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!
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.