Should she tell doc her parents hit her?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m in 9th grade and I’ve been struggling with this for approximately 5 months, now. I’ve been thinking about this to the point of making myself nauseous, and it gets worse every day. I’m sure this’ll be long, but I would appreciate it if you could bear with me, as I have no idea what to do or what is wrong with me.

For approximately a year and a half, I’ve been going back and forth to doctors to try to figure out a medical issue that is happening with my head. In May of ’08, I had an MRI and an MRA, and nothing serious has shown up aside from the fact that I had a low line cerebral…I don’t remember the exact terminoligy, but basically the place where my neck connected to my head was, well, low-line. It was mentioned that that could be problematic, though it wasn’t really discussed as it wasn’t the source of one of the main symptoms, Tinnitus.

Tinnitus includes headaches, dizziness, seeing spots or colors, feeling a sense of pressure, and occassionally, it feels like something is popping (like you would when on an airplane or at high altitudes). I’ve seen an ENT, and he prescribed decongestant, but that didn’t work.
I went off to a Neurologist, and he prescribed Meclizine. That didn’t work. On the first of April, I had gone to see the family doctor. She prescribed Amitriptyline. I was on that at 10 mg, then 15 mg, and starting today, the 8th, 20 mg. She said if it doesn’t work after 20 mg, then we switch to another medicine.

The fact that nothing seems to be working and the fact that these doctors can’t seem to pinpoint the reason behind it all isn’t the main reason why I’m upset, though. I mean, obviously I’m irritated. Everyday I have at least a headache. The main problem has to do with my family, namely, my parents.

See, a little over a year and a half ago, my mother had hit me on the side of the head. She hit me maybe 7 or 8 times, and from my perspective, it seemed like she hit me as hard as she could. Once she finished, I sat up and my nose began to bleed. I don’t remember how long it took to stop the flow, but I’m going to guess around 20-30 minutes. It wasn’t until near December of ’08, just about a year and a half later, that I realized that it was a bit odd that my nose bled even though the side of my head – basically my ear – was hit, and that it bled for so long. So I wondered if any sort of injury was caused, as it was only about a month or so after that I really started to notice the headaches and Tinnitus.

I went to my school counselor a little while after I thought about it. He basically had nothing to tell me. I asked him if he thought it could have caused injury and if my mother would get into any sort of trouble. He said he didn’t know. I gave up and it wasn’t until a month after that I started really worrying about it again. By then, the appointment with the Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor was scheduled. I wondered if I should mention anything to him.

It was then that I started feeling this sense of fear and….and doom. Like a no-win situation. I could either ignore the question and possibly go on with life with daily headaches and pain, or I could bring it up with the professionals, and possibly risk my family’s well being.
The appointment came, and I ended up saying absolutely nothing. My mother was in the room with me, and I just felt….so off. I just oculdn’t say it, not with her there. I left the office, mentally kicking myself.

The next day, I felt like a complete idiot. I didn’t know what to do, didn’t know if the medicine I had would work, I was just generally disoriented. So, instead of making another appointment with the counselor, I spoke to a teacher about it. We went back and forth, debating whether or not we should call the doctor back, though we ended up doing nothing. I wanted to wait to see if the decongestant he gave me worked. However, she still sent me down to see the Social Worker, for reasons that are still a little unclear to me.

The Social Worker asked me how often my mother has ever hit me, and I said that she has only done it twice in my life. The incident with my head, and then once on my back with the same force. She talked to me a bit about our relationship, but ended it there.

The decongestant didn’t work. So, an appointment with a Neurologist was set up. The same fear, stress, and worry was building up as the days passed. I was, and still am, constantly debating with myself. I have no idea what to do. It seems that every night for a solid month I would cry myself to sleep. I just feel so caught up and helpless. There’s just no getting out of this.

The Neurologist does end up asking about any past head injuries, and he asks while my mother is in the room. As nonchalantly as possible, I tell him that I was hit until the point of nosebleed. When he asks by what, I simply tell him ‘a person’. He asks with what, and I say ‘their hand’. He looked surprised for maybe a moment, but shrugged it off. I was told that it’s possible that a blow to the head like that could have possibly triggered some inflammation or unbalance, but he also listed off a thousand other causes.

My mother is ultimately furious with me. The car ride home was an ugly one, and I’ve been called a number of names. What really angered me, though, was that my mother had contorted and twisted the stories. She left things out and switched the circumstances, and then blamed me for her actions. It just left me angry. When I got home, and my father found out what I did, he tried very hard to get me to believe that no way could my mother have caused any sort of injury. He was pulling excuses left and right. I wonder if he really believes this, or if he’s just scared about legal rights (he kept mentioning foster care). Either way, I felt…manipulated. I hated that he seemed to be trying so hard to get me to think otherwise, right after I’ve just been told by a doctor the opposite.

I still question what that Neurlogist told me, because he didn’t seem to care too much. He prescribed me useless medicine and didn’t seem to care much that another human being had hit me, but perhaps I’m just thinking too hard. For about one week, there was very much yelling, and then for another, silence. Finally, my mother threatend to leave and never return. She did leave, but for only about an hour. She came back to make sure its what she wanted to do. She talked to me. She finally did apologize for her actions, but I still can’t help but feel somewhat angry with her, because after she apologized, she said that it was my fault that she did what she did and that I basically deserved it.
After that night, everything between my parents seemed to fix.

They’re happy, my two younger sisters are happy, and I am not. They don’t know that – no one does, really. I’m still worrying about the next appointment. As I said, I went to the family doctor about a week ago, and I was dead scared. I was horrified of the consequences of telling someone what has happend between my mother and I, because I know it would lead to question about other incidents.

Aside from those two hitting occurances with my mother, there’s the dysfuntional relationship with my father. Between the ages of maybe…9, 10 – 14 years (I am 15, now), my father and I would get into arguments quite often. Normally, he would grab and seemingly try to crush or twist my arms, and sometimes I’d find myself pinned against a wall or to the floor, and then finally dragged to my room if I didn’t run off there on my own. I never really considered that behavior abusive. I still question it.

He is the main person I am afraid of if I have to say something about my mother again, ironically enough. My father’s always intimidated me. I hate how he yells, and how controlling he is. What I’m really scared of is being physically hurt by him, because I remember he’s before threatend to break my arm, and once when I was very young, I had to lock myself in the bathroom and hide in the shower.

I consider my father an honest and hardworking man with good intentions. He provides well for his family, and I appreciate that. However, his rage can just be….I can’t help but be afraid of him. I’d hate to get him angry, just in case one day he follows through with his threats and shouts. What if my arm breaks next time? What if I can’t locnever do it again. However, after the first time she did it, she said that same thing. “She’d never do it again.” Yet, maybe a month later, she’s hitting me again.

They’ve never left me with any sort of mark, but I still can’t trust them. I can’t predict their actions, and I hate it. I haven’t told any of the adults at school this because I thought it was irrelevent to the reason why I was bringing it up in the first place. My father twisting my arm has nothing to do with my headaches or diziness. So why bother. Besides, as I said before, I hadn’t ever really considered that abuse.

I saw them flip out when they found out that this doctor knew, and I hadn’t given out names or details. Nothing I said or did suggested that it was my parents that had hurt me, and this Doctor didn’t seem to report anything anyway, as I’m still living in this house undisturbed by CPS or the cops or someone of the like.

It is this that makes me freak. I cannot handle this stress. I don’t want to give my parents away. I don’t want them to get in any sort of trouble, and I don’t want to go into Foster Care like they keep telling me I will if I say anything. I would think it would be totally unfair for my sisters as well. My parents have been unfair to them at times, but they never touched them. I’d feel worse putting them in Foster Care than myself. I know that I can’t always be there for them. I can’t protect them from the parents if need be, or any other kids in the home. They couldn’t handle it, and I’d be to blame.

As of now, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know when the next appointment is. I haven’t talked to anyone to help me deal with the stress, partially because I don’t want to feel like a burden or possibly make things worse. The counselor and one of my teachers didn’t do much, and I wouldn’t want to burden my other teacher about it. I just want it to go away, though I know it won’t. The situation will keep coming back as long as I am going to the doctors, and as long as I am afraid. As much as I hate it, that is the circumstance. There’s been nothing but stress and more stress. I think I had a panic attack one day back in March, and I’m scared that I’ll have one much worse, especially during school.

Since the past two weeks, there’s been random twitching/tremors from my shoulders up. I’ve hallucinated twice. I keep seeing these spots and colors and the headaches don’t go away. Nothing is working. I don’t know what the issue is, but I’m sure that all of this stress is making it worse. Some days, I’ll feel depressed, some days, I’ll feel as though I’m sedated, some days, I’ll be having major anxiety, and some days, I’ll feel all three of these all within an hour.
I am so confused.

I’ve probably nearly written a novel by now. I aplogize for how lengthy this is. I must have some sort of rep. for writing in such detail.
I am sorry. I feel somewhat ridiculous for coming to the internet for help, but I just don’t know what to do. I don’t think that many people in my reality can. None that I’ve met thus far, anyway. I’ve never felt so scared or so guilty or so stressed in my life. I’d be deeply thankful if you gave this a read, but if you have no time, I can definitely understand.
Thanks again.

A: Thank you for writing. Whatever else is true, it’s clear that you have been suffering for a long time and you do need some answers. I’m not a medical doctor so I can’t offer anything definite in the medical department. The fact that both an MRI and MRA came back clear does suggest that you don’t have a closed head injury. And you’ve seen many specialists to rule out other medical possibilities. So maybe the problem at this point is at least partly in my area.

It’s possible that you are quite literally worrying yourself sick. You are worried about what happened to your head when your mom hit you. You are worried about what to say and who to say it to. You are worried about what will happen if you say something and what will happen if you don’t. On top of all that, you are living in fear and worry that your mom or dad might hurt your again. This is a recipe for an anxiety disorder.

Meanwhile, your parents are scared that involvement with protective services will tear the family apart. That’s why they yell and threaten and tell you it’s all your fault. Actually, social services takes kids out of a family as a last resort. You didn’t mention any abuse going on currently so it’s unlikely that foster care would happen. What probably would happen is the offer of some help for your family so that things wouldn’t get to the point where your folks hurt you again.

Please consider talking with the counselors at the crisis line in your area (http://www.crisisline247.org/) 815-469-6166. They can help you find a counselor to help you with your anxiety and can make suggestions for helping the whole family. You did a fine job explaining everything in your letter. If you find it difficult to talk about the situation, you could email them your letter and my response. You can stay anonymous during your call if you think you need to.

You made an important first step by writing. Now please take the next one and get some help.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Apr 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Should she tell doc her parents hit her?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/04/10/should-she-tell-doc-her-parents-hit-her/