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July 29, 2014 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Mental Health

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So sad, so lonely
Question:

As far as I can remember I've always been depressed and lonely, plus I've got a really low self-esteem. It all started when I was a little girl. My father comes from a very strict family and I guess that's why he's so strict himself. When I was about 8 or 9 years old I didn't think that I was very beautiful but I didn't think that I was ugly either. I thought I looked like a normal girl. Once my father was angry at me again, when I was 9 years old and he said something which really hurt me. He said that I was ugly - that I didn't take care of myself and that I didn't comb and wash my hair the way a girl should. He said that I didn't act like a girl. His words hurt me so much. When he said that I saw that he tried to look calm and controlled outside, but it hurt me so much when I looked into his eyes and saw the anger and hatred he felt for me.

That's why I have always been afraid to look into his eyes, actually I have always been afraid to look into anybody's eyes. I guess that's because I'm afraid to see the same kind of hatred and anger in their eyes. I'm afraid that other people will also say what he said - that I'm ugly when they see me. That wasn't the first time he hurt me and by far the last. I had been thrown away from the table just beacuse he didn't like my table manners. He costantly told me things which hurt. Once I didn't help him and he said that he didn't want to see me for the rest of the day. When he played a cruel trick on my sister in the street and I went to help her he said that he didn't want to walk on the same side of the road with me and he said that I should keep away from him. He even once said that he hated me. I don't know exactly why he has done all this to me but I think the fact that he's ashamed of me has got something to do with it, he did say that I was ugly. What confuses me is that he usually apologized after his outbursts in his own way (he bought me something or something like that just to ease his guilt) and he constantly said that he loved us. I don't know now - does he love me or does he hate me? It's disturbing because I don't know what to think of him. Another thing which confuses me is that basically he`s a really nice guy - funny,smart and always the center of eveybody's attention where ever he goes. Everybody thinks that our family is really cool and nice. For the past year or so things have calmed down a bit even though he still does sometimes say thing which are really cruel and hurt me. The problem is that I've become really depressed - I sleep a lot and after a good rest I'm still very tired, I don't socialize, I don't have many friends and I spend most of my time alone in my room and the only thing I think about is the past and how he treats me. I cry myself to sleep every night. Nobody knows that I'm feeling this way.

My self - esteem is really low because I finally do believe that I am ugly. As I said I'm afraid to look into people's eyes because I'm afraid to see them looking at me the same way he looked at me. I'm becoming more violent and angry every day. I say thing to people which really hurts them. Sometimes when I`m really angry I just kick my pillow until I`m finally tired.

I've read about self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe I have subconsciously pushed thing so far that he'd become mad at me? Just so that I would finally know whether he hates me or loves me? Everybody in my family is so happy and calm despite everything. Maybe I'm just going mad and I imagine thing to be worse than they are? Maybe it's all in my mind? It's the only thing I think about when at the same time everybody in my family just don't seem to make a big deal out of it.

Celeste (16)

Answer:

Dear Celeste,

The condition that you are experiencing is called Dysthymia. Briefly, it is a chronic low- grade state of depression lasting more than two years. This is no doubt a result of being consistently put down by your father. I think that it would be important for you to re- conceptualize the phrase "my father comes from a very strict family." It appears that what you are really saying is that he, like his family of origin, is emotionally constricted and/or emotionally abusive. His statement that you are ugly is emotionally abusive and hurtful. Although there may have been some truth to his comment about your hygiene at the time, statements about how a girl should act or look are very vague. There are no specific social rules for how "a girl" should look or act - so long as her appearance, hygiene, and behavior are not offensive and within the wide range of the norm. This holds true for boys, and adults as well. His looks of anger and hatred are part of his pattern of a need for power and control. People needing power and control over others is a direct reflection of their intensified feelings of inferiority and incompetence as a human being. You have become afraid to look into other people's eyes because seeing his affect toward you in this manner was very painful.

Now, you have associated that it is best to avoid looking at others in the eye in order to keep yourself from experiencing that same pain. You challenge here is not to let this become overgeneralized to others. You are hurt by his anger and hatred toward you, it would be unwise for you to think that because he hates you that everyone hates you. I am sure that you would be able to find several people to like you if you give them the opportunity to do so.

Where he has a tendency to buy you gifts or is sweet and nice following his abusive behavior to you, is very similar to the "honeymoon period" that a physical batterer does after they beat their spouse. This is common in the typical spouse abuse situation where a man assaults his wife and then buys her flowers or jewelry "to make up for it." Your confusion about whether he loves or hates you is more a reflection of how he feels about himself. He probably loves certain things and likewise despises certain things about himself. The problem is that he is probably so ambivalent here that he has to project his feelings onto others to formulate his self concept. Also he likely needs to have others constantly validate his self-esteem and becomes abusive when they don't validate his concept of himself. This is typical of what may be termed pathological narcissism.

In that, he will demean or attempt to destroy anything or anyone that does not gratify his needs or validate his internally inflated sense of self. In relation to his need for power and control and his tendencies toward projection, the reason that he doesn't have to say or do these things as much now is that you have begun to identify or internalize what he has told you during your growing up. In order for any projection to be effective it must be identified with or internalized. I don't believe that you pushed things to make him behave in this manner. I believe that you pushed back to maintain your own identity and defend against his projections onto you. The problem for you is that you were a young child trying to defend against a more sophisticated, yet incredibly insecure adult who is driven by his need for power and control over others.

I do not think that you have made things worse than they are. In fact, I think that your depiction of your experience sounds accurate and honest. It is not all in your head, it is all in your experience. You are not making a big deal of it, you are just calling it like you see it or how it feels to you. You are likely the most healthy person in your family from the sound of it. In that, there is a part of you still fighting against his projections and is willing to acknowledge that what you are experiencing is not right and not healthy. You are willing to acknowledge your family's difficulties, as well as your own with this and you are willing to seek help. I encourage you to speak with your High School counselor or another counselor in the community (if your parents will pay for it) to continue to have a place to go to talk about your experiences and feelings. I would also remind you that in some states his behavior may constitute a crime under child abuse laws. You may want to look into this and consider what legal options you have to get him to stop treating you this way, and what the laws say about victim funds for counseling. I know that this is a problematic issue to consider, this is why I think it is within your best interest to see a therapist to help you handle this situation.

Fortunately for you, you will be 18 in a couple of years. I would suggest starting to make your plans of moving out now. Hopefully, this will mean college for you. Maybe you could attend school in another city or state to give you your own space and release from this very difficult environment in which you are living in right now. Also, please consider the possibility of anti-depressant medication - at least until you have made it through this very emotionally trying period in your life. I wish you all the best and I hope that this works out well for you.

Hang in there and take care of yourself!

Cordially

Rocky C. Underwood, M.S., M.A., LCPC

This question was answered by Rocky C. Underwood, M.S., M.A., LCPC. He is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Montana.

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