Aside from paying black tax and bearing the financial burden of your parents to an extent, young people are still burdened with the emotional and psychological rollercoaster of their parents.
The ‘normal‘ cycle of life is: parents take care of their kids, kids get old enough to take care of themselves, and then a time comes when it is the kid’s turn to take care of their parents. It is your responsibility, as a child, to take care of your parents when they get old, but it is also very difficult as a young person to shoulder the emotional burden of your parents and be saddled with their responsibilities – especially when they are not old and you are yet to find your feet or place in the world.
It is a different thing when you have to bear only the financial burden of your parents. At least, for that one, you will only have to hustle harder – even though it is still very tough in our present economy. But it is entirely crippling when you have to shoulder the emotional and psychological load of your parents. When you have to be their emotional support when it is meant to be the other way round.
A lot of youths today struggle with their mental health. The many voices they hear in their heads are not just from within them, they are also the voices of their parents. When you have parents that complain and lament and wail all the time, their voices begin to play in your head and their fears, insufficiencies, and inadequacies become yours – no matter how much you try to shut it out.
As a young person, there is nothing as stressful as having parents who burden you with their emotional stress. While some truly believe that it is your responsibility to shoulder their emotional needs and thus burden you with it, others don’t even know that they are dumping their emotional problems on you.
Whichever one your parents fall under, it still doesn’t look good.
You are a young adult, saddled with the responsibility to take charge of your life, move yourself from point A to Q, find love, have a hold on your career, and so on. As an adult, taking care of yourself is a full-time job that you never graduate from – and it is a very difficult job. There’s this nagging sense of fear that envelops you when you wake, this anxiousness that grabs your rib bones and stabs your heart with it.
Sometimes, you just want to hold on to your parents, tell them how you feel and let them be your spine – even if it is just for a second. It becomes unfortunate when your parents are spineless. It is worse when they are dependent on you to take care of their emotional and psychological needs – totally oblivious to yours.
Aduke, I know…
I know when papa is broke and rather than gbe body and think of the way out, he lies in bed all day, sighing and whimpering like an injured sheep. He leaves his hair bushy and refuses to shave, then he walks about the house with his back hunched and his shoulders slumped. So you lay curled up under the blanket pretending t1o sleep, but every ahhh, yeee and uhmm stabs your hearts and leaves a hole that may never be filled.
His pitiful eyes are getting drowned with water and when he begs you for money – promising to return it soon – this water threatens to pour down his lens. So you take your last Naira note and dump it in his palms, knowing fully well that you will never get it back.
You see, it is not like you do not want to give papa money, it is that feeling of aloneness that kills you. The pain that you have to carry your burden and your parent’s burden and the agonizing knowledge that when you fall to the bottom, they are not capable of pulling you up.
It is also the feeling that they are not worth it that kills you…
So you are here, in this park, watching kids laughing, eating ice-cream and being… free! You remember that you never had this as a kid and it jabs your heart – again and again. You never had that love, that tension-less home that makes a kid thrive. You could count how many times you laughed as a kid, or felt joy so deep. You remember the financial lack you always had to deal with and the pity you had for your father for being poor. But you went out – beyond your environment, you saw how parents pulled strings to meet their children’s need and how your mates had that support children should always have from their parents. It is not the poverty of your parents that hurts you, it is the way your father slept while you hungered – not going to the ends of the earth to ensure you had a good life. It is also the pain that he demands so much from you when he has given you so little.
You remember the demeaning words your father said to you. Words that made you grow up with your self-esteem dragging on the floor through the years. You grew up emotionally broken, a kid depressed at a very young age – while your mother watched, hating the words that rolled out of your father’s lips – but too much a coward to put a stop to it.
Then your mother meets you in the middle of the night where horrors and nightmares are your companions and begs you to be patient with your father. “He had a bad childhood”, she says. “Please your father,” she says. But how can you please a man who doesn’t want to be pleased? He wants you to be perfect – the child who falls from the sky and makes no mistake.
You are grown now; you can hurl words at your father and tell him to shush these words down his lungs. You have realized that the demeaning words from him are just an extension of who he is. He is inadequate, but he calls you inadequate. And it is just because every thief sees other people as thieves.
But your mother is the meek one who has let her husband’s words strip her of her worth. She looks at herself in the mirror and sees a worthless being who has failed herself, her husband and her kids. She comes to you when the day breathes its first breath and talks and talks and her emotional needs begin to rub off on you.
You want to hate your father, but you cannot. You also want to love him deeply, but you cannot. So when he breaks down and looks like weakened vegetables – his face sober and his fingers quivering – you dip your hands into your nearly-empty pocket and empties it into his palms.
You can live with taking care of yourself financially, emotionally, psychologically. You can deceive yourself that you are self-sufficient and you do not need help. But when you have to carry your parent’s load, your legs begin to wobble, but the sting of being called inadequate by your father makes you want to keep on even while you die inside.
Listen Aduke. Live
You cannot carry your parent’s load and you can never make up for their inadequacies. You cannot carry their emotional burden when your mental health is handicapped.
There’s a resentment that rears its head when your parents need your help – the painful feeling that you cannot get this in return when you are in a fix. It is not because they do not want to help, it is because they cannot help and you hate them for not being able to help.
You do not need to feel guilty about this resentment you feel, or try to shove it into your intestines, hope that they digest and flush out of your system into nothingness. It is better you look in the mirror and confront your feelings, pour it out and let your heart and mind break free. Then pack your bags and leave the house. As long as you are with them, their emotional baggage will be dumped on you. You can carry another person’s financial burdens, but their emotional oodles will break you.
See a therapist, you cannot do this alone.
Peace and strength.