The Parentified Child
From a young age, Jezlyn began assuming the role of a parent. Her mother is unable to make decisions over most household matters. Jezlyn was forced into a “mother” role. Her mother relied on her over every big and small issue, from handling a government letter to managing her younger brother who was displaying rebellious behaviour.
Her mother was working but later lost her job. The trio depended on their savings to get by. When Jezlyn turned 17, she started working for her own expenses. Her university plans were halted. The financial strain resulted in constant fighting between Jezlyn and her mother. Home no longer felt like home but an alienating, hostile and unwelcoming place of unhappiness. She could not trust her mother nor her brother for the care and love she needed to survive in the world.
Jezlyn turned to nightlife shenanigans to escape. Every weekend was spent drinking, clubbing and hanging out with friends. The fun, although entertaining, was short-lived and unfulfilling. But it filled the emotional void temporarily.
For a long time, these escapades desensitised her need for help until she suffered a major depressive episode at age 18, with anxiety to boot. She had to seek psychiatric treatment. When she first sought help, she felt
“immensely hopeless, unmotivated and afraid. I felt ashamed of my financial circumstances, ashamed of falling behind my peers in the paths we were supposed to follow. This shame shut me up, shut others out. I felt terribly alone.”
The expensive psychiatric treatment at that time was brief but helped to stabilise her emotions. It gave her a glimpse into how things can be better.
Three years later, when she became an independent young adult, Jezlyn decided to reclaim control over her life and searched for an affordable option of therapy. O’Joy is the answer she found.
When O’Joy counsellor Melissa met her for the first time, Jezlyn had so much to tell but did not know where to begin. She did not have a sense of self as she always lived for other people. Not knowing what she likes and dislikes, she was like a stranger to herself.
Melissa began working with Jezlyn on some practical skills training such as time management, study skills, biological clock routine and sleep hygiene. With these skills as grounding, Melissa taught Jezlyn how to connect with her own emotions. Learning to set boundaries with her family was the most difficult hurdle for Jezlyn as that requires unravelling years of parentified conditioning. Jezlyn had to relearn how to care for her family while caring for herself.
After 3 years of self-discovery, Jezlyn has come a long way to become a confident young lady. In her own words,
“through therapy, my life has become more stable, calm and - dare I say - even happy? I have become more confident, measured and self-compassionate. Now on this side, I can see just how bad things were because now things are so much better. But at the time, I never could have known this. My lesson is I need to trust myself when I sense that I’m in pain. Undercutting and questioning myself only led to further suffering. Believe yourself!”
Today, Jezlyn does well in university. She found close friends, which she previously could not as she used to shut people out. Anxiety is greatly reduced. She can own her emotions and be aware of her feelings. Now more assertive, she naturally holds boundaries with her family and friends and knows how to say no.
Melissa continues to journey with Jezlyn to work on healing the childhood trauma and emotional neglect she had been through.
Having overcome her own suffering, Jezlyn is active in advocating for other trauma victims.
“It’s not weak to ask for help. It is normal to need support, community and even professional help. Humans cannot exist healthily alone. Loving communities, including loving and compassionate mental healthcare, are what motivates and transforms me.”
O’Joy is deeply heartened by Jezlyn’s transformation and applauds her courage for sharing her story so that others may find the inspiration to seek help. Don’t be afraid to reach out. We, at O’Joy, will journey with you through your challenges in life.
* This story is published with the client's approval, retaining many of her own words.
Name and photo of the client are changed to protect her confidentiality and privacy.