By Jennifer Woolwine

Healing from a Toxic Family: How Homesteading Can Help


baghdad to barnyard

March 14, 2023

Homesteading has provided me with a much-needed escape and healing from toxic family life. Through homesteading, I was able to develop healthier and more meaningful relationships with myself and the people around me.

As I continued to learn new ways of interacting with others, I slowly gained the strength and courage needed to break free from the unhealthy cycle of my family’s toxic dynamics.

In this article, I’m sharing my personal experience and how homesteading helped me heal and rebuild my life after a toxic family life.

I can’t believe I’m sharing this… but here it goes.

My experience

In our toxic household you were constantly scared of making the wrong move, of saying the wrong word, and simply making a certain facial expression could set them off. You were belittled and ridiculed for no reason.

You were always on high alert and had no choice but to accept the situation. No matter what you did, it would never be the right thing.

It was always your fault.

If this sounds familiar, homesteading can help you reclaim your sense of worth while building a better future for yourself.

Children were meant to be seen not heard

Children growing up in toxic homes are expected to maintain a façade of perfection, which can cause them to suppress their emotions out of fear of reprisal. This type of environment can leave long lasting effects on children.

From the outside, we looked like a happy little family, with adorning parents and well-behaved children. But behind closed doors, controlling and chaotic behavior reigned.

My childhood was characterized by toxic experiences due to my step-father’s tyrannical rule. He was extremely controlling and intimidating, often standing toe-to-toe with me, screaming and spitting on my face.

My step-father was emotionally and physically abusive. He lashed out with angry words or physicality if I didn’t do as he said. One of his most common commands was that I address him as “sir,” no matter what. Failure to do so would result in further punishments.

It didn’t feel like a home.

It felt like a prison and I couldn’t wait to get out.

Getting out

Wanting to escape my toxic environment, I joined the Army National Guard when I was 17 before graduating high school.

Joining the military gave me the opportunity to experience college life, which was a welcome alternative to staying in a toxic home setting. It gave me freedom and space to heal away from my family.

Into adulthood

I wish I could say when I got away from the toxic home environment that all of that was in the past, but it didn’t stop there.

I frequently had the impression that I was the only one in charge of solving all of their issues. In addition, I was made to feel guilty if I couldn’t contribute more monetarily or actively. When ever money difficulties arose, I was guilt-tripped into believing that I was the ONLY one who could save them.

Manipulation tactics like this created an unhealthy cycle of emotional blackmail that stifled my sense of personal autonomy.

Finding the positive

All of my adult relationships suffered greatly as a result of the toxic family members’ prior deceit and manipulation of me.

It was hard for me to trust anyone, leading me to become guarded and increasingly isolated.

Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to meet my partner David, who has continuously supported me through the difficult times. He helped me regain my self-esteem, and supported me while I kicked my painkiller addiction. When I wanted a fresh start, somewhere new to heal from my toxic family, he didn’t bat an eye or flinch.

His kind and genuine personality combined with his direct yet understanding demeanor have been just what I needed in life.

Ending the Toxic Family cycle

Overcoming the effects of a toxic family relationship can take years.

The toxicity left scars on me and still has a lasting effect on my life today. After my second suicide attempt, I finally realized I needed help.

Through therapy, I was able to identify, understand, and come to terms with the trauma caused by unhealthy relationships.

I learned how to set boundaries with toxic family members, say “no” without feeling guilty and forgive without forgetting what happened.

Despite the fact that it is still a struggle, it is one that can be improved gradually.

Reclaiming control

In 2016, I told my husband I needed a change, a new environment, and a fresh start. So we bought a 42-acre homestead in southwest Virginia with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When I discovered homesteading, I had no idea that it would be instrumental in helping me to heal from toxic family dynamics and regain ownership of my life. I was able to explore my dreams again and revisit the parts of myself that had been lost.

Healing through homesteading

Are you looking for a way to rebuild yourself after growing up in a toxic family? Homesteading may be the perfect antidote.

Homesteading is about finding your own sense of purpose, reclaiming control of your life, and building skills to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle. It is a motivating method to enhance your sense of independence and give your life purpose.

It’s also a chance to start fresh and retrace forgotten dreams. Through homesteading you can heal and gain back the lost parts of yourself.

Find out more about how homesteading can give you back your power in our upcoming Part II next week!

xo, Jen

healing from a toxic family: how homesteading can help
homesteading: a path to recovery from toxic family relationships

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Denise D says:

    It takes so much courage to open up to total strangers on IG about your past and the struggles. Especially about your suicide attempts-a subject most people don’t want to talk about, but shoukd.
    The strength it takes to walk away from family and listen to your heart and live for you takes real gumption. Having your husbands support for it all is beyond amazing. It is what we should do for our spouses!
    I learn so much here and have loved watching you grow.
    Promise to always be yourself. It is all you ever need to be!! Promise to grow those flowers that bring such happiness, and promise to keep loving all the animals. It is pure magic. And, always love each other and be proud of your journey.

    • Denise,
      Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. It took me a few weeks just to write this blog post, but it helped me cope in more ways than one. I know that other people have experienced similar struggles with toxic family members, and if my story can lend them a hand, then it was all worth it in the end. I’m grateful for the help and support from my readers– without them none of this would be possible. I promise to always be myself- no matter what. So thank you SO MUCH for being here for me and for believing in me. It really means a lot. xo, Jen

Jen Woolwine       Author

Jen is a combat veteran and wife who is passionate about animal rescue, homesteading, and mental health advocacy. Jen's amazing journey of transitioning from military service to homesteading can be followed on her blog and social media platforms @baghdadtobarnyard.

Enjoy the latest Posts

find your next favorite post