How angry is it okay to be?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Hi,

Two years ago I was living by myself 1200+ miles away from home. I was studying for a masters, but I was getting so depressed and going a little crazy by myself that I came back to live w/my family since this summer. I always thought of myself as lucky and blessed that my parents were married from the beginning (that they’ve been married for 25+ yrs).

Anyways, about a month ago, my dad decided that he no longer could stand my mom and asked her for a divorce. Never mind that my mom has not worked since they got married (a decision they both had made since they got married), but anyways. I make more money than he does right now. Since I graduated from high school and though I lived w/my parents during my bachelor’s, I took care of myself financially. Throughout all of my undergrad I would help my parents financially. Since I was living by myself I did a lot of things and spent a lot of money, so my debt, though not impossible to pay, it’s quite high for right now. My parents, on the other hand have a larger debt.

I got really depressed when my dad asked my mom for the divorce. He had given me a brand new car (not paid for), that I felt like smashing myself and the car through a wall. Sometimes I have a hard time stopping myself from doing it. I see a psychiatrist. He alerted my regular physician. He prescribed me some Seroquel (I didn’t have a good reaction to other anti-depressants in the past). I see a counselor as well, but it’s hard to see her b/c she’s quite busy, and I don’t live in a big city.

I’m really upset at my dad; I love him still, but right now my anger is so much stronger. The other day, I felt like driving us both to the wall, I guess that if my mom and my sister can’t collect my life insurance money, then they can collect his and pay for the house. He was the head of the family, and I no longer feel this is a family. He told me stuff about how he feels about my mom and keeps on making excuses to leave my mom. I’m unsure whether he is seeing someone else. In a way he is leaving us too. He leaves and leaves me a lot of bills. He says he’s going to try to live w/us for a year, so to pay for some bills, but I doubt he’ll stay for that long. Oh yeah, and his mom and one of his sisters are really sick and he has been going constantly this past 1.5 month to go see them. We’ve never gotten along and my parents have never drawn lines with them even though they have been mean.

I’ve been taking the Seroquel for 2-3 weeks now, and to be honest, I still feel so down; I get upset so easily and have a hard time not getting upset at my students when they don’t bring the homework or pay attention in class. I’m behind on a couple of papers I need to turn in, and for some odd reason I think that my hormones are a little off balance. I don’t know how to behave with him. I tried talking w/him but he is just not honest about stuff. Any advice?

A: Thank you for writing. You are understandably upset and angry. But you know that hurting yourself or your dad wouldn’t help anything and would only make things worse for your mom. As difficult as things may seem right now, they are problems to be solved, not reasons to end your life. What you need most right now is a plan and some support. Here are some ideas:

First, you need to go back to your psychiatrist and confirm that he/she thinks Seroquel is the medicine for you. Psychiatrists specialize in psychiatric drugs. He/she may have a different idea than your PCP. Whatever you are feeling right now is either a side effect of the medicine or your depression. It’s not the Seroquel. It takes up to 4 weeks for people to get a benefit from Seroquel so it may be that you are almost at the time when you will get some relief.

Next, you need to get in touch with your counselor. However busy she is, a good counselor will respond when someone is in crisis. You need to be seeing her at least weekly until you get your anger and depression under control. Your counselor can provide you with some important support and help you learn some new ways to cope.

I hope one of the things you will talk about with her is how to untangle the many unclear boundaries in your family. You are not responsible for your dad’s debts. He is. You are not responsible for your mom, your dad is. You can certainly offer to help out but it isn’t fair for your dad to count on you to take care of his responsibilities. Tell your dad that he shouldn’t be talking to you about your mom. He needs to be talking with her. You can’t fix years of bad feelings between your dad’s family and your parents so please don’t try. That’s your parents’ business.

Next, please see a credit counselor to help you make a plan for systematically getting yourself out of debt. You are only in your 20′s. My guess is that no one has taught you how to make a budget. A credit counselor will help you figure out how to pay down those debts and put you back in charge of your financial situation.

Finally, I hope you have a couple of friends to hang out with. You need to have some place to relax and just be accepted for yourself with no responsibilities attached except the usual reciprocity of friendship. Make time to be with friends and have their support through this difficult time.

If you are feeling desperate, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 800 273 TALK. There are counselors available 24/7 to talk to you.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Oct 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). How angry is it okay to be?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/10/30/how-angry-is-it-okay-to-be/