“Estranging myself from my family was the best decision I ever made”

Could you tell me a little bit about you and your life today?

I'm 27 and based in the North. I did a science-based degree and now I work in healthcare communications and am loving it! I lead a team, earning £65k, and put a lot of care into line management because it’s important to me to know I’m helping mould people’s careers. I’m truly thriving, putting myself first every day, and living the life I always dreamed of having. I truly never thought I’d be alive to see this day. But I’ve found that I actually value my self-worth through my job, which is a struggle. While I am not silly with money (or so I like to think!), I do treat myself a lot and know I could be saving more.

What was your childhood like from a financial perspective?

It’s a weird concept to say out loud but I just don’t think I really knew what “money” was. I never asked for anything but had everything. It was a materialistic lifestyle on paper, but I do remember never wanting any of it and being told I was ungrateful a lot. I’m not going to say it was one of those things where “I’d trade it all in for love”, but I just didn’t know a life existed without it I guess? I was very sheltered and having only known this way of living, I thought this was normal.

How did the estrangement happen?

There was a lot of emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse at home. My parents cared a lot about what others thought of them, and everything was for appearances. I was constantly critiqued for how I looked - to the point I was diagnosed with an eating disorder before I was 10 years old and was hospitalised. When I’d try to speak up, no one believed me. My parents were popular and governors at my school. I’d also act out a lot, so I guess people just thought I was lying. I’d hear that I was spoilt a lot.

I excelled in academia until I hit Sixth Form, which is when things got particularly bad again. I was suicidal and back in psychiatric care for an eating disorder. I think I had an argument with my parents one day and I left the house to basically fulfil my dark thoughts. This part is fuzzy but my boyfriend at the time came and found me. He took me back to his family home and I told him and his parents everything. It was the first time in my life that someone had believed me. A lot happened during that time, I didn’t go back home, and within a few months his family had helped me settle into university. I never heard from my parents again and to this day they haven’t tried connecting with me. I guess it was the best for both of us.

How did you get through financially at the time?

I was extremely lucky that I had my boyfriend’s family. I left my home with nothing and they did a lot for me from a financial care perspective. His dad worked in tax, and in the 3 months of living with them he taught me a lot about managing money. I remember a conversation talking about bills where he was talking about electricity, water, etc. and I was like, “wait, you have to pay for water?!” I was naive and knew I had to learn quickly. I knew things came at a cost and I knew life wouldn’t be easy alone. It was never a culture shock to go from “everything” to nothing because I guess it never really happened. At university I got a part time job and had access to grants due being estranged, which my boyfriend’s parents at the time helped me access. So again, I never struggled. I never lived beyond my means and never felt like I was missing those materialistic things because I associated them with such bad memories.

Are you still with the same boyfriend today? Tell me about your chosen family?

No, we got together quite young. We were together for nearly 7 years but we changed a lot over time and grew apart. I still stay in touch with his family and recently gifted him and his family a holiday to thank them for what they did. Although I don’t know how you repay someone for literally saving your life. I have my best friends who know some of story and love me unconditionally. They are the people who taught me what love is and I am thankful for them every single day.

How do you manage your finances today given you don't have that security of family?

I’m lucky I’m on a good salary living in the North. I worry a lot about relying on others. I love my boyfriend and see me spending the rest of my life with him, but I am so scared of being tied to someone by marriage. I am protective of my independence and my life sometimes revolves around work. I thrive to overachieve and it leads to burn-out which I force myself to work through until I’m bed bound (this has happened twice in 5 years). I get really scared that if I lose my job it leads straight to me being homeless so I feel like I have to push myself to be the absolute best I can be, which I know is unsustainable.

I get asked a lot if I miss my parents, but it’s hard to miss something you’ve never had. I am settled with my friends and boyfriend, who are my chosen family, and I love them infinitely. Its made me view things differently in terms of having kids. My fear is - what if I become my parents? But I’m still young and still growing! I’m really proud of myself.