My parents divorced about 9 years ago, when I was 8 and my sister was 11. We were told separately: me in a graveyard by my dad and my sister was told by my mum at home. I cried, asked where mum was going to live and then my dad got me a recorder as a present to cheer me up. I have no idea what my mum said to my sister but because I was 8, I didn’t really get it and just knew my mum was moving out: I didn’t know if I would go with her and for some reason, I thought I would never see her again.
I don’t remember much from that time. I don’t remember the arguments that came before their divorce – I knew there were some; I remember vaguely some shouting . It didn’t really come as a surprise to me, both then and now: my mum hadn’t lived full-time in the house since I was 6 because she’d been working abroad. Then again, I couldn’t tell you much about how I’d felt because I don’t remember it: I wish I did sometimes. I know I was sad, that there was a battle for custody and that they got joint custody of both me and my sister. Mum got a rental house and then a year later, got a proper one.
I’m lucky: my parents get on. They don’t fight; they don’t hate each other; they aren’t awkward around each other. My dad remarried and my mum now has a steady boyfriend and it’s all good from that standpoint. I don’t dislike either of them and because I don’t remember them screaming at each other, I don’t have a reason to. It’s not all like that and the divorce – however “amicable” I thought it was at the time – has affected me in ways I only realised recently because before, I thought that absolutely everything was fine.
There was one thing I’ll distinctly remember for a long time and that was when my mum kicked our bin in. Being carried by my dad, I had no idea what was happening because this was after they’d split. She got so angry: I only remember me yelling at her in my 8-year-old way. We had to replace that bin, although it wasn’t for a while and when people came in, we didn’t comment on the dent. I don’t blame my mum because her and my dad were having a massive row but when I think about it, it’s kind of fucked up and the worst part is that it didn’t phase me and I thought it was normal to do that.
As much as my parents get on, they live in two separate houses. That means I switch between them and not on a regular schedule either: at the time of organisation, I got so panicked when a week at a time at each house was suggested that this idea was scrapped. We never did implement it: I go to each house when I feel like it. Or, I don’t. I wish it was that damn simple because I’m so grateful that they don’t hate each other but it just makes switching between their houses much more difficult.
When I was younger, it didn’t bother me: it was exciting. I used to joke: “I have two rooms!” and “It just means that friends can come to two houses!” – forgetting the fact that I had two good friends in primary school – but as I got older, problems started to happen in my mind concerning the switch. After discussing it a lot with my dad – who is the only one I can really talk to about this – I’ve come to the conclusion that it comes down to guilt.
I feel like a package. I’m at dad’s right now but that’s because my mum is with her boyfriend; it just feels like my mum thinks that going to my dad’s is a necessary evil or something. Every time she says “And you can come back to mine tomorrow!” I feel miserable inside because I’m not brave enough to tell her that actually, I’d rather stay at dad’s today. I’m terrified I’ll hurt her feelings because my sister’s at university and she’d be alone at the house.
My mum does try and she’s a good parent but sometimes I feel trapped. My mood noticeably dropped when I go to hers: I become snappy, horrible, not myself and because I feel on edge most of the time, my self-esteem plummets. Then it’s fine; I settle back in; I go to my dad’s and feel relaxed. It’s the expectation: she thinks that I’m coming to hers and when I go to dad’s? “I need a break anyway haha!” It’s like I’m being passed from one to the other. When I spend a while at dad’s, mum asked WHEN I’m coming to hers and that makes me feel worse. I don’t want to upset people.
At least I get to see them though: I should stop complaining. There are so many people out there that can’t see one or both of their parents. However, when you’re treated like some sort of object occasionally, it affects how you feel about yourself and I don’t like that. Whether it’s because of this – whether it’s the root cause or this has just increased an existing feeling – recently, I’ve not felt worth much.
A superficial thing is that clothes get misplaced from one house to the other. I’ve honestly lost a bunch of my clothes because when I transfer, I bring some but not all: they get washed, put in a place where I can’t find them and then I get so stressed. It gets to the point where my parents communicate with each other to find out where the fuck my tops have gone because “They’re not at mine,” which consequently makes me panicky because it puts pressure on me to find my clothes. It’s another thing which I don’t have independence over and I feel like crying because I really hate being told “Okay, have you packed everything?” and having to organise when to get picked up, with my mum constantly asking “Can you say this-” when I’m on the phone.
I just sometimes hate it, you know? It’s so much better than if they were still married because they’re happier but I wish I had more freedom: it’s not that I don’t, it’s that I feel guilty about upsetting my mum especially. She wants me to spend most of my time round hers: I’m going shopping with her tomorrow so she can help me buy clothes and I don’t want to go. I want to stay home, revise and actually relax without becoming angry or defensive. I hate myself when I’m like that.
Knowing that people have it worse can be comforting but it sometimes makes me feel like my problems or feelings are stupid or worthless. Then, I shut them out or block them because I feel like I don’t deserve to feel them because both my parents are nice, don’t argue any more and ine happy now. I shouldn’t feel like that but I do because I am lucky.
I know that their divorce is all in the past but I never got to talk about it when I was younger. I didn’t really realise it needed to be talked upon because it seemed pointless: everything was okay; I wasn’t bothered. I haven’t spoken to my sister about it much at all because it’s too late now but I still feel panicked when I think about how they might both be lonely if I leave.
Opening up about this has taken a huge weight off my chest. I always feel like I can’t talk about it because it happened so long ago. It’s not like it’s serious but I know that at least some of my worry and excess clinginess and paranoia is due to feeling like I have to juggle houses and being at the whim of plans I have no control over. I don’t know. Even talking about this is making me feel guilty because I know my parents love me so much but the reality is, I couldn’t have gone through this unscathed.
I want you to know that you’re not alone. Going through a divorce is so hard for parents but it’s hard for us too. Even if it happened 5 years, 10 years or however many years ago, it can still affect you. Time doesn’t dictate whether you should be “over it”: I should know; you can talk about how you feel. If you don’t feel like its worth anything, remember that it’s your mental health. It’s not easy and if you need to speak to anyone, you can: my email’s always open because I know what it’s like, especially, to not realise that a part of the reason you get so angry now and in the past is because you weren’t aware you could express your feelings of panic and isolation before.
From Elm 🙂