Walking to the house from the bus stop was a short affair, but I took as much time as possible. I never wanted to cross the threshold into Scream Land. I did not want to be called a slew of profanities that would inevitably end with my stepmother comparing me to my alcoholic mother who abandoned me at the end of elementary school. I did not want to be told no one could love a narcissistic, manipulative liar like me. It never mattered how often I tried to defend my integrity and compassionate personality. I was simply told I was deluded and lying to myself as often as I lied to others.

In high school, we are often warned about the dangers of peer pressure, of domestic violence, of drugs and alcohol, but how often are we warned about the devastating effects of emotionally abusive parents? I spent years taking mental hits and being corroded into someone completely different from me. I self-harmed and felt suicidal. I made fatal plans. I was prepared to take my own life because I felt so unworthy and worthless.

If these same feelings haunt you, your best choice is to speak out, no matter the consequences you think your parents will deliver. If I had not told one of my teachers, who got me to counseling, who got me to the hospital, who got me to my counselor who helped me deal with the war inside my head between depression, anxiety, and fear, I might very well be dead. My parents were upset, yes. In public, they were worried and concerned about me. In private, after the initial shock of my confession wore off, they once again became hateful toward me, accusing me of exaggeration and attention-seeking behaviors.

The thing is, with everything I had dealt with so far by myself, once I had help that my parents could not deny me, I could handle their treatment. I finally began to feel hopeful that I could survive my high school years, that one day I could move out and be who I am without being treated horribly.

With that help, I made it to my graduation day. I felt jubilant when I crossed the stage and received my diploma, unable to stop smiling. Every pain, every horrible day, everything was worth it in the end. Particularly when I moved in with my best friend a few days later, feeling even happier.

Getting help, getting better, reaching out for support will always be worth it. When I move into my dorm in less than two weeks to enjoy the freedoms college gives, that is what I will be thinking. I will be thinking about how much I deserve to live my life after all I have survived. I will be thinking about how I am going to do great in my classes, join volunteer groups, and destroy the competition in cross-country meets. I will be thinking about how I have finally found a home.

If you cannot call your parents’ household home because of the terrible treatment you get there or if you feel the need to self-harm or kill yourself, reach out for help. As someone on the other side of all the bad, I cannot begin to describe just how much all this good outweighs the horrors of the past.

If you are in crisis, text “ABOVE” to 741-741 from anywhere in the US, anytime, about any type of crisis. A live, trained counselor is ready to help.