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May 25, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Mental Health

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I am unfathomable to myself

Question:

I am fourteen years of age and have been feeling depressed "off and on" for periods of about 3 months at a time for a number of years now. My problem is more a compilation of problem(s) built up over nearly a decade.

I have had feelings of loneliness, depression, sadness and if there is even such word as "unwantedness" since an early age. I have endured many family problems which is what I began to feel depressed about when I was about 7 years old. My mother has been having a relationship with our neighbor since I was five, and she spent very little time with me and the rest of my family until last year when she began to feel unstable about her relationships with my father and her lover.

Being fairly mature for my age, my mother sought me out for advice on how to propose to the man she had been seeing for the previous nine years. I spent those years learning how to be independent but at the same time became stressed and very depressed. I ended up writing a letter to him, on behalf of my mother. Within it contained a marriage proposal. If it was accepted, was my mother going to leave my father.

I have been very depressed for these past nine years. I have become more and more depressed but often suppress my feelings and stay quiet. I had recurrent thoughts of suicide, and suffered frequent fits of anger at my mother's time with her "partner" when I was younger. The suicidal thoughts intensified and I attempted suicide when I was 8 or 9 years old. I thought many times after of doing it properly, and when I told my mother, she would shake her head, and say "shut up, you are over reacting".

I considered seeking help from my father, but he was upset enough at the obvious signs of my mother's affair, and I was not all that close to him. Since my mother's marriage proposal, her "partner" has told her that he is not interested in the commitment and has resulted in my mother being very angry, depressed and jumpy.

Meanwhile, I have had more problems along the way. I have just begun to realize that I may be gay or bisexual. Since I was six, I have had feelings for the same sex as well as the opposite sex. I did not understand these feelings when I was so young, and dismissed them as being part of childhood, as I am sure they are. I am now fairly sure I am bisexual, and for the first time told a close friend about it, something I rarely do. The problem I have here is that I feel guilty for feeling this way, and I know my family is discriminative about sexuality, and I feel that they would refuse to accept it.

I have a host more problems, and some I cannot identify at times because I am too depressed to think. I have never told anyone about my problems, because I gave up talking about them when my family became less caring, and I was told to "toughen up". Other than having the usual teenage dilemmas, I am going well. I am good at sports and made national level basketball. I am at school on a scholarship for basketball and am relatively bright. I am in all the highest academic classes at school as well as having been acknowledged for outstanding academic and sports achievements. Yet I still feel depressed each day, and wish I didn't wake up.

What is my problem, and why do I feel so depressed?

14 year-old woman

Answer:

Most feelings and symptoms of depression are similar but the causes and types of depression can be different. Any one with the story you told would get depressed. Every child has the right to two mature, caring and available parents. However, most of us only get an approximation. Both of yours seem like they have put their needs in front of yours. In the last twenty years the concept of dysfunctional families has been identified. Like all concepts this is just a model and usually it runs on a continuum. Beating your child is abusive (not useful) and is on the severe end of the spectrum. However, not taking care of a child's need to be treated at an age in an appropriate manner is abusive as well. It is just not readily recognized as abuse.

Unfortunately, when your mother spoke to you about her affair at your age she put you in an untenable position. If you helped her you would not be loyal to Dad, and if you didn't then you weren't being loyal or loving to Mom. This is the dilemma that dysfunctional parents put their kids in and it is a double bind. It is also enticing because a child feels older and helpful by parenting their parents. However, this leads to that feeling of unwantedness you were describing because all the caring is going one way. It also leads to some grandiosity and feeling too responsible to other people. This is a condition called co-dependency. A further danger arises because we often then treat our later relationships in the same manner. It is probable that you would take care of your friends or love relationships a little too much as well.

As I said, it doesn't surprise me at all that you are depressed. The only thing I can't tell at this distance is whether your neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that manage our thoughts and feelings) are too low and therefore whether medication is needed. Depression often runs in the family via genetics. You also said you get depressed for around 3 month periods. This might also be important in making a good diagnosis. It might denote bi-polar disorder or some other type of cyclical mood disorder. I would certainly recommend that ongoing counseling would be helpful and a good psychiatric workup would make sense to evaluate whether you do need medication. If it were possible I would suggest family therapy because although you are depressed you sound healthier than them. You have done remarkably well for what you have been through.

If possible, I would get treatment for the above issues before even beginning to work on the sexual orientation problem. You might well be bisexual. However, with all the confusion and lack of trust and caring in your life it makes sense that sexual confusion would result. There would have to be great difficulty trusting in general. Both of your parents sound like they come from a basic position of need which teaches a child that relationships are scary. A relationship with a woman would probably be even more frightening given your mothers affair. All of these issues would make romantic involvements scary and confusing. Sexuality is central to a lot of these developmental issues. Your sexual confusions might clear up after treatment and give you a better sense of where your interests and inclinations are. Whatever they are there is no basic reason to feel shame about them. Our society's often-judgmental attitude, however, does make it hard not to feel shame.

Take Care.

Jef Gazley

This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.

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