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My Relationship with My Mother Shattered after Telling her I Hurt Myself

From a teen in the U.S.:  Just before summer vacation my mom and I had gotten into a fight that lasted for hours. It was dumb and it was really just her yelling at me and me crying, aksing her to calm down. Eventually, it became to much and i ran into the bathroom and hurt myself, like I had been doing for months.

I would bite my arms so hard they’d bruise, bang my head into the walls, pinched myself, whatever, just never cut. That night she was mad at me for going into the bathroom for so long and i broke down and told her. She told me I was crazy and needed help. And…that was it. I lived with a friend for the summer, she never helped me or checked up on me.

Over the course of the summer she would just freak out on me over nothing and say terrible things without apologizing. We’ve never talked about anything. I told my twin sister about my self harm. She was relieved when I told her i wasnt cutting myself, and playfully said she was going to hit me when she saw me for making her think it was worse. I’ve tried reaching out to friends too and one just thought i was weird and made a joke about it once.

I thought of all people my mom would help me, shes struggled with self harm in the past and has helped others through it. But when it came to her daughter? Its like, i dont matter. Just because im not physcially scaring myself my problem doesnt count. No one will help me. No one cares.

Im drowning in these intense emotions that I’m not used to feeling and idk what to do. Out of nowhere they’ll hit me like a storm all at once and the only thing that stops them and the.thoughts that follow is the pain. I’ve had terrible anxiety and depression since all of this. Im constantly afriad of talking to people or doing something that might bother others. Im just so scared and hurt all the time.

Ik my family not caring has been eating away at me for months now. It feels like it’s gonna eat up all of me and I’ll have nothing left, just an empty husk. Idk how to solve the family issues ive tried so many times so many ways. My mom just…doesn’t want to talk. I was a parentified child im used to taking care of my family and being there for them, now im alone and it just always hurts.

Thank you for writing. I think you already know that the one incident with your mom didn’t “shatter” your relationship with her. You already know that she isn’t completely stable. After all, she stayed in an argument with you for hours. She has a history of self-harm. She was so unable to cope with your problems that she absented herself. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love you. It only means that she has all she can do to manage herself. She can’t manage someone as close to her as her own daughter needing her help. The problems of others ultimately don’t affect her. Yours do.

Adding to the issue in your case is that you’ve been “parentified”. Your family has come to expect you to be the strong one. It probably terrifies them on some level when you also have needs and then, maybe, can’t be there for them when they need it.

As for your twin and your friends: Please don’t interpret their lack of response as lack of caring. Often people withdraw or joke when they just don’t know what to do or what to say. They worry they will say the wrong thing or make things worse. So they avoid the issues, change the subject, or drop out of sight.

You do need support. You do need a place to express all of your feelings without fear of judgment or rejection. It would be great if such people could just appear now that you need it most but that’s unlikely. It will take time to make friends who see you as an equal, not the always strong one, and who can reciprocate your warmth and care. They are out there but you probably need to be in a better space to find them.

So — I do think you should see a mental health counselor. You are anxious, depressed and lonely. That’s plenty of reason to seek out the ongoing support and practical help a counselor can provide. You need it. You deserve it. If you don’t know how to find a therapist, talk to your school counselor or your doctor.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

from Ask the Therapist

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