My Childhood Home Wasn't Safe. Years Later, I Gave A Name To What I Endured.

You may be a victim without even knowing it.

Safe in public but not at home vadimguzhva, nenovbrothers, evgenyatamanenko | Canva

I always felt something was wrong with my father, despite his self-proclaimed generosity, kindness, and love. I suffered major cognitive dissonance because my father would tell me he was such a fair, honest, logical, and kind person yet he took such great pleasure in hurting me.

It just didn’t make sense. His words and public persona did not match the unempathetic behavior he inflicted in the safety of his own home, where no one was watching.


One of the strangest things was the pleasure he derived from humiliating me. When I was about seven years old, I didn’t want to wear boots to school. There wasn’t a lot of snow outside.

"Put on your boots," he screamed, "or I will throw them at you and embarrass you in front of your whole class." I reluctantly put my boots on.

Over the years, my father obtained my full compliance by alternatively terrorizing me and punishing me with the silent treatment. Not being in communication with him should have allowed my nervous system to settle, but even if he was not speaking to me, I was not released from his venom.


My father routinely spoke ill of me to family members and others. He engaged in a smear campaign intended to show that I, his daughter, was a cruel, undeserving, and toxic person.

When I confronted him, he looked me in the eye and calmly and snarkily informed me that I was crazy, delusional, and out to get him. The gaslighting was unbelievable. Did he truly believe his own lies, or was I the one who was wrong? I

learned to keep my mouth shut. I avoided confrontation: It was too dangerous. Instead, I ruminated, replaying events and conversations in my mind, trying to make sense of the incomprehensible.

RELATED: 12 Signs You Have An Emotionally Abusive Parent


My father had two very distinct opposing personalities.

With strangers, he was caring, kind, and altruistic. He was the type of man who wouldn’t hurt a fly. I wished he would be this way with me and I felt frustrated that I was unable to bring out his seemingly good side. His opposite personality fiercely unleashed at me behind closed doors, always in private when no one else was watching.

Growing up, I never knew which personality would rear its head. In my childhood recollections, he often returned home from work, raging like a lunatic, grabbing the remote control out of our hands to shut off the TV "because I am the parent."

During his fits of rage, he screamed at us for being alive: "Why are you talking? Don’t you see I have a headache? You are so incredibly selfish and rotten!" he would roar. I learned to quiet my voice and dim the lights to not trigger him.


Once, in another fit of anger, my father threw kitchen knives at my brother because of a perceived slight caused by my eight-year-old brother laughing at a cartoon. I watched my brother freeze and duck as knives darted at him.

How could my father engage in such behavior when he was so very much against violence? I couldn’t let this go. As the older sister, I had to protect my brother so I confronted my father. He came back to me with a diagram and a big smile. He had drawn my brother’s position in the kitchen to demonstrate that scientifically the knives could not have hit my brother, simply brushed against him. It was scientific and pure logic, he said. I couldn’t understand because I was not smart like him.

At this point, my brother and I knew something was very wrong but couldn’t quite put our fingers on what it was.

On rare occasions, he came home smiling and calm. On those days, I wondered how this nice person could be capable of such cruelty. My brother was in the same state of disbelief over our Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde father.


Mustering his courage, my brother confronted our father. "Why do you act so nice in public but so different with us?"

The answer was immediate: "In public, you see my real personality but you and your sister just bring out the worst in me," he screamed with venom. His inability to control his anger was our fault. No one outside of our home would have ever suspected the depths of his psychological despair.

He selected our youngest sister to be his golden child, the favorite. He singled her out and purchased many gifts for her, and none for his designated scapegoats.

When she got a bad grade, it was the teacher’s fault. When I got a good grade, I was still a failure. He encouraged my brother and I to be more like our younger sister. My sister resented the unfair treatment. She was plagued by guilt and told him she was uncomfortable with this obnoxious setup. I finally felt a glimmer of hope. Perhaps, this would finally release his inner demons.


Fully incapable of self-reflection, he turned to my brother and I. He said we were trying to poison our sister to be "miserable like us" and that he would need to continue to protect her from us. He taught us that we were unlovable and flawed, and by the same token, he taught my sister that his love was conditional, which would later mold her into a people pleaser.

Money was a means of control in our home.

Anything I asked for, regardless of whether it was needed or reasonable, was vehemently denied. No, I was not entitled to clothes or a laptop for school. He controlled with money. If there was a wedding, only then, was I entitled to a new dress because others would be watching. 

On family vacations, my sister would get an upgraded suite, but if I wanted to join, I would need to secure my own hotel room at my own cost. According to my father, I still had a lot to learn about money. When I turned 18, I never asked him for a penny again, and of course, he never offered.


RELATED: How To Know If You Were Raised By Truly Narcissistic Parents

By the time, I began university, we were (thankfully) not on speaking terms.

My nervous system needed time to heal from the dysregulation. He had shown no interest, other than tell me my choice of program was awful and I would go nowhere in life.

A few weeks before my graduation, he popped up in my emails, demanding to know the date of my graduation. I angrily responded "You are not invited," proud of myself for having the courage to stand up to my absent toxic father. The pride I felt was short-lived.

The next day, the director of the university called me, requesting that I figure out my problems with my father and wishing to not be in the middle as my father had called the university demanding a ticket to the graduation ceremony. Shamed and coerced, I purchased a ticket for him to attend, all while feeling a giant pit in my stomach. One day before the graduation, he told me he would not attend — he had decided to go on a business trip.


Over the years, I collected a trail of emails from him. Each of these pointed out my flaws, with a special emphasis on my perceived failures. It was years later that his own brother stood in disbelief as my father proudly presented those emails filled with vile words and insults.

"See," he told his brother, "look how smart I am." In his emails, he wrote that I would never have any friends. No one would ever like me. I was a failure. He was ashamed of me. I didn’t take care of my appearance.

He sent me so many emails to ensure I internalized his shame. Those emails were the projection of his shortcomings onto me.

"You will thank me. I am teaching you lessons. You just don’t see it." Somewhere inside my dysregulated emotions, I believed him. The frustration, disbelief, and hurt I felt left me with a perpetual tightness in my chest, a clenched jaw, and a persistent feeling of being emotionally drained. My body was giving up and I felt exhausted from living in dual realities.


RELATED: 5 Traits Of Narcissistic Parents — Sound Familiar?

Eventually, my father couldn’t keep his composure in his old age. He began to slowly let his mask slip in public. His own extended family had no idea how terrifying he could be. His own brother was shattered.

"Our parents would turn over in graves to see how badly you treat your children," he told my father, trying to get through to him. My father unleashed at his own brother, stating he wished to cut ties for a long time, possibly forever. My father’s lack of introspection was astounding but not surprising.

Now that my father was lashing out in public. I was told, by many, that he had no empathy. I was so hurt at times that I would start to cry from pain, frustration, or even physical hurt. My father stood stoic, with no emotion, as he continued his lashes, whether physical or verbal. I never specifically thought about empathy before, but I was intrigued. I plunged deep into research on empathy, seeking answers.


My research led me to narcissism.

I couldn’t look away. The description of the covert narcissist fit my father to a tee. I watched every YouTube video I could find, absorbing all the information possible, because for once, I had an answer. It was not the answer I wanted but it was an explanation.

My father projected his anger, frustrations, and insecurities onto me, my brother, and even my sister. He forced us to swallow his unprocessed pain because he couldn’t handle it.


In doing so, he played the victim card so frequently that he managed to make me feel sorry for him and blame myself.

This is why I was never able to fully cut ties with him, but in retrospect, I wish I had. The cognitive dissonance and perpetual state of post-traumatic stress disorder I endured are testaments to his ongoing lifelong narcissistic abuse. I am not sure I can ever truly forgive him.

I vow to never treat my own kids this way. What if I unintentionally do the same to my kids? I asked my therapist. That will never happen, she reassured me. You, unlike him, have empathy.

Being a child doesn’t have to hurt.

Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States. According to the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, 28.3 percent of adults report being physically abused as a child, and 10.6 percent of adults report being emotionally abused as a child.


There are many physical and behavioral signs of child abuse in both the child and the parent or caretaker. To learn more about these signs, visit the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline’s website. If you suspect a child you know is being abused physically or emotionally, contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline for more resources at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

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Emerald Myara (she/her) is a writer who covers topics such as narcissistic abuse, trauma, mental health, relationships, and healing.