While my personal situation involved emotional parentification (having been my mom’s personal therapist), I do know about instrumental parentification from listening to others who experienced it. We’ve all heard stories about child stars from TV and movies who grew up to struggle with serious drug and alcohol problems. Some seem to drop out and have no purpose. At first glance, we may assume it’s because they’re unhappy with no longer being rich and famous. In truth, though, many of them were victims of instrumental parentification like you were and are battling the ramifications of that.
These celebrity kids felt tremendous pressure at a young age to play an adult role and take care of their families financially. You may have felt the same burden as they did. Moreover, you and they had to sacrifice a carefree childhood: hanging out with friends, goofing off after school, and joining clubs and sports teams with your peers. As a result, you missed out on the normal and natural social life that kids need to develop into happy, productive adults. This leads to a resentment of your parents that’s well justified but doesn’t serve you well.
Your lack of energy may be caused by depression. You may need to grieve the happy-go-lucky childhood that you missed and appreciate that you can’t get it back. By practicing acceptance, you can let go of the anguish and move forward. You may also need to forgive your parents so you stop dwelling on the past. One of my favorite quotes about forgiveness has become a mantra of mine, bringing me peace and comfort: “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.”
Working with a therapist could be just what you need to jump-start your life. You should also give yourself the joyful moments that you missed out on as a kid. It helped me to develop an inner voice that’s maternal and nurturing because I never heard that as a child. Throughout the day, I say things such as: “You’ve worked hard enough. It’s time to have fun now and go rollerskating.” The notion of self-care was never part of my life while growing up, but it’s key to my happiness today. I wish you well.