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15 'habits' of people who grew up with an 'emotionally fragile' parent

Having an emotionally fragile parent can leave lasting damage.

15 'habits' of people who grew up with an 'emotionally fragile' parent
via The Mighty

If you grew up with an "emotionally fragile" parent, chances are, you didn't have the typical, idyllic childhood you often see in movies.

Maybe your parent lived with debilitating depression that thrust you into the role of caregiver from a very young age.

Maybe your parent was always teetering on the edge of absolute rage, so you learned to tiptoe around them to avoid an explosion. Or maybe your parent went through a divorce or separation, and leaned on you for more emotional support than was appropriate to expect of a child.


Growing up with an emotionally fragile parent can leave lasting damage on a person as they leave childhood and enter adulthood.

Though it's true many kids who grow up with emotionally compromised or neglectful parents struggle with their mental health in adulthood, it's important to remember parents seldom set out to abuse their kids.

Oftentimes they simply do not have the support or resources to care for their own mental health. If you are a parent struggling with your mental health, we want you to know there is no shame in struggling, but it's important to seek the support you need.

Our partners at The Mighty wanted to know what "habits" people who grew up with emotionally fragile parents have now as adults, so they asked their community to community to share their experiences with us.

Here's are the "habits" our community shared with us:

1. Constantly Apologizing"

"Constantly apologizing is just one of many things I do as a result of an 'emotionally fragile' parent. Another is panic and, again, apologize if someone looks at their watch or checks the time when I am doing something, particularly if shopping. It is why I prefer to be alone and do things at my own pace, the anxiety and fear such an innocent thing like checking the time because of me is horrible." — Jodie B.

"Constantly apologizing for normal things like having an opinion and crying, bending over backwards to please everyone and keep the peace, not standing up for myself because when I did at home I'd get blown up at, etc." — Natalie J.

2. Overthinking

"I overthink everything all of the time because I'm trying to prepare myself for the next thing you will be disappointed in." — Faith L.

3. Always Feeling Afraid of Upsetting Others

"Not talking or doing anything for fear of getting into trouble or making people upset. Feeling like you can't move or speak without permission, even amongst your closet friends." — Rye B.

4. Having "Control Issues"

"I have huge control issues because I felt responsible for everyone's feelings. My father had a hairpin trigger temper and my mother was a perpetual victim, so I tried to micromanage every little thing to keep him from exploding, and protect her. Now I have debilitating anxiety and it becomes worse if I feel like something is out of my control. Because if I can't control everything, then something might upset someone, and it'll be my fault and not only will I be in trouble, but no one will love me. It's exhausting." — Murphy M.

5. Being a "Parent" for Others

"Be the mom for all my group friends. The mature person who will be there to give you the advice someone else can't." — Gladys M.

"Automatically parent everybody because I had to do it my whole life, but then I break down when it comes to trying to take care of myself." — Chloe L.

6. Struggling to Make Decisions

"I have a hard time making choices, or having an opinion. When you spent your whole childhood, teens and part of your 20s without the ability to choose things for yourself, you either feel guilty, or really uncomfortable having an opinion. Because you feel like you're going to get in trouble, or you're going to have a panic attack." — Kaylee L.

7. Ignoring Your Own Feelings

"I feel like I always have to fix everyone, take care of everyone, control everything. I feel like I have to ignore my feelings, and I have a hard time reaching out to people." — Kayla O.

"[I] try so hard to hide my feelings rather than rock the boat." — Jodi A.

8. Being a "People-Pleaser"

"I find it impossible to talk about how I feel. I constantly try make others happy, even if it means hurting myself. But I grew up with a dad who was both physically and emotionally abusive." — Jamie J.

"Being a people-pleaser. I do a lot of 'fawning' now because I always had to watch what I said in case it triggered either severe depression or anger." — Sela M.

9. Feeling Like You're a Supporting Role in Your Own Life

"I always feel like I'm just playing a small supporting role in the great drama of other people's lives instead of my life being a story of my own. I have a really hard time believing my feelings are valid and matter." — Susanna L.

10. Constantly Fearing Abandonment

"Constantly fearing abandonment… And no matter how much reassurance I get, I keep waiting for the moment where that love disappears." — Monika S.

11. Overanalyzing the Behavior of Others

"I overanalyze how people talk and their body language. When you're used to looking for small clues to try to make life easier or prepare for a meltdown, it's… a hard habit to break." — Lexi R.

12. Pushing People Away

"I push people away when I hit my depression low since that's what my mom did. I'm trying to learn how to let people in but it's hard to do at times and I never know how to tell people." — Jennifer B.

13. Getting Offended Easily

"My daughter would say I cry too much and get offended too easily, and she isn't wrong." — Kat E.

14. Cleaning Up After Others

"Cleaning other people's homes while you're there because you grew up cleaning up after everyone because your parents didn't clean." — Des S.

15. Being Very Empathetic

"Yes there has been some negative impact but I also recognize that I learned how to be empathetic at a really young age. I remember my mom crying — I was only about 3 years old — and I went and got her the stuffed bear she had in her room." — Lauren A.

If you grew up having to take care of an emotionally fragile parent, you're not alone. Whether you're struggling to assert boundaries in your life, have trouble communicating your needs or don't know how to take care of yourself, we want you to know there's a community of people who want to support you in your recovery journey.

The article was originally published by our partners at the Mighty and was written by Juliette Virzi.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."