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Is My Childhood Affecting My Emotions?

From a teen in the U.S.: When I was little, I was adopted from a drug family. Growing up with my adopted family, I felt like I was put down for everything I did. My parents are alcoholics. I feel like I do not love them. My grandma died this year and I didn’t even cry. I have emotionally and physically hurt my parents as they have done to me. My dad went into the hospital for 6 months and almost died and I had little emotions towards it. I have a boyfriend that I have been with for 3 years and I love him. Or so I feel. I want to spend the rest of my life with him. But he doesn’t feel loved by me. He tells me I rarely compliment him. I feel like I am bad at showing affection towards him. I used to have sexual feelings towards him but I was put on birth control and now I feel no sexual feelings. I love having sex with him. But I am not romantic. I show no romance in our relationship. But I don’t want to lose him whatsoever.

Everyone I know tells me that I don’t see consequences. I do things without thinking of what might happen. Sometimes I feel like I will never get in trouble for anything. Then am given a consequence and do the same thing again. Sometimes I feel like I cannot connect with other people. I have a hard time making friends. I often make friends and become so attached to them that they get scared and leave me.

I feel like there might have been abuse that I do not remember from my biological dad. I get anxiety when men walk behind me or are standing behind me. I do not remember any sexual abuse from him but I still am afraid of a lot of men. My only memory of my dad was him throwing me against a wall. I rarely cry because of a sad movie. I also tend to feel awkward when people tell me their feelings. I don’t know how to react. There are so many questions I have about myself and I don’t even know how to put them in words.

Thank you for writing. So many questions deserve far more than a short response in an advice column. You’ve been through a great deal in your short life. It doesn’t surprise me that you are having difficulty with attachment and with social relationships. I don’t think you should expect yourself to handle it on your own. I think it would be very helpful for you to get the kind of help a therapist can provide.

A therapist can help you sort out many things. You were adopted out of one addicted family and placed in another one. That has to be confusing and distressing. It does make sense to me that one outcome of your background is that you are both emotionally too attached to others and not attached enough. I think you need support and guidance to figure out what’s troubling you about relationships and how to find a healthy balance in them.

I can’t tell whether there is an abuse history but it is certainly worth exploring the possibility with a counselor who can spend the time to really understand you and help you understand yourself.

Writing to us was an important first step. I hope you will take the next one and find a therapist who can give you the ongoing support and advice you need and deserve.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

from Ask the Therapist

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