When I was younger I used to lay in bed at night and listen to my parents arguing. It would always end the same with banging and clattering and shouting, and I would pull my covers over my head to try and stop myself from hearing. I would have to line my toys up a certain way, and do a kind of rhythm tapping. I thought if I did it wrong, it meant that they would argue and fight. I blamed myself for every argument, convinced that it was solely my fault as I hadn’t done my rituals correctly.
The next morning, mum would always make dad’s favourite breakfast, and he would always buy her flowers or something. We would never speak about what had happened the night before, and if I’m honest I thought it was just how families were supposed to be.
I stayed over my friend’s house one night and she looked at me like an absolute weirdo when I instinctively pulled my duvet over my head as we went to sleep. It made me feel safe, protected in my own bubble away from any shouting that might happen. I did my rituals, and strangely enough, I apparently did them correctly as there was no shouting.
The next day we went to Abington Park together. I can remember feeling very nervous, surely if my friend’s parents didn’t shout at night, they would shout in the daytime. What if they shouted at me? I couldn’t do my rituals, I usually tapped a rhythm multiple times however I couldn’t as I didn’t get a minute on my own. My eyes were itching with tears and I felt very strange in myself.
We were playing in the park, swinging on the swings, when her dad suddenly shouted my name. I bolted, and ran down to the duck pond, hiding in the bushes. I knew it! Surely I must be in big trouble if her dad had shouted my name. I remember feeling so frightened, my chest felt too small and tight to breathe properly and every single person who walked past seemed to resemble my friends dad. I knew after shouting came banging and clattering, and I didn’t want to be involved in that. I kept repeating my rhythms and tapping but it wasn’t helping.
Eventually, my friend found me, and her dad was holding a half-melted 99 ice cream in his hand. My friend explained to me that he was shouting me just to come and collect my ice cream. I felt so embarrassed. They probably thought I was stupid.
I don’t think it was too soon after that, that my mum and dad divorced. My dad got a new girlfriend, and she was nice. I still didn’t stay over at my dad’s house as I was so frightened to hear shouting again.
As I got older, I became more and more anxious and eventually needed to get help. I went to CAMHS and got diagnosed with OCD, and then I saw someone every week for a while til things got better. I’m still a bit jumpy when people shout, but overall I’d say I feel much better. I don’t feel like I need to do my tapping anymore, and if I’m starting to feel like I need to, I talk to my mum. I’ve also started to stay over my dad’s, and so far so good.
My top tips for if you’re having problems with your families fighting:
- Remember it isn’t your fault, and that you’re not doing anything wrong.
- Try and talk to someone, whether it’s your mum or dad, teacher, or a friend. Sometimes saying it out loud can really help.
- Try not to get involved with taking sides, as that can just make you feel worse.