Running away from home has been the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. At 23 years old and still a college student that works three different jobs, I didn’t think I was ready. But, the reality is, you’re never ready. I had planned everything to the finest detail, but at the last minute, I threw caution (and all my planning) out the window and left.

When people talk about running away from home, they never mention the countless nights you stay up crying because of the overwhelming guilt. They don’t talk about the stress and fear of making sure your family can’t find you. They don’t mention the guilt that consumes you at all times, making you want to go back.

I wasn’t prepared for that, and it was crushing me. It had me wishing I never left in the first place. I would stay up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep because I was crying too hard. No one really talks about how much you would miss your family, despite how toxic they are.

For years I had dreamed of running away and never looking back. But once I actually did it, I realized it wasn’t what I actually wanted. I needed a better relationship with my family. I wanted the freedom to do things I choose to do without fear of asking or fear or rejection. All I really wanted was to be able to live in a house where I didn’t feel suffocated and feel like my existence was for others to manipulate.

One thing I had to remind myself on a constant basis was that I have all the control. If I wanted to reach out to my family, I can, under my own rules. If I wanted to never speak to them, I could choose to do so. I chose whether or not to respond to my family’s attempt of reaching out to me, if I wanted my family to have my new number, and when to visit my family.

It was entirely my decision and not anyone else’s.

Three months after I left home, I was given the option to come over to my mom’s to celebrate Easter. At first, I was extremely hesitant and wasn’t sure how my family would respond. But, after much deliberation and careful consideration of all my friends’ advice, I decided to go.

It had been weird to go back to the same place that I ran away from. It was different seeing my mom and siblings after not seeing them for three months. And it was almost painful to see the subtle changes that they’ve made around the house since I’ve left. All of this was overwhelming and extremely emotional for me. But my family had acted like nothing ever happened. We ate, talked, and celebrated Easter the way we usually do, despite how different things are.

I don’t regret running away — at least, not entirely. It had been the right decision at the right time, but there are still nights where I stay up thinking about what I would be doing if I hadn’t left. If I’m entirely honest, what I regret the most was not doing this sooner. Although leaving home did not cause my depression and anxiety to magically disappear overnight, it had played an important role in bettering my mental health.

Leaving home isn’t easy. It will be difficult, and there will be restless nights where you wish you had never done it, but it does get easier. You’ll soon find yourself enjoying the ability to make your own decisions under your own rules. You’ll be able to do whatever your heart desires without the fear of asking for permission or fear of other people’s opinions. It may not cure you, but it definitely will make certain things in life easier.

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