Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Survivor of childhood abuse continues to struggle

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I'd like to know how to get over a lifetime of embarrassment. I was raised by self-absorbed and often cruel parents. Both of them took delight in humiliating me as a child. My father would stand up at my birthday parties and tell jokes about me in front of my friends. He would make fun of me until I cried, and then laugh at me.

While working one of my first jobs, I had a strong crush on my boss (that I never acted on). My mother knew about it. One day, she showed up at my job, found my boss and went on and on to him, laughing, about how much I "loved him." There were many other incidents.

Now, I am a married, working woman and I live far away from my parents. However, I am still haunted by these memories, and I am so hypersensitive to possible embarrassment that I live in a constant state of anxiety. I have been to therapy, and while my therapist was lovely, nothing much has changed for me. I'm not sure if I need more therapy, or something else. Confronting my parents does nothing, because they remain just as unapologetic of their behavior. They do not care what I think or feel. How do I navigate through this?

-- Embarrassed daughter

Dear Embarrassed: What you are describing is emotional abuse, and I am so sorry that you had to experience that.

You don't mention if you've discussed your anxieties with your spouse, but they are there to love and support you, and they can be a source of guidance if you're feeling overwhelmed. I would also recommend visiting your therapist again. Treatment is a process, and being open and honest is an important first step to seeing results. Tell them what you're going through, and describe the anxiety you're experiencing.

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If you're still unable to connect with your therapist, ask for help finding different treatment. Your therapist's job is to help you, so that you can get better at helping yourself. The elements required to cope with the legacy of abuse are: time, patience, talk therapy and meditation -- or possibly medication -- to deal with your more serious anxiety symptoms.

Dear Amy: I had been married for just nine months when my in-laws visited us. My husband and I had been living in one of their homes in London.

My husband and I had been arguing a lot and he told his parents about our problems. He said he was overwhelmed. My in-laws then insisted that I leave and visit my parents so that we could have some space and re-evaluate our marriage. During the next two months we did just that. We spoke every day. We discussed our problems in depth and were both more open to hearing criticism. We apologized for the past.

We agreed that I should return to London, but then his parents showed up in London again. He stopped speaking to me after their arrival and then asked me not to come back after all. Clearly, this was all because of his parents' influence.


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