With COVID-19 sending many young adults and children back home from school, those of us who come from abusive homes are now being forced back into our toxic living situations.
Instead of being in a dorm, or being able to have at least eight hours of classes a day where we could escape, we are sent home, to people who may not support us or love us in the way we deserve to be supported and loved. Here are some tips for dealing with abusive households for the duration of this pandemic.
1. Try and Find Your Own Space
One of the most important things you can do when living with toxic people is to find your own space. It can be your room, a spot in the basement or even just a specific chair you can claim as your own. If you can hang things on the wall, or decorate in some way, I find that helps to set the space aside in your mind as your own.
Make sure this space has somewhere private if you need it. If your abusers tend to go through your things, find a spot they won’t go through (underwear drawer, bottom of a trash can, something like that) for those things that you may need to hide, like a coping journal, money or anything else you know they will react badly to.
2. Create a Coping Journal
Making a journal that you can write out your emotions in is incredibly valuable. Whether it’s a virtual app you keep password locked on your phone, or a small notebook you keep hidden in your room, make sure it won’t be accessed by your abusers. This is your space to vent. It’s your space to write down exactly what happens to you, which can be especially helpful if your abusers tend to engage in gaslighting, or the deliberate manipulation of your perception of reality.
It’s also a good space for making plans to leave when the time comes. Keeping track of things like how much money you’ll need to move out, what apartments you’re looking at or advice for living alone, those are all things you can keep in your coping journal. It’ll give you something positive to keep your spirits up while stuck in an abusive household.
3. Reach Out
I can’t emphasize this enough: reach out. Whether that’s to a crisis hotline, or a trusted friend/family member, find a support system and utilize it. Make new friends via online groups or talk to that one aunt who always had your back.
It’s so very important to find someone you can trust, as that person may be your only lifeline in situations that get toxic. Talking to someone you trust on a regular basis also gives you a routine, which is almost never a bad thing.
4. Find Something To Occupy Your Time
Do you have a hobby? Homework? A remote job? Whatever it is you do, find something to fill the hours with. Learn an instrument, practice your artistic skills, go on walks (while practicing social distancing, of course): These are all hobbies that take up your time, and the more time spent doing them is less time spent with your abusers.
Make a routine and stick to it. Maybe when you wake up, you’ll eat breakfast, go to your space and draw for a few hours. Then you can work on homework for a couple hours more, eat lunch, do anything required of you from work, write in your coping journal, eat dinner and have a conversation with your trusted person to finish out the day before bed.
5. Remember This Isn’t Forever
In the end, the most important thing to remember in situations like these is that this isn’t forever by any means. You will not be here forever. COVID-19 panic will end. You will be able to go back to work, school or whatever your outside place was, and escape. There are resources if you need them. You will be okay. We all will.
Stay safe, and remember, if you are under the age of 18 and being abused or stuck in an abusive home, help is available. Click this link for the national U.S. child abuse hotline: https://www.childhelp.org/hotline.