For long, you may have thought that your parent was just harsh. But when you see how even your adulthood is being affected by your relationship with them, your parent might have been more than "just strict".
Whenever you open up about your childhood to someone, the last thing you want to hear someone say is, "You were too young. How can it STILL affect you?"
Just because it was in your past, it doesn't mean that you can push those memories to the back of your attic like you might push away your old box of toys. You might still remember those crushing moments where your mother or father took their feelings out on you. And you can probably never forget that longing you had to hear words of comfort from your parent but got nothing out of them.
Most of the time, you might have thought that they were "just strict" or weren't the best at showing their feelings. But if you can relate to these, you probably grew up with a toxic parent and you never realized it.
While most of your friends couldn't wait to get back home after school, you would hope that the bell wouldn't ring because 'home' was the last place you wanted to be. You never knew what mood your parent would be in and you never wanted to walk into the house when they were in a bad mood.
"Toxic parents often have difficulty controlling their emotions. They overreact, are “dramatic”, or are unpredictable," wrote Sharon Martin, a licensed psychotherapist and codependency expert, for Psych Central.
All your childhood fears and inhibitions were yours alone to deal with. Rather than being someone who shows you how to brave through your problems, your parent was someone who made you doubt yourself even more as you grew up. If your toxic mother or father is still a part of your life, it's likely that "every conversation you have with her ends with you feeling guilty, angry, or invisible," licensed psychologist Tanisha M. Ranger, told Bustle.
The hold they had over your life was so deep that it seeped into every small and big thing in your life, from what you wore to where you went to who you met. Your parent expected you to follow everything they said. And if you ever went up to them asking them for something you really needed, they would trivialize your feelings and convince you to do what they wanted you to do. You rarely ever felt like your life was your own because they ended up calling all the shots for you without considering how you felt about it.
You tried so hard to get your parent's attention but nothing worked. You may have brought home good grades or sports trophies but they made you feel invisible in the house. As a child, your toxic parent could have been the most critical person in your life, and nothing you did could ever put an end to their harsh words. "They mock you, call you names, point out your shortcomings and intentionally bring up things that you’re sensitive about," wrote Sharon Martin.
Every one of their needs turned into demands that you had to fulfill. When they needed something, they would have expected you to keep aside your schoolwork or assignments or trips to your friend's house just to do things for them. Even as an adult, if they still call you up when they need something, they would expect you to drop everything and rush to fulfill their needs. They fail to see that you have your own life and relationships, and expect you to fulfill their every whim.
A number of times as a child, you might have been the one cleaning up after your parent or filling in their shoes for your siblings because they were never there. Now that you're an adult, things haven't changed. "If your parent uses crying or triggering your sympathy to get their way, this could be a sign of an immature parent," said licensed marriage and family therapist, Racine R. Henry, to Bustle. "A parent should be able to communicate their needs and feelings without trying to manipulate you into bending to their will."
It was bad enough that they kept a track of all the relationships you had as a child. But if they are still a part of your life, it's likely that they still interfere where they are not supposed to and might even sabotage your romantic relationships as an adult. "She wants to make a wedge between you and your partner so she can be the victim," said clinical psychologist, Paul DePompo. "This is [due to] her insecurity and it makes it hard for her to be happy for you."