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LifestyleColumnistsAsk Amy

Adult struggles to cope with tough childhood

DEAR AMY: I need your advice on how to get over my childhood, accept my parents for who they are and move forward without harboring resentment. I am 50 years old. I have a good life, and I don’t blame my own problems on anyone else. My parents are decent people, but my sibling and I were subjected to a consistent level of verbal and emotional abuse during our teen years. My parents are 80, and I would have thought this would get easier, but as I get older and continue to interact with them, my bitter resentment is actually getting worse. They are both extremely judgmental and critical, and take enjoyment from ridiculing and demeaning others. I know I will never measure up, and it makes me furious when they make fun of anyone else, even if it’s not directed at me. I cannot cut them off completely because my two teenagers would not understand. They do not know what it was like to be raised by people with constant yelling, name calling and threats. My parents are good to my kids. In other areas of my life I am stronger and more secure, but being around my parents, or the anticipation of it, gets me anxious for days. How do I rid myself of this internal resentment and negativity, and move on?

Still the Anxious Child

DEAR STILL ANXIOUS: No one — no one — “gets over” their childhood. Your childhood is what made you who you are. Stop trying to get over it, and focus your energy on coping with it.

Anxiety is one consequence of growing up in a verbally and emotionally abusive household.

I hope it is not necessary for you to have constant contact with your parents in order for your teenage children to have what you want them to have, which is a healthy relationship with their grandparents. Now that they are teens, you may be able to simply back off more.

You should also give yourself a break, as well as the license to simply feel the way you feel, without thinking that you are somehow failing at being a well-adjusted survivor. Reacting naturally in the moment, for example, responding when your parents trash others, will help.

Sample: “Mom. Dad. Stop it.” If you find your stress level rising, excuse yourself, get a glass of water, remind yourself to breathe and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for being a better parent, and person, than you were raised to be. You win!

DEAR AMY: I am a 58-year-old woman. I am 5-feet 4 inches tall and weigh 112 pounds, with a small frame. I have made a conscious effort to live a healthy lifestyle and to pass that to my children. We all enjoy life, are very active and love to cook and eat wonderful food. One reason why living a healthy lifestyle is important to me is that I lost my mom shortly after she turned 74, due to complications of her morbid obesity. Our family is devastated by this loss. I would love your advice for how to handle rude remarks by friends and strangers alike who “skinny-shame” me. Recently, someone who I’ve known since childhood told me I wouldn’t be so cold if I just weighed more! Another person said she wanted to tie me up and force-feed me ice cream and French fries. A total stranger told the receptionist at my salon to “Let ‘Skinny’ go first!” I would never tell anyone they were fat. Why is it OK for them to talk to me like that? I am not one of those quick-witted people who seem to always have the perfect retort. How can I answer these bullies without being rude, but still being very clear that their remarks are hurtful and rude?

M

DEAR M: Your question actually contains a great response to these people who comment on your body. When this happens in the future, you can simply ask, “Why do you think it is OK to talk to me — and about me — in that way? Please stop.”

DEAR AMY: “Upset and Confused” expressed her dismay at her friend who referred to our president “using the worst racist term imaginable.” Thank you for standing up for decency and for raising your voice against racist slurs.

Admirer

DEAR ADMIRER: Being opposed to racism, including the use of racist slurs, is hardly an act of bravery on my part, but thank you.

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