Surviving an unhappy home

I was an extremely shy only child of a single mum, living alone with her after her divorce from my dad, and eventually she remarried a creepy guy who claimed to want to adopt me and to love me like a dad (but eventually I found out he was a peeping tom).

I was so shy growing up, I didn’t really know if I always had a right to speak or complain, especially if it was inconvenient to someone else or would disappoint them.

My mum had 95% custody of me and was very controlling of me when she had me alone, and in particular about my haircuts and education, and wouldn’t let me go on a date when I was a teenager as she was so fixated on me doing well academically and didn’t want me distracted.

Not having siblings to talk to or even make eye contact with, I usually just didn’t know there was anything I could do and it left me with the impression I was stuck and helpless. My dad saw me a couple of times a month but never asked questions or offered to do anything responsible so mum had a lot of power. There were no discussions as a family.

As an adult I told some friends and family members about the extent of the control, but several of my own family members still don’t believe me, because I didn’t tell them at the time, but what they don’t grasp is that spending so much time alone or with one family member in the home did not leave me with good problems solving skills or knowing how to ask for help, let alone having any idea of how quickly normal human beings help each other to be happy – my mum cared if I was warm and fed and doing well academically, and if the bills were paid and the home was clean, but never if I was happy.

Even though it was much later in life than I’d have liked, I did eventually move out of home, refused to work in a career I hated anymore in order to appease my mum, stood up to her and refused to believe the old lies that it was “in my best interest” to be working in the career she chose for me that I hated. It turned out my mum had a very serious psychotic illness that was undiagnosed. Medication has not fixed her thoughts and we will never be close.

Since getting away and standing up to her I have travelled interstate and overseas several times, learned lots of new skills, undertaken new study in artistic areas I’m truly interested in, and learned how to stand up for myself in other areas of life.

I’m still a work in progress and have plenty of regrets but am proud of myself for coming really far and being an independent adult and learning better problem solving skills.

If any shy only children are reading this, please call your aunts and uncles for help if your parents are controlling you or making you cry – you don’t have to just accept it, and if your parents are divorced you can have a say in your own custody (I wish someone had told me that).

If a parent is pressuring you to go to uni and you don’t want to, refuse to agree and then ask for help from aunts, uncles and teachers and move out of the home as soon as you can. It’s your choice whether to continue your studies, and nobody else’s business.

Being shy is not a life sentence, you can become a confident independent adult, excited about following your own path -I know you can , because I did.

Also if you know an only child of divorced parents, assume they have no-one to talk to and check in on them regularly – don’t wait for them to ask for help because they may not know how.

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