Hi, I’m a seventeen year old girl concerned about my mental health. My parents drink sometimes. My dad becomes violent and annoyingly strict when he’s drunk, and we fight a lot. My mom becomes weak and she doesn’t give a shit about anything, so i feel threatened and unprotected of my dad. They usually drink for a week and stay sober for another three or so. Then start drinking again. It’s been like this since i was 5 as i remember. My dad used to hit me with a belt when i talked back, and sometimes i would feel like he used to whoop me for no reason, even though he had a reason i just didn’t understand it. I’m seventeen now, and they’ve been drinking this week. I just started experiencing symptoms I’ve never experienced before. Symptoms like: a really big headache from like 8am till 10am when i wake up, also it’s really easy for me to start crying. Sometimes i feel sorry for myself and all i want to do is cry. I have anger build up on me and i have nowhere to get it out on. When i drive i have thoughts of swerving off the road, yet yesterday, when i was driving and i almost crashed the car going 40 mph through a red light, i didn’t really want to die. I just want to go out and be more independent and all my parents want to do is keep me inside all the time. I don’t do drugs, i drink beer sometimes, but that happens rarely. I think i have a pretty good understanding of what’s good and bad, and i want to be a little more independent. I often feel like I’m locked up in chains and i can’t get out. I have friends, but i feel lonely a lot. It’s because my friends go out much more than i can and i feel like ill lose everything i have if i don’t keep up. I don’t know what to do I’m super sad most of the time. I have headaches but I’m okay when i go out. I feel like all my problems are in my family and i have this urge to escape from it, i could even go live by myself, with no money and education, and it’d still be better than staying at home while my parents drink. Can you give me some advice how to fix myself, because i have trouble controlling myself anymore? Thank you.
A: Thank you for writing in. Sounds like you have been dealing with a lot of stress for a long time, and I’m glad that you are reaching out for help. It doesn’t sound to me like you have much to “fix” about yourself. Your symptoms are most likely related to the stressful home environment that you have been living in for the majority of your life. It is natural to feel sad, helpless and angry when you are in a bad situation and there’s not much you can do to change it. You also can’t change your parents, but you can let them know how much their drinking affects you.
It is likely that your headaches are stress related as well. Sometimes our body tenses up when we sleep, rather than relaxing, which can cause morning headaches. Chronic stress and the feeling of being “on guard” can eventually lead to tension headaches because the muscles in our neck, shoulders and jaw are particularly sensitive to stress. You can try stretching and massaging these muscles before bed and when you wake up. It also helps to put a rolled up towel or tennis balls behind your neck while lying down to get these muscles to relax. Getting a professional massage would help also. If these techniques don’t bring you any relief I would suggest that you see your doctor about the headaches.
I would also strongly suggest that you begin attending some Al-Anon or Alateen meetings. If your school or church doesn’t hold meetings, here’s a website for the programs in your area: http://niafg.org/
You might also speak to your school counselor or find a therapist in your community for individual and/or family counseling to help with your feelings of sadness and depression. The important thing to realize is that your parents drinking is not your fault. It sounds like you are doing a good job of trying to focus on other things, like school and friends, which can make getting through this last year of high school much easier. Whether you go to college or get a job after high school, it may be important for you to move out of your parent’s house as soon as you can. Having the choice to see them only when they are not drinking will help a great deal. It’s really not that far away so hopefully having an end in sight will give you hope to hang in there and try to enjoy your last year of high school.
Finally, if your father becomes violent with you again you can call the police. You have a right to feel safe in your own home. If you don’t feel safe calling from home, you could try setting up a safe word with a friend of yours so that they know you need help and they can call the police for you or ask their parents to check on you.
I hope this information helps, and I hope that you have a peaceful senior year of high school.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Jul 2014
Counts, H. (2014). Am I Depressed Due to Parents Drinking?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 29, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/07/16/am-i-depressed-due-to-parents-drinking/