Family Problems

I am 16 years old. Ever since summer I have not been getting along as well with my parents. I have never had particularly high self-esteem; during the summer, I did some testing so that I would qualify for extra time. At the end of all that, I had a horrid experience with the head doctor. I was deeply insulted when she said I displayed mental issues. Yes I process things slowly; I am well aware of that, but I am stable and certainly feel that there is nothing mentally wrong with me.

She proceeded by saying how I suffer from severe anxiety and other stuff. I honestly do not agree. At first I was simply angry about this and then realized that she had been trying to sell her services as a therapist. I had overheard my parents saying this to each other so I knew that I wasn't off mark in my belief. However, it still bugged me.

I was even more upset when they began to tell me how messed up I am and have always been. I thought i was a good kid; practically a straight A student, hard working, have tons of friends, sociable, sweet, friendly, and not particularly rebellious. They mentioned this when angry at me. I honestly don't know what to think about this; their comments completely destroyed the type of person that I believed I was and now I honestly don't know. I was hurt and matters were only made worse.

I have a younger sister, who though talkative and hyper and testy, she doesn't usually get in trouble. Though my parents don't say so, it is apparent that she is what they would prefer for a daughter. I feel that my parents have gone from being people that I trusted to people that frighten me. Whenever angry, they threaten me with everything in my life; they say that they will discontinue my dance class, will send me to a boarding school, not pay for me to go to college, and even stuff pertaining to school. The last argument was a minor one, but my mom makes me feel crazy and not really myself. I want to have some control in my life.

I know that my parents are in charge, but I think they are overdoing it. I was told that i had to do my homework in my room. I requested doing it in the unoccupied study, bonus room or loft, which has computers. My mom just glared at me and and spoke in a cold emotionless tone that as a child I had no right. Though I initially did not react, eventually her tone and expression caused me to react and I yelled at her (like most teenagers I still can be a bit temperamental at times) She further escalated it with the usual threats (I believe that she actually will follow through) It is difficult for me not to be angry when I am being threatened that everything in my life will be taken away (not exaggerating...she said it and would do it) She grabbed all my clothes from my closet, dumping them all over my room, taking things- like my shoes that fit her. I told her to give them back, and yes I admit I was yelling. I was annoyed that she could have this power over me, that she would even take things of actual importance and use them over me. She then threw my shoes across the room, where they hit my mirror and the stuff on my cabinet, fortunately causing minimal damage. I told her that I hate her, which was not a wise thing to do. Though I honestly feel that, some thoughts are better kept to oneself, but then again one is not entirely rational in anger. She told me that I wont be finishing my semester of dance PE classes, which will result as an F on my transcript. She no longer cares about school. She also said that I will be sent to a boarding school because she doesn't want to raise me anymore and that once I am 18, I can easily be kicked out of the house and they wont allow me to go to college. I feel abandoned by my family.
I love my sister, but am always ganged up on by my mom and dad. My dad always follows in after my mom.

My dad particularly favors my sister; after all she is daddy's little girl and has all the good parts of him in her and some similar interests. I adore my sister, and though I sometimes feel closer to her than anyone else, another side of me hates that my parents compare her to me. The worse they view me, the better she appears to them. When I mess up, it is an example of what not to do for her. She is placed in the middle of it. She says that she loves me and i know its true, but I also know that she does along with my parents to avoid conflict. I used to be all about avoiding conflict. Based on my memory, there wasn't much ever. However, these days seem to think that I have always been difficult. And these days they truly do despise me and say they cant wait till I am 18. The main thing I do that they resent is that I want some control. I hate that they can hold everything that I value over me. I feel so hurt by them that i want to leave, but don't want to be sent to a crummy boarding school. I simply want to finish high school as is and go off to college and get on with my life. I want to not have them a part of my life.

My sister always says that she will always want me in her life. (she is 11 yrs old) At this stage, I know I am dependent on them and this use this against me always threatening. I always pretend to come around and apologize though I know that it will only be so long until the routine begins again. What should i do? I have tried talking to them. My mom says that she understands but I don't believe her because she only sees her own views and opinions. I do recognize that i have been more difficult, but I feel that this because of the horrid relationship we have, the resentment I have for how she holds everything over me, my own lack of confidence, and how I feel that she is no longer there for me and honestly doesn't love me anymore.

Ben's Answer:

You sound like a very bright, clear-headed, sensitive person. Unfortunately, it sounds like your parents are completely overwhelmed with you being a teenager and they just don't get it. Their confusion and frustration has gotten the better of them. They're trying to discipline you, but don't know how to do it in a way that actually is loving and helpful to you, rather than insulting, reactive and punitive.

The therapist you saw sounds like a poor choice. A good family therapist who can foster some sort of productive, honest, respectful dialogue between you and your parents would be far more useful then some therapist who is just going to pathologize you and list your "issues."

The reason they seem to favor your little sister is most likely because she hasn't reached puberty yet. She's likely to face the same thing you are when she's your age, unless your parents get a clue by then.

Being the oldest kid is often the hardest because your parents don't have experience raising a teenager yet. They don't know how to let you grow up and assert your individuality, because it scares them and they probably feel like they are failing as parents, so they take their frustration out on you.

Don't give up. And if you can find a better therapist - for you - or for the whole family - so much the better. Maybe you can persuade them to find a good family therapist.

Just please remember that it is NOT your fault. You are not crazy. And not avoiding conflict is a healthy expression of your individuality. Teenagers who always avoid conflict end up in long term therapy by the time they're 25.

Take Care,

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