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April 19, 2014 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Mental Health

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Why can't I show love or hate?
Question:

I was born with a heart problem, and went through major surgery at the age of 2. I was always sick from the time I was born until around the age of five. Also, in that time period, I had a problem with my leg, and had to undergo surgery for that too. My parents always fought, and finally divorced when I was about ten. My dad and I never really got along, and I don't remember feeling sad when he left. In fact, I was glad he was leaving, and I cried and had a fit every other weekend when I had to go to his house. Shortly after that, I had a live-in babysitter whom I was always fighting with. Finally, she and my mom had a huge fight, and she moved out. Then my mom started dating someone, and within a few weeks, he lived with us. After about a month of living with us, they eloped in Canada, and told me when they got back. He was a real jerk. He was constantly yelling at me and my brothers, and would lock us in our rooms for days at a time. My behavior at that time was very violent, and I was very depressed, so I started seeing a counselor. I went to her on and off for a few years. My mom's husband left within a few months, and she married again within a year. Meanwhile, my dad had become a Jehova's Witness, and he forced my brother's and I to attend the meetings and read the literature when we were with him. I still wasn't getting along with my dad, and dreaded the weekends that I had to spend with him. At this time I was about thirteen or fourteen, and only had one close friend, and spent most of my time in my room. My mom's husband was beyond the typical "controlling male". He was physically abusive to my mom, and emotionally abusive to my bothers and I. We moved to another city that summer, and took a couple weekends off from seeing our dad. When it was time to go again, I locked myself in my room, and said I wasn't going. My dad physically tried forcing me to go as I clung to my bed crying my eyes out. Finally he gave up.

That summer I also had to undergo another major open-heart surgery. I was fourteen years old, and it was devastating. It was the worst thing I've ever lived through. Many family members were there but no friends. I had just moved and I didn't feel close enough to anyone to tell them. At the end of that summer, my mom's husband moved out after many violent fights. And boyfriend number three moved in about two weeks later. He is a severe alcoholic, and has gotten mildly violent. But besides that, he is a very loving person, and I feel like he is the father I never had. He is on medication, and hasn't had a drink for over a month. I have drifted farther and farther from my real father and neither of us is making any effort. I now have a best friend, a few close friends, and a boyfriend. I manage a 4.0 GPA, and a part-time job.

Now, here's the problem. I feel like my mind works so much differently than other people's. My moods dramatically change in short periods of time, and I often find myself sitting in my room sobbing for no real reasons. Also, I can't express love or hate. My mother is always showing and telling me that she loves me, but it seems like I have some kind of ever-lasting grudge against her. I can never talk to her, and I always have a negative attitude with her. I tend not to get too close to my friends either. I find myself very intolerant of other people, and anger easily, though I don't show it. My boyfriend just told me that he loves me, but I couldn't say it back. I really, really like him, but I can't seem to handle the kind of relationship that he wants, though I don't want to lose him. Also, I feel so uncomfortable with myself, that I don't like when he touches me. We do make out, but I find myself unable to "get into it". I am very shy at school, and I don't talk to many people. I am very much a perfectionist, and though I get good grades, I am always worrying about my future. In fact, I am a constant worrier. I sweat excessively, and my teeth are always clenched. And, this is gonna sound stupid, but I am sometimes afraid of a monster in my room. Occasionally, I will have this intense fear, and will hide under my covers till I fall asleep. I think my boyfriend has noticed some odd behavior, because he once asked me if I have "mental problems". I was offended, and asked what made him say that. He didn't know what to say, so he just said that he was joking, but I know he wasn't.

Can you tell me why I can't show love or hate? Why do I always feel so different from others? Do I really have "mental problems"?

Kathie (16) from Cleveland, Ohio

Answer:

Honey, you have had an awful lot to deal with in your life at such a young age. You have experienced many negative emotions and it is only natural for your feelings to shift form highs to lows. I would not say you have mental problems in the sense that you are a dangerous person and, like a serial killer, must be kept from everyone else. You do however, have a great deal of emotional issues to deal with, both stemming from your past and continuing into the present. You find it difficult to express any emotion, love, hate, or whatever, because you have had to deal with so many mixed feelings that it is hard to distinguish which emotion should be felt where and to whom? You are not any different from others; you just feel differently because you have lived through some pretty painful experiences; and your health problems did not make those situations any easier {and vice versa, which means the stress in your life took a toll on your heart as well}. I would strongly recommend that you remain in counseling or if you cannot see that same counselor, find another in your local area. You need help in developing effective coping skills because the life you have led has not been a pleasant one. Effective coping skills can help you deal with the present situation, and help you to build a better future for yourself.

As for the past, you cannot change those events; but you can learn to deal with the events and feelings that followed so that you may eventually put them to rest instead of keeping them locked inside like liquid in a bottle. The fact that you have survived up to this point and you are still able to function in daily activities {such as keeping up your grades, your job, etc} indicates that you have an inner strength that needs to be built upon. It is this strength that has kept you going for this long. However, you can still benefit from learning new techniques for coping and relieving stress. You will find that this release of tensions and stress will also improve your general physical health as well.

Lastly, see if you can get mom into counseling with you. You guys could use some work on your mother/daughter relationship. Good Luck to you and your family.

This question was answered by Tina Reed, MA, LPC. Tina is a licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Illinois, and is also certified by the National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice.

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