If you're like me, you may have mixed feelings about your parents. I'm here to tell you that is completely valid.
Growing up, I was fairly close to my mom, although our relationship was often superficial.
If you grew up close to one or both of your parents, it can be difficult to realize when they are toxic or emotionally abusive towards you. However, recognizing their toxic behaviour doesn’t mean that they don't love you, or that you don't love them.
In fact, they probably love you a lot. Your parent can love you and still be toxic to your growth.
In my case, my mom was preventing me coming to terms with my gender and sexual identity and contributing greatly to my anxiety. However, in her mind, she felt she was doing the right thing. Regardless, that doesn't make her words any less toxic to me and it is valid for me to distance myself from her.
Some parents can genuinely love you with their entire hearts, but they may lack emotional maturity. This forces you to perform unfair amounts of emotional labor to carry the relationship.
Some parents have mental illnesses themselves, and they may manifest their symptoms in ways that harm you. It is okay to acknowledge that they are harming you.
Some parents desperately want to be good parents, but they continuously fall back on habits of emotional manipulation because they haven't processed their own traumas or because they are modelling toxic behaviours they had to deal with while they were growing up. That doesn't make their actions towards you acceptable. It is okay to feel exhausted or hurt by their behaviours. You are not obligated to forgive every mistake.
I want you to know that it is okay to protect yourself or to need space from them. The love you have for your parents is still valid.
This fall, I have had to place a safe emotional distance between my mom and I, and in the past I have had to distance myself from my father. This has been one of the hardest decisions that I have had to make. I struggled with feelings of guilt, of questioning my own feelings, and I needed constant validation from others that I was doing the right thing.
If distancing yourself from a parent is something you need to do, I promise you are not being hard-hearted or ungrateful. You are not abandoning them. You are making a decision to protect your own emotional and mental health, and I am so proud of you for that.
I understand what it's like to be in a confusing, grey area of love mixed with guilt, anxiety and resentment, of exhaustion and unreciprocated emotional labor. I promise, you are not the only person who feels this way. You are not alone. It is okay and valid and you are so brave to take the steps you need to in order to protect yourself and to grow as an individual.