What the "Umbrella Academy" Taught Me About My Abusive Family

Umbrella Academy, the superhero television series with twist, explores the different ways victims of childhood abuse cope. Quickly, I realized how deeply I resonated with the characters. I often go back and forth on whether or not I consider my childhood abusive because what I endured wasn’t physical. Sometimes, it almost feels almost wrong to use this label. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to feel more valid in my feelings and accept that I was emotionally abused. Here is what some of the main character helped me understand about how childhood abuse affects people:

 

Number One (Luther)

Luther, despite the years of severe abuse, still aligns himself with his father. Even later in the series, after a heartbreaking discovery, feels the need to defend his father’s lasting legacy and wishes. I had a similar experience as Luther. When you’re abused by someone who loves you, especially a parent, the bond created is a very unique one. Despite the pain they continually cause you, you love them. Just like Luther, I’ve found myself aligning with my parents and defending them even. Because of the love I have for my parents, even today, I still question if I’m allowed to identify as a victim of abuse.

 

Number Two (Diego)  

I, personally, resonated with Diego, as the emotion he defaults to consistently is anger. Diego has a short fuse, and that’s how he deals with everything and I really do mean everything. An environment of abuse creates angry kids because you’re angry about what happened and because anger is an simple emotion to feel and process. As I’ve grown and gone through years of therapy, I’ve learned how to feel other emotions, but it often is still the first one that comes up for me. Anger is straightforward, and I’m frankly mad about so many things that have happened to me.,

Number Three (Alison)

Alison has the ability to manipulate anyone into doing her will by stating “I heard a rumor that.”  I definitely feel shameful admitting I resonate with this one. I’ve manipulated many people over the years, and it’s harmed many friendships and familial relationships. Kids are smarter than we often give them credit for, and manipulation is a tactic they learn as a defense mechanism. I watched how my parents operated, internalized it and used it. Now that I’m older, I’m learning how to openly communicate and get what I want without having to manipulate situations. It turns out that people are usually willing to give you what you need if you just ask.

Number Four (Klaus) 

Klaus is the drug addicted brother of the family who reminded how good it can feel to practice avoidance. Feelings are hard to feel, especially when those feelings aren't anger or happy (when you're lucky). I spent my sophomore year of college is a haze of weed and alcoho,  because I couldn't deal with everything I'd gone through up until then. If you don't feel it, it's not real. Or at least it's not real right now. Just like Klaus, eventually I had to face what I'd been avoiding, I just wasted time unhappy and drug addicted. Klaus helped me realize that it's not necessarily my fault as we are products of our own enviroments. 

 

Number Seven (Vanya)

Vanya, by a landslide, was my favorite character of the series. She was the family black sheep, a role I’m all too familiar with. Treated differently by her father leading to her being treated differently by her siblings. It’s a devastating feeling as a child and leads to an adolescence and adulthood of feeling as if something is “wrong” with you. As I watched the flashbacks, it became apparent that in the "Umbrella Academy", their father’s love was a resource that each of the siblings had to compete for, and Vanya was basically taken out of the race. That was the way I felt for so much of my childhood, and even now in my adulthood, and it damaged my relationships with my siblings. We were no longer teammates but competitors, and we were fighting for something more valuable than any cash prize could ever be. Just like Vanya, I love my siblings but its complicated. They hurt me and continue to hurt me in this competition for our parent’s love. Vanya was outcast by her family because she lacked power, very comparable to how my family treated my queerness. They highlighted and hated my difference, and I was punished for it.

 

Abusive environments are hard to grow up in. It’s hard to leave that bubble and try and navigate a world so different from you thought it would be. I’ve had to teach myself through trial and many error how best to function in the world. I’m still learning today, and I hope one day I’ll be able to grasp it. I’m grateful to the Umbrella Academy for reminding me that I am not alone in my experience.

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