I have many problems that I need help with

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Hi, I am an eighteen year old college student and I think I have many problems that I need help with. Recently these have been getting worse, and today I decided to ask for help. I will start with what I believe was the source for my problems.

I live in an abusive home full of domestive violence and abuse. My entire life growing up I had to deal with my parents fighting with each other, and then they would take it out on my sister and me. They would hit me with their hands, belts, and anything else they could find, as well as constanly scream and belittle each other and my sister and me. I had to call the police multiple times for my parents fighting as well as for the safety of my sister and me. (The police never did anything- no files were reported.) Surprisingly I made it out of there alive, and now I am a freshman at college, living in a dorm. I have never told anyone about my real family life, because most of my close friends knew my parents and would be shocked to find that out. (my sister did allude to the situation to our best friend.) For the longest time I wasn’t sure if it was abuse or not, because my parents would say it wasn’t. Now, however, I am starting to see the truth more clearly. It is still hard to cope with my past though, especially because my sister (she’s 21) still lives there and I go back to live there when on school breaks. I have tried to forgive my parents, I have even tried having conversations with my mother about how she raised me, but she always gave excuses and ends up blaming me, also denying how bad it was between us and between her and my dad. I now have a weird relationship with my parents. I try to love them, especially because I’m still financially dependant on them, but I still feel bitter and extremely hurt by them.

Being a typical college student, I get little sleep with copious amounts of stress and work. I feel more stressed than others, and I can’t seem to deal with the stress. I get many migraines, which I went to the doctor for. He suggested meditation/relaxation methods which is helping only a little. When I do sleep I sometimes get terrible nightmares, I always have. A few years ago I began self-injury along with suicidal thoughts (although I never actually attempted suicide) and I believe I was depressed, because I was still living in an abusive home. I eventually stopped the self-injury, after one friend made me promise to. I even considered myself happy for a little while in the beggining of this school year for living in the freedom on campus. Now, however, I am feeling as though I am slipping into i don’t know what to call it. In the past few weeks, I have migraines, I will be either extremely happy or extremely sad, I feel very nervous and anxious. I will either not sleep at all, or miss classes and sleep literally the entire day. For one or two days I will feel very productive, like the world loves me and I have a great future to look foward to, and then for several days I will feel worthless, insecure, like all my friends hate me and are talking about me. I feel incompetant as a dancer/performer (my major is musical theatre) because I have gained weight, sometimes I look in the mirror and hate all the “fatty” spots on me. When people are rude to me, I feel as though I deserve it and can’t stand up for myself, even though my friends say I should. I switch off from eating much food or almost none. I feel disconnected from the people around me, from the room I’m sitting in, and even from my own arms, head, limbs. Sometimes I get so nervous I feel light-headed, my muscles cramp up, it gets hard to breathe. I also cry myself to sleep alot. I am very sensitive to bad things happening to my friends and the world at large. I sympathize greatly with others, even though they don’t sympathize with me. I find it hard to concentrate on work and get antsy when I must sit or stand still for long periods of time. I am worried people will think something is wrong with me because I am very loud and talkative, social with many friends, but then out of nowhere I will not talk to anyone, stay in my room and cry. Even when I am out with people, I am very conscious of what they think of me. I am extremely uncomfortable with people standing over me/behind me when I am sitting, and feel very anxious when someone walks right behind me. I have been contemplating self-injury and have suicidal thoughts recently as well, although I haven’t acted on it.

Something else which may be important: ever since I was a child, I would have dreams or premonitions that would come true. Whether it was a family member getting hurt, or a family member coming to visit, I would get these feelings of a sense of something about to happen. Recently I haven’t felt any of these occurences, but have been interested in things such as astral projection and (please don’t judge) the existence of fairies. There actually are people who believe in such things, so I can’t tell if I am delusional or just hyper-sensitve. I’m not claiming to have seen a fairy or anything like that, but there are very spiritual people in the world who believe in God and have special things happen to them. Just a thought if this has anything to do with the rest of my “problems.”

I have tried reserching my symptoms online, and the results have een anything from AD/HD, to depression, bordline personality/schizophrenic, bi-polar, PTS disorder, as well as many other things. I can’t tell if there is something wrong with me, or if I am exagerrating how I feel. I’ve also tried self-help meditations and a book on how to get rid of depression and increase self-esteem. These help only slightly. I would greatly appreciate feedback from a professional online, because I cannot speak with friends or family about this. I would like to seek professional help from the counseling center on campus, but I fear there’s too much for them to handle. I know this is a mouthful, so Thank you for your help and time.

A: You’ve written a very thoughtful and articulate description of your thoughts and feelings. I can tell you’ve thought long and hard about what is going on with you. I’m very glad you wrote. No kid deserves to grow up in the environment you describe. But as you know only too well, not every kid gets what they deserve. As long as you were stuck at home, all you could do was hold on until you could get out. You did that. It speaks to some inner core of strength you have that you did “get out of there alive.”

In only a couple of weeks, the semester is ending and you will be returning home for the summer. It only makes sense that a part of you is upset about the prospect, even while another part of you is trying to cope and to finish out your classes. That’s one possible reason for the ups and downs you are experiencing.

I do want you to know that the symptoms you are describing are not unusual for someone who has come through an abusive childhood. As long as you were in that situation, it was your “normal.” Now that you’ve been out of it for a time, you are coming to a new understanding of how much you have been hurt. My guess is that your defenses are down and that you are being flooded with feelings you couldn’t allow yourself to feel as long as you were home.

I do urge you to go to the counseling center on campus. You are not too much for therapists there to handle. Therapists who work in college mental health services are very aware of these types of problems. Go while there is time to get in a few sessions before you leave campus so you can learn some new ways to take care of yourself emotionally while you are home. You might also figure out a way to work and live on campus for the summer so that your time at home would be limited to some visits. You need time and support to heal from the past so that you can make the present and future you want for your life. From everything I see in your letter, you have the qualities it takes to do that. It will just take some focused work in therapy.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). I have many problems that I need help with. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/04/30/i-have-many-problems-that-i-need-help-with/