How I Survived Living in a Toxic Household

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    Hi everyone,

    I’ve been a long-time fan of Tiny Buddha and wanted to share my personal story of how I grew up in a toxic household and still managed to get my life back on track.

    I’ll start with the basic facts: I grew up in South Florida, being an only child ( I do have an estranged half brother who lives up north ) and was raised by my mother and father.

    Now as a disclaimer, I know that my parents did their best to raise me. I’ve never gone hungry and have received plenty of monetary gifts from them. From the outside, my childhood looks idyllic. However, it doesn’t negate the fact that for my entire life, my father was a functional alcoholic and my mother verbally and psychologically abused me from the time I was a toddler.

    My Parents

    I have an easier time forgiving my father for his indiscretions because he himself suffers from depression and PTSD. My mother on the other hand, I’m still in the process of forgiving. My mother would do things that indicated she loved me, like buying me toys and clothes and referring to me as her “precious jewel”, which always creeped me out. But just as soon as she did something affectionate, she’d do a 180 and would scream at me for minor accidents, call me an “idiot” and a “pig”, and would threaten to run away from home. She was always very overprotective of me and if the news featured a story of a pedophile or missing child, she would hold me while she cried. She also told me that she wished she had never married my father, the list goes on. Something that really upset me as a child as when I left the shower running one day, and she lashed out at me and said “Great, you wasted all that water and now the manatees are going to die.” She knew I was ( and still am ) an avid animal lover, so naturally this made me cry. After a while I got used to her erratic behavior. My dad was either not around or just ignored the verbal abuse so I have always felt alone.

    My sexuality

    I identify as bisexual, and in my household it’s simply not acceptable. I went to the hospital twice for alcohol poisoning and finally called my dad and tearfully admitted to not being straight. He simply replied “No you’re not.” and that was the end of that discussion. For my whole life I felt shame for my urges and repressed my feelings.

    For most of my life I have battled depression and anxiety; years of living in fear and being shamed constantly took it’s toll and I became an alcoholic for 4 years. I struggled in school because I never felt comfortable with anyone helping me. I also have a hard time maintaining meaningful relationships due to deeply ingrained trust issues. I tried to party the pain away by drinking and having sex. It wasn’t until I became sober last year ( I am now 23 ) that I realized I was practically living in a dream. I look back and can’t believe the reckless decisions I made and how many times I endangered my own life, because I didn’t feel like life was worth living. I’ve been criticized for my cynical attitude towards life because I was provided a comfortable lifestyle by my parents, but it will never make up for the fact that I was abused for nearly my entire life.


    Overcoming anxiety and depression brought on by such abuse is difficult and takes time; there’s no magic pill that can cure it overnight. It’s taken me years to recover and be a normally functioning adult. I have an irrational fear of success and self promotion because I never learned how to love myself. Now, with so many resources on the internet like Tiny Buddha, I’ve been able to treat my own condition and flourish. I have to constantly remind myself that I am in control of my destiny and that my environment is not a reflection of who I am, and that my parents are not a reflection of who I am. If I have a panic attack I simply repeat to myself “I’m okay” or “I’m fine”, and simple breathing exercises are valuable in a pinch. I am currently finishing my bachelor’s degree in business and am aiming to create a non-profit foundation for the conservation of endangered animals in Florida. I’m still trapped in the confines of my home, but I have learned to look beyond it’s walls and to embrace a state of mind that inspires freedom, independence and success.


    Dear Dani:

    Seems like somehow I missed your thread, or intended to reply before but forgot to do so.

    You wrote: “I know that my parents did their best to raise me”, and you wrote: “my mother verbally and psychologically abused me from the time I was a toddler”.

    Upon further reflection, will you still say that indeed that was her best?

    You wrote about your mother: “She was always very over protective of me”- but she didn’t protect you from herself.

    You wrote: “I’ve been criticized for my cynical attitude towards life because I was provided a comfortable lifestyle by my parents”- food and clothes, toys and gifts cannot possibly compensate, not even a bit, for ongoing mistreatment. Similar to your mother calling you her “precious jewel” not compensating for her calling you and idiot and a pig.

    Thank you for sharing your story so far in life, for your aim to heal and better the world.

    Are you still in contact with your mother? If so, how is this relationship affecting you now?




    Hi Anita,

    I think my mother assumes she always tried her best, but she grew up in a poor, and even more abusive household. She always hung that over my head so that I would feel grateful.

    Unfortunately due to financial constraints I do live with my parents but I am saving to move out and do my best to distance myself from her. It can be difficult because in her mind she never did anything wrong. I wish I knew exactly what was wrong with her but she refuses to go to therapy.

    What I want my audience to take away from this post is that just because someone is your relative and they shower you with gifts doesn’t always mean that they always have the best intentions. I am also trying my best to avoid becoming like my mother so that my own children will have a happier childhood than I did


    Dear Dani:

    I hope you move out of your mother’s soon and that  if  and when you do have children, you will treat them well, so that they do have a happier childhood than you had.

    I think that your mother has kept  reminding you that she grew up poor and in a  (more) abusive household because  she was and  is angry at you for  (in her mind) having it better  than she had, so  she has given you bits and pieces of her experience, so that you hurt too.

    I agree with you: “just because someone  is your relative and they  shower  you with gifts doesn’t always mean  they always  have the  best intentions”.

    The intention may be to… prove to herself that she is a good  mother and “never did anything  wrong”, or if she did  wrong, she is thinking that the gifts given  to  you undid the wrong.





    Please know that sharing your story has a larger impact than you might realize. Keep sharing it.

    I feel that a lot of adults like myself can relate to your story. As kids, others would look at our situation and consider it idyllic. I too never went hungry, always had materialistic gifts, heat/ac and a roof over my head, I had a good education, and was never sexually/physically abused. There is so much I am grateful for. However, the emotional and psychological abuse from my mother caused me so much suffering. There has been a constant war in my head because I am grateful for my blessings and for my mother but I cannot validate how she treats me and my sisters. I know now that she faced childhood trauma and experiences something like bipolar disorder, but we’ve talked on numerous occasions yet she still hasn’t sought help. I am also bisexual, which caused my father to ignore me whenever my mother was abusing me. There is only so much we can do as the children of unstable parents.

    I am proud of you for making it through your years in a toxic household with unsupportive parents. People like us have hidden stories that make us stronger, and we are all courageous. We are in this together.

    Warm regards,


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