Dear Dr. G.,
I am at my wit's end with my 14-year-old daughter. I don't like her and I doubt that I love her either. We have had the most awful two years and we cannot be in the same room without her cracking sarcastic, smart-ass comments and put-downs. Her empathy level is alarming. I have tried disciplining her and putting boundaries in place but nothing works. She says she doesn't care.I am severely depressed by it all and have been thinking of taking myself out of the picture. I have broken down in tears so many times that it is just ridiculous and I am resenting my whole life. I don't even know why I am writing this because I know nothing will help but felt compelled to tell someone. I am beyond desperate. We have just entered family therapy but I have very little faith that it will do something to help. I am absolutely sure that she hates me and whatever I do is wrong, stupid, lame, gay, etc. I have asked her to tell me what is wrong with being gay and she says she is just joking. I am too sensitive, a mental patient, psycho, idiot,etc. I had to separate from my husband (who is not her father) because it just was not fair to him to be amidst this hostility all the time.
I feel like I would like to end it. I have no family, otherwise I would have sent her away for a while just so we can have a break. It is heart-wrenching to say this but having her has wrecked my whole life. I have sacrificed so much for her and all she ever does is take. Someone once asked me to remember nice times with her and I found it hard. I have no nice memories. Ever since she was little she has been willful and self-indugent and impulsive and I have made the mistake of giving in too many times to avoid volatility. I cannot do this anymore.
An Exhausted Mother
I am grateful and so honored that you wrote to me. The issue of "child effects," that is how a child's mood can affect a parent, is not discussed enough and you have brought that issue into sharp focus with your letter. Thank you.
The first order of business is for you to get help for your depression. It is not fair for you to have to carry severe depression throughout your day because it is, as you know, exhausting and depleting. You sound beaten-up, worn-out, and just plain tired. Get help immediately for the depression. Please.
Without having met your daughter I can only speculate about why her behavior has been so troublesome. My best guess is that there are multiple factors contributing including:
1. She, herself, is probably full of self-loathing.
2. Believe it or not, she may be worried about you and may not know how to express this.For over twenty years, I have worked with teens and when they are worried about their parents' well-being this is often expressed as anger toward that parent-odd but so true.
3. She may have watched a role model treat you badly.
4. She may need space as you do. Please reach out to mental health agencies in your area to perhaps find a group home or maybe even a respite agency for teens. They exist all around the country.
5..Your daughter probably has questions about her biological father. Please address this in family therapy.
Finally, I am full of hope which is why I am a psychologist and because I have seen so many people get better over the years as they recover from depression and repair relationships. Suicide is never the answer. It is permanent and life problems tend to be temporary. Perhaps, you may also look for a support group so that you do not feel so alone. My heart goes out to you. I know how distressing it can be when there are problems with an angry and frustrating teen.
Good luck and please write back soon.
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