Guest blog! Living with an alcoholic parent 💔

As far back as I can remember my mother was an alcoholic. I would wait at school for her to collect me, filled with dread of what would greet me when I hopped in the car. She would often pick me up from school drunk and I would spend the evening ‘minding’ her, making sure she didn’t fall down the stairs or get into the car as she continued to drink.

I was constantly anxious and worried about her. Some days she would go missing for hours. When I was twelve, myself and my Dad had to carry her into the house from her car. My childhood memories are full of similar moments that I’d rather forget.

In my early twenties I moved out of home thinking that I could leave my past behind me. Even though I was no longer in the chaotic home environment, I still struggled with a constant sense of anxiety and low self-esteem. I felt worthless. I hated myself and was still always anxious. When I am anxious, I tend to focus on physical symptoms and would convince myself that I had various illnesses (you name it, I thought I had it).

In work, people would ask me if I out the night before because I looked so exhausted and didn’t care about my appearance. My concentration was poor and I was forgetful which made me feel like I was bad at my job. Socially, I agonised over what I said when I met others and would be convinced that I looked odd, stupid, or ugly to them. I would go over every conversation afterwards and berate myself for saying certain things. I felt so low I couldn’t face day to day life any more.

After much resistance and avoidance I knew I had to get professional help. The idea of going to a counsellor was terrifying so I asked a trusted friend to make the appointment for me. I was convinced that it wouldn’t help but I’d give it a go. It sounds like a cliché but it genuinely changed my life. Firstly, having someone tell you that it’s okay to feel this way was extremely comforting and relieving.

Counselling has taught me how to make sense of my past and understand why it affects me now. Some typical traits of ‘Adult Children of Alcoholics’ are low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, perfectionism, focusing on the needs of others over yourself, fear of losing control and difficulty expressing emotion; all of which I could identify in myself. Alcoholism is also associated with secrecy, embarrassment and shame. I had never told my friends what was going on. As a family, we never spoke about it either which made things very difficult for “the child” me to process emotionally.

Counselling has ultimately enabled me to love myself and cope with the anxiety that will always be a part of me. Sometimes just acknowledging it as a normal feeling is helpful. I have learned to be more self-aware which allows me to identify what triggers my anxiety. I still have days when I am more anxious or down in myself than others. I remind myself that it is a temporary feeling, try work it out and if it persists I go back to my counsellor for a few sessions.

Running is one of the best releases for me. Regular exercise hugely reduces my anxiety. In the last few years, I have signed up to 5km/10km events that are challenging but give me something to focus on and the sense of achievement afterwards is great. I also go to a painting class which means I have a dedicated time set aside each week for me to relax. I don’t think I would put that time aside if I didn’t have the commitment of the class so that strategy works well for me.

I used to think that my past should not affect me as an adult and felt that I should be able to cope by myself. I never realised the impact of growing up with an alcoholic parent on my ‘adult’ self until I talked to a counsellor. I’ve learned so much about myself and developed coping skills that I use on a daily basis. Typical of the strange dynamic in a family with an alcoholic, no one talked about the ‘elephant in the room’ and so I bottled up everything for years. I have realised that I have nothing to be ashamed of and opened up to my friends, who have been a huge source of support for me.

My advice to anyone in a similar situation is to give yourself a break, recognise that what you went through was hard and share it with someone.

Help information

If you need help please talk to friends, family, a GP, therapist or one of the free confidential helpline services. For a full list of national mental health services see yourmentalhealth.ie.

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • Pieta House National Suicide Helpline 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement) or text HELP to 51444 (standard message rates apply)
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
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When anxiety is an invalid excuse!! 💔

Anxiety is an invalid excuse. I just got back to my room after a failed attempt to go to class. I’m sitting here, writing this, trying to think of something to email my professor to sugarcoat what I’m feeling, to really drive home the point that class today was unbearable for me. You see if it was the flu or a bad head cold this would be easy. I would simply relay the symptoms and be excused with a general “feel better” and a hidden relief that I wouldn’t be getting anyone else sick. To send an email saying I just had to take a breather on a 4th Ave. step because my lungs felt as if they were collapsing and my body was shaking so badly I could hardly walk doesn’t do the trick.

Anxiety is an invalid excuse. I fear having to tell people I’m on medication because the second I do, I see my fears written across their faces. The fact that I have to take a dose of something with an unpronounceable name twice a day just to make me feel like I’m residing on some middle ground that makes me capable of mandatory human function immediately sets off alarms that I am a lesser person, lacking independence and radiating unpredictability. All of a sudden I’m the crazy, mentally unstable girl completely incompetent and incapabe of any mundane task in front of me. I don’t even dream of revealing I have a Xanax in my bag in case of emergency, because the one time I mentioned it, the faces of my friends were the same as I’d expect if they saw me shooting up heroin in the bathroom of the bar.

Anxiety is an invalid excuse. I was supposed to go out to dinner with my friends a few nights ago but couldn’t get myself out of bed due to some unwelcomed existential dread about nothing in particular. No, it wasn’t something my horoscope said. It wasn’t something I was anticipating in the upcoming week. I wasn’t “nervous.” I was simply incapable. “But it’ll be fun,” they said. “You never go out with us.” 

Anxiety is an invalid excuse. In the eyes of others, it makes me a liar. Lazy. Inadequate. Delusional. Crazy. I can’t say I have a diagnosis because everyone I tell is conditioned to think I’m either a deranged psychopath or I’m faking it because I’m simply too fragile to face life like a normal person; underwhelming unable to walk through a typical routine without having an upper to keep me stable. Do they think I pity myself so much to induce a self-hatred strong enough to keep myself so far from mental catharsis? Do they think I find this fun? 

Anxiety is an invalid excuse. In the eyes of others, it makes me a liar. Lazy. Inadequate. Delusional. Crazy. I can’t say I have a diagnosis because everyone I tell is conditioned to think I’m either a deranged psychopath or I’m faking it because I’m simply too fragile to face life like a normal person; underwhelming unable to walk through a typical routine without having an upper to keep me stable. Do they think I pity myself so much to induce a self-hatred strong enough to keep myself so far from mental catharsis? Do they think I find this fun? 

Anxiety is an invalid excuse. I’ve begun to believe it myself. Every time I feel my chest get heavy, my hands get sweaty, my vision become disconnected, I tell myself to suck it up: that it’s all in my head. Maybe it is. That’s certainly where it lives. But tell that to my body when I’m locked in my room, unable to move or think or breathe. Tell that to my ears that simply decide to stop hearing and scream with hollow ringing that disorients me to the point of defeat. Tell that to the girl who has sat on grimy floors in restaurant bathrooms and called for cabs with no goodbye because, for a few moments, she can’t remember how to exist. 

Anxiety is an invalid excuse. I’ve begun to believe it myself. Every time I feel my chest get heavy, my hands get sweaty, my vision become disconnected, I tell myself to suck it up: that it’s all in my head. Maybe it is. That’s certainly where it lives. But tell that to my body when I’m locked in my room, unable to move or think or breathe. Tell that to my ears that simply decide to stop hearing and scream with hollow ringing that disorients me to the point of defeat. Tell that to the girl who has sat on grimy floors in restaurant bathrooms and called for cabs with no goodbye because, for a few moments, she can’t remember how to exist. 

Anxiety is an invalid excuse. I know this because my school only allows three absences per semester. My only saving grace is that the school psychiatrist believes me. I’ve officially been categorized, embossed, labeled with the word “disabled.” I feel like a sick scam. Who am I to say I’m hindered when there’s nothing visibly wrong with me: when some days I function at 110 percent and nothing can hold me back. I feel like a disrespectful fool calling myself disabled when I have a condition so loosely defined, so casual. I have no right to categorize myself as someone with real life problems. There are many who have it much worse than me. And because my vices cannot be seen from the surface they’re perceived as fake. It’s a bittersweet sentiment knowing my flaws are beautifully misunderstood in a way that allows me to pretend they don’t exist while someone is watching. I thrive in the precious moments I spend being normal. I cripple in the instances I must try to explain the place I’m coming from, the place no one will ever truly understand until they feel their heart stop beating in their chest only to accelerate far past a normal rhythm, blood rushing to their head until the whole world fades away to a crystallized screen of silent white. I’m sure the letter sent to each of my teachers makes them think I’m just a student with low self-esteem who whines and pouts my way through life, looking for shallow excuses to half-ass my work. But I want to succeed. I want to live. To live comfortably. That’s my dream. 

Anxiety is an invalid excuse. So I refuse to let myself give in to the impulses. I’m a fighter. I hate the guilt I feel every time I have to step out of a room, find the little, hidden stash of pills in my purse and sneak one out of view of anyone I know. I don’t know how anyone enjoys that high. It makes me sad, the lowest I’ve ever felt, feeling incapable of performing in my day-to-day life without an artificial aid. But I’ve come to terms with the idea that sometimes there is no other option. I hope one day I’ll be okay with that ❤️

I Cant Make It, Sorry Im Sick!!

mental health 2

For far too long, I used to cancel plans because, “I didn’t wanna go” or “I have a sore throat” or the best excuse “I’ve nothing to wear”. But it wasn’t because of these things that I was cancelling on my friends and family for things that I really wanted to do. It was because I fear the unknown.

I absolutely loooove doing things completely out of the ordinary. I’m all up for late night adventures or waking up at mad hours to go swimming. But, for two years I couldn’t bare the thought of doing anything outside my comfort zone. The problem was Continue reading