Can't get close to others


Can't get close to others


your avatar   Mslanine, 20-year-old woman

I am a 20-year-old female. I'm in college, studying microbiology. I have a lot of friends and they are very comfortable around me because I like to joke around and make people laugh. My friends always see me as a cool girl with an expressionless face. But nobody knows deep inside my heart that I always feel lonely and sad.

I had a very tough childhood. When I was 6, I was raped by a family relative, but I've never told anyone until now. I also used to be bullied in school. A few years ago, my parents' marriage was on the rocks because my dad is a womanizer. Now, my dad is rarely at home because he has another woman and a son with that woman. All I can say is that I'm from a very, very broken family. However, I guess I was just a strong kid back then because I went through everything alone and still managed to become a useful person. I am a very intelligent student and a good daughter.

For everything I've been through, I lost respect towards myself. I feel hopeless, lonely, sad, and embarrassed. Since I was a kid, I've always had almost no self-esteem, that's what makes me hate myself more. I always feel ugly and hateful. Other people always consider me lucky because I'm financially stable, bright and pretty. It is because they don't know what happened to me! There are many guys who try to approach me, but I can't trust anyone anymore. That why I never had a boyfriend. I always feel like they're just trying to fool around with me and that's why I prefer to just be friends with them. I desperately want to be loved, but I don't feel like I'm worth it.

I can be others' best friend, but I never let anyone close to me emotionally. I keep all my feelings to myself and I'm afraid to let people see my emotion. Sometimes I feel dead inside, as if I'm not myself. Whenever I feel lonely, I cry myself to sleep. I'm nothing but pathetic. It's very sad knowing that when I'm alone, there's no one to support me. It's even harder that I can't even tell anyone about my hideous truth.

I tried to get rid of all my dark memories by pretending that nothing happened, but I know I can't. I don't want to live like this anymore. I'm tired of being helpless. PLEASE HELP ME.


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

My dear,

For 14 years, you have kept a secret as if you had something to be ashamed of. Now that you are a young adult, ask yourself: if you found out that some other 6-year-old child has been raped, do you think the child has done anything wrong? As that poor little girl, you no doubt felt helpless, dirty and ashamed, and decided never to tell anybody. This almost always happens, even if the perpetrator doesn't "groom" the child into taking blame.

The real you is the one your friends see: the intelligent, bright, pretty girl who is popular with most people, a good friend, a good student. They can see you the way you really are. The ugly, lonely, sad, embarrassed person is an illusion. You have this inside view as the result of the damage this man imposed on an innocent little child. Every victim of childhood abuse of any kind has this kind of distorted self-view. I know, because I have it too. Just like inside you there is a damaged little girl, inside me is a damaged little boy. When I was your age, he ruled my life, just like your little girl rules yours.

Then I realized that the outside view, how others saw me, was correct, and my damaged little boy was wrong. For a long time, I then coped by arguing with that little boy. He said, in my heart, "You're ugly and stupid and can never do anything right and nobody could love you." I looked at the evidence: I looked OK, I had achievements other people envied, and wherever I went, some people, the decent ones, offered me friendship. Now, I don't argue with this damaged view any more. This is because I have dealt with the traumas of my childhood, and so that little boy is just an inner noise that's still there, but I can ignore. There is no emotion attached to what he says.

You can achieve the same. To do this, you need to reverse what you've been doing till now. Keeping that rape a secret has made it fester like an infected wound in your soul. It's the cause of all your terrible, unrealistic feelings about yourself. If something doesn't work, change your approach. In fact, research shows that being open about what happened to you, and allowing the emotions to play themselves out, is the way to heal.

In many places, there is no time limitation on child sexual abuse. Find out if this is the case, then seriously consider reporting the matter to the police. Even if you choose not to do that, go to a psychologist competent at trauma work, and do what is called "exposure therapy". This is when you allow the bad memories to come, but in a very specific way: "That was then and now is now, and I now have power that I didn't have then." It happened, and hurt then, but the re-experiencing is recalling emotion-then. Feel the emotion-then, as an observer. It helps to put a number on it: "My distress is 7/10." Then you can watch the intensity lower. It does. Go through the re-experiencing over and over, until there is no emotion left. At that stage, you are over it.

The second issue is trusting guys. It's fine to be cautious, but also be open. Take risks -- we both know you are strong enough to survive anything.


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit:


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