my life is falling apart

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

At school, I used to be very smart. I am in the gifted and talented program at my school. However, recently my grades have been dropping very rapidly. I haven’t gotten a single A in subjects I used to excel in. Also, I was very interested in theatre and now I am not even auditioning for a solo in the public choir at school. Mostly because my self-esteem has plummeted. There is another singer at my school and she is amazing. People say we are as good as one another, and I used to believe them, but now I don’t think so. My “friends” (I’ll mention them later) always go up to her and tell her she’s great and write her name down for solos and everything.

I am in a complicated relationship with my friends. I am in the “popular” crowd at school. They always exclude me and I feel like whenever they are together and I am not, they are talking about me. I know that they talk about me, I just know it. I also can’t just hang out with the other girls, because they aren’t as fun and they have complicated plans and mostly just don’t invite me as often as my group. It’s not like they’re excluding me, because lots of people don’t come when they have plans. But still.

My family is horrible! My sister is a redhead and the rest of the family is brunette. Whenever people see my family they instantly see her hair and are always like “Oh, you’re so beautiful!” Meanwhile I am sitting there, all fat and ugly and freckly with mouse-brown hair and clothes that don’t fit because my parents never take me shopping. (Literally, if I’m lucky twice a year. And I’m the oldest so I can’t get hand-me-downs.)

I’m probably so fat because I don’t do any sports because I am bad at all of them. I also spend most of my life on the TV and computer, which my mom always yells at me for.

My mom is the worst. This is copy-pasted from the Word document I use to vent my feelings: Mom is horrible. She is constantly mood-swingy. She used to be my best friend, someone I could talk to about the fact that I have no friends. But now I feel even more lost because she is growing closer and closer to my brother (the Yankees) and my sister (God knows) and farther and farther away from me. We have absolutely nothing in common now, except for trivial things like brown hair and freckles. We used to talk together, watch TV together

but then (After she started her business) she has grown constantly angry, mad at everything I do, always glancing at her iPhone, and then yelling at me for glancing at my computer. She yells at me to buy things with my own money, though she has none of her own money, she gets it all from my dad. She doesn’t spend time with me and yells at me for things I don’t do. She applauds my sister for 82% on tests, and whenever I get a 105% she jokingly says, “You couldn’t do any better?” She thinks of it as a joke, but by not saying anything supportive, she makes me feel worse about myself. Once again, she is constantly grouchy and doesn’t do anything besides yell, go places without me, look at her iPhone, do business stuff (it isn’t even a real business!!! it isn’t started yet!), and go on her computer. She’s like a robot with her switch broken and switching between working, not caring, gossiping, and angry.

When I do something good, she brushes it off and thinks I am “fishing for compliments.” She’s always telling me to hang out with my friends, though she promised she wouldn’t the last time my friends were horrible to me. She obviously wishes her dream child were someone who looked and acted like (kid in my grade who thinks she’s the best), with (the girl who can sing)’s brains and talent, (her best friend’s daughter)’s humor, and (my friend)’s hair. (Notice that I am not anywhere in there because she hates me.) She is always watching the Yankee game with my brother or talking with my sister, though she used to talk with me and watch TV with me. Why is she suddenly watching Yankee games? She never watched the game, but now suddenly my brother shows an interest and it’s, “I’ll drop everything else and watch the Yankee game! Oh, (my name) wants to watch something? Too bad, I’m going to the restaurant to hang out with the people I DO care about!” She doesn’t remember things I need/want (a haircut, deodorant, to go shopping, books, to watch TV with her) and then she gives my sister those things. It is obvious that my sister is her favorite. She ignores me and curses at me for nothing. I am the oldest and when I don’t do anything I get yelled at. She tells me I have no friends and that I have no life. So does my dad.

My dad is horrible. He constantly criticizes me, and says things about how great my sister is in front of me just to make me mad. He thinks it is funny to point out my flaws, which I have enough trouble with as it is. I am afraid to bring up these things, afraid to say that I wish he loved me more, because I know he’s just going to say that he gives me food, clothes, etc. and that is more than enough to show his love. Or, he might say that I wouldn’t be here without him and that is more than enough; probably the former. Dad doesn’t spend much time with me, and when he does, we are either eating dinner, watching Sci-Fi (which I don’t like), or on a “family bike ride.” However, these “family” bike rides don’t include the whole family, which is unfair. Dad doesn’t know the year I was born, often forgets how old I am, doesn’t go to many of my recitals, criticizes my every move, and only knows 5 of my friends’ names. Sometimes I’ll just be doing my homework and he’ll walk in and be like, “Look at my (my name). I wish she was still the kind girl she was when she was little.” I don’t even do anything!

My siblings throw things at me and throw things in my room. Last week my sister put an apple core in my room’s garbage can and the next day gnats were all over. My mom yelled at me. When I tried to explain, she told me to be more like my sister.

Whenever I think about when I was a little baby (like just-born baby) I cry. I also cry whenever someone tries to say something like, “You’re special! Your family loves you. People care about you.” I don’t know if it’s tears of joy or sadness, or if I am just denying what they are saying. I guess I want my life to be that way again, the way it was when I was a baby, when my parents loved me and everything was simple. Or that people would actually think I meant something. I don’t feel appreciated or anything. I know this sounds like nothing, but I wish I was never born. I want to die but I am too scared to be in physical pain. I know I probably won’t kill myself but I hate my life more and more every day. Please help. I am the only one who feels this way and I have mood swings and I hate it. Please help me.

A: Whew! Nothing seems to be going right, does it? Sometimes life can be like this for awhile. At 13, you know that it’s past the time when mom can kiss it and make it better. But you’re also not quite at the point where you can figure out what to do on your own. I’m glad you wrote.

The hard part about growing up is coming to terms with the fact that the only one who can change things for us is ourselves. It’s time you made a shift in how you look at things. Your letter only talks about how things seem from your point of view. Let’s try to see things from where your parents sit:

Has it occurred to you that maybe things are really complicated for your mom right now? She’s trying to handle 3 kids who are growing up and she’s taking the personal and financial risks to start a business. She seems on edge and distracted and anxious. Things may be more tense with the business than she is sharing with you. She may be extra irritable with you because, as the oldest, she expects you at least not to need her as much. It’s not necessarily fair but it is understandable.

It sounds to me like your dad is trying. This is a matter of seeing the glass as half empty (your way) or half full (my way). From my point of view, he does watch TV with you. He knows 5 of your friends’ names. He invites you on bike rides. He gets to some of your recitals. From his point of view, your little girl self was a whole lot easier to deal with than this moody adolescent who has come to live at your house. He could certainly be more tactful and supportive, it’s true. But it sounds like he doesn’t quite know how to relate to you and his awkward attempts just make you mad.

You are not powerless to change things. If you want your life to be better, you’re going to have to start taking some action. You have so much more to work with than other kids. You’re smart, talented, and you have friends. You even have friends who aren’t necessarily friends with each other. This is an important strength.

Focus on getting your grades back up. Stop comparing yourself to the other singer and sing from your heart. There’s room in any place for several good singers. Not satisfied with your looks? Give yourself a makeover. Get in shape and get your hair styled in a way that makes you feel good. Take an interest in clothes and figure out how to make a fashion statement with what you’ve got. Maybe get together with some of those friends to trade some clothes and give each other some fashion tips.

Not happy with family relationships? Instead of complaining, maybe you could ask your mom if she needs some help. Learn more about her business dreams so you can understand what is stressing her. Compliment your dad when he gets things right and he’s more likely to want to try harder. As for the siblings: Well, siblings are siblings. You’re all struggling to grow up. Every now and then try to reach out to them and things might get a bit better.

I suspect this isn’t what you wanted to hear. But I know that sitting around blaming other people for our troubles doesn’t improve the situation. Self-pity, even when we’re right, doesn’t make change. Your teen years are when you begin to take charge of your life and decide who you want to be. Only you can set your goals and work toward them. A bright, talented girl like you will go far once you get started.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Nov 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). my life is falling apart. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/11/11/my-life-is-falling-apart/