Child Abuse’s Effect on the Leaving Home Stage

At the end of high school, I was desperate to get away from home. My parents were offering me the apartment at the back  of our house as well as a car if I’d stay home with them. Every fiber of my body knew I needed to burst free. Once I left home and entered the world of university, my life changed dramatically.

My roommate was Sue. Night after night Sue and I lay awake at opposite ends of our long, narrow residence room with its posters on the walls, two desks, and two dressers and talked about our lives and our families. I told her about my perfect family: how my mother was beautiful and clever, my father wise and witty. They were the perfect couple. Sue heard all about my aunts, uncles, nephews, and the characters who peopled my hometown. My idealized family was glamorous and gifted.

That first year at university, I had my first adult experience with the emotion of anger.  I had sent a shirt out for laundering and it came back dry cleaned. I was furious!  It had cost more to dry clean and they may have ruined it by not washing it. Even as I was cursing the cleaners, I was intrigued and curious about what was happening in my body. Powerful, uncomfortable surges of energy were coursing through my gut. My legs were quivering and my face was flushed. I watched, alarmed and amazed. So this is what anger feels like! It was a strange new power. One part of me liked the sense of being alive. The other feared what would happen if I actually started reacting emotionally to the world around me. I would no longer appear calm and in charge, that was for sure.

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