Ask The Therapist: “Trauma from my toxic parents has made my life hell..”

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Trauma from my toxic parents has made my life hell. Parents play a key role in their child’s life and when they are toxic we cannot even complain or talk about it as it will be misconstrued as disrespectful. I have gone through verbal and physical abuse – my parents beat us up like police do to criminals, I remember once I even had to get stitches on my head. They have extramarital affairs but refuse to get divorced. Having extramarital affairs. I cannot tell anyone because no one will believe me. I have major anxiety, depression and insomnia. Please help! 

Shahrukh’s Response:

Dear Anon,

I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through this. You’re absolutely right when you say that a parent plays a key role in their child’s life, and it’s this relationship that can set the tone for how onegrows up and relates to the world around them. I can only imagine the kind of pain you must be experiencing right now. Let’s look into this a little further and see how we can support you through this.

“I Cannot Tell Anyone Because No One Will Believe Me” – Are You Sure?

Anon, I don’t mean to doubt you in any wayit’s just that this line did strike me as I was reading your message and I really wonder what makes you think that no one’s going to believe you? I know it can be difficult to talk about this – yet if there is someone, or a group of individuals, who you can trust, it might help to reach out for support. You don’t need to go through alone, nor do you deserve to.


Protecting Yourself from Harm

Anon, before we get into anything else, the first priority that we will look at is your safety. This entails learning to keep yourselfsafe from any physical or emotional threats from your parents, and would involve you paying attention to your surroundings and trying to stay clear of anything that might trigger their anger. While there might be times where their behavior is erratic and unpredictable, try to stay aware of any consistent patterns you may notice.


Support One Another

You mentioned “we” and “us” in your message, and I assume that means you’re not alone in this situation? While it might bedifficult to talk about this with others, perhaps you can support one another during this difficult time, because at the end, whoever is with you will have a first-hand account of what you’re going through.

Safe Spaces

Anon, try to establish safe spaces either within your living space, or outside of it – this essentially becomes a place where you feel as safe as you possibly can be. This could be a relative’s house, a friend’s house or it could even be in a small area of your room, or your sibling’s room. Make as many positive associations as you can with this place and retreat there whenever you feel unsafe, or when you need to ground yourself – your own personal sanctuary.


Exiting The Environment

Anon, in cases like this, it is best to try and exit the situation, if possible. Now, I’m not sure of your age or what resources are available to you, and as such, I cannot give you a clear-cut answer. What I will say is that perhaps it might be best to begin planning an exit strategy. This would involve finding a way to support yourself and being able to survive. Try to find someone who might be able to support you, and who you do trust, a trusted relative or family friend, perhaps? If not, you could look into shelters – there are some that support women who are victims of abuse. Here’s a link to an article of shelters across Pakistan: 


Talk to Someone

What you’re experiencing is really difficult, Anon, and it sounds like it’s really beginning to impact your mental health. I would recommend speaking to a therapist about the anxiety, depression and insomnia that you’re experiencing. They would be able to help you explore things more deeply, as well as coping strategies for what you’re going through. In the meantime, here’s another article which talks about anxiety and ways to soothe and ground yourself if it’s getting too overwhelming.


Anon, as stated before, I know this is a really difficult place to be in. While there are several options and avenues that can be explored, do focus on keeping yourself as safe as you can, and reminding yourself of one thing: what’s happening to you isn’t your fault, nor do you deserve it in any way. I hope that in time you’re able to remove yourself from this environment and eventually find yourself in a more grounded space. I wish you all the best on the rest of your journey. Take care of yourself and stay in your power!

The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment or therapy.

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