The realities of growing up without





By: JessMess


Growing up without can mean multiple things, whether it’s growing up without money, not having parents, having parents who are dependent on drugs, being abused by those who claim to love you, etc. Different people have different experiences and different views of growing up without, I personally had a combination of all the above experiences, these are my realities.

In my perspective it all started a few months before my 6th birthday, dad abused mom physically, emotionally and verbally. Fifteen years later I vividly remember crying in the backseat of my paternal grandmothers car as we drove away from our mother not knowing that we wouldn’t see her for another 3 or 4 years. As time went on my older sister no longer showed her emotions, I continued to cry myself asleep on each holiday for about two years straight, by the time my mother came back around I told myself that I hated her. It was christmas morning and she showed up at our front door with a giant sack of toys as it all was forgiven, my sister was ecstatic, I however would not show her my face. Long story short, this resulted in a childhood surrounded by drugs, neglect, abuse, foster care and constant loss of faith and loss of the will to live.

When people compare tragedies

Many people have this bad habit of comparing their own personal hardships with hardships of another, what most seem to not understand is that what you went though is not comparable to what someone else went though due to the simple fact that different situations affect people differently. I always try to explain this by using an example of PTSD, there is this stigma that in order for someone to be diagnosed with this disease that they have to had been in the Military and gone through war. PTSD, or “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood.” My tragedy might not be a tragedy to you but to me it is real.

Loss of faith and will to live

“If there really is a god why is he letting me suffer?”

I constantly asked myself this question growing up, I bounced from foster home to foster home, some abusive and some super religious. Being forced into religion, being told there was a man who lived upstairs and loved his creation was absolutely confusing and crushing to me. I couldn’t believe there was a god, I didn’t want to.

“What’s the point?”

This was the main question in middle and high school, what’s the point of my existence? “Nobody would give a damn if I disappeared tomorrow”. My sophomore year in high school I tried to commit suicide, this included a failed attempt of downing a bunch of pills and passing out in a tub full of water, found by my ex-boyfriend who had saved my life.

Forced responsibility

“Wow you’re so responsible for your age, that’s amazing”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing that i’m considered responsible but, get real. I had no choice but to be responsible for my two younger siblings, no child at the age of 11 should have to care, provide for and raise two children when she/he should have still been taken care of by an adult. Don’t even get me started on the random outbursts of immaturity now due to not knowing how to be a child growing up, the inability to focus on oneself and personal growth.

“Why are you so boring?”

This one grinds my gears, i’m not boring. I’m simply trying to get my life together, all I know how to be is responsible, yeah i’m in debt but what 21 year old living in America isn’t? This is for the people in the back, If being boring means I have my crap together so be it!

Trust in oneself and others

“We’ve been friends for 6 years and you still don’t trust me!?”

I run into this problem quite a bit, growing up with a drug addict for a mother and an alcoholic for a father it’s quite easy to not trust most people you cross paths with. Being friends with someone who has a lack of trust with people is a tough situation for both parties, some advice I would like to share is

  • To try to understand why it is so hard for them to trust people
  • To understand that it’s not about you
  • Don’t walk away when them giving you their trust seems impossible
  • Understand that 6 years is nothing to them

“You push me away on purpose, what is wrong with you?”

Don’t do that, point blank. I have the habit of pushing people away subconsciously. In the back of my head there’s this little version of me screaming “they’re just going to leave you behind like everyone else in your life!” “It’s too good to be true, ditch them before you get hurt”. You think you’re the only one getting hurt? People with this problem don’t often realise that we end up hurting ourselves in the long run because in a lot of situations we’re letting go of some really good people.

Not wanting to deal with things that relate to your past

“Why don’t you just let go of the past? It’s over.”

It’s not over for some, this isn’t “Oh, crap I broke my phone! Whatever i’ll just buy a new one” my past is part of who I am and don’t get that mixed up with “my past defines me” because it does not. That’s like telling a rape victim to “get over it”.

“Just because someone else did it to you, doesn’t mean I will too.”

Yes, we know that, but that doesn’t mean you won’t. It’s much deeper than that, I don’t think that everyone I cross paths with is going to betray me in some way, I’m just more cautious than most probably to the point where it may be perceived as paranoia. Once again this takes time and personal growth to get through.

Seeking out negative attention

“Do you just like pissing people off?”

This is definitely not something we all do, but it does occur often in those who go through some crap. In most cases people who are “attention seekers” are wired this way due to being neglected throughout their childhood. Those feelings of neglect are the main drive behind the person’s’ attention seeking behavior. Although, attention-seeking behavior isn’t always a negative thing.

“Stop crying wolf, nobody is going to believe you.”

Never assume, if someone you know is going ‘overboard’ with attention-seeking there has to be an underlying cause. Ask the individual what’s going on, be concerned and pay full attention when they are speaking to you, don’t just listen with closed ears truly hear them. In many cases, someone who seeks excessive amounts of attention it is a severe cry for help. “Excessive attention seeking is not a character flaw. It is a brain wiring response to early developmental trauma caused by neglect.”


“Do you have daddy issues or something?”

You know what? Yes, I do, thank you so much for pointing that out. “If their fathers are alcoholics, women are more likely to marry alcoholics, because they think that’s just what men do.” —Barbara Greenberg, PhD. I think that quote covers this question for me.

“Why would you leave him!? He was a great guy!”

“He’s too nice” that’s the statement that comes to mind when this question is asked. There are a lot of reasons why women who have daddy issues steer clear of the “good guys”, some include:

  • They don’t express the same kind of arousal.
  • They prefer bad boys who are expected to hurt them rather than the “nice looking guy” who’s not expected to hurt them.
  • A guy who is considered a “bad boy” and breaks their heart is just the norm, so they’re just not used to someone being nice to them.
  • We want a project.

How to help your loved one or friend battling some of these issues

Listen to them

Sounds simple right? But, it’s much more than just listening to someone. Show them that you truly hear them, that you’re really trying to understand their outlook on things they may be struggling with.

Be patient

You have to remember that this is a personal hardship for them, you can’t “fix” them. It takes time to grow and learn to overcome the fears of one’s past and in most cases this can take years to accomplish.

Be loving and caring

Show them that you love and care about their wellbeing, but do not become their permanent crutch, this will only result in making it harder for them to grow and face the demon they do not know.

Finally, understand

They have to want to help themselves. If somebody you know has gone over the deep end it’s okay for you to take action and suggest professional help, if you feel that the individual may harm themselves or someone else seek immediate assistance. You can call a crisis line or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).


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