.”

            That makes perfect sense to me. When you’ve had your boundaries disrespected for years, having a however-so-humble place of your very own is the most satisfying feeling in the world. You should never have to apologize for that desire!

          • “And if they were the owners of the house/flat/whatever, I’m willing to bet that they would feel they had the right to have a key and let themselves in whenever (despite rental laws saying “oh no you don’t”). I don’t want anybody but me to have a key! Which sounds selfish, I know, but I’ve never had a key to a space of my own in my life.”

            My mother has pulled similar tactics. Not with a house, but because she helped to pay for my college education (i.e. forced to go to my last choice school, at the time said, “You should be grateful you’re even going to college.”). I would buy things with money I earned on on-campus jobs, she’d make me return them if she didn’t like them, clothes mainly, and when I said, “This is my money,” she replied, “You work at school, we send to school, therefore it is our (my parents’) money.”

            Sadly, I understand that you feel like not sharing a key is selfish, but I don’t think anyone who doesn’t have a history of parental abuse/manipulation, etc., would think so.

  9. I got out of a situation where my parents were abusive. It was different for me; I got them to send me to college (they didn’t really have a choice, given the culture we were living in — it would have looked weird if they hadn’t) and chose one very far away from them. I used the semi-separation to make sure I wouldn’t have to return.

    Even though you can’t get them to pay for your plane ticket, as it were, you still have options, LW. The advice the captain gives is great; here are some other tips.

    -Make sure they are not co-signers on your mobile phone plan (buy a cheap monthly or prepaid plan of your own and a cheap phone if necessary) so they can’t track your text messages or where you are. Use your private mobile for all phone calls to shelters, possible apartment situations, etc.
    -The separate bank account is a MUST. If you can, bank at a bank (I actually recommend a credit union if there is one you have access to) which is not theirs.
    -If they’ve given you a joint credit card, use it only for things which you can explain easily. When you leave, leave it at home or cut it up.
    -Get a gmail or other free email account that your parents DO NOT KNOW ABOUT.
    -I cannot emphasize enough the stuff the Captain said about computer security, especially if you are using the computer to search for apartments, etc. If you cannot guarantee the security of your computer at home, use the computers at your local public library (or at work, if you are allowed to do that).
    -Make transportation plans. Are you dependent on your parents for rides to work? See if you can get rides from fellow employees, or if there is public transit. Find out how expensive cab rides are in your area (Google is your friend!).
    -You may find it useful to do some harmless volunteer work (the local animal shelter is always looking for people to help socialize puppies and kittens in my area! Non controversial in my abusive family of origin — choose something non controversial for yours). This will help get you out of the house and cover if you start to work more hours or get another job to sock away more money.
    -You may need to get a PO Box if your parents open your mail, or get a local friend to allow mail to go to their house (or see if your workplace will allow you to get mail there?). Do online billing for your mobile phone.
    -Start moving essential stuff (identity papers, any particularly beloved small items, etc.) outside the house. Do it under the rose; you don’t want this to be noticed. You can rent a safe-deposit box at a bank (these are expensive, though) or use a local friend’s house or even a locker at work, if that is okay with your boss. There may be other more creative solutions (when I was in high school I used my locker — not entirely private, but safer than my room at home).
    -If things start getting worse — I am afraid you know what I mean — pack a go bag or simply make sure your backpack or usual bag has all your essentials in it.
    -In short, minimize your parents’ access to anything private. Do not under any circumstances tell them about your plans, not even if you get in a horrible tearful fight.

    I know it’s scary — I think I only managed it because in the first stages I didn’t realize what I was doing, and by the end stages I had no choice! But living with roommates is survivable even for an introvert (waves an introvert flag) and even if you don’t need all this advice I hope there is something here on Captain Awkward that helps.

    I know this is hard. Believe me, we all wish you the best.

    It gets better when you get out. So much better.

    • YES, try to add more and more privacy to your life as is manageable/realistic. You may want to do it gradually, or in the case of things such as a new email address, DON’T abandon the one you are currently using. While you’re still living with them, you want to have a necessary amount of privacy WITHOUT having to explain why your family knows nothing about your life anymore.

      A credit union probably is best if you’re having problems with finances, especially since many banks want a minimum deposit, monthly fees, etc. The main exception I can think off of the top of my head is TCF Bank.

      • Ally Bank doesn’t require a minimum deposit. The downside is, there’s no branch, but you can deposit checks by mail. I got an account with them when I was in college, because no banks had branches in both my hometown and my college-town anyway.

    • Re: Computer security, a thumb drive or SD/microSD card with the portable apps suite (I haven’t worked out how to include links in comments yet, but Google will send you in the right direction) might be useful – it gives you your own copy of your web browser and other programs, and makes sure that everything you do with those is stored entirely on your thumb drive, not on the computer it’s used on. Hide that well – thumb drive necklaces and keychains are a thing, or if you go with a SD/microSD card that can live in your phone or camera if you get the appropriate type – and you’re pretty much golden on that front.

      • This is a fantastic idea for e-documents and private browsing. And I have a USB drive which is so tiny that I can (and do) keep it in a locket. It’s 4 G and it was only $12.

      • Some micro SDs come with a little USB adaptor, too. They’re expensive, but very small so you can hide them anywhere. (Corollary: very small so you can lose them anywhere!) I actually realised recently I have more micro SDs than USB sticks, because I’ve bought two and one came in my phone.

      • For banking or other sensitive applications on public PCs I’d use an USB drive with a live Linux system. Plug in, boot your own system, work, shut down, remove drive. Absolutely no traces on the host computer and defeats all malware and keyloggers (short of hardware implemented ones). TAILS is a great distribution for that: tails.boum.org

  10. I second everything the Captain says. I specifically second the notion that you are by no means the only introvert out there who needs to share living space for financial reasons but doesn’t want that to mean you’re suddenly expected to be BFFs and socialilze with each other all the time. If you’re clear about your expectations, and explain that you want to be friendly but you like a lot of time to yourself and no social pressure, I bet you can find someone compatible. If nothing else, perhaps you can find someone who works opposite hours from yours, so you’re mostly home at different times.

    Also, don’t feel bad about accepting a friend’s help. It doesn’t make you a user or a loser. You’re young, and at this point in your life maybe it’s hard to imagine yourself in the giving role, but you will have plenty of opportunities to either pay your friend’s kindness back, or to make a comparable difference in someone else’s life. But you have to get out of your parents’ house first!

    It’s pretty common to feel anxious about leaving even a bad relationship, job, or living situation because of the possibility that whatever alternative(s) you’re considering may turn out badly. Unlike someone for whom life has only ever been rosy, you have no difficulty picturing bad outcomes! But bear in mind, where you are now is already sucky! That’s a known thing, and it is not going to spontaneously change itself for the better.

    Which means you are choosing between Option A (staying put) which is guaranteed to be unpleasant and has no upside potential to become wonderful, and Option B, which will probably have at least a few bumpy (or at least wobbly) bits as you find your feet and may even need to evolve into Options C and then D or E or whatever before you find just the right combo of job and living situation BUT which will probably still be better right off the bat than living with a physically and emotionally abusive parent who deliberately undermines your confidence so making any kind of life yourself will always seem really daunting, AND which has the upside potential of leading you to actual happiness.

    Among other things, I suspect you’ll be amazed by how high you can fly when you are no longer dragging a suitcase full of your dad’s contempt with you everywhere you go. No, you won’t leave it all behind the second you walk out the door. But with the help of your friend and therapist, you can start unpacking it and throwing that shit away, and at least this way your Dad won’t be looming over you the whole time throwing things back in.

    • But bear in mind, where you are now is already sucky! That’s a known thing, and it is not going to spontaneously change itself for the better.

      Oh wow. I never thought of it like that. You’re completely right – and I suspect it will get worse here rather than better, for several different reasons.

      • Oooh, excellent point. I feel similarly about my life currently, that it’s not going to spontaneously improve unless some miracle literally happens…not just regarding my family/living situation, since that has improved at least a little, but life as a complete whole, it is an utter disaster.

        Some of the comments you’ve received have honestly helped me to do some more thinking about my effed up life…

    • I’ve been looking at the state of the rental market today through browsing flatmate wanted listings and you can generally tell what the atmosphere of a place is like from the listings, definitely. I actually saw one that specifically wanted someone quiet who could keep to themself – a woman and her young daughter renting out the sleepout. Good keywords to look out for are quiet, respectful, relaxed, low key. I don’t know if there’s a university with international students where you are but here there are heaps of places for Asian students who are clearly expected to be quite self-sufficient, and I don’t see why you couldn’t try those even though you’re not the exact target demographic.

    • Also, re: borrowing money – you don’t have to feel guilty accepting the help of someone who has maybe just lucked out on the financial thing. I have very generous grandparents, which amount to a nice amount of savings, and also being able to help a friend who just doesn’t have those kinds of resources. And that is completely fine and nothing horrible or leechy!

  11. One thing that helps me when I look at daunting tasks is to break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks. So your plan for today doesn’t have to be ‘find a new place to live’ but could be ‘look on Craig’s List to see how much rent would be’ and then maybe tomorrow it could be ‘see if there are any ads for shared living’ and so forth.

    Good luck, and all the Jedi hugs.

  12. As someone who lived through a very similar situation, I wholeheartedly second every piece of the Captain’s advice. I would particularly caution you to heed her advice about talking to a DV counselor and not letting your parents know that you are leaving – you might feel bad about deceiving them, but it’s the right thing to do for your own safety and sanity, and besides you’ll feel much worse if they sabotage your efforts to leave.

    Forgive me for talking about myself here, but I want you to know that you can leave your abusive family home behind, and that your life CAN be okay, even wonderful, afterward…

    After couch-surfing as a teenager to avoid my abusive home, I officially moved out very shortly after I turned 18 (because my parents couldn’t legally drag me back home at that age). I didn’t tell them I was leaving, and I didn’t tell them where I had gone, for safety reasons; I just packed the essentials and left one afternoon while they were at work. A friend and I rented a teeny, tiny (read: cheap!) little coach house apartment together (we subletted from another friend, which meant we didn’t need to put up a security deposit or have credit histories — I recommend asking around, because you never know what opportunities might exist amongst your existing social circle). I had also dropped out of high school, despite being a total egghead, for numerous reasons that related back to my abusive parents (and an urban public school system that offered less than zero support), and I was more than a little panicked about that. I worked clerical-type jobs for many years that had me living paycheck-to-paycheck (BTW, once you have experience and good references, the lack of education becomes faaar less of a barrier), and I lived with roommates for many years in order to be able to make ends meet. There were times when it was tough, but knowing that I had escaped from the hell that was my parents’ house made it all worth it and helped to pull me through. Having supportive friends also helped a great deal, and it sounds like you also have that.

    It’s now 15 long years later, and I have a career I love that affords me a fairly comfortable lifestyle (I built my skill set over time, was strategic about chasing opportunities, and leveraged strong work references to offset my lack of a college degree), I got my GED and have taken some college courses along the way (I focused on my career instead of school, due to my overwhelming fear of going into debt, but this isn’t the best route for everyone), and a couple of years ago I finally (!!) got my own apartment.

    I know everyone’s path is different, and I am not saying that you have to follow my path, or guaranteeing that success is the only option. I just want you to know that what you are contemplating doing HAS been done by other people, and that it can have a positive outcome.

    You mention a psychologist – if you’re not already in therapy, I highly recommend it. I waited many years to start therapy (long story, and one of my few real regrets in life), and untangling the emotional mess that my parents left me with has made a world of a difference for me.

    Good luck to you Ms. Kittenwhiskers, and please come back to let us know how you are doing! I’ll be rooting for you in my head! Virtual hugs and positive vibes, if you want them!!

    • YES. Therapy is teh awesome!

      LW, I also got out really shortly after my 18 birthday and I survived. So can you. I also regret not visiting therapy earlier, but you already got that step covered so DON’T BE AFRAID. You have got support from your friend/s, your are allowed to let people support you and you deserve it. Good luck!

  13. A message to the OP and others of us in a similar situation…watched the movie “Tangled.”

    It may help you to heal, seriously. I made it into therapy for myself…that movie, and much reflection in part thanks to the movie, has done more for me than traditional therapy ever has.

    I’d post a link to it where the entire film is readily available online, but I don’t know if that’s allowed in the comments, just google it.

    • Furthermore, depending on where you live, you may have several resources readily available to you…not just to leave, but regarding other such assistance while struggling financially. Personally, I’ve found some clinics nearby.

    • I love that movie. It didn’t do for me what it did for you, but I found it very relevant to myself and it helped, like I was being supported.

      • Yeah, the movie was essentially my life, much beyond the Rapunzel-Mother Gothel dynamic, and she was almost a spitting image of my mother. It really helped me to see how messed up things were between us, that our relationship wasn’t as “normal” as I thought it was and that I wasn’t a “bad daughter.”

        It helped me to really see how our relationship was…especially seeing the movie (not all at once, admittedly enough), talking to others in a similar situation, a lot of reflecting and comparing/contrasting my life to what I know of others’ lives (so beyond my relationship with her, but the rest of my family of both sides of the family, friendships, romantic relationships, etc.), reading articles like this, and so on.

        As I’ve told friends of mine, as much as I hate to admit it because I’m very feminine and “princess-like” in ways, this Disney movie truly began the healing process. It helped me to normalize my pain and find a way to cope, heal, talk it out, try to fix things, etc.

        Granted, my life is still for shambles for quite a few reasons, but this helped me to grow and move on from this problem in particular, at least somewhat…

    • I actually felt bad for whoever wrote the lyrics to the song “mother knows best” in that show, because they knew what they were writing, clearly.

      • Yes, I’ve talked to another “Rapunzel” online and we both felt similarly about that song. Both of us have heard those comments many times throughout our lives. She told me she cried so much during that movie. I legitimately turned this into therapy for myself.

        It took me months to finish watching the movie, I finished it about a month ago and had started it last June. I had two of those “Rapunzel discovers she’s the lost princess”-esque fights with my mother (before I actually got to that part in the movie), but they were about 20x more intense.

    • I love that movie, in a sad heartbroken kind of way. I mean, in most ways Rapunzel’s situation and mine are very different, but Mother Knows Best was scary in that my mother is surprisingly like that for a less-abusive-than-my-father person (is that always going to be my comparison? because doesn’t-deserve-to-be-in-gaol-for-assault-and-battery is not a measure of Good Person-ness. It’s more a minimum decency standard…). Today she accused me of wanting to leave home because “[I] believed [she] didn’t love [me] anymore,” which is of course so far from the truth that it’s ludicrous.

      • “Mother Knows Best was scary in that my mother is surprisingly like that for a less-abusive-than-my-father person (is that always going to be my comparison? because doesn’t-deserve-to-be-in-gaol-for-assault-and-battery is not a measure of Good Person-ness. It’s more a minimum decency standard…)”

        I understand that way of thinking, even with my mother and other family members (who are definitely not abusive towards me, but I’ve never had that sense of security, stability, “love,” “acceptance,” etc., that most people seemingly have from at least one family member, in part because of huge problems and issues on both sides of my family).

        Even reading things like your letter and the comments, and other similar things as I’ve mentioned…it’s still hard to feel like I was “abused” because it’s not like we’ve ever had to call a hospital and my mother and her siblings were physically abused worse, and deep down I know she has my best interests at heart. Which is why “Tangled” affected me the way it did because the mother was not like, for example, “Cinderella”*** where the stepmother *clearly* has no interest in her.

        ***As far as Disney movies go.
        Before my comparison was the movie “Precious,” especially since I’m Black and from an urban area, although we’re not in Section 8 housing, and my mother is college-educated and an extremely conversative Christian, in that the ending was far from “happy,” but more so “as happy as it’s going to get” as I’ve mentioned to friends of mine. “Precious” was actually probably more similar to my mother’s upbringing, now that I think about it…

      • It’s funny how we can recognise this stuff in “children’s” media. I remember a huge discussion about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Dolores Umbridge in particular where we noted an observation that kids with terrible home lives tended to understand why Harry didn’t tell anyone what she was doing, whereas kids from better homes tended not to. (Not a universal rule, but a definite trend.) I actually felt that the movie took away a lot of what was scary about her when it showed things like the study hall full of students using the punishment quill, because in the book part of what was so effective about her methods was the isolation. If everyone’s being punished together, in the same way, they can talk about it to each other and get support. If you think or know you’re the only one you can’t do that.

        • This is a great comparison. I come from a very supportive, loving family, and that part of “Order of the Phoenix” horrified me, in no small part because I have always known that my parents would have my back, no matter what.

          The beginning of “Sorcerer’s Stone” (or “Philosopher’s Stone”, depending on where you live), when Harry’s life with the Dursley’s is detailed, was also deeply disturbing to me.

    • Making Light (another wonderful blog) wrote about this a few years ago — http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/013217.html “Dysfunctional Families Day: Tangled Emotions.” That was the first I had ever heard of DFD (it might just be over there; I’m not sure) but it was wonderfully cathartic for me.

      • When I first started watching the movie, I had to turn it off at the part where Rapunzel was conflicted about leaving the tower, I have literally said all of those things about myself. And likewise, it took a while for me to finish the movie because I knew it would wrap up so nicely to lead to an unrealistically “happy ending.”

      • Dysfunctional Families Day is a Making Light thing, though anyone else who wants to do it is more than welcome. The more the, um, well, less un-merry.

        We started it because some of our community had real problems with Mother’s and Father’s Day, and wanted to have a day when it was OK to not be OK with their families of origin. We picked September 21, the autumn equinox, as being nicely balanced between summertime and Oh-Ghod-Holiday-Season.

        After a few years, I found that the threads were still active well past the day itself, and I committed to keeping it going year-round. So there’s always an active DF thread on Making Light (look in recent comments to find the current one). Anyone is welcome to pop by to talk about issues arising from family dysfunction, large and small. Consistent pseudonymous identities are welcome, and I moderate it pretty closely to make sure things stay on-track and safe.

        We have people in the community who escaped from abusive families years ago, and have learned how to deal with the long-term effects of the choices they had to make. We have people who have just left, and are learning what normal is like. We have people who want to leave, are considering leaving, and wonder if they should leave. It’s a thing that comes up a lot.

        I’m not trying to steal traffic from the Captain here — I love me some Captain Awkward, and admire the hell out of the whole Army. But we’re here if folks need us.

        And LW, let me second, third, or eleventy-billionth the suggestion that you accept the offered help and pay it forward. Also, consider the fact that the people who offer help you may also be looking to pay their own old forward-debts.

        And there are people all over the internet, and all over the world, pulling for you. Loads of Jedi hugs and a big box of courage.

    • ERMAGHERD. I can’t believe you guys are discussing the relevance of Tangled to this issue, when I have literally just finished making a short Tangled music video in which I wanted to draw out this very theme of abuse and breaking free. (Also the themes of light and and dark, and love and redemption.)

      I too am not sure if it’s ‘allowed’ to link it here, or if it’s considered bad etiquette because of shameless self-promotion or whatever, but I am going to give linking it a shot and see what happens. Maybe the LW and other commenters may find it useful/inspirational/thought-provoking in the same way as the actual movie, only much shorter. That would be extremely gratifying.

      Seriously though, DON’T watch this if you haven’t seen the movie, unless you’re okay with having the movie’s ending completely spoiled for you.

      Best of luck LW. You are totally amazing just for knowing that you need to get out. Further amazingness will follow when you escape for sure.

      • OK, that video actually made me kinda weepy (in a good way!) I didn’t even cry at the movie, well maybe a little at the bit with the lights on the water. Damn, you are very good. I’ll look out for your stuff in future, hope you make more!

    • I loved this movie so much. My husband (boyfriend at the time) actually was the one who looked at me and said “This reminds me so much of your parents.” That was a huge moment for me.

  14. Jedi hugs to you, LW! Future You is going to look back and realize how amazing and brave you are.
    I haven’t been in your shoes exactly, but I’ve got a lot of experience receiving help from friends (money, emotional support, trucks for moving, etc). I often struggled with accepting help from my friends until, finally, one of them explained it to me. She told me that she’d gotten plenty of help from friends when she was on her own and Totally Broke, but now she’s paying it forward (to me). She didn’t want anything back from me, she just wanted to keep the good will moving through the universe. And now it’s a few years later and I’m on my feet and I’m able to help out a friend if she’s struggling. This is why we have communities – so we can help each other.
    You are NOT a one-way charity-sucking machine. Just because you accept help once (or twice, or three times…) doesn’t mean you will be dependent on it for the Rest Of Your Life. You’re not selfish, you’ll only take what you need and you’ll give back when you can, and that is perfectly fine!
    And I totally agree with what the Captain and others have suggested here. Take one step at a time and you can do this!

  15. Needing help doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you human.

  16. Ms Kittenwhiskers, you’re a really brave lady! I’m really excited for your future; you’re going to do great.

    As an introvert, I definitely appreciate your feelings about a shared home, and I completely agree with the Captain’s advice. I can 100% back up the Captain’s promise that it is doable in the short term, and that introverts can be perfectly happy living with people. I moved into my own place as soon as I could, but I certainly survived and thrived when sharing my space with Icky People. One thing that works is finding various, low-cost areas where you feel safe & comfortable that are open outside of work hours – such as coffee shops, libraries, bookstores, etc – and learning how to be alone in these places, even when there are people around you. This will serve you well as well as expanding your “territory,” so that you have retreats and personal areas outside of your shared home. You can also pick up some hobbies that you can learn for free online, like knitting or yoga, that will allow you to create a quiet space in your head as you’re changing your life. Your psychologist might also be able to help you. Big life changes can leave you desperately wanting a place to retreat to… even if you don’t have the physical place to do that, you can create a mental one that you can take with you anywhere you go. And it will be a lovely relief.

    And in general, practicing being alone is good practice for living alone… as is remembering to eat. That worries me, Kittenwhiskers! Do you think you can practice remembering to eat? It will be a good skill to have, generally. I know you’re probably being half-facetious (and hell, sometimes I forget to eat too, it’s a little bit normal!) but doing stuff like “getting and eating food at healthy intervals” is pretty important self-care.

    Now finally, your letter mentions that you are under 18… I would personally lean towards taking the money and living with people for now. While you are an adult in my eyes, society and your parents may have different ideas. Surrounding yourself with Team You would be preferable to striking out on your own, in my opinion.

    • I read the LW’s letter as saying they were over 18 — that the “not” only applied to “studying full time.” But agreed about all the rest of this!

      • Yes, I wasn’t quite sure about that – I do think you’re right. (For underage folks seeking to leave an abusive situation, I really do think it’s better to live with people, particularly because many emancipation laws require the child to demonstrate that they can live without their parents. That can be really hard for a kid to do alone. Not that emancipation laws are really geared towards helping kids, but I have known someone to do it to keep control of her education; she had to live with friends and borrow money.)

    • As a fellow person-who-forgets-to-eat-sometimes, it might be a good idea to start scheduling mealtimes and even snacks, just as a reminder. I also find it really helpful to have small, no-prep snacks on hand for when I realize I haven’t eaten in a really long time and my stomach has given up on sending hungry messages. (I like peanut butter crackers, personally.)

      • More on the forgetting-to-eat front: if you can manage leftovers, they help. Generally I find that by the time I’ve realized that I forgot to eat, I am so hungry and tired that I can’t make food for myself. Making double when you do remember helps (or getting fast food at places with large portions, which I lived on for a good six months when I was in a depressive slump and living alone).

      • Agreed on the little no-prep snacks. I’m legendarily unable to feed myself competently when my partner isn’t there. Here’s my technique.

        (Disclaimer; this definitely works best for live-alone types and may not be ideal for other nutritional needs. But it gets me through days when she works and I don’t.)

        I get a little tray that goes next to me when working or internetting. [You'd place yours wherever you are when you forget; a lunch bag may work just as well]. I plan times so when I glance at the clock, if it’s after [x time], it’s time for food.

        When the time arrives, I fill my tray like this:

        -One central thing. I use a perishable (or unpalatable once room-temp) thing, like reheated leftovers or even frozen yogurt, so I won’t just ignore the tray.
        -2-3 side things. I used to think like I was feeding a toddler (one fat, one protein, one grain, one fruit) but I found it works better just to grab what sounds good and I’ll eventually get a feel for what I need when. I use finger foods that complement the middle thing. I find cooking masses of veggies ahead of time and reheating works well, as do crackers/toast with peanut butter.
        -a largeish drink.

        The beauty of this method for me is that I can eat as much of it as I want/need, or eat small meals off the tray twice without going through the anxious oh-god-now-what’s-in-the-fridge process.

        Let me gracelessly segue here. Now that we mentioned lunchbags at work … could your boss be a source of help here? Be concrete and brief. “I wanted to let me know I am leaving an abusive situation. I don’t want this to affect my work performance because this job is important to me. If it’s conveniently possible for you, you can help me in two ways: 1. allowing me to store small personal items and documents in a work locker and 2. letting me use the work computer after my work hours so I can Google apartments without getting caught” (or whatever would actually help you, of course). Depending on the work dynamic, this might be a way to get help in a concrete way that is not actually going to feel needy/demanding to either you or your boss (of course, you are awesome and doing an awesome taking-care-of-yourself thing and your boss would be a jackwagon if xie thought that was needy in itself, but let’s leave that aside because I care more about how YOU feel after asking).

        • I too was going to recommend speaking with someone at the current job, since zie refers to the people working there as “great.” I know it’s really, really scary to do this, LW, but I have been a relatively functional, working adult for a long time, and I can only think of a few people I’ve worked with/for who wouldn’t have been sympathetic and able and willing to help you out in a emergency situation like this.

          Another reason it’s important to get someone at the office on Team You is so that they know not to give out personal information to your abusers when you leave, and to help deflect situations if one of your abusers shows up at your place of business after you do leave. It’s important to have, like Team You booby traps in place, just in case.

          Good luck, LW, we are all rooting for you!

        • When I was a teenager, my boss caught me stealing food. Instead of firing me, he asked me why I was doing it. I explained, and he gave me a free meal a day. Awesome bosses and decent jobs will do that sort of thing for you. In short, I second the telling the boss & asking to use the computer thing.

      • Yeah. I’ve personally also started to make to-do lists/schedules. In addition to helping me organize myself regarding work-related matters, errands, and other things to attend to, it helps me to take care of myself when otherwise too stressed/exhausted to do so. It’s pretty easy to forget self-care of all kinds, especially when drained.

        Of course, now I remembered a few things I meant to do today and didn’t lol :-p

      • +1 no-prep snacks. My mom used to make fun of me for not eating “preparation-intensive” (as I called it) food at college, but for a long time I really had trouble expending the energy to make myself nutritious/complex food. Things I can grab and eat quickly are a godsend.

    • I am over eighteen :)
      As for the forgetting to eat thing, I am sadly not being facetious. I have a history of quite disordered eating which is probably part and parcel of a) being on the autism spectrum (I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was sixteen and it explains a LOT) and b) not wanting to go out of my room to the kitchen in case Dad saw me and shouted at me. The result of this is that I frequently can’t even tell when I’m hungry, let alone make the effort to eat something. Worse is that once I’ve been hungry for long enough, I feel nauseated at the very thought of food. If I actually realise I’m hungry, I usually have less than twenty minutes to eat something before the nausea kicks in and I don’t want to eat anymore. Having a ready stash of frozen meals in the freezer is usually helpful (oh, you mean I don’t actually have to expend any effort past “shove in microwave”? Fantastic!), but those things are pretty expensive.

      • Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikes. I really, really would like you to live in a house where no one yells at you in the kitchen (or any other room). You might not become a gourmet cook, but a chance to make yourself a sandwich or salad or heat up a can of soup or eat an apple when you want to might be pretty life-changing.

        • Thankfully the yelling thing doesn’t happen much anymore. It was at its worst between four and seven years ago when I was going through the long, soul-sucking process of going through what in retrospect was basically one major depressive episode after another (possibly caused in part by living in an abusive family situation? HMMM…), year after year, punctuated with long stretches of dysthymic depression and intermittent suicide attempts, which finally culminated in my dropping out of school because I could no longer cope, all of which unfortunately coincided with Dad being highly unhappy at work and taking it out on everyone, particularly me. So he doesn’t yell at me in the kitchen – these days. I am able to go to the kitchen and grab lunch, I just… don’t.

      • You might want to check out The Fat Nutritionist: http://www.fatnutritionist.com. The fat part is totally irrelevant for this part of things — but she talks really kindly and sanely about relearning how to feed yourself. One of the things that she really advocates is scheduling mealtimes — figuring out times that you will definitely sit down with food. And maybe you’ll eat a lot then, maybe you’ll only have a few bites, maybe you’ll go back for seconds. But it takes the “wait, am I hungry now?” part totally out of the equation — it’s an hour after you got up, so you get some food and see if you eat it. (You schedule the time to sit with food, but you don’t force yourself to eat.) In your position, I might even set alarms on my phone — “It’s 3:00, time to consider whether I’d like some fruit or something”. Taking the pressure off having to know whether you’re hungry or not will probably make it much easier for you to figure that out.

        (Many, many jedi hugs to you. You are worth figuring this, and all of the rest of this, out, with as much help as is necessary.)

      • I can absolutely relate on the “so hungry that I’m too nauseous to eat” front. I’ve found that it helps to find out what kind of food you can force down without too much trouble even when you’re feeling ill (for me, surprisingly enough, it’s spicy or salty foods. I can’t manage bland when I’m not feeling well, which I’ve gathered is the opposite of how it works for most people.) and always have some ready at hand. Even if it’s not particularly healthy, like instant ramen or even candy, having something, anything, in your stomach should help you to get over the nausea long enough to have a more sensible meal.

        • Yeah, I keep boxes of protein bars behind my laptop–peanut butter, fairly palatable, not necessarily “healthy”–just to keep my blood sugar from crashing. One time it was like, “I am so weak and nauseated from forgetting to eat all day that I am going to have to eat this bar and wait five minutes just to be able to stand up, go downstairs, and get actual food.” I also keep a couple in my purse for that reason–and I’m not diabetic or anything, I just Cannot Deal With Life if I haven’t had something to eat recently. So anything you can squirrel away (granola, cookies, crackers, a jar of peanut butter or Nutella, small bags of chips or popcorn, fruit–ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES!) can help you stay on an even enough keel to be able to actually get up and get a meal later, yeah. I’m to a point where I just go, I don’t care what I feel like; it’s been three hours, I need to eat a little bit of something whether I like it or not.

      • Oooh, I feel similarly. Many times I wait until my mother is not home to go to the kitchen because she used to yell at me all the time while in there, even if it was because she felt like I was hogging the milk, as I wanted to drink a couple 8-oz glasses a day…once she flat out exploded because I wanted to drink the last of it (as of last year, even). And frankly, even though things are at least a bit better, I still would rather feel assured that I can cook/eat/think about food in peace.

        We’re also having some financial problems, so sometimes there is no food, and I’ve had issues with my weight in the past, so sometimes I feel like it’s a good thing to not eat. And then I’m exhausted in general, so cooking/eating can be more trouble than it’s worth.

        Although this is admittedly a little pricey, even though one container lasts for a while so it is relatively inexpensive in the long run, you may want to get something like Source Of Life Energy Shake*** I found it at the local health food store and it has a lot of nutrients in it so I just add one scoop of that to a glass of milk, done. A meal with nutrients, protein, and whole food concentrates. I take vitamins and a couple other supplements as well to try to keep myself as healthy as I can manage.

        [Captain Awkward Here: We're getting a mite too specific with the food recs I think, so this post is slightly redacted].

        • Oh ok, I apologize, I just wanted her to know what was in it since it’s gluten-free, has soy, etc., it’s not like a Slim-Fast drink.

          But yeah LW, you can just google it if you want more information.

      • I have a lot of the same problems remembering to eat (for a lot of the same reasons), and what worked best from me was a suggestion from the Fat Nutritionist –a combo of keeping something quick that didn’t need prep around for snack times and setting an actual alarm on my phone or whereever to eat every 3-4 hours. If I’m so forgetful or distracted that I get into the too-nauseated-to-eat phase, I have the fairly bland no-prep option at my desk or wherever first (I like granola bars when I can get them, or dried fruit), and then figure out what more to eat.

        And you might find that it gets easier to remember once you’re living somewhere else, where you don’t have the deep-ingrained-memory-stress connected to that kitchen, you know?

      • Snap. I’m autistic, have had eating disorder-y problems and until fairly recently literally couldn’t tell whether or not I was hungry (this is apparently what happens when you spend most of your childhood underfed which had the odd consequence of making me fat).
        I used to make sure I ate something every four hours during the day after I left home. It doesn’t matter what you eat – just make sure you do. You can work on eating well *after* you’ve learnt how to eat at all. Alarms on your phone or scheduled slots in a day planner can be helpful as can a nominated friend to text you to ask if you’ve eaten today. These are all easier than trying to remember what “hungry” and “not hungry” feel like.

        If I get to feel nauseous or dizzy I ask myself: have I drunk enough? have I had salt today? protein? sugar? vitamin c? and then feed myself which ever is the first one I haven’t eaten yet before seeing if I’ve enough energy to make something a bit more substantial.

      • I just wanted to say I’m *so happy* to see this discussion. I thought I was the only one who has trouble remembering to eat and with getting myself fed.

        Setting times that I eat (it’s 3pm, you must eat now) works so much better than waiting until I “feel hungry.”

        My “I must put calories in me now!” desperation food is milk. I find it easy to pour and drink and it settles my stomach, but I don’t have problems with lactose, so YMMV.

        I also figured out the hard way that the easier it is to make a food, the more likely I am to eat. This means buying pre-grated cheese instead of grating it myself, for example. Or cutting up an apple when I’m not hungry (like after I’ve already eaten a meal) so that when it’s time for a snack all I have to do is take it out and put it in my mouth.

        • I find juice (usually OJ, but any juice will work) is great for the “need calories now” thing. If I’m so hungry I’m feeling nauseated, often I’ll have a glass of juice (1-200 calories, yay!) (yay in the sense of “it’s enough calories to kickstart my system!”) before I eat real food.

      • With the nausea from hunger, when that happens to me I find sipping water helps. The idea of it doesn’t make me feel yuck, because it’s just water, and once that hits my stomach I’m ready for some food. Plus if you forgot to eat then you probably forgot to drink too, and need the fluids.

      • Also maybe try cooking meals in advance and then freezng them, which is a lot let expensive than buying frozen meals and a lot more fun than eating crackers. Rediscovering the joy of food (and the kitchen) through learning how to cook could be something really helpful for you.

        Also maybe try checking out community-based cooking groups or co-ops (where I live there are activist groups that specifically specialise in providing meals at large events etc), or maybe soup kitchens. This is a great way of spending more time away from home, learning to take on a larger workload, on making food with other helpful people around.

  17. Dear OP: You have received tons of great advice. The only thing I will add is to ask you to consider the value of what you can contribute while living under somebody else’s roof, if you move in with a friend or with roommates: Chores, errands, cooking, company. Those all have value. If you live with a friend rent-free, you are not the only person to have done so. (I live rent-free at the moment, and in return I offer chores, cooking, errands, and company. Trust me. It can be done, and you are no less for it.) If a friend gives you a stable platform from which to rebuild your life, accept and honor that platform without fear or resentment. And when you become Future You, you can pay it forward to somebody else in their time of need.

    • I lived with my sister while I worked at an internship as part of changing careers, and paid her a very minimal amount in rent, but I also let the dogs out, took them for walks, cooked dinner when I was the first one home (we had a rota), cleaned up after myself (and the dogs when necessary — don’t even ASK me about doggie anal glands), loaded/emptied the dishwasher, drove the dogs to the vet/groomers when necessary, etc etc etc. So although the financial contribution was small, we all felt like I earned my keep in other ways :)

    • Yes yes yes! I have a friend who is a touring musician, and she’s got friends everywhere who just love to host her. She’s an AMAZING houseguest. When she’s there, she cleans, cooks, does all the housework, and helps with whatever needs to be done – as well as being really entertaining company and a wonderful person in general. I always looked forward to her visits when I lived in a place that had a guestroom – it really never felt like I was doing her a favor, but rather the other way around.

      I now live in a tiny micro-apartment with no room for guests, and it makes me very sad that I can’t host her.

    • Sometimes you can find this arrangement with strangers too. I saw a listing for $50/week today that I had to click on to see what the deal was and it turned out she wanted someone who would babysit her 12 year old son three nights a week. She was asking for someone with experience in some kind of childcare, etc, but I thought that was pretty reasonable discount off market rent for a kid old enough not to get into something life-threatening as soon as you turn your back.

    • From the other side of such an arrangement? So very true. I currently have a friend as a roommate while my spouse is away on a contract. She does cleaning, she cooks, she gardens, she runs to the store so I don’t have to, she holds the dog’s leash while we’re on a walk so that I can dash into the video store… Frankly, just having someone there so that I’m not coming home to a house empty of all but needy pets every day is a valuable contribution.

      She doesn’t pay rent, utilities, or for groceries. I still consider it a pretty good deal I’m getting on my end.

  18. Re: Interwebs Privacy and Keeping Stuff Safe

    (LW, apologies if you already know this stuff)

    -If you have an iPhone, you can set it to wipe all the data after too many failed password attempts. I would bet this is the case with most smartphone OSs (though I could be wrong).

    -For extra security, download something like CCleaner (and set it to clear all browser histories, temp files, etc. on a daily or hourly basis (Windows task scheduler, or on Mac probably Automator and then connect the task to iCal). That way, if you forget to do it in your browser, this will do it for you. This is also just good to do to free up space on your computer.

    CCleaner Windows – http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner/download
    CCleaner for Mac – http://www.piriform.com/mac/ccleaner
    Scheduling tasks: http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/setup-ccleaner-to-automatically-run-each-night-in-vista-or-xp/

    -Keep a remote/cloud backup of all your important digital stuff, even if it’s just sticking everything in Dropbox or SpiderOak. That way, if they smash up your computer or it’s some other situation where you can’t take it with you when you go, you still have all your important photos, documents, mp3s, etc.

    • (tw gun violence) Oh gosh, suddenly this is reminding me of that awful Laptop-Shooting Dad episode of a few years ago. LW, definitely do some sort of protected cloud backup on your sensitive data. If you can, make scans of your ID documents and put them up there too. Do all your browsing in Private Mode, and make sure no passwords are stored on any computer. After you’re sure the browser isn’t storing passwords, change them (in case they were stored previously by accident).

      (I guess this post is conflating information-destruction and information-compromise, but both are potential threats for you, in different ways.)

  19. What the Captain–and everyone–has said. Your friend is offering help because she wants you to be okay and honestly, it’s likely that taking the help would be a gift unto itself. Please update us and let us know how you’re doing!

  20. I found the idea of living with strangers in a house share really terrifying – another introvert here! – so I lodged instead, and it really worked for me. Because it’s a room in someone’s house and you’re renting from them, instead of being one of a group renting from someone who usually isn’t there, the expectation that you’ll be part of the group isn’t really there, in my experience. Even when I lodged with people my age, I could hole up in my room and it was totally fine, she didn’t care, because she didn’t want a friend or house-mate, she wanted someone who would help pay her mortgage. So maybe that’s an option for you?

    Also, like others have said, if there’s a domestic violence centre or helpline you can access, talk to them – you’re not likely to be the first person they’ve talked to in your situation, and they’ll have ideas and be able to point you to help, or even talk you through options you haven’t thought of. And the best thing about helplines is that they’re usually there at three in the morning when you can’t sleep and everything feels hopeless, or you’ve just moved out and are freaking out – not that I speak from experience or anything!

    Good luck!

    • Yes, lodging can work really well. I’ve experienced it from the other side – last year I was really struggling for money, so I got a short term lodger to help me cover my rent*. She pretty much kept her own hours, but we’d meet up in the kitchen every now and again and have a chat, or watch a TV show together. I found that the fact she was a lodger rather than a housemate made it easier for me to feel okay about not wanting to be super sociable, and it also made me less grumpy about things like her epic nightly showers (invariably timed just when I was about to go to bed!) because it felt more like she was paying for the privilege. I’m pretty sure she benefited from being on the other side of that equation, so it was win-win, and I actually felt pretty sorry when she left.

      * My landlord was cool with me doing this – I don’t recommend doing it without express permission, because it’s usually against the terms of rental contracts to sublet.

    • I have to admit, I was a bit the opposite. I’m a pretty extreme introvert (I.e. one social night out every 2 weeks on average), but I’ve never had a problem living with room-mates.

      Lodging was a bit trickier, since there was always something of a “My house” dynamic which made things a bit awkward for me. I preferred the more egalitarian dynamic of a roommate. I wound up leaving the second, owing largely to a lack of respect between the landlord and I .

      Either way, as long as you have a room to yourself and a landlord or room-mates who respect your privacy, Introversion isn’t necessarily a serious obstacle to sharing a house.

  21. Just a few thoughts on roommates, if you decide to go this route – if you can, take the time to shop around and find the right situation for you. Some people choose share house situations because they are super-extroverts and genuinely prefer them, but most people choose them for the same reason as you – to save money. That means there are a lot of fellow introverts out there in the same boat of looking to share a place without becoming Instant Best Friends. Respond to ads with code words like “quiet home,” “peaceful,” “respectful of each other,” “I work three jobs and spend all my free time at my boyfriend’s” etc. Explain upfront at the roommate interview that you need your own space and quiet. Some people will be turned off by this but others will be happy to hear it and think you are perfect.

    If you find roommates who are introvert-friendly, they can be such a blessing in disguise to provide a built-in social life in a new place. Those nights when you’re feeling lonely, but don’t have the energy to leave the house – a chat with your roommate over a cup of tea can be deeply comforting. I know where you’re coming from, because my parents were also awful and I assumed living with anyone was automatically invasive and shouty and unpleasant. But living with peers is a completely different experience. You get to TALK about what the rules of the household are, and explicitly negotiate them, instead of having to passively accept an unfair situation.

    When I was 17, I didn’t take any of this advice – I moved out of my parents’ house into a slumlord-owned group house with 7 other people who were not that nice to me because it was the cheapest thing I could find. And you know what? It was still infinitely better than living with my parents, because even though people sometimes handled things like “do your dishes!” in a mean way, they didn’t feel entitled to criticize my personality or issue personal insults, or take out their bad day on me just because I was there. And other people didn’t grant them a social license to do those things just because they shared my DNA. It was very empowering! So like the Captain says – you are already living with the worst roommates ever. It can only get better.

    • “Some people choose share house situations because they are super-extroverts and genuinely prefer them, but most people choose them for the same reason as you – to save money. That means there are a lot of fellow introverts out there in the same boat of looking to share a place without becoming Instant Best Friends. Respond to ads with code words like “quiet home,” “peaceful,” “respectful of each other,” “I work three jobs and spend all my free time at my boyfriend’s” etc. Explain upfront at the roommate interview that you need your own space and quiet. Some people will be turned off by this but others will be happy to hear it and think you are perfect.”

      Yes, excellent point.

      I will say though, that I’ve lived as a 3rd roommate in an apartment where the other 2 girls were more-or-less best friends, and that was very awkward for me. Even though I didn’t want to necessarily be “Instant Best Friends,” living with roommates who are can cause problems, both from a general comfort standpoint or things like rules of the household.

      • I’ll go further: my first share house situation, it got to the point where we were buying toilet paper seperately because the other two roommates didn’t like my choice of brand but wouldn’t use their words to ask me to buy something different when it was my turn; and I wasn’t allowed to use the microwave or the TV in the living room because they belonged to the roommate who hated me. She had her reasons, believe me. In due course they kicked me out, and I don’t blame them… AND IT WAS STILL BETTER THAN LIVING WITH MY PARENTS. And I went on to have a much more successful shared housing arrangement in which no one kicked anyone out.

        My point is: even if your first roommate situation turns out to be a disaster, that’s not the end of the world, and is probably better than staying where you are.

        • In all honesty, I do agree.

          Keep in mind that not only were they best friends, but we were all foreigners in a Spanish-speaking country, they didn’t speak English or Spanish well enough to really be a good friend of mine, their culture was different entirely (both from China), I had money problems there too…and as hard as it was, I was “profoundly happier” according to my friends, and I agree.

          So basically…try to find roommates that are compatible with you, is basically what I was trying to say. Especially regarding the “best friend” dynamic.

          Or at the very least, make sure they come from a similar culture and speak a language you speak well.

          • Maybe it’s not my place but this comment upset me a bit so I’m going to wade in…

            Finding flatmates that are compatible with you and what you want from your living situation (which is good advice) is NOT the same as making sure they are from a similar culture and speak a language you speak well.

          • Sorry, didn’t mean to offend, tongue-in-cheek statements don’t always come across as such online :-p

            We were just both talking about how we had such bad living experiences with roommates. I was saying how I had a good amount of conflict, I never felt like I was at home, AND we didn’t speak any of each other’s languages well and come from drastically different cultures (Chinese versus Urban Black American)… it is still far better than being abused by your family.

            I know it’s not the same, just saying that pretty much any situation is better than abuse.

          • Thanks for apology and clarification. :)

          • No problem, happy to clarify!

          • I actually disagree somewhat with Manatee’s point about language — sharing vacation fluency in at least one language with your roommates will make it significantly easier to resolve conflicts.

    • I also want to nth that introverts can totally live in a shared home situation! I currently live in a house with three other people, and they are a mix of suuuuuuper extraverted to pretty freaking introverted. The solution to making sure that I get as much privacy as I want was just to say, “please knock before coming into my room” and then also spending a lot of time in there. Also, we are good enough roommates that one of us can say “I am feeling introverted right now” and everyone will leave that person alone. When one lives with peers/ people who one does not have baggage with, you can say things like that without it becoming A Thing.

  22. LW, we are all rooting for you!

    My own personal take is that, if I were in your shoes, my first step would be to look for an alternate living situation in a place where I could keep my secure job, at least for the moment. Since you mentioned that you have a habit of taking on too much and getting overwhelmed, changing everything about your life all at once might be TOO MUCH CHANGE.* So maybe start with the living situation, with the suggestions of the other commenters, including just getting out of the house more if that’s possible, and gradually transition to moving to a whole new city and a whole new job and a whole new life. As someone who just changed her whole living/job situation in the past year (for only good reasons! by choice!), I can tell you that it’s a LOT of change and if I’d had the choice of all-at-once or in increments, I would have done it in increments. But my situation was very different, and did not have the urgency that yours has, depending on the behavior of your father.

    *Of course, your safety comes first and other commenters have excellent practical tips on how to get out quick and/or unnoticed.

    Whatever you decide, however you decide to do it, I am wishing the best for you.

  23. There’s a story in my family that when my grandfather was younger, he and my grandma were struggling financially and a friend gave him a few hundred dollars. He didn’t want my grandfather to pay him back, and instead asked him to help someone out the same way if he ever had the chance to in the future. And he did!

    If your friend wants to give you money vs. loaning it and it makes you uncomfortable, maybe you can think about it as a very long-term loan that you’ll eventually be paying off to someone else in a bad situation. In the past few years, as my partner got a job that pays much more than their previous one (and more than we need), we’ve helped some friends out. It makes me so happy to be able to do that, and I don’t ever need them to pay me back. If they ever tell me “hey, remember when you helped me pay for that surgery? I just contributed to someone else’s surgery fund now that I’m in a place to do that” it will probably make me feel better than I ever could if they just wrote me a check.
    I’m imagining Future You, safely away from your family, in a life that you’ve built for yourself and can be happy in. Maybe you’ll know someone who needs help, and you’ll be able to provide it in some way, the same way your friend wants to help you now.

  24. yes please! make secret plans so your abusers can’t destroy them. accept all help and you just might achieve so much happiness and freedom you will be able to repay your friends and even help someone else some day.
    look how Katie Holmes escaped Tom Cruise: she made secret foolproof plans and she got helped. and now she is free!

    • Man, as someone who really couldn’t care less about celebrities, I was still soooo happy when I heard she left.

      In my case I was really glad to have booked a taxi ahead of time because I’d planned to leave on a day my abuser was going to be out for several hours. He came home unexpectedly and saw my packed bags and only let me go when the taxi driver came to the door (because, you know, that’s a stranger, can’t look bad in front of strangers).

  25. I so, so, so wish I had had your courage and resourcefulness when I was in your situation 40 years ago. I didn’t then but now I know a lot more about how to get where you want to go. All the Captain’s advice is EXCELLENT. Be sure to use every resource you can.

    Not sure if anybody suggested this yet, but do ask your boss or supervisor at your job to write a letter of recommendation for you. It’s okay to let them know that at some point you may be getting another job. Bosses and supervisors rarely take it personally when a part-timer indicates s/he wants endorsement for the quality of the work they’ve been doing. People often ask for letters of recommendation just so they have one on file for later. Get it on whatever letterhead the boss/supervisor uses, if possible. Later, if you need to move on to another job, another city, whatever, this letter can be a big help to show future bosses, future roommates, and possibly landlords, just to give you a reference. If anybody else in your life, such as a clergyperson or teacher can be counted on to write you a letter of recommendation, be sure to ask. It’s hard to ask for help, but it’s part of belonging to the human race. And I’ve written (and asked for) letters of recommendation. It’s not a burden on the person you ask–it feels good to help.

    I like the idea of you asking your friend for a loan, and crashing with hir for as long as it takes to get on your feet. You are already worn down from the constant emotional abuse, which is worse than physical abuse in many cases because it attacks your sense of self and your confidence in your ability, lovable-ness, intelligence, attractiveness, personality–everything about you. Get out now, dear heart. I’ll be rooting for you.

  26. (Long time lurker, first time commenter, because I just had to say this): You’re so brave! The Captain’s right, you’re definitely thinking along good lines. I don’t have any better advice for you than the lovely advice people have already given, but you can do it. Whatever you do, once you can get out, you’ll do so well. You’re worth this, and I believe in you.

  27. You remind me so much of myself, LW. And believe me, you can live with more than you think so. I do get why, as an introvert, you’re afraid to live in a shared house. And if that’s something you’re sure of, you’re totally the expert on your own life, so I’m not trying to diminish that.

    But coming from another person who had to get out of an abusive home: I had a long list of things I just wasn’t confident I could handle. And believe you me, that list has WAY THE HELL SHORTENED in the years since.

    When I was a kid, I was in and out of mental institutions, on and off medications. I failed a year of high school. I was discharged from the navy because of a mental breakdown. I was beat up by a boyfriend. All that was before I turned 20. My family believed I would never, ever be able to live independently. I spent my 20s just trying to get myself together and figure out what the hell was going on with me.

    Then the opportunity to go to college dropped in my lap. In order to stay in school, I’ve been homeless, I’ve rented out living rooms, I’ve lived a step up from a dorm by sharing a room with a young student, I’ve dealt with and conquered terrifying financial situations, and I’ve done it all maintaining a high GPA and doing impressive, high-profile, CV-padding stuff since I know that there’s no way I’m getting my PhD without funding. And a PhD is what I want more than anything in the world.

    And I started this journey with the thought in my head that I might not be able to even live independently.

    Lots of people act like I’m this amazing survivor. But I’m a freaking mess, just like everyone. I still do self-destructive shit, I still struggle with self-doubt, I still cry myself to sleep sometimes. And had I known where this journey was going to take me, back when I didn’t think I could handle life at all, I would never have started. You will be *amazed* how much you can handle that you think you can’t. Turns out… most of us are not special snowflakes. Not even introverts or people with mental problems. Most of us do what we have to. But if your situation is anything like mine was (and it sounds like it is), you have so many reasons to believe that you ARE uniquely incapable, and so little practical, personal experience to the contrary. You have only a fuzzy idea of what it would be like to be the person you want to be, and so much self-doubt (not to mention your dad) telling you to know your place. Even if you have good friends around you are telling you that you rock and that you’re capable, I think that self-doubt will exist until you BUILD the confidence your jerk dad systematically stripped from you.

    Your jerk brain is holding onto this stuff that no longer serves you because your entire identity is wrapped up in it now. But you don’t want this identity anymore, do you? You want something else. At some point, I think you just have to take the leap, deny the false information you’ve built up as a survival mechanism, and just do the thing you’re afraid you’ll suck at doing. If you have to share a house, share a freaking house. As the captain points out, it’s not going to be any worse than living with people who break you down, keep you tied to that weak person your jerk brain is telling you you are.

    Please, please take a leap of faith in yourself. Do one of these things that you’re afraid you won’t be able to handle. I think you have no idea what you can handle – even take in stride – until you start going for what you want, and not what you think you can handle.

  28. Nthing what everyone else has said about letting people help: I gave money to a then-dear friend who was struggling, and asked only that sie do the same for someone else when sie could. (We’ve since exchanged African Violets, but I’m still happy I was able to help.) A friend of mine gave The Acorn the money he needed for his share of the deposit on his first apartment, as a way of paying forward the kindnesses sie and hir partner had received over the years. (And because sie wants me to move to hir state, and getting The Acorn into his own place was a big milestone on that path!)

    Re: GEDs: some local community colleges administer the exams AND have low-cost prep courses for people getting out of abusive situations. The Acorn has a GED rather than a high school diploma, and it didn’t make a difference to his getting into college — and now that he has his BA, no one gives a cuss about it. So don’t let the lack of that particular piece of paper push you to put college on the “not for me” shelf: if you want to, when you’re safe, it’s possible.

    • Good catch regarding GEDs (if the LW is American at least).

      One of my abusive, clueless family members made a ridiculously condescending “well, college isn’t for everyone” comment when I told xir I was dropping high school for a GED*.

      “Yeah uh, no, this isn’t 1940. That’s not how it works.”

      My GED adviser claimed that if historical precedent held, then my GED scores (which weren’t even perfect) would have gotten me into at least one of the local (public, lower ranked) RU/VH. So yeah, getting a GED isn’t like being blacklisted from universities everywhere.

      Instead of going that route, though, I chose to take some 100/200 level Gen Ed requirements at a CC before transferring. That’s also an option for people who maybe aren’t quite as confident about going straight to a university after a GED. I don’t necessarily recommend that for the LW, I’m just throwing it out there.**

      *For me, a GED was literally the best option from an academic standpoint. Too many people don’t understand just how thoroughly some schools are messed up. “Work hard and get your diploma” assumes that one even has classes to attend. Everyone seems to agree that “cracks” in society exist, but some seem to forget that it’s actual human beings (not amorphous “inevitabilities”) who fall through those cracks.

      **A suggestion though (with the caveat that everyone is wise to use their own best judgment): unless you have the opportunity to go to a very high-quality school, maybe don’t go until you’re reasonably confident that you know what you want to focus on. I really regret listening to the people who kept telling me that I’d “figure it out soon” as I floated from interesting subject to interesting subject. I didn’t figure anything out except that life is too short for all the interesting things; my indecision cost me money and gave a refill to people who wanted to paint me as a failure.

      • LW’s use of “flat” tells me probably not American, but this is good info, thanks!

        • You’re welcome. If it’s not too awkward, then thanks to you and the community here for so much awesome.

          Okay, I got that out of my system, back to the LW.

          • You know, I really didn’t pay enough attention to the way I wrote that last comment. The last part of it was supposed to mean “I will now return my attention to the LW”. I was not trying to issue a directive at you, CA. I’m sorry if it reads it that way.

  29. When confronted with such difficult choices I think of what would make me happy. Sometimes there is no connection between the rwo; the process sometimes provides answers sometimes to wrong questions. It does not matter if you ironed everything, the path may remain fuzzy but that life.

    I went through a very difficult time surrounding my husband’s suicide. At that time, blame was the name of the game and because I was a physician and he returned that afternoon to the town where I lived with our children. I blame myself because I knew it would happen and I knew that phone call to the police could trigger desperation and I., for , the first time since we we married feared for his life. He was an alcoholic who was unemployed. Without me, he would have to rely on his huge family. That awful day he took his life , he said he wanted to die with his family, meaning the kids and I. .

    At that moment, I realized I was pushed before finding my wings. I don’t know if any of this makes sense . But you know what you need to do,..when we are on the right path there will be people to guide us

    • First of all, I’m so sorry for your loss.
      Regarding “what would make you happy”: I can’t speak for the LW, but as someone who grew up in an emotionally abusive home, it’s sometimes very hard to figure out what it is that I actually want, rather than what I think will please others or keep me out of trouble. One of the things about abuse (emotional or physical) is that it can make it very difficult to have any real sense of yourself, because you’re always reacting.

      • I also grew up in an abusive emotional and physical household, my mother and her side of the family knew no better, or so they say.

        KL, Your words are true about losing a sense of yourself and always reacting or trying to please. That’s a difficult place to leave partly because of the guilt associated with thinking about what makes you happy rather than what everyone else expects from you.

        I wish you strength and confidence in making some tough decisions.

  30. Fellow high school dropout (or “rise-out”) here. I too had Reasons, but I found it very empowering to get my GED and start earning credits at the local community college while my peers were still in high school.

    The GED is very basic. Unless you have a lot of trouble with standardized tests you probably don’t need any prep class. There is some very straightforward reading comprehension, some easy word problems and arithmetic for math (not even any algebra if I remember correctly), a very short essay, and some basic history. For a self-described egghead it’ll be a snap.

    The only time I ever needed my GED was when registering for community college classes. After that, no one cares. Not in academia, not in job interviews, and definitely not in social settings. Because let’s face it: high school is an awkward stage that most of us would rather forget. You’ve been out of school and working for years, which is much more relevant to your adult life.

    I had to get over some shame and insecurity about quitting school, which I did by re-framing my own stories. Yay for therapy and yay for apartment hopping, because meeting new people is another great way to re-frame your own stories. As far as roommates go, the people I’ve lived with have always been more like cool co-workers than like every 90′s sitcom.

    Another kid-movie recommendation: Pongo (don’t judge, it’s Hayao Miyazaki). The floodwater is rising and the mom sends her 3-year-old child out alone to get help. It’s spectacularly bad parenting but an indelible movie-moment when she says ‘Sometimes we have to take a leap! Be brave!’

    Everybody here is rooting for you, Ms. Kittenwhiskers.

    • I was really excited at first when I thought you were talking about a Hayo Miyazaki film I hadn’t seen, until I realized that you meant Ponyo haha. The kid’s five or six, and the mom actually tells him to stay at home while she goes to help at the senior’s center. Still kind of terrifying parenting, but such a good film all the same. Also terrifying is the mom’s driving, though. With a little kid in the car! At least they wear seatbelts.

      • Ponyo, sorry! (spellcheck still things it’s Pongo, lol.) Yeah, she drives like a maniac! As soon as they showed that little causeway I thought ‘gee, I wonder if this will flood and necessitate a daring reckless car chase?’

        I don’t know why I thought the kid was 3, maybe just because I watched it in a theatre that was PACKED with toddlers. (With the cutest audience commentary EVER!)

    • Speaking of movie recommendations: Real Women Have Curves. The family in the movie isn’t quite as conflictual as LW’s, but it’s a great example of a young woman in conflict with her parents and how she takes control of her life. When I was emotionally separating myself from my Mom’s emotional abuse/power and control issues I found it very helpful to see a young woman becoming independent while still keeping hold of the good things in her childhood (re: A Stopped Clock is Right Twice a Day!)

  31. Depending on where you live/end up, you might be able to find community centers that offer GED tutoring and classes. I’m in Chicago and our neighborhood community center offers that (along with Adult Basic Education classes/tutoring, life skills classes/tutoring, computer skills classes, ESL classes and one-on-one tutoring, and more). It’s free. So if you’re interested in pursuing your GED you might be able to find free or low cost resources in your area. And if you’re still worried about being a taking taker, you could volunteer to teach someone something that you know that they don’t which both pays back the org AND looks good on a resume.

    Good luck getting into a safer situation. You’re very lucky that you’re AWARE of the issues and that you have friends willing and able to help you out. It really does sound like you have a solid base to build a life on, despite what your jerk brain is telling you.

  32. Ahoy thar.

    This proves how awesome you are, LW! I have nothing to add to the awesome advice you have already received, but good luck and best wishes for doing what you need to do.

  33. Hi, LW! I’m going to de-lurk for this, because you seem like an awesome person who is doing so much correctly, and I wish more people were as level-headed as you are. You are doing great. It will be tough, but it will be worth it like I can’t tell you, and no one can tell you. You’ll get there, to where you have your own flat and your own life where no one messes with your head, and you’ll see how amazing it is.

    I just want to say one thing about accepting help from people that love you. I understand your reservations; I was like that, too. I thought that needing help will make people resent me, that people will help only out of sense of obligation, that I must be strong and never ever ask for anything, or else Tumbleweeds Will Roll through my social life.

    Then last year, I got very sick – unexpected complications from a simple procedure. I’ve never had anything more serious than flu in my life, and this was a new (and very unpleasant) experience. Suddenly, I needed help. Oh noes! At one point, I called an ambulance, spent seven hours by myself in am emergency room, got a procedure done there and didn’t call my family until I got out and needed a ride home. And guess what, they were sad and disappointed that I didn’t call them sooner. They wanted to know. They wanted to be there with me and hold my hand, then take me home and make me noodle soup. They wanted to drive me around to appointments and check in on me at home.

    The whole point of this comment is, asking for help from people who loved me actually made me realize that people loved me. I knew it, like you probably know that your friend loves you, but hell, it’s so difficult to believe that you don’t have to be perfect for them to love you anyway. This, asking for help, made me understand that there were people I could rely on. It brought me so much closer to my family. So here is another reason for you to accept help, on top of the ones already listed here: it will make you really see how much your friend loves you, and it could make the two of you even closer, not break you apart like you might think.

    Stay awesome and take good care of yourself.

  34. One suggestion–have someone, be it your awesome friend or your therapist or someone else, be your mental checkpoint. I know from experience that constant verbal abuse makes your own thoughts feel untrustworthy. I have been out of a situation like that for over five years, and I still have trouble with it. I have a really hard time figuring out when I’m honestly sick/upset/hurt and when I am ‘just whining’ or ‘making it up for attention’. (that being one of emotional abuser’s main taunts). Having a friend there to tell me, no, it IS that bad, was incredibly helpful. I knew/know all these things objectively about verbal/emotional abuse, and I would have no problem thinking or saying ‘it’s not your fault’ ‘you did nothing wrong’ and so on…except when it’s me. Somehow then I find myself saying ‘but really, I was pretty difficult, it’s understandable they would treat me like that, I never did my schoolwork and was really lazy…’.

    Also on the introvert thing, I think that a lot of introverts feel like they are the only one, because, well, social/extroverted people are more visible. But as the Captain says, tons of introverted people need roommates too. I definitely would suggest talking beforehand about issues like bedroom doors open/closed when home but not sleeping, public area use, and so on. For some reason this issue has caused more stress and drama with people I know than cleaning or rent issues! Three of my friends with *very* different sociability levels took to using signs on their door with possible indicators like ‘home but needing space, only knock if important’, ‘sleeping’, ‘bored, come talk to me!’ etc.

  35. I don’t think I saw anyone else suggest this yet, but since you are part time at your job and your co-workers are awesome, let them know that you are looking for a second job. You don’t have to tell them anything about your family or wanting to move out. It might be better if you didn’t. Wanting full time work is pretty standard, so there is no need for explanations about why you want another job. If they are as awesome as you say, they will be inclined to help. Don’t be afraid to talk about it now and then to remind them. Don’t nag, obviously, but bring things up like, “I did some weekend job searching, I walked into a place with a help wanted sign, but they had just filled it. Hey, have you seen anything lately?” Having a current job will show that you are responsible, and it will help toward finding a second job even without a HS diploma. Then, you can afford to live by yourself.

    One option for living, and this can have drawbacks, is renting a basement or attic from a homeowner. The advantage is that frequently the homeowner does not go through a leasing company, and they sometimes have fewer requirements for signing a lease. The drawback specific to this situation is that they sometimes have a lack of boundaries and treat you like you are their underage offspring rather than their tenant.

  36. Couple of things:

    1) Your GED is going to be “read this, answer some questions.” Based on your writing, you have enough education to pass your GED without studying. Go take it, or at least take some of the online sample questions (you can Google them). If at ALL possible, get your diploma because it’s much more valuable than your GED. (I am a teacher. I know these things.) You may be able to get your diploma through adult school.

    2) When looking for a roommate, flat-out ask your prospective roommates if they’re introverts, morning people, etc. I am an introvert and would much rather have introverted roommates than extroverted roommates. Extroverts who bring lots of friends over all the time would make me want to hide in my own house, but I do need someone to live with.

    3) I am a taxpayer. I happily pay taxes so that people like you can get the help you need. This isn’t charity. I grew up on Welfare and went through college on the Pell grant. My boyfriend lives on disability. This is my way of paying back (or forward) for the support I got. Lots of people are like me. I want to see you become a productive member of society so I can pay back the world what I got and also because, practically, anyone who can support herself in a meaningful job that she likes is going to be a positive influence on the world, not a negative one, and we need more positive influences. So get the help to get the great job! That’s what it’s for!

    4) I grew up in an abusive situation. Don’t listen to the voices in your head that say you’ll fail and that’s bad. You only fail badly if you freeze in place. Messing up is ok and normal – that’s how you learn. I blew up my life at least 3 times in major ways and they all contributed to the me I am now – and I’m pretty awesome now. I would be much less awesome if I hadn’t blown myself up a few times. And nothing in my adult life turned out to be as bad as my parents made my future out to be when I was a kid. They were wrong.

    5) If you can do and accomplish and plan all this much at your age, you have a lot of what it takes to make it in the world. Be proud of yourself.

    6) Are you emancipated? Can you become emancipated? Can you go to adult school to get your diploma? Can you arrange with a high school to take community college classes around your work schedule and have that count toward your diploma? If people know you are abused and you are 17-19 years old, they may help you out by sending you to a halfway house instead of a foster home, or emancipating you since it’s obvious you can hold down a job. I’ve a friend who spent a year in a halfway house and it was really good for her – they taught her necessary life skills (like budgeting) and helped her get on her feet when she was 18. Consider it.

    Good luck!

  37. LW here.

    Oh… oh my goodness. You know, I wrote this letter at 2 in the morning, just thinking over and over, “This is insupportable, this whole house is impossible for me to thrive in. I can’t live here much longer, but I don’t know how to get out.” I didn’t expect it to be answered, but I had to write it. I can’t believe how many people have responded to this, how many people CARE, and that nobody told me that I deserved it for being an awful daughter who can’t appreciate what she’s got, which I know is the DadBrain talking but is too easy to believe. I’m shaking and almost crying and so thankful to all of you. I only read the comments quickly so I could leave this LW-updates-you-all message, but I’ll go back and read them thoroughly a bit later. Thank you all so, so much. This is, to totally misquote Kanye, the best comment space on the internet of all time. OF ALL TIME.

    I don’t think the situation is as urgent as many of you seem to think, thank heavens. He hasn’t been physically abusive since I was 17, and his emotional abuse is much less… virulent… since I got a Respectable Job (TM), although he does like his little digs about me not doing anything with my life. The abuse has always been intermittent, which in some ways I think might be harder to cope with than if it was non-stop – how can the guy who taught me how to use a computer and gave me the Birds and the Bees talk and introduced me to sci-fi shows be the same guy who tells me I’m worthless as a human being and who once locked me out of the house on a frosty-cold morning when I had a bad cold and didn’t want to go to school? I can’t get it to compute. If he was just out-and-out horrible 24/7 it would be easy to hate him and be done with it, but I can’t. So the situation’s only urgent in that I suspect I won’t be able to start healing properly until I have put plenty of distance between us, both physically and emotionally.

    I am, however, glad to report that the situation has cleared up a little since I wrote. I’m actively looking for a cheap flat to live in within an hour of my job (difficulty: no rental agency wants someone with pets, and I have a rescue cat who I can’t leave behind, because my dad hates her and we have a dog who makes her life a misery. I’ve been looking on Gumtree – much like Craigslist, but more Australian – and think maybe I’ve found a pet-friendly place for a fairly reasonable price in easy public transport distance from my job. Fingers crossed! If it doesn’t pan out, then I will start looking at roommate situations), and have agreed to my friend’s offer of financial assistance and asked hir to be a “guarantor” for when I find somewhere suitable. I did briefly consider moving cities to where my friend is, but this is a much bigger deal here in Australia than in other countries, I think, just because the cities are spread so far apart – and the rental market where xie is is much MUCH more expensive than here. I think I could be happy there, but not for a few years, maybe once I have some sort of qualification, probably through TAFE (Technical and Further Education, i.e. So You Want An Apprenticeship? We Can Help! Sarcastic, because they do have lots of other things on offer, like floristry courses and certificates in conveyancing and diplomas in midwifery, but it’s generally considered inferior to university, in that “middle class is the only option” way).
    I’m also trying to work up the courage to either ask my boss for more hours or to help me get some proper training, probably something like a Certificate III in Administration. I’m very scared to, even though I know there’s no reason to be – they wouldn’t have taken me on and kept me for three years if they didn’t want me to be there, right? But my JerkBrain (not really the DadBrain, but maybe its cousin), keeps telling me that they only took me on in a nepotism-esque way because Mum knows the boss, which might be true and might not be but isn’t very helpful either way.
    Another difficulty (which I didn’t mention in the post) is that I have several medical conditions, some mental, some physical, some of which count as invisible disabilities, but I can’t get disability assistance for several reasons. I don’t know if I’m PHYSICALLY capable of working more. I sometimes think I am, but I don’t know for sure, and if I get a second job or an extra 10 hours a week or start studying and then realise “whoops, drowning under too much work” would be so incredibly not-good.

    Mum knows I want to move out. Dad knows too, but he still seems to think it’s me being a rebellious not-a-teenager-anymore and that I’ll settle down and be good. Mum wants to buy a place for me to live in. I said no. My excuse to her is that “I want to be independent, and how can I be independent if Mummy and Daddy buy a house for me?” Which is conveniently both what I believe is best for me (no judgement on people whose families did help them buy their first place, but I don’t think it’s right for my circumstances) and not at all relevant to the real reason I want to move out.

    I have my own computer and internet “dongle” (stupid word!) and mobile phone and mobile plan, and my own bank account, and it’s all password-protected. I have a few thousand dollars socked away in my savings – about eight grand total – and I’m trying to put some in every week, with varying success. Mum, for reasons best known to herself, is still giving me a weekly allowance despite me having a job and being over 21. I feel guilty taking her money like that, and I’ve asked her to stop a few times, but she hasn’t and I suppose I won’t ask her again now that I really am planning to move out, because I do I need all I can get. I don’t like that she’s giving me money, but I guess I need her to for at least a little while.

    Thank you so much, everyone. You’ve given me a lot to think about, and you’re all so kind to me. I don’t deserve it, really, but thank you.

    • Here is the thing, dear LW..

      You DO deserve it. Say it out loud and claim it, whisper it to yourself when you start to hear jerkbrain or dadbrain and drown them out with the reclamation of your own thoughts, dammit you do deserve to receive kindness. You always have, and you still do, and you will in the future. Every single person deserves kindness, a comfortable living environment and a positive, honest, functional support system. If every single person had those things, maybe, just maybe, the world wouldn’t be so populated by hurting and damaged people, you know?

      You do deserve it. You are worth it. I promise.

    • You deserve every kindkess, dear heart. EVERY KINDNESS. Take your mom’s guilt money and sock it away for yourself for when you eventually leave- that’s why she’s giving it to you.

    • Dear Mrs Kittenwhiskers,

      I’m so glad to read this update and hear that you’re taking steps. I’m keeping fingers crossed for you and sending you lots of good wishes. For different reasons from yours, I’m also familiar with the way that other people’s low opinions of you can insinuate themselves into your head and become your accepted view of yourself, and how difficult it is to tear those ideas down and rebuild a new mental picture of yourself that doesn’t include them. It’s long and it’s slow and it’s HARD. But it is also do-able. It’s the best thing I ever did.

      Anyway, I wanted to respond to one specific point in what you said above – your fear that your boss only took you on because of knowing your mother and that this means you don’t get to ask for anything in terms of increased hours or training. I want to challenge both parts of this. (I know that on some level you already know that your logic is flawed there, but I also know that it can be helpful to have someone impartial break down and lay out for you the ways in which it’s flawed, so I’m offering that in hopes that it will help you.)

      Part 1 of that belief – the concern that your boss only took you on because of knowing your mother. The thing is that, so far as that statement goes, it’s actually perfectly plausible – that may well have been the reason your boss took you on in the first place. However, that’s not going to account for any more than the boss saying “OK, let’s give her a try and see how it works out.” From then on, it will have been up to you and how you did in the job. I guarantee you that if they had any issues with your work, they would not have kept paying you for three years just as a favour to your mother. Favours don’t go that far in the work world. (Think about this – how many other people does your boss know who might want to call in a favour and get a job for their child/friend’s child/second cousin three times removed? Zie isn’t going to be able to accommodate them all. The ones who get taken on will be the ones who look like they can do a job that needs doing in the company. The ones who stay employed will be the ones who demonstrate that they can indeed do the work to a satisfactory standard.)

      Part 2 of that belief – I think you’re thinking of training and/or longer hours as though they were some sort of favour you had to ask the boss for. They’re actually things that are mutually beneficial. If you get more training, you’ll be able to do your job better, which will be good for the company. If they need more work doing and you need to expand your hours, that’s good for both of you. Worst case scenario is that there might be practical reasons why they can’t offer either of those things at this point in time. Even if that does turn out to be the case, you will still have impressed your boss by letting zir know that this is something you’d like to do. Bosses like employees who step up and ask for ways to do more, get more involved, get better at their jobs. That is what a boss likes to hear. So, even if it turns out that they don’t have any more hours available or if there’s some reason you can’t go on a training course right now, I can promise you that your boss’s reaction to what you asked for is not going to be “What a pain that she’s pestering me about this!” but more along the lines of “Cool! Glad to see Mrs Kittenwhiskers putting the effort in. I’ll have to keep her in mind if anything comes up in the future. Anyway, good for her.”

      I hope this helps and wish you lots of luck, strength and courage in your exciting (if scary) life journey ahead.

    • I just wanted to say I have a few friends who’ve done the HSC at Tafe and they all say it is much, much easier than doing it at high school.
      If you can, go to the Tafe you’re looking at studying with and speak to the counsellors there. I found out last year that because I have mental illnesses I can get fee exemption and dont pay ANY fees (you haven’t mentioned anything about mental illnesses but if you speak to the counsellors about your invisible illnesses they will be able to advise you on how best to go about things) so there may be some sort of financial support there that you can take advantage of.

      Have you tried speaking to a employment service? Centrelink referred me to CRS and they have been so so wonderful with helping me deal with my invisible illnesses and work/Tafe . I’m not sure if you would need to pay them if you’re not with Centrelink but it doesn’t hurt to ask. The bonus of this is that any potential employees are aware of your illnesses as you go into the job.
      They might also be able to tell you if there is any sort of subsidies that you can get from centrelink that you haven’t found out about yet.

      I just wanted to also add, make sure you have a GP that is separate from your parents(if you see the same person).

      I think you are so brave and so great for deciding to do what is best for you, I have so much faith in you. I think you’re going to do fantastic.

    • I just want to tell you, that I think that you are doing great.
      I could have written most of your letter 20 years ago. My mom wasn’t complicit in my abuse, but she checked out due to her own issues. When I was 19, I got away from my father. It was the best thing I could do. He said the same things, over and over to me.

      21 years later, I have a happy marriage, a beautiful 17 year old son, a college degree from a “real university” (dad’s words), and I moved 1300 miles away. While I do have some physical and mental health issues keeping me from working outside the home, I do some freelance writing that pays OK, and I am able to buy extras and fun stuff for my family.

      Taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do. Your father isn’t going to make it easy on you, but that’s because he doesn’t want to give up control over you. But you are already making the first steps, and doing what you need to, and you can see how much better you feel. Good luck!

    • It totally infuriates me that your father has forced you to spend huge quantities of energy over the years coping with him and his anger and abuse, to the point that you’ve forgotten how to eat properly because Kitchen = Abuse Zone, and then he derides you for not having accomplished more. That’s like forcing you to wear a bowling ball necklace, then critiquing your posture! (With gaslighting: “no really, sweetheart — it’s a pendant!”)

      Considering how well you’re functioning IN that environment, I can’t wait for you to discover how well you function OUT of it. Because really, having your act together as well as you do says you are actually intrinsically awesome — and you are going to do great once you get rid of the damned bowling ball.

      Do get therapy, though. Those messages of worthlessness are really hard to root out on one’s own, because they get so deeply imbedded you don’t even notice yourself thinking them.

      • It totally infuriates me that your father has forced you to spend huge quantities of energy over the years coping with him and his anger and abuse, to the point that you’ve forgotten how to eat properly because Kitchen = Abuse Zone, and then he derides you for not having accomplished more. That’s like forcing you to wear a bowling ball necklace, then critiquing your posture! (With gaslighting: “no really, sweetheart — it’s a pendant!”)

        Hah. It is SO like that. It’s probably a horribly coloured bowling ball too, like baby-poo yellow or mouldy green. One that goes with NONE of my outfits :P

        I am fortunate in that I am currently getting therapy (one visit to my wonderful psychologist every four to six weeks). I’ve been doing CBT with her for the past couple of years and it’s really helped me. It’s pretty much only since I started seeing her that I realised that it wasn’t just me being a Bad Daughter and a generally awful human being, it was that my father was downright abusive towards me and my mother not so brilliant either.

    • You’re doing great, really you are and it’s going to be difficult but it’s also going to get AWESOME after a few short years. How do I know? Cos if you switch a few details around, I used to be you.

      I have many invisible disabilities (some of which actually *caused by* parental abuse). This can make things harder but I promise you it doesn’t make leaving home impossible. I left home four and a half years ago and it feels like I only really started to *live* four years ago. The pressure of living with abusive people and mentally waiting every second for something to set them off is really immense but you don’t really feel how much it’s been dragging you down until it isn’t there any more. Being anxious and careful all the time is exhausting! And demoralising! And you do NOT have to live with it and NOBODY can make you. NOBODY. You are your own person and you deserve better. You deserve to be able to explore the whole of your potential – and you can’t do that while people are dragging you down.

      The advice here is brilliant. You won’t go wrong following it. I’d just say if there’s some reason why you might want to stay in touch with your family (this is allowed! There is no one true way to be an abuse survivor!) then try to find just one or two methods of contact and stick to those. I need to stay in touch with my abusive parents because my younger siblings are still very small children and I don’t want to leave *them* so I communicate with my parents via text message only and use that to arrange to meet up at fun things to take the children to. I don’t tell them my uni timetable or work schedule so I always have an excuse why I don’t answer, I stopped answering calls until they stopped calling me. I keep “forgetting” to tell them my new address and I don’t check the email address they know so they’ve given up sending emails. Basically, if you must stay in some sort of contact, make sure *you* are in control of that and it’s contact in ways that *you* are comfortable with – make them play by your rules if they want any contact at all with you.

      Good luck, LW and believe me fairly soon things will feel pretty great :-)

    • Ms. Kittenwhiskers, I am so glad to hear you’re scouting out apartments. Being entangled in relationships with shitty people is such a mindfuck, because abusers can be so charming when they want to. Because if they just spewed a steady stream of meanness then no one would stick around to hear it!

      Someone here had a really good suggestion in a different post, of using full sentences when you think about the people who give you cognitive dissonance. For instance, there’s Dad who introduced you to sci-fi and helped you develop an eating disorder. Holding these dualities in the same sentence doesn’t reconcile them but it can make them more manageable.

      You seem like such an awesome person, and all the DadBrains and JerkBrains are clearly manifestly wrong if they can’t see that.

      • To be honest, the eating thing was just as much Mum as Dad. She’s obsessed with her weight and thus with everyone’s weight. When I was fourteen and still skinny, about 45 kilos, my thighs started to touch a bit at the top and she told me I should just lose weight. She dragged me to Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig (can’t remember which) when I was ten because I’d put on a bit of weight… over the next two months, I grew two inches. She has eating habits that are almost as bad as mine, although Dad’s are bad too (he’s like me, he goes for days on very little food. Mum is more the “binge and fast” type) but she scolds me for not eating better, despite my never having had good food role models. Like I said, she’s kind of abusive as well – just not as much as him.

    • Ms. Kittenwhiskers,

      I don’t know how you got to be so awesome living in this situation, which makes me agree with the above comment: once you get out, once you shake the abuse and the anxiety, you will be one of those people that others consider personal heroes. You will be magnificent. Get out of there and stay awesome.

      You made such a brilliant observation about cognitive dissonance. This is so true. Imo, this is exactly why people get stuck in abusive, bad, toxic relationships. It’s really easy to leave behind a horrible asshole that beats you up all the time. It’s hard to leave behind the person who introduced you to sc-fi shows and who is actually very sweet sometimes. This is why people can’t leave these relationships.

      And when you do leave, it’ll be confusing. You’ll miss the good parts and want to get back together with your parents. You’ll think that you overreacted (which is bullshit). You’ll be paranoid and you’ll have nightmares. If you do, by the way, there is a fantastic dream-control technique that’s pretty easy to learn and helps you control bad dreams. I forget the name of it, but you can read about it if you look up “nightmares” on Wiki. But there will also be other moments, the moments of realizing that you’re living your own life and no one can make you do anything anymore. Just small things, but it’ll be like sensation returning to your limbs. Personal freedom is worth the sacrifice a million times over. My life exploded (in the best way) in my face after I broke ties with my mom. I accomplished more in one year than in the five years prior.

      Stay strong. You’re doing so much correctly. And with a head like yours, you will be magnificent when you can live to your full potential. I kinda wish I could see you ten years from now.

    • Dear Ms. Kittenwhiskers,

      I’m so glad to hear about the plans and work you have done to get out. You deserve it! You deserve a good life with no one gaslighting you.

      I know it’s hard, especially when it’s parents. In a lot of ways, we can’t help loving them. (Partly, that’s a survival mechanism from when we were small and helpless.) But it’s also because there is a lot of genuine cognitive dissonance there — from happy times clashing with times when we wished we could wake up from the nightmare. That’s horribly complicated. And I think you’re really insightful and amazing for already realizing that distance will help you untangle that (and it will, in a lot of ways, I think).

      Getting out from that house will feel like getting a pair of wings. (It will also feel like working in a chocolate factory going a little too fast, a la I Love Lucy, for a while.) We’re all rooting for you!

      The kitten on my lap (also a rescue) salutes you.

    • I think you are doing great. I just have one more quick note!

      It is awesome that you are doing this while your abuse is relatively mild. That is a great time to get out! You have more space and energy and you are not dealing with the burden of the worst of things. It’s maybe just a little bit easier.

      I think you will be struggling with your relationship to your parents and what their deficiencies mean for you, probably for years. That is okay. You don’t have to wait for that clarity before you leave, though. It is much easier to understand when you are out.

      Good luck!

    • Delurking quickly, as another Aussie with cats – often a real estate listing online won’t have the “pets permitted” option ticked, but they also won’t explicitly say “no pets.” In this case I’ve found it’s worth ringing up and checking, because the owners may be alright with a cat but not dogs. (And when I do this, I tend to mention relevant things to show that I’m aware of what damage they may do – i.e., “I noticed that in the photos there are wooden floors – my current place also has wooden floors, and I keep their claws trimmed so that they don’t scratch them,” etc.) Same applies to Gumtree.

      It is definitely possible to find a place to live with cats! Harder than without, of course, but easier than with a dog. (One of my friends has a dog, and that really does narrow it down.) It may be a less nice place than you could have got otherwise, but the kitty company will make where-ever you end up infinitely nicer anyway =)

      And seconding the bit about bosses liking it when people ask for more training or more hours! Training is a good thing. For example, if you take a course on a particular program that you use all the time, you then understand that software that you have to use much better and will be more efficient, be aware of the quirks that cause errors (every program has these, and they can be really hard to find out about unless you are told by Someone Who Knows. Do not get me started on Excel), etc. You come out of it knowing more, and they then have a person who does their work even better than they did before. It’s a win-win. Even courses that don’t directly relate to your job can be useful from the point of view of the company. My company tries to make sure everyone in admin gets to a course that’s essentially an overview of the different aspects of our industry. It’s not immediately relevant to admin, but from it they get a much better idea of what our company does, what’s involved with all of our jobs, and they’re much better able to help clients and direct calls, etc. Admin is awesome, and works magic, and this way they can work slightly more targeted magic.

      • I’ve noticed too that some places have a real anti-pet culture. I tried to rent in Ballina and the real estate agents didn’t want to even consider pets. Like it was an agreement they all made. Here at the Gold Coast it’s far more normal. But if you have a well behaved cat, there is no real reason to even admit you have one.

      • I’ve personally checked for many of the online listings. Sadly, for all the flats I’ve liked so far, it’s been “sorry, strata rules” where “strata rules” translates to “even goldfish are forbidden”. This means that – for example – although there was a great little place only twenty minutes’ walk from work, I didn’t bother applying because when I’d asked about pets, I’d told the estate agent I had a cat, so I bet they’d be on the lookout. If I hadn’t mentioned it might have been different, but I loathe going behind people’s backs because, although it sucks, they generally do have reasons for not allowing pets. Even though they mostly seem like pretty silly reasons to me, I guess they seem sensible to the owners and/or the agents.

        • If you’re looking at strangers who need one more person, sometimes they’ll say they have a cat so another one would be okay if they get along, or something like that. Might be worth looking out for.

          (And omg does it suck when you know that your pet is more tidy than most children!)

    • Ah, Australia! I’m in NZ, so we’re neighbours. *waves* I so understand where you are. I’m nearly 28 but I’ve been living with my parents since I was 21 or so after moving out and getting into an abusive relationship and leaving and working until I had a nervous breakdown. They’ve never been physically abusive and the emotional stuff is really subtle and insidious, not really *abusive* but not *healthy* either, and yeah I have invisible disabilities and two rabbits and I’m studying extracurricularly limited full-time (that is, part time, but with a medical certificate saying I can’t do full-time yet so that I can still be counted as full-time for benefits) so really not getting much money. It’s a landlord’s market (I’m in Christchurch, half the city’s housing still is really not suitable, everything else has shot up in price) so finding somewhere I can afford that will let me keep my rabbits?

      Today someone I only know via Twitter told me that she’s looking at buying a house (in Wellington) and if she does she’ll rent me a room. I said my requirements were near public transport, not a million steps, and I wanted to keep my rabbits, to which she said definitely I could. And I mean, this is contingent on her buying a house. And I’ve never actually met her. And we’ve only been friends for… not that long. So I’m really flailing about it a little going “but why would you do that???” I mean, it’s totally easy for me to tell OTHER people to accept things like that but when it’s ME? It feels so different. If it actually happens though I’m going to have to because right now, the economy *sucks*. No single person can do this stuff on our own. Even the people who get amazing high paying jobs, normally they have a lot of safety netting at first, it’s incredibly uncommon for someone to actually make big against ALL odds, but the good thing is? We aren’t fighting against all odds. We do have friends or great coworkers who can help us. The hard part is just going to be letting ourselves, really.

    • “The abuse has always been intermittent, which in some ways I think might be harder to cope with than if it was non-stop”

      Dingdingdingding yes.

      In behavioral psychology, intermittent reinforcement actually makes the conditioning stronger. For example, if you’re training a dog that if he sits he’ll get a treat, then you stop giving him treats, he’ll slowly stop sitting on command. But if you train him that if he sits then he’ll _sometimes_ get a treat, he’ll keep sitting and sitting and sitting even if it’s been ages until the last treat, because he doesn’t expect one every time but knows that next time could be the one where he gets the treat.

      And the same goes for aversives.

    • “…How can the guy who taught me how to use a computer and gave me the Birds and the Bees talk and introduced me to sci-fi shows be the same guy who tells me I’m worthless as a human being and who once locked me out of the house on a frosty-cold morning when I had a bad cold and didn’t want to go to school? I can’t get it to compute.”

      Damn, do I know how that feels. There’s a reason “But there are so many good things about him, too!” is a cliche. Turns out most people are neither saints nor monsters, and even people capable of horrible things can do really great things too, and your emotional attachment can’t always tell the difference. AND the abuse makes the good things seem even better by comparison! It’s all weird and hard to untangle.

      Anyway, regarding your mixed feelings about taking money from your mom: I had to let my dad pay for my therapy – which he didn’t think I needed – which I needed largely due to his abuse. So yeah. That sucks. You won’t be taking her money forever though, and for me, after some time passed it just became a lot less important/confusing that my dad had once paid for therapy for me. I think it’ll be the same for you.

      It’s awesome that you’ve got some savings, btw! You’ve got a lot going for you – it’s so nice to see what looks like it’s going to be a happy ending! I’m really excited for you to start this journey… well, you already started. Take a really big step, I mean. It’s so hard and so rewarding and so… rich. Realizing how much more you’re capable of and deserve than you ever knew… for me it was moments of exhilaration and terror and everything in between. I feel like I’ve lived and learned more in the past 5 years or so than the rest of my life up till now. :) I hope you eventually feel the same way. :)

    • Hey, fellow Aussie!

      BTDT, abusive parents, significant physical and mental disabilities, I left home at 17, from the country into the city, first time living in a city in my life, only a year after moving to Aus from rural NZ. Dealt with huge brainwashing about my disability (Cerebral Palsy – had no concept about how significantly it affected my thanks to my fucked parents refusing help for me unless it was convenient for them, so convinced myself I was `normal’ until I collapsed with physical and emotional exhaustion), about not accepting help from anyone, no real social skills etc, etc. It was so very very very hard and I struggled for many many years, but even at the most difficult, it was still better than living in the country with my abusive neglectful parents, and not being able to go anywhere due to not being able to drive.

      I am now 39, and have really only got to a better place in the last few years, after many years of severe depression, therapy and struggle. Things only started really changing once I was 30. It was so hard getting here, but NOTHING was ever as bad as the first 17 years of my life, as bad as things were, I had more control after age 17.

      There are at least 4 other readers of CA who know me and my story, three are good friends in offline life who I originally met online, one who I know online, who can back up the struggle I’ve had, and in some smaller ways still have.

      You have already survived the worst you will ever have to survive, as difficult things will be in getting out, it will still be easier than living with the abuse and brainwashing that you are now.

      I am absolutely CERTAIN you can do this and you will have a better life. Accept all of the help that you can, contact DV places, and disability support orgs, there are several orgs for women with disabilities in Aus (I run one! Who’d a thunk it – me?) that have info on resources and some have meetings for women with disabilities, so many of us have been where you are. Have a look at the national website – Women With Disabilities Australia http://www.wwda.org.au, they have contact info for the state orgs.

      This is the first step, and I promise, life will get better.

    • Hiya, Ms Kittenwhiskers!
      TAFE is great. Their business admin courses and similar are very highly regarded as practical courses for a range of different careers, especially for entry-level positions. Combined with your admin experience (plus what I assume would be a strong reference from your current employer) and you are extremely employable.
      Second off, it might be worth making an appointment at your local Centrelink. There are lots of assistance plans available to young people moving out of home, especially if you’re working and job hunting AND looking at TAFE. They can also direct you to private resources for mental health support and counselling if need be.
      Thirdly, you are going to be okay.

  38. I recently helped a friend move out from an unpleasant home situation (I wish I could’ve done more than just provide the ute). I have no regrets and expect no repayment because She Is My Friend and I Love Her. And when you love somebody, you give freely and joyfully*.

    So, do what you need to do; accept help that is offered freely and joyfully without doubts; and one day you will also be able to give freely and joyfully.

    *I apologise for the Evangelical-Christian rhetoric but it is seriously the only useful thing I learned while being indoctrinated (although I apply it to other people and not ‘the church’).

  39. LW,

    you mentioned being nervous about sharing space with others. I’m an introvert and I share a house with my extrovert boyfriend and another introvert friend (and one cat). We set up a couple house rules before we all moved in together so that we could stay out of each other’s hair (example: door open means “free to interact with me”, door closed means “I need personal space right now, please don’t interact with me”), and it works out fine. We were also pretty blunt and upfront about what we needed from a housemate, and that helped a lot. If you do a Google search for “roommate questionnaire”, those will give you an idea of the sort of things you should think about when you are looking for roommates.

    It’s also totally OK to not be friends with your roommates. I had a great roommate my first year of college, and we weren’t/aren’t really friends. We got along well, though, and we were comfortable with each other’s quirks. I’d rather room with her again than room with a good friend of mine who throws parties every weekend.

  40. Oh, honey. All the Jedi hugs. Also, you are super brave. Recognizing your situation as toxic and deciding to get out is, in a lot of ways, the hardest part. Not that the rest will be easy, but I’ve always found dealing with shitty external struggles way easier than shitty jerkbrain struggles, so major kudos.

    A lot of excellent stuff as been said already re: advice and accepting help and getting out and the fact that you are awesome and deserve awesome things. So I won’t repeat too much of it, but there were a couple of things I wanted to add.

    First, I would say there is absolutely no shame in asking for or accepting help when you’re just starting out, regardless of circumstances. EVERYBODY has help getting started; some just get handed it from loving families and don’t think twice about it and some of us have to fight for it or rely on random friends or mentors or even strangers. I would say accepting-just-starting-out-help is a totally neutral action in normal circumstances.

    In escaping-abuse situations, it’s not a neutral action. It’s a POSITIVE action. It’s a brave action. It’s a hard action. And it’s so very, very necessary. Let people help you.

    I used to be in similar shoes, and I was fortunate enough to have help and support escaping. I have since, through a mix of hard word, luck, privilege, and being really super cheap, not just gotten out and survived, but totally thrived. A lot of that wouldn’t have been possible without early support. And now that I’m in a good place, I’ve tried really hard to pay it forward. I’ve picked up friends from the curb when their parents’ threw them out. I’ve bought train tickets for them to get to a new city. I’ve let them live on my couch. I’ve paid for tests/classes they’ve needed to qualify for a job. I’ve co-signed two leases for friends in cities with rental markets not friendly to first-time renters. And it wasn’t all happiness and roses, but I’d do any of it again in a second. And I feel really awful when my friends are in shitty situations and I can’t help. Let your friend help! The sandwich means they loves you!

    I am glad to read your update and glad things are looking like they may come together. Best of luck and all the Jedi hugs you want.

  41. I can offer a tiny glimpse of the flip side of this:

    I am adult, comfortable, parenting two teenagers, happily married, and feeling lucky. If I offer to help someone, I REALLY MEAN IT!!! I offer what I can – a couch for a week, dinners every Friday (because that is the toughest day of the week in that house)… You can probably trust your friend to mean her offer, and then between you (with some awkward conversation) agree on terms for the help: amount and duration, loan or gift, or future pay-it-forward. As a grad student I accepted a lot of lunches, and each time the person feeding me said “just take someone out to eat when you can, a lot of people fed me lunch and I owe the universe” (or words to that effect). So. Accept help.

    all the luck -

    • You’re like my weaving teacher! She’s had 2-6 teenagers sleeping in her living room all January, one is her whāngai (like a foster kid, but more like an adopted kid, but not as formal) who isn’t even living with her right now because of his own stupid decisions and the rest are his friends. She’s always giving us presents if she sees something we’ll like too. She’s just that kind of person. And then she always reacts with amazed surprise when we get her something in return! I think there’s actually quite a lot of people who operate on this pay it forward doctrine (though with her it’s a Māori cultural thing as well as her personality) and who will honestly be *happy* to help, not just a neutral “you’re welcome” kind of “happy to help”, but actually actively happy.

      And really, OP, don’t we want to encourage this? :) This might be the tack I use in letting myself accept help, actually – thinking of it as keeping the co-operative economy going, and being grateful and sincere, and passing it on when I can. Hopefully it works!

  42. Please accept your friend’s help. I have offered help in similar situations. I can’t even tell you how good it makes me feel to be able to help a friend when they really need the help. When a friend is going through a bad time, one often feels helpless – there’s nothing we can do to make the abuse go away or to make the tumor disappear or whatever. In many cases, all one can do is visit the person and murmur platitudes. If there is something tangible to do, it feels so good to be able to do it. I love my friends and I want to make their lives better.

    And you know what? 25 years ago, I was the recipient of a lot of kindness and help when I was a newly arrived immigrant with no money and no English skills, and a lot of psychological baggage from what I endured in my country of origin. My parents and I benefited from a lot of kindness and a lot of financial help in those early stages of our life here. I am paying it forward.

    Accept the help, be grateful to your friend for doing this, and pay it forward. Take the positive energy and the love you received from her, and later on, when you have recovered and gotten back on your feet, give that positive energy and love to someone else. Or many someone elses.

  43. Let’s talk about jobs, and school as it relates to jobs.

    My perspective: I dropped out of high school, took the GED, and I didn’t finish college until I was 49 years old. I have a job making six figures — and I started this career long before I finished college.

    >I can state on good authority that no employer checks your high school records. I just put down the name of the school I would’ve graduated from, and the year I would’ve graduated, and that’s that. The GED is equivalent, so it’s fair to just put “Springfield High, 2010″ on your job applications.

    >Lots of employers don’t even check your college records. At one point, after I’d taken some college classes, I started putting the name of the college and my major (without a degree or graduation date) and people just assumed I’d graduated. Seriously, no one cares.

    >You can put lots of things on your resume, other than school, that are impressive. Volunteer work, employee awards (or just “never missed work”), free online classes that you can complete in a few days, weeks, or hours (codecademy, lynda, W3C schools). Even putting a “hobbies” section in can make you seem like an interesting, on-the-ball candidate.

    >Do some job research to help you think of jobs you might not have considered. People tend to apply for whatever jobs they’ve seen their friends and family do. The U.S. government publishes a “best jobs without a college degree” every year, and lots of magazines write articles based on that. Here’s one: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-40-highest-paying-jobs-you-can-get-without-a-bachelors-degree-2012-8?op=1.

    >If you Google “how to get a job” you’ll start finding a whole world of job advice, from resumes to job sites like LinkedIn or Monster to salary advice like Salary.com to how to interview, etc. etc. It’s kind of fun to realize that the world is your oyster.

    >Think about which jobs make the most money. Money isn’t everything, so think about the other factors as well, but don’t forget to think about the money. (Women, religious people, and working class people OFTEN disregard money because they think they don’t deserve more.) My best friend taught me this when we in our twenties — she negotiated better shifts, more money, etc. Google “finances for women” and retrain yourself to think about money as though you deserve it.

    >Some great jobs require only 2 years of schooling or less. Think about training for those when you have the time/money to do so. Student grants and loans are available for everything, including stuff you wouldn’t think of, like cosmetology school. If you want to go to a 4-year college, lots of colleges (particularly women’s or private colleges) give special financial aid to people from abusive or low-income backgrounds.

    >Waiting tables or working in a bar. No schooling required and you make a ton of tips. My one hesitation in recommending this is that it usually doesn’t lead to any better jobs (and working in a bar could be triggering for some people). But my real point here: think beyond minimum wage. There are tons of jobs that pay more than min wage, and you should try for those, all other things being equal. Usually you can start by applying for cashier or hostess jobs in restaurants (preferably ones that also have a bar, so you can work your way up).

    >Underground economy. Dog walking, babysitting, housesitting, gardening. There are lots of Craigslist jobs out there that can get you through the tough times. Be safe, though.

    >Dream about your future. Not in an anxious, “I gotta solve it all now” sort of way, but in a “write down things I want, and maybe I’ll change my mind later” kind of way. What kind of job do you want 5 years from now? What kinds of things would you like to afford in 10 years? What kind of retirement might you like? (You can start saving for that as soon as you start making a decent income — no one explained to me that $100 saved when you’re 25 is worth a lot more than $100 saved when you’re 45, because it has more time to earn interest before you retire.) If you let yourself dream about what you want, you start to see ways to create that dream in reality.

    >Google is your friend. Type in anything, even “how to start out in a new city” and Google will help you. Any question that crosses your mind, do a search for it. The whole world is on your side.

    • Just be VERY careful to not lie on your resume. It seems mostly-okay to put college (without year-of-graduation) with the assumption that it will be interpreted as the “Some College” category of education; they can follow up with you/ask questions if they’re curious.

      • Seconding ^ being very careful. You are often asked to verify thing late in the job process – without warning – and ‘being vague’ can easily become ‘lying’ in the eyes of a potential employer. I never know which jobs are going to care when I apply, but I have been required to produce certificates for everything I have on my CV – and one job recently that verified their validity with my university, even though I showed them the original. Some companies have been burnt by this recently, and so a lot of MNC just have verification as part of a standard hiring process.

    • Also echoing the caution about allowing companies to assume you’ve graduated by only putting down the name of a college and a major. As a former hiring manager, it’s, well … on thin ground ethically, which matters to some companies.

      Myself, I used to put down the first college I went to, but didn’t graduate from, as follows:

      [name of university] YY-YY. Major: [my major]

      Putting down a range of dates helped make it clear that I didn’t graduate, but did have some college experience.

      • Oh, this actually ties into some research I did for my last policy essay. One of the studies I was citing was looking at the pay increases for a) people who had gained a certain level of qualification and b) people who had studied towards it but not actually gotten it. And there IS a pay boost associated with studying but not getting the qualification. The idea is that by studying towards it you’re still using the skills needed for that level of study – this especially applies if, like, you didn’t burn out after two months, but actually did a decent chunk of time. So it is TOTALLY worth putting study on your CV even if you didn’t complete the course. (Social) science says so.

        • (Though it did note that they can’t really define how much of that is because people who study at a higher level might have more “natural ability” and how much is from specifically doing it. Also this applies across all education levels from high school up though they didn’t have much data on people who didn’t do ANY high school.)

  44. I come from a family who offers “help” and “gifts” lavishly and then holds it over your head forever when they want something. I’ve been known to get skittish when people innocently ask me what I want for my birthday. It drives me bonkers because I know that other people give gifts to friends because they want to give gifts to friends, and that in fact it distresses them greatly when I pop a sprocket over it, but I’ve gotten better at explaining.

    Take the help. Get out of there. Someday you’ll have a better life, and you’ll have a friend who needs to get out of a bad relationship rightthefucknow, or needs emergency car-fixing money, or who needs to sleep on your sofa because their house fell down in a hurricane, or something you haven’t even thought of yet. Then you’ll help them the way your friend is trying to help you. Consider that your contribution to the overall positive balance of the universe.

    Also, on a side note, folk in the Magical Kingdom of Normal People get really confused when you react to offers of assistance with “Aieee! I cannot pay for that!” You are almost literally having two different conversations here. You’re used to “let me give you something” having an unspoken undertone of “and don’t you ever fucking forget it”, whereas they’re thinking that “let me give you something” means “let me do this thing for, or transfer ownership of this object to, you without requiring remuneration”. I had this thwopped into my head some years ago when a bad thing happened and I wrote in my blog about it, and complete internet strangers yelled at me for not providing them with a way to give me money from afar. No lie.

    Also, I’m thinking you’re not in the US, since you use the word “flat” for apartment, but if anyone else who is happens to be reading this for advice, it is possible to get yourself declared independent for purposes of college grants and loans on the basis that being forced to contact your parents to get their tax information is detrimental to your sanity. I am not kidding. I went in to see one of my university counselors once, so I could get an unbiased opinion on whether my mother was really getting crazier or I was imagining it (crazier, if you wanted to know), and the psychologist tactfully alerted me to this.

    • BASICALLY ALL OF THE THIS.

      Um. Yeah. I now have the aversion to accepting help that you mention. And the guilt, and all of that lovely stuff.

      One day I just sat down and thought, to hell with this. They’re offering the help, I’m taking it. Because I’d rather take their rent money than be homeless and go live with them again. If I can just see this through to my financial independence, then all will be well and I can stop lying/being really careful what I say on the phone/doing things that I really don’t want to do to keep them happy, etc.

      It sucks some, yes. but I’ll tell you what it sucks much less than: actually living with my parents. That *really* sucked. This is…awkward, but better.

      One day, I’ll be able to visit for a couple of days every other christmas, and send a few emails the rest of the time, and they will have nothing they can hold over me.

      NB: I told my mother “no” recently. Experimentally. She said she’d cut off my money. This would make me homeless, given that I don’t have a job yet, and would mean I couldn’t look after my girlfriend, and – yeah. I’m not sure how far they’d push it, and I don’t really want to find out.

      But the second I have a job. That threat won’t be enough anymore, and there will be a lot more “nos”, and that will be completely awesome.

  45. Ms Kittenwhiskers–

    Like many others, I’m guessing from your word use that you live in the UK.

    If you can scrabble together the money, by saving from your job or taking a second part-time job, you are young enough to get a working holiday visa for either Australia or New Zealand. Much of the work is physical agricultural labour, such as fruit picking, potato grading, or wool sorting. Some places are looking for cleaners or waitstaff. Pay in NZ is normally NZ$13.50 per hour, which if you work 10 hours a day, 6 days a week (typical for an orchard), will get you about NZ$3000 per month after income taxes. Work for 2 months, travel for a month, work for 2 months, etc.

    Working outside your home country is not easy, and there are barriers of which cost is the biggest. That said, there are few better ways for you to break the pattern of abusive communication between you and your parents than putting literally a whole hemisphere between you and them, one where they can’t call at weird hours and can’t just wander over to wherever you are living to bother you, and where the cost and hassle of getting on a plane to go bother you are enough that they won’t just go bother you. If this is right for you, you will also gain work experience, confidence, and living experience, not to mention fun, life experience, and decent money.

    Many places have lodges for their workers to live. If they don’t, then there are holiday parks all across both countries, and you can pitch a tent in one of them and live for very cheap.

    If I got that wrong and you’re either an aussie or a kiwi, it’s even easier to jump across the ditch.

    • ahahahaha don’t come to New Zealand. We’re deep in recession and the only jobs are in the rebuild, really. A lot of construction companies try not to hire women (my sister worked construction some years ago and they were REALLY dubious about whether to take her on) and one of the biggest construction companies in the country just went into receivership, plus there’s a housing crisis on a massive scale and you won’t be able to camp anywhere near close enough to actually get to work unless you have the chutzpah to find an empty/abandoned section to squat on. The manufacturing industry is constantly laying people off and having companies close entirely. There are agri/horticulture jobs in autumn, but if they’re legit enough to pay minimum wage and don’t require training or qualifications, honestly, there will be people applying for them in droves, particularly in rural/semi-rural areas where factories etc that were the major employer have closed. You’d probably need a good amount of local knowledge to find an area where that wasn’t the case; without that it would be a major risk. Far better right now to stick to somewhere you either know the area or know a person/people who can be a touchstone.

  46. I was in pretty much this exact position one year ago. Shortly after my 18th birthday I got a job for a few months, and thankfully it was enough to pay the first month’s rent and deposit on a house reasonably far away from my parents. I moved into a house share with two people, and mostly locked myself away for the first few months. After a while of fending for myself on state benefits (I live in the UK and tried to claim jobseekers allowance but if you are too ill to do so, and this includes mental illness, you can claim employment support allowance which I am currently doing), my mood was so much better. I wasn’t being abused. My housemates weren’t being mean to me, they mostly kept to themselves and that was that.

    It really does get better. I am in an unbelievably great position to what I was a year ago. I went from being emotionally abused by my parents, isolated and lonely, at serious risk to myself and believing myself worthless… to living with my girlfriend, who cares for me and understands I have PTSD and eating issues. I’m happier, and consider myself less of a failure. I can now see that those feelings stemmed from being abused.

    I told my parents I was moving three weeks before the move. I’d paid the landlord, organised a friend helping me move everything, etc. I prepared everything before hand. I was also already paying rent and good to go and move in when I told my parents, so if they had turned around and been too unpleasant towards me, I could walk out the door and into my own life. I warned them of this.
    They were upset. Confused, hurt. But it was necessary to ensure my own survival and wellbeing. I couldn’t go on being abused like that.

  47. LW, just wanted to say that I hope things have improved at least somewhat and that you’ve made some progress. This post and the comments were a blessing for me too :-)

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