How can I get along better with my mom? She says she doesn’t understand me. She wants me to be this quirky, socially awkward kid, but I’m very involved at school and when I was homecoming queen it felt like she was disappointed in me. I love my mom and she’s a great person, so I don’t understand why I just feel so annoyed with her all the time.
Wow, I’ve never heard of a mom who would be disappointed that her daughter was homecoming queen. (Also, congratulations! That is awesome.)
It sounds like your mom is a little plagued by the B.S. idea that only weird, awkward, tortured people can be smart. Next time your mom makes some kind of remark, mention that. There are a few points you might want to hit. She will be impressed with your maturity and (hopefully) start treating you with more respect:
—You have things that you are passionate about and they’re not her things, but you’re passionate about something, which is more passion than a lot of teenagers would care to admit they have.
—You work hard, and it would be nice if she appreciated that. When you get stressed, it doesn’t help if your mom makes you feel like it’s not worth it.
—Your mom is fitting you into these stereotypes that only exist in, like, Carrie. Doesn’t she want you to be multi-dimensional? You go through tons of phases as a teenager, and it’d be nice to feel like you can do this comfortably, and absorb everything with an honest perspective without other people’s opinions swaying your view.
—Nothing is more annoying than a contrived quirky kid! Remember when Juno came out and everyone (including myself, ugh) started talking like a soft-spoken, self-effacing robot?
—It might not be her intention to make you feel this way, but could she please just be more conscious of how she reacts to your choices? It’s SO important to make it clear that you know she’s not trying to guilt you because if you leave this out, it’ll seem like you’re saying she is trying to make her daughter feel bad about herself, which sounds like an attack on the job she’s done as a mom.
Most important, just say how you really feel, whether you follow this script or not. Cheesy, I know, but my checklist of arguments won’t do anything if you’re not honest. If that doesn’t work, try again a couple more times. Then give up and let her see it for herself. And, honestly, she might not see it for herself and she might continue to act this way. You’ll have done all you could so don’t feel bad. You and I are lucky to have family members who care about us, but they don’t have to approve of or understand everything we do. Also, it’s great that you have a community, like those who voted you homecoming queen, who support you in what you do.
Also, “feeling annoyed with her all the time” will probably not go away, for many of us, until we are adults. Some of your angst towards your parents is kind of unavoidable. If you’re the type who acts on this angst and gets in fights, apologize when you can bring yourself to (I know it’s hard) and explain that it’s just this TEENAGE thing and you don’t really mean it. As a teenager once herself, she will probably understand that.
I really hope this helps. Let us know how it goes, OK? And whether your mom sees what you’re saying or not, I’m glad you’re able to recognize that just because she doesn’t approve of your hobbies doesn’t mean they’re bad. You just keep doing you. —Tavi
I am going to start going to a psychologist, but I thought I’d ask for your advice first. I’ve had panic attacks, lost my vision, and lost part of my memory—all due to stress. I stress out over everything, whether it’s the next day at school or because I lost a stupid calculator. I always think about my body and whether I am as skinny and “hot” as I should be. —Clara
Well, first of all, you’ve accomplished the hardest thing: deciding to go to a psychologist. It took me a long time to come to terms with the idea of going to therapy because I didn’t want to be that kind of person—you know, someone who might need a little help. So well done. That’s brave and smart and sensible of you and makes me believe you are more in control than you perhaps think.
There are all kinds of different specific therapies out there. You might just be talking it out with someone or doing something more structured like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). My advice for entering into either kind is to be patient. It can take a while to warm up to the psychologist, but it will happen eventually. Just think of it from their point of view—you are a completely new person that they know absolutely nothing about. But they will most likely figure you out—that’s their job! So try your hardest to be as open as possible and tell the truth. They will not judge you because they have seen it all! You have nothing to feel ashamed about. Also, if you don’t want to tell a soul that you are going to therapy, that’s fine, too.
I myself am not a psychologist so I can’t give you specific solutions for the issues you talk about, but let me tell you, I have a lot of experience with panic attacks, stress, and worries about school. The thing is, though, the things that help me deal might not help you. Everyone is different and it may take a while to find relevant coping strategies. Sometimes you may wish for some miracle cure, but unfortunately, that doesn’t exist. It can be a long slog and it is a continuing experience. Whatever happens, you will be OK. I have gained a mass of valuable information about myself and about how my mind works and that knowledge can make everything seem less overwhelming to me.
I can explain a technique that has begun to help. It’s called “externalizing” and you imagine all these feelings as separate entities. Emphasis on they are not a part of you. Then, instead of fighting yourself, you’re fighting an external source. I imagine my anxiety as a ball and chain around my feet that weighs me down and makes going anywhere or doing anything much harder than it needs to be. But it also means it isn’t something that will always be part of me. It means that I have the ability to take an axe to that chain. Instead of saying “my anxiety,” I say “the anxiety.” This might sound self-help-y and a little cheesy, but it really does help. This is just one of many techniques that you will hopefully learn about.
Now about the body image: what you have described is what, unfortunately, many teenage girls worry about day-to-day (including me). The thing is, when you are stuck in your own body and head, it somehow becomes acceptable for you to hold yourself up to an impossible standard and this can go on and on forever. You have to remember that it is not a physical problem. It’s your mind picking on itself and, for some reason, it becomes OK because you are doing it to yourself. If you were doing it to someone else, would that be acceptable? No. If you had a friend that treated you the way you treat yourself, would you still want to be their friend? Most likely not. I know it is much, much harder than it ever sounds, but you really have to give yourself a break because I imagine all this thinking about your body is not helping your stress and panic attacks! Again, this is an issue you can talk about at length with a psychologist.
Just know that you are not the first to feel this way and you won’t be the last. You are not alone. In fact, you’re in pretty good company (myself included). With a psychologist’s help, I know that one way or another you’ll be able to deal with all this crap and you’ll come out the other side a stronger person. —Naomi
How can I break the cycle of self-harm? —Katherine
First of all, Katherine, I want to say that you’ve taken the very first step in breaking it: recognizing that you are stuck in a cycle and asking for help. So good job!
Breaking the cycle of self-harm is a hard thing to do, but it is possible. I recognized my own cycle when I was 15 or 16. I think one of the most essential steps to breaking it is talking about it. I know this is a really scary step to most people who self-harm because one of the reasons for the behavior is that you’re trying to keep your feelings bottled up and you don’t want to share what is bothering you. In fact, you may not even know what is causing you to feel the way you do. Finding words and a way to talk about your feelings is a key part of healing, though. Take baby steps if you need to. Start by writing, drawing or collaging in a journal to express yourself. Then find someone you trust to talk to or show those journal pages. A friend or family member is a good place to start and for some people the support of friends and/or family may be all they need, but for many others, myself included, finding a professional therapist to talk is necessary. It’s not something you should be ashamed of. A good therapist will listen to you and you won’t have to worry about them judging you or getting offended or hurt.
Going through your school or your family doctor is a good way to find a therapist, but you can also find resources at www.selfinjury.com or by calling 1-800-DONT-CUT (366-8288). The organization that runs that website and phone number, S.A.F.E. (Self Abuse Finally Ends), also has treatment programs so that if you think your cycle of self-harm has gotten really out of control you can seek inpatient or outpatient care. You should most definitely call that number if you are in a moment of crisis.
In addition to talking both when you are in crisis and when you aren’t, one of the best things you can do to break the cycle of self-harm is to replace harmful behaviors with healthy, feel-good activities. Like to write, paint, make clothing or play guitar? Focus your energy on that. Also: surround yourself with the people in your life that put you in a good frame of mind, and difficult as it may be, distance yourself from the people who either make you feel like hurting yourself or who you do self-destructive things with.
Again, I know some of this can sound really hard or scary, so let’s end on a fun and easy note. When you are at your lowest of lows, you might forget what and who makes you feel happy. Sit down and write a list of the things you love to do and the good people in your life that you can spend time with. If you need inspiration for the list, you might want to check out this one that I compiled for Rookie. A book that I have also found helpful for getting out of the self-harm mindset and building coping techniques is The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook. I know it sounds all technical, but it’s not and the workbook aspect is really kind of fun if you’re one of those people who like magazine quizzes and getting to know themselves. Good luck. You CAN do this! —Stephanie
I keep on hearing my parents having sex. It’s really gross and I have no idea what to do about it. I can’t imagine myself saying, “By the way, Mom, could you keep your orgasms down a little? I’m trying to sleep.” And it’s super-annoying because I live in an old house and the walls are really thin. They know this. They keep their door open. I’m truly at a loss and these weekly night terrors are really messing up my sleep. Any advice? Please! —Mimi
Oh, Mimi, this is a tricky one. The good news is your parents are having great sex! The bad news is they’re your parents!
I realize it’s really difficult to get past the eewwwwwww factor to be pleased that your parents have a terrific sex life, but you should, because a lot of parents don’t. Awkward as it is, this is much better than having parents who are unhappy and fight all the time. And you don’t want to do anything to inhibit their enjoyment of each other and make them feel self-conscious.
At the same time, you shouldn’t have to listen to it. They need to respect your privacy and comfort level just as they would ask you to respect theirs. So excruciating as this prospect might be, you need to talk to them about it. By “them” I mean your mom, who I’m guessing is easier to approach, unless you feel more at ease with your dad. The conversation can be really short, but the key thing is to keep it positive and mean it: “Mom, I’m really glad that you and Dad are happy together, but the reason I know that you are is because I can hear you having sex. I want you to carry on, but I’d really appreciate it if you could keep your bedroom door closed when you do. Plus, there’s this really cool pair of noise-reducing headphones that you can order on Amazon that would make a great gift for me.” —Cindy
I’m homeschooled, and I LOVE IT. But when I tell people that I’m homeschooled, they look at me funny and act like I’m an un-socialized freak. How do I make people understand that most homeschooled children are just like public or private school children?
Ah, the homeschooled question. As a fellow homeschooler, I am always happy to meet another of our tribe! Because it’s true: everything’s all cool until you drop the “went to high school in my living room” bomb. And then, people start looking at you with an expression that pretty much means they think you grew up in a freaky spaceship cult.
Here’s the thing: what you are going through is not uncommon. This is something about your identity that invites tons of stereotypes. And that’s true for lots of people! In fact, being homeschooled is one of the less damaging stereotypes—there aren’t any laws against homeschooled people getting married. But it doesn’t feel minor when people suddenly stop looking at you as YOU and start looking at you as some freaky creature.
As with many stereotypes, the key is for YOU to know that they’re untrue and to just be yourself. You might be different—your experiences are different, certainly. But difference can be good. I will be the first person to joke about how homeschooling made me weird; for example, I get really obsessed with movies and TV shows about high school. It’s a culture that I never experienced, so I find it fascinating. “Tell me, human, what is this thing you call ‘prom’?” But my experience also gave me certain skills. Homeschooling valued independent thought, setting your own priorities for what you wanted to learn, and being responsible for your own success. As far as my mom was concerned, it didn’t matter if I wanted to study woodworking; the only thing that mattered was, by the end of the semester, I had to be a darn good woodworker. A lot of people in my field have had professional training, which I never did. They got internships or they went to journalism school. And I can still keep up. You know why I can keep up? I was homeschooled, yo. I know how to teach myself.
And I’m betting that’s the case for you, too. Being homeschooled has given you all sorts of cool, unique qualities. You might NOT be just like everybody else. But who wants to only hang out with people just like themselves? Boring people, that’s who. The cool people will see you for who you are. And the people who can’t handle someone different? Let me tell you, they are going to do REALLY BADLY when school ends and they have to deal with the world. I hear there are all sorts of people with differences there! Some people are even from entirely different countries! You, on the other hand, are going to know how to deal with difference and treat people like people. And that is going to earn you a whole lot of friends. —Sady
I’m a freshman in high school, and lots of senior boys have taken an interest in me. But one in particular has caught my eye. I really like him, but I’m worried people might judge my character because I have been speaking to older fellows. So should I go for it? —Julian
Hi Julian! Wait, doesn’t every freshman want to date a senior, at least secretly? If not, things have certainly changed since I graduated in 2008. Definitely go for it, I think, as long as you genuinely like the guy. I feel like that should really be the deciding factor here, not whether people are going to be gossips, because of course they are. It’s high school—people are always going to find something to say about you, so you might as well be the awesome person who focuses on making herself happy in her own decisions while the whisperers are busy running their uninformed mouths about the situations of other people.
Also, I have always dated older people. Always, always, always, and it’s for the cliched but very real reason that, as everyone will tell you, they tend to be more mature. If you think that your maturity level might match that of your potential suitor enough for you to date him without feeling weird about your differences, you should also be self-possessed enough to overlook people’s petty comments about you. Good luck! —Amy Rose