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EW on Seeing Her Family Break Apart, Age: 18

My parents got divorced when I was 6 and although I don't remember many details of the divorce itself, my parents do not have a good relationship now which causes much strain on me and my mom especially. From when I was 6 until my freshman year of high school, I split my time between living with my mom and dad, seeing my mom usually 4 of the 7 days of the week.

What have you struggled with? When did it become too much?

My parents got divorced when I was 6 and although I don’t remember many details of the divorce itself, my parents do not have a good relationship now which causes much strain on me and my mom especially. From when I was 6 until my freshman year of high school, I split my time between living with my mom and dad, seeing my mom usually 4 of the 7 days of the week. However, my dad struggles with OCD, does not easily understand social cues, and is incredibly stubborn; this led to constant fighting between us, so much so to the point where I would become incredibly miserable when I would have to stay over at his apartment. At the height of our fighting when I was in 8th grade, I saw a psychiatrist to see if I had depression, given I thought that I showed many of the common signs and felt constantly weighed down by my situation. I never actually ended up taking medication, but my turbulent relationship with my dad was really hard for me to cope with.
In the very beginning of my freshman year of high school, I finally made the choice to stop living with my dad and moved in with my mom full time. I became so much happier at home, even though I felt guilty and confused about what to do with the relationship with my dad. I was in a really manipulative friend group for this year of high school, one that experimented with drugs and alcohol (which I personally chose to not try) and made me play babysitter when they needed someone to take care of them during and after. Lowering my self-esteem and confidence, I lost my desire for good grades, leaving my grades to plummet drastically for the majority of freshman year. Needless to say, freshman year was a mess for a lot of different reasons.

What kind of support did you get at first? Did it work?

Freshman year, I turned to my best friends from sleep away camp to vent to and turn to for help throughout these issues, helping me but still not fixing the problems that were plaguing my life.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

However, I applied to and got accepted to study abroad in Israel for the spring semester of my sophomore year, which turned my entire life around. I instantly fell in love with Israel itself, which led me to create my desire to serve in the Israel Defense Forces after college. I discovered myself, figured out what I like and who I want to be, made the absolute best friends of my life, and fell in love. Israel saved me, and since then, my work ethic and personal life have been incredibly fulfilled and meaningful.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

The situation with my dad has been very complicated recently because he is refusing to help pay for me to go to college, and thus my mom is currently taking him to court in a messy and drawn-out case. On one hand, I am incredibly happy living with my mom and stepdad and sister (my mom and I are very close) but also, I feel guilty not having a real relationship with my dad. Yet, him being financially negligent in my upbringing and causing incredible stress for my mom leaves me confused and undecided as to how I feel about him and what I want for the future of our relationship. However, senior year has been absolutely incredible, and I’ve solidified friendships with really amazing people from home that I plan on keeping into next year when I attend Bard College in New York (hopefully Brandeis University if I’m lucky enough to get off the wait-list). Life’s good!

What would you say to people who are having a tough time? What’s helped you that you wish you had known earlier

Definitely make sure that you have a strong support system like true, genuine friends that care about your well-being. I turn to my friends for everything. Even if you don’t have particularly strong friendships with anything, even knowing that you have the option to turn to others for help is really important to remember.