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Ask Ellie: Prioritize goals to end reliance on toxic relatives

Graduation and a steady job are keys to a better, happier, life

Dear Ellie: I’m 22, in my junior year. My partner, 23, graduated and got an incredible job in a field he loves.

Unfortunately, his new neighbourhood and workplace are close to my parents’ home. They were emotionally abusive, saying things like “you’ll die alone, unloved, all your fault.”

They threatened slipping sedatives in my food, called a false welfare check on me when I was 20 despite my note: “I’m willingly moving out… I have somewhere to stay for at least seven months.”

Yet I’m still dependent on them for food and tuition. I actively seek part-time jobs, or full-time paid work over summers and winter break. I won’t be financially stable enough to confront them or separate myself until I graduate. Meanwhile, living away helps.

I told my parents about my partner’s job because I didn’t want to accidentally run into them. Now, they’re trying to persuade me to move back. But my mental state deteriorates whenever I do.

Between my neurology issues, family problems, and how long I was in the closet, the area holds seriously bad memories for me, like I’m trapped in my high-school years, desperate to stop feeling so bad.

I don’t resent my partner’s taking the job there. I’m glad he’s found an apartment and area he loves. I wish I could share in that and plan visits/trips to see him. How do I navigate this mess?

End Emotional Abuse

Take care of you, by explaining your decisions to your partner. Since the area triggers debilitating memories, and your family isn’t trustworthy, avoid the area. Discuss where you two can periodically meet comfortably. Also, be consistent and creative with online contact together.

Research the availability of student loans. Also, explore any student counselling services open to you, to deal with triggers to past abuse. Keep seeking work to increase your independence but stay committed to your studies.

Graduation and a steady job are keys to your better, happier, life. Then, seek in-depth counselling to leave the past behind.

Dear Ellie: After my much-loved husband of 40 years died suddenly, my sister travelled to attend the funeral and, with her husband, helped me close his business.

However, she showed a very hurtful, demeaning attitude behaviour toward me. It’s haunted me since.

She said she cares about my daughter (but never showed any interest) and her husband wishes no association with her. My daughter suffers from bipolar disorder and low self-esteem.

My sister said that I’m all lies and secrets, which is not true.

Just weeks after my husband’s death, she wrote that “he was dangerously overweight and there was nothing you could do except lock him in a cage on a treadmill and throw him small scraps of food.” Her portrayal of him is completely inaccurate.

She continued lecturing me. I’m a successful, hardworking woman who managed everything after my loss including finally closing/selling the business, funeral arrangements, etc.

I want her out of my mind. Suggestions?

Fed Up

Disengage. Don’t respond to intentionally hurtful messages, nor expose your daughter to this couple.

Distance. Don’t complain about your older sister to others. It’ll only keep negativity in play.

Distrust. Whatever created this sibling atmosphere, has been there long, like rot.

Draw on your own strengths. You had a much-loved partner for many years, with love, trust and respect.

Be proud of your successes/strengths/skills managing a difficult passage in your life.

Dream a little. Think about what you want/need in the years ahead for yourself and for your daughter.

Reader’s Commentary regarding the discussion on anxiety with psychologist Dr. Bethany Cook (March 22 and 23):

“As one who suffers from anxiety, you’re not alone: It’s a part of you, so get educated about it.

“A common misconception is that medication is the “cure-all.” But I’ve found that medication is only one tool. “Taking the edge off” is a very apt description.

“Be very cautious/careful whom you confide in regarding your condition. Be sure the person you’re about to tell will accept who you are.

“Otherwise, it can become their tool to exploit you (personal experience).

“Many publications tout the merits of CBD (medical marijuana) use for anxiety. “Start low and Go slow.”

“If it works for you, great. But I belong to the 10% of the population for which it not only doesn’t work, but works opposite (e.g., causes “brain fog” rather than relieves it).”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Stay with your important goals to end reliance on those who have been emotionally abusive and still trigger hurtful memories.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

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