human interaction, moving, orphan problems, personal, resources

How To Run Away From Home: Before

July 1, 2015

orphan survival guide - social media - how to run away from home planning and packing

While actually running away from home is often a heat-of-the-moment decision, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Rarely do kids or young adults run away from home the very first time the thought enters their mind. It was something I considered time and time again before it was finally a reality.

Whether you’re giving your home life second, third, or fiftieth chances before hitting your limit, or busting out after yet another bad fight, if you’re truly committed to getting out, you need a plan.

Where are you going? Who can help you? What do you need?

Not only do you need to pack a bug-out bag with some or all of your life necessities, but you need to be emotionally prepared for the fallout.

Today’s post is about working out your plan to pack your bags and leave.

How To Run Away From Home

  1. Intro: How To Run Away From Home
  2. Before: Planning & Preparation
  3. After: Resources & What’s Next

A version of this series was originally posted on the Orphan Survival Guide Tumblr.

Are You Sure You Want To Do This?

Inevitably, when people find out you ran away from home–or that you’re planning to, or that your parents threw you out and you decided to never go back–they ask if you’re sure it’s what you really want to do.

Most of the support services out there specifically for runaways even emphasize reconciliation and prevention rather than actually supporting youth who living independently.

I don’t want to be one of those assholes.

But you should come up with a good answer to that question before you commit to the decision to leave. It can help you figure out what your ultimate plan is (short-term escape vs. full emancipation) and at the very least, it’ll get people off your back.

So: are you sure you want to cut your family off completely?

Leveraging your freedom with the emotional and social consequences of being parent-free makes this decision really difficult. When you commit to getting out, you have to make a lot of uncomfortable and difficult decisions that center on: which is worse.

  • Which is worse: living in a homeless shelter or feeling like a hostage of your family?
  • Which is worse: getting a crappy job or being financially dependent on family members who use money as a form of control?
  • Which is worse: uncomfortable conversations with police and social services or enduring abuse?

Almost all runaways and throwaways were abused at some point in their lives. It’s often what leads to their escape or disowning. As hard as it is to find the courage to leave on your own, sometimes waiting or even staying is the hardest decision of all.

Surviving abuse also makes your future complicated and difficult. Trusting the good things that happen to you and learning how to stand up for yourself can seem impossible when you spent so much of your life being made to feel like you’re nothing. Growing up in an abusive family makes you feel worthless and incompetent, like you can never escape and become your own independent, self-sufficient person.

So how can you create a life for yourself if you never felt capable?

orphan survival guide - how to run away from home

Emotional Preparation

People who live with abuse have learned to leverage their actions in order to simply survive. The most dangerous time of a survivor’s life is when they leave, so accepting the emotional and physical toll of the abuse often feels safer than trying to escape.

Survivors learn to cope with the manipulation of their tormentors and over time internalize the messages of worthlessness and weakness.

“No one will take care of you like I can,” and “You need me,” and “You’re too weak/stupid/helpless to be on your own,” are all excuses that abusers give you to keep you from becoming independent.

They’re not true.

Learn how to counteract those thoughts because you are more than your family’s abuse. And you can escape their abuse and start healing. (Spoiler alert: expect to eventually spend a lot of time in therapy, because life screwed you over big time.)

You will have to think long and hard about what you are willing to put up with, how much patience you have, and how driven you can be. It takes work to run away from home.

You will have to leverage really hard choices: some of those choices may mean choosing between physical health and mental health, or choosing between financial security and having to take low-paying low-skill jobs on your own.

There’s no easy way to make those decisions, and I won’t pretend I have the right answers. But they’re things that need to be considered when going out into the world all by yourself.

I am a huge proponent for kids who choose to run away from home. Our cultures may tell us that family is forever, but we do have the choice to stand up and make decisions for ourselves and our sanity. I believe in cutting off bad family members, but ultimately you have to decide which is the most pressing issue to deal with today.

Then you have to decide the most pressing issue tomorrow. And the next day.

Just thinking about being on your own is hard, and scary, and it can feel impossible. It will always be hard and scary, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. You have the power to decide whether to do something hard and scary (getting out) or go with what you already know how to manage (staying in an abusive environment).

Waiting

Sometimes you can’t leave yet.

Sometimes you’re in a situation where you’re truly completely dependent on someone–but that dependence should only ever be temporary.

When you’re stuck with a bad family, focus on self-care and reminding yourself that you are not defined by their abuse. Try to surround yourself with supportive people whenever possible, find other means of escape (movies, books, games, the internet), counteract the maladaptive thoughts you’ve developed with hokey self-help books, and try to take good care of your body.

Abusers are unlikely to change, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t.

Know your rights, and know how (and when) to fight back. Here are some helpful tips from /r/RaisedByNarcissists to help ensure your safety, identify ways you are being victimized, and know your rights when dealing with abusers.

You may be stuck depending on them for something specific right now–in most cases,  it’s a financial dependence.

You can make money on your own (without your parents even knowing or seeing it). Even if you have health problems or no skills or no education, there are plenty of work-at-home jobs that can be done on a computer–and if you’re reading this, then you (presumably) have at least a spare hour here and there on a computer or smartphone.

While you’re waiting and dealing with them, take five or ten minutes a day to practice self-care and work on your plan to get out.

orphan survival guide - how to run away from home

Make a Plan

What should you plan? How do you even get started?

The most important things you’ll need to know how to find are: housing, money, and support.

If you had to get out of the house in two minutes:

  • Where can you go?
  • How can you get there?
  • What would you do the next day? The next month?
  • How can you get food?
  • How can you get money?
  • What else do you need?
  • How can you keep from getting dragged back “home”?
  • Who can and will help you stay away?

Come up with a concrete plan that covers those things. If you can, come up with alternate plans in the event things don’t go the way you thought they would. Your friends’ parents may be generous to let you stay for a week, and they might even feed you when you’re there, but you need to think beyond that.

You can’t live off of other people’s generosity forever. Couch-surfing and crashing with someone rent-free must be a temporary part of your plan.

You’ll want to find long-term housing, whether it’s with a shelter, a hostel, or a transitional living program. At some point you will need money–for shelter, food, health, and fun. Find ways to make a living, even if it’s doing something as passive as taking surveys and watching videos on your phone.

Talk to people. See which friends can help you out, and who can point you in the direction of case workers. Call shelters and social services to ask for help. Apply for grants and financial assistance. You never know who is willing to help until you ask them.

If nothing else, know where to find a homeless shelter and food bank.

I’ll go into this in more detail on Friday, but here is the /r/RaisedByNarcissists list of helpful resources.

Pack Your Bug-Out Bag

What’s a Bug-Out Bag?

It’s a bag that’s ready and waiting for you when you need to get out–whether it’s a temporary relocation or a permanent escape. It’s a term used by the preppers but it’s also used among runaways and throwaways as a bag that has the bare essentials for striking out on your own.

Chances are, you can’t fit everything you need in a single bag–and even more likely, you won’t have access to the things you need to put in a bag. But figuring out exactly what you need is the key to planning a bug-out bag and your immediate future.

When I left home, I had an extra pair of pants and my wallet with a few dollars inside. I didn’t have a phone or a debit card or anything. Now I have a hoarded 300-square-foot apartment–living proof that if you keep pushing through, you will eventually have the material objects you need.

But if you can make a bug-out bag, find a safe space (or several safe spaces) and gather the essentials. If you’re in an abusive situation where your possessions and privacy are strictly controlled or monitored, you’ll have to be extra sneaky.

Good places to hide stuff:

  • between the mattress and box spring
  • underwear drawer
  • coat/pants pockets
  • bottom of a clothes hamper or trash can
  • an air vent
  • friends’ houses
  • sticks of deodorant
  • old pill bottles
  • book/binder safe
  • potted plants
  • battery compartments of electronics

What do you need in your Bug-Out Bag?

Anything that you might need or want if you had to get out of the house in less than five minutes. Here is a one-page printable checklist for pre-packing your bug-out bag:

orphan survival guide - how to run away from home - bug-out bag checklist
edit: As a youth who was kicked out in a time before cell phones were ubiquitous, I neglected to include a phone on this list. However, if your parents pay for your phone, it can be cut off at any time or be used for blackmail against you. If you can spare the $10, get a burner phone at Walmart for emergencies.


In this post, I talked a lot about finding resources and support networks to help you deal with the fallout of running away or being kicked out. Many system resources such as shelters or social workers are location-specific. However, in Friday’s post, I will provide an extensive list of resources both on- and offline to help identify the places and people who can help you when and where you need it.

In the meantime, check out the Orphan Survival Guide Reading List.

How To Run Away From Home

  1. Intro: How To Run Away From Home
  2. Before: Planning & Preparation
  3. After: Resources & What’s Next

A version of this series was originally posted on the Orphan Survival Guide Tumblr.

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13 Comments

  • Reply Jackie James July 27, 2015 at 4:18 AM

    To suggest that minor children run away from home is crazy. If there is abuse, there is a system in place to deal with that. If there is no abuse, and you just don’t like the financial situation or whatever, why take the chance of being in the street. You do young people a huge disservice with this site and I hope no one is killed or otherwise hurt as a result of your “advice”.
    You do not give valid reasons for leaving which should not be done until and unless one has a place to go to, a support system, money, a place to live, etc.
    How very, very sad that a site like this exists.
    It would be nice to get a reply with a real answer as to what you think valid reasons are rather than just saying look up such and such a site and find out if your parents are narcissists.

    • Reply Cordelia July 27, 2015 at 10:45 AM

      Hello Jackie. Thank you for taking the time to read a few of the sentences I wrote in this post. I would suggest that you begin by reading the rest of them, and read the two other posts that are part of the series. In case you missed the multiple CTAs throughout this post, I have provided the links for the full series:

      1. Intro: How To Run Away From Home
      2. Before: Planning & Preparation
      3. After: Resources & What’s Next

      In this series, I provided information for dozens of resources–including the ones you believe exist for these situations–such as social services, legal aid, and shelters. I also made a checklist for finding “a place to go to, a support system, money, a place to live, etc.” before committing to full no-contact. It’s a shame you didn’t read that far. It’s also a shame that you are unaware of the reality of runaways and rather than continue reading to learn more, instead you perpetuate the fearmongering that keeps children feeling trapped in unfortunate situations.

      The vast majority of kids and young adults who run away (or are thrown away) do not end up on the streets, get thrown into vans, or recruited into sexual slavey. They live with supportive friends and family members, start crowdfunding campaigns, or get the help they need from service providers. You do them a disservice by expecting them to be helpless victims; what my posts have done is empowered them to identify whether it is safe and practical to get out, and to find the help they need and the help they are comfortable accepting. Police and social services are not always the answer for abusive situations; often, they exacerbate the problem.

      You ask for valid reasons for running away, and I answered this demand as well in the posts: abuse, neglect, and manipulation. I said several times that running away is not an arbitrary, spur-of-the-moment decision that kids do just for fun or to be rebellious. Being completely unsupported by family is hard. If a youth decides to run away, there is a good reason for it–otherwise they would stay or go back home.

      Your concern with RBN in particular is alarming. People dismissing emotional abuse and questioning whether cutting contact with abusers is really a valid choice is something that estranged children deal with constantly. It’s called gaslighting: trying to manipulate someone’s perception of their own experiences. The accusations and dismissals you’ve written in this comment are perfect examples of many of the 10 Things Estranged Adult Children Are Tired of Hearing.

      I agree: it is very, very sad that a site like this exists. It is very, very sad that the systems that should protect and support youth in abusive situations are not as effective or supportive as they need to be. It is very, very sad that there are so few resources available for the youth who are faced with this decision. It is very, very sad that people do not think that children who are abused are capable of making decisions for themselves.

      If you are truly interested in learning about this issue, I once again recommend reading through the rest of the series to gain some perspective.

  • Reply jackiejames1177@inbox.com October 24, 2015 at 3:50 AM

    I just came upon this again and I have to say that resources that go to “Reddit” and comments like 9 years ago there was no help from Higher Education … all don’t ring true. I received help for higher education myself. You know, there might be little children as young as 10 or 8 years of age who might read your blog and “run away”. You need to be a bit more responsible. You are 27. Well grow up lady. Grow up. Parents are not perfect. Those who abuse are awful. A child might read this and because he got grounded or had his cell phone taken, he might run away. You think you are helping, but you are not. If you were helping, you would give valid resources, you would advocate working on things if possible with a parent (not all are abusive but a child might misinterpret what you are saying. I am so glad I put parental controls on my computer.

    http://www.pollyklaas.org/enews-archive/2013-enews/article-web-pages/the-truth-about-runaways.html (not a resource, but what might happen to a young child).

    So sad to see this site still here. Note: I do not need YOU to educate me. When I want relevant information I go to the proper sources. That is part of what education did for me.

    • Reply Jackie October 24, 2015 at 5:22 AM

      I gave my email and it stated it would not be made public. It has been. In any case, this is throwaway address. I would appreciate your deleting it.

      • Reply Cordelia October 24, 2015 at 7:07 PM

        Hi Jackie. The reason your email address appeared publicly was because you typed it in the Name field instead of the Email field. As you wrote in your follow-up messages via my Contact form, mistakes do happen–in this case your bitterness clouded your judgement so that you lost track of what you were typing. I will not be deleting the comments as you clearly wanted your voice to be heard, no matter how misguided and dismissive that voice was.

        • Reply Jackie October 25, 2015 at 2:48 AM

          Cordelia, it is clear that you want to write. When you write, you must expect disagreement. You cannot accept this. I did not ask that my comments be removed but that my email address be removed and you have refused? So who is the angry one? In any case, I can and will take further steps on this issue.

          • doughstax October 25, 2015 at 5:06 PM

            Hi there, Jackie. Or jackiejames1177@inbox.com. Hmm. You seem to go by both names here. Technology can be so very confusing.

            This isn’t so much an issue of Cordelia being unable to accept disagreement as much as it is you believe that your opinion (one that supports young folks staying in abusive settings) is as valid as Cordelia’s work and experiences.

            Here’s the problem, Jackie (or is it jackiejames1177@inbox.com?): there ain’t two sides to every issue. Not every opinion on something is valid. Your opinion here is invalid, condescending and dangerous.

            Saying “parent’s aren’t perfect” in the context of rebuking a series of articles about running away from abusive and dangerous families and home lives basically means you’re saying that in the wide range of acceptable human imperfections, abuse, neglect and terror are just part of a normal family life. Which is exactly what you’re doing.

            Jesus. Be a better person. And I get the feeling you’re worried so much about Cordelia’s articles less because you’re worried about someone else’s kids and more because you’re worried that, y’know, you might be the kind of the person or parent folks would need to get away from.

            TL;DR: GFY

    • Reply Jackie October 25, 2015 at 9:07 AM

      Cordelia: You have 48 hours to remove my email address from this site. it is a violation of my rights under law. If you fail to do this within this time period, I will have too report you to the proper authorities. You have refused once. This is my second and final request.

      • Reply Jackie October 25, 2015 at 9:40 AM

        In addition to mandates to remove requests that personal information be removed, by not removing my email, you are being abusive. Exactly what you are calling other people. I would think you, of all people would understand that non abusive behavior is respecting another persons right.

        • Reply GreyMatter October 25, 2015 at 12:53 PM

          I would just like to point out that you’re on someone else’s site telling them that their judgment is clouded by anger and depression, but they’re the bully because you’re too stupid and/or angry to read the text boxes? Cute.

  • Reply blackpeppered October 24, 2015 at 5:17 PM

    I read this thinking of a few friends who have had to do something similar when leaving co-habiting relationships. Most of these issues came up, and I think this would have been a great resource to have at the time.

    I loved the “bug-out-bag” bit – my mother-in-law has me keep one packed.

  • Reply Jackie October 25, 2015 at 3:13 AM

    You are on “Go Fund Me”? This says it all. Please get some There are no comments on this site . I am quite sure you were abused and have suffered enormously or you would not be doing all of t his also to make money. I note the Major Depression thing as well which clouds the thinking. You can do so much good in the world; why focus on the negative that has happened. Heal, Forgive./Don’t Forget and Let it Go. Move on. It is time. I wish you well.

  • Reply Mary Joy March 7, 2016 at 9:50 PM

    As a sixteen year old who very nearly ran away because of events in an abusive household, this website was very informative. My own situation has been resolved, but I know that many other’s have not and will not, so this is all very useful information to know. As for the comments, I am curious to know if this “Jackie” has ever been in an abusive relationship, whether it be from a parent or spouse or employer. I wonder if they know that growing up in a household where the people you were led to believe would protect you from harm actually caused the harm themselves is extremely detrimental to a child’s psychological wellness? I wonder if they have ever been struck by their parent, or constantly degraded, or felt completely and utterly worthless because of the hateful words they have received from the people that were supposed to love you unconditionally. I wonder if they have ever felt that their lives or their future was in danger simply because of something they couldn’t control, such as sexual orientation or gender identity.

    If this “Jackie” can answer “No” to any or all of the above questions, then it is of my personal and firm opinion that they should have no right to judge what is the appropriate response to dealing with abuse.

    There comes a time in life when you have to realize that you have had enough of being treated like the dirt on the bottom of your shoes and get out of a bad situation. More often than not, unfortunately, that means you have to leave your own home, and seek refuge somewhere else. I was fortunate enough to have my mother’s house as a brief solitude (my stepmother was the abuser, and my father didn’t do much to stop her), but most people can’t turn to their families to help them. Also, if said abusive parent found out their runaway child was being harbored knowingly in another adult’s house, they could file kidnapping charges (this was one of the reasons I chose not to run. I couldn’t stand the idea of someone getting arrested because of my choice to leave my house, especially if they were family). Sometimes it’s not as simple as finding a shelter, or a friend’s house. Sometimes you have to run to preserve your sanity, and depending on the severity of the abuse, your life.

    I’m sorry for rambling but I wanted to add my two cents as well. Thank you Cordelia for this guide, I’ll be sure to pass it along.

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