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Mental Health

A How to Guide on Navigating a Toxic Household

This topic may seem a bit personal to some, but it is one that everyone should be able to relate with to some extremity. As we grow older and mature emotionally - some of our childhood houses become a place of visitation, and our relationships with parents can appear strained and more superficial. From my personal perspective - coming from a divorced family has always brought me an abundance of stress, instability, and uncertainty, as I try my hardest to navigate through my adulthood; especially as I left for college. As thankful as I am to have found a home amid Sacred Heart University, returning home to a place that withholds a variety of painful memories for me continually grows difficult. It is raw and genuine to recognize that home is not every person’s “safe place” or designated “place of relaxation.” As we grow older and experience a life outside of our direct families, it can become clear how toxic our upbringing was or the tensity that lives within our childhood homes. Whether or not you come from a divorced family; struggle with parental relationships; do not feel supported or comforted at home, or have a close relationship with your family, this article can make you more worldly of the challenges some of us like myself go through.

  1. Be Your Own Person

If you are anything like me - you have grown up the meditator within your family and aim to be the one to settle disputes and bring an abundance of peace. However, it is important to recognize that your parents are adults and are responsible for their own adultlike problems. As we mature, especially in college, it is comforting to recognize that we can create our own future destinations apart from the instability we have experienced growing up. In my own life, I aim to excel in my personal relationships and my schoolwork because I know that I am the only person who can dictate the rest of my life. We do not have to end up like our parents - as human beings we are deserving of happy and healthy relationships, and a stress-free environment; in which it is essential that we work hard to be our own role models. Ultimately, whether you grew up unsupported or had parents who were not validating your personal decisions or values, remember that your opinion is the only one that will affect the entirety of your life; thereby, only you know what is best for you.

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  1. Create Your Own Family

Coming from an occasionally toxic and overbearing family has inspired me to maintain high standards/expectations for others I let into my life, who in which provide me with the stability and comfort my parents did not. Though we cannot pick our family, we have the capacity to pick our friends, and those of us who had a tough upbringing should aim to surround ourselves with the most amazing, supportive people. Not to mention, having reliable friends will allow you to better cope through the hard times enduring your family. As we navigate our 20s - we will go through changes and experiences like no other, preparing ourselves for the rest of our lives. Thereby, having an uplifting group of friends to hold your hand through the highs and the lows is essential in growing into a better version of yourself during times.


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  1. Self-Care:

Considering I grew up constantly having to “pick sides” while thrown into the middle of my parents' fights - to this day I take responsibility to “fix” others and go above and beyond for those who tend not to reciprocate the same energy back. Those of us who struggled in “warzones” growing up need to take the necessary responsibility to tell others “no” occasionally and nurture our inner child. Living a life of constant sacrifice and emotional neglect can lead us to “burnout” quicker than other people; thereby, it is important that you check in with yourself most days and validate your own emotions before making space for others. Some things I like to do is “parent myself” while taking the steps to bring comfort to myself through journaling, meditating, and driving; there are many tools that can bring peace to you while during chaos.


In all - this is not an easy subject to ponder, being our family life is a private matter and consistent in our lives unlike many other hardships that are one time occurrence. There is so much stigma regarding domestic abuse, divorce, and addictive tendencies within families, in my opinion more than any other hardship in life. I still to this day tend to internalize my problems for the sake of keeping others comfortable or because this is a matter that most do not discuss - yet that is unfair to me and other survivors of hard upbringings! I encourage each of you who resonate with me or have experienced any kind of strain or neglect to speak up and vocalize what you have gone through; it is unfair for us to struggle in silence. Over anything, recognize the power you have within yourself. We are the only people who can dictate our future - prove your parents wrong and be your own loudest cheerleader throughout your success. I believe in every one of you, and for those of us who empathize with the pain within my words, I hear and understand you. We are in this matter together!

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Madison Miller

Sacred Heart '23

Hello beautiful people! My name is Maddy Miller and I'm a freshman at Sacred Heart University. I love writing because it helps me to express my emotions and find inner happiness. I love the color yellow, farm animals, iced tea, and photography. Not to mention, life itself! (:
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