I grew up thinking my explosive household was normal. That it was normal for my parents to constantly make me question my morality and sanity. To make me feel guilty for just about every infraction I’ve ever committed. And the worst part of my realization is that I don’t know how to feel about such a heavy revelation.

I began questioning the normalcy of my parents’ actions after my last visit to the therapist. Over the two-and-a-half-years I spent with her, she became my confidant. She was the only person who knew how I truly felt about everything. During this particular visit, she sat me down and asked me “Have you ever been abused at home?”, and I froze. Had I? I wanted to say no, but there was something in the back of my mind gabbling a yes; however, I replied with a no as I’d been conditioned by my parents for so long. They had been iffy about allowing me to see a psychologist because they said that I did not need one (despite years of being told I was mentally ill over and over).

When I look back, everything was about maintaining an image of a good child-to-parent relationship. I was not allowed to talk about how we suffered from poverty or to ask for assistance when we could not afford things such as food or clothing. My friends were not allowed to buy me things; regardless, of whether they were gifts or help. I was not allowed to vent to others about anything ‘lest child protective services swoop down and take me away. Paranoia dictated my parents’ actions, coating over my own like a blanket of virulent snow. That foul demon reared its ugly head in my mind during adolescence and is still clinging well on past it.

During adolescence, gaslighting became my mother’s favorite method of reining me in. She made me feel guilty about making friends, as it meant (in her eyes) that our relationship would suffer as a result. This is done even now, to both my sister and I. If my sister makes a friend about my mother’s age, that friendship is seen as competition. Through excessive guilt-tripping, those relationships eventually crumbled and fell away by our own hands.

I find myself faced with a dilemma. How am I supposed to feel about it all? Am I justified in being angry at their actions? Or am I overreacting? Am I just an oversensitive young adult with too much time on my hands? Am I the selfish one? What’s false here? What’s real?