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I have an adult daughter who seems to be in some kind of…

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I have an adult daughter...
I have an adult daughter who seems to be in some kind of crisis and is lashing out at me. Her phone is inoperable and she's on the other side of the country. If I show you her e-mails can you help me figure out how to respond?
Submitted: 8 years ago.Category: Mental Health
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Answered in 2 hours by:
6/25/2010
Mental Health Professional: Selah R, M.S. LPC, Therapist replied 8 years ago
Selah R, M.S. LPC
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 582
Experience: Licensed Professional Counselor; over 13+ yrs exp working with adults, teens, & families/couples.
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If you feel comfortable, yes, you an paste her emails here. Just please remove her email address and any other personally identifying information (like people's full names or phone numbers).

Selah
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Wednesday, June 23, 2010, 9:03 AM
I am remembering parts of myself from when I was much younger, parts that I abandoned because somewhere along the way I learned that I simply wasn't good enough as I was. I remember liking to help people and to take care of them. I liked that about myself. Then dad essentially taught me that it was for suckers and that helping people would lead to them taking advantage of me. I remember enjoying making people laugh and making sure there was a cheerful atmosphere, until I couldn't go out and socialize anymore because it was too upsetting for you. Plus, dad telling me not to "fool around", and lecturing me about school, my behavior and everything else, made me believe that it was wrong to have friends and to have fun with them. Suppressing the things that I like about myself was very weak on my part, but it's also the surest way to a life of unhappiness and emptiness.
Then I replied:
How very wonderful that you are finding those lost parts of yourself.  Please don't let the fact that we made mistakes keep you from finding and doing what you love.  You are bigger than we are and stronger.
I won't have time to deal with the money thing until Friday.
Love, Mom
Then she wrote:
Thanks mom!
finding them and recovering them are two different things. It's a bit too late, I'm afraid.
I just “ignored” that, though it depressed me and then on Thurs she wrote:
feel like there's no use in developing or keeping relationships, getting involved with anyone or having a family because I'm just waiting for another panicked moment where you'll call the cops or barrage me with phone calls and emails...in other words, the next disaster. Who else would want to deal with that? Who else would want to deal with someone whose own family has no confidence she can make it on her own? It's like damaged goods.
This is when I wrote you, but I repled:
I have confidence. Do You?
And she replied: It's somewhere there, it's just been covered with low-self esteem.
Mental Health Professional: Selah R, M.S. LPC, Therapist replied 8 years ago
Can you tell me about the incident of calling the cops that she mentioned?
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
She was in school and sending me e-mails that sounded suicidal. She didn't answer her phone so I called student health and read them the e-mails. They asked what I wanted to do about it and I said that I'd like to see her get some help for this. They called her and left a message for her to contact them. She didn't so they called the cops.
Mental Health Professional: Selah R, M.S. LPC, Therapist replied 8 years ago
I would encourage her that she is young, and it's never too late to regain lost parts of yourself and your personality if they really were parts of you to begin with. You've already apologized for making mistakes as parents (totally normal). You can reassure her that as parents you want your kids to be safe, and sometimes you say things that might be too rigid ("Taking care of other people will only make them take advantage of you") because it's easier to tell a kid concrete things than to try to teach them the intricacies involved (Some people will take advantage of you, and it usually hurts, but it's hard to know ahead of time who will do that, so it's just easier for us to tell you to stop doing that because we don't want to see you get hurt!).

Encourage her to get into counseling to help her figure out which parts she wants back and how to do that. Sometimes when we feel like we've had to disown parts of ourselves or certain emotions (such as anger) we slowly find that the other parts/emotions also get harder to find anymore... as if we'd taken a blanket to cover one part but the blanket is so big it begins to engulf our whole self (such as stuff enough anger, also stop feeling joy, slip into depression, get stuck there, becomes clinical depression).

Tell her she's free to talk to you. But if she is suicidal, she needs to know that you will take action to ensure her safety. The school is the same way, legally they have to protect a student who is suicidal. They didn't call the police to shame or harm her, but to protect their own legal responsibilities. Wouldn't she do the same if one of her friends told her they were suicidal?

She may feel safer seeing a counselor who is not on campus if she's afraid of being stigmatized or not having privacy by seeing a counselor on campus. But she still have rights to privacy, and campus counseling is a great service that is often underused. It is usually free, so she should give it a try. She can always tell people she's there for career counseling instead of personal counseling :-)

Hang in there, she's sorting through stuff, and that's a good thing. I don't think she's lashing out at you (You're such a terrible mom, I never want to see you again!). I think she's just trying to figure out what things from the past to keep and which ones are ready to be sent to the trash, so she can more forward. It's a hard and lonely thing to do, especially when most of the people in college either aren't doing this type of internal work or are hiding it, too. She is probably battling some depression, but it's hard to tell if it's reached the point of needing medication or being clinical Major Depressive Disorder. Most counselors would probably call it "Adjustment Disorder" and give her time to see if she improves soon.

I know you want to blast her with sunshine and hope and pull her out of the mud. But I think what she wants is a more balanced approach of "I hear you. I will listen. I will help in any way I can. What can I do to help? Do you want me to listen, or to help you try to find a way out of the mud?"

Selah
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Thanks for the answer but does the fact that she's no longer in school and is 40 years old change the perspective?
Mental Health Professional: Selah R, M.S. LPC, Therapist replied 8 years ago
Oh I missed that!

How long ago was that incident then?

Selah
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Mental Health Professional: Selah R, M.S. LPC, Therapist replied 8 years ago
My mistake.

Ok, yeah, that changes a lot!

Encourage her to get in with a counselor. Yes, she may feel like it's all too late, but it's only too late if she's decided 40 years is enough. For most people, that's the halfway point in their life, not the end.

Tell her you're willing to listen and be supportive, but that she has to understand that if *anyone* called you and threatened suicide or stated that they could not keep themselves safe, you would call for help... much less your own daughter. But you're willing to listen and you're willing to be there. But she need to get help to get the next 40 years of her life back on track and back into her control, instead of controlled by the past.

She may also need medication to help her change her life. The longer you're in a depressed mood, the more the chemical imbalance in your brain gets worse, meaning the harder it is for you to "pull yourself out of it." It's like a diabetic who after enough years of not being able to control their diabetes through lifestyle changes and other medications may become completely dependent upon insulin. The body just get burned out and needs help.

Selah
Selah R, M.S. LPC
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 582
Experience: Licensed Professional Counselor; over 13+ yrs exp working with adults, teens, & families/couples.
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
The incident took place in 2005. She dropped out of school after 2 years and then 15 years later went back to finish her BA. She moved across the country last summer and has not had a permanent job since and that is also depressing. She's super good at being financially responsible so it also depresses her to have to ask for help, modest though it is. She knows that I'm trying to pull things together to retire.
We have both had not very good results from therapy and though I'm now considering it again for myself, but want to set limits so that it doesn't degenerate into great big whine sessions. I will, however, advocate for therapy for her.
I have not had good luck with medication for myself. I've tried many antidepressants and given them fair amounts of time to work, but they didn't help my depression. In fact, they depressed my mood further, so I won't advocate for medication for her but will accept it if she finds someone she trusts who will monitor her carefully. I agree that she needs to let go of the past. That holding on is a trait that in her father drives her absolutely nuts.
While I was waiting for your reply I wrote: One step at a time, start giving yourself a break. It's crucial to making positive change, but it's hard. One needs to keep starting over. Persistence and repetition are key but the rewards are there.
She just replied to thank me for the good advice. She seems to be past her pity party for now. Her dad (who lives in yet another city from the two of us) is in a crisis now and she has that to focus on.
Thanks for your concern. I'm accepting your answer.
Mental Health Professional: Selah R, M.S. LPC, Therapist replied 8 years ago
There are many different styles of counseling, so it can take a few tries to find the one that works for you.

Some people want a supportive, insight-based counselor who they can talk to and explore the past issues and how that has shaped their current situation.

Others want short-term counseling and really want to focus on the here and now. Good matches for that would be solution-focused and brief-intervention counselors.

Some people really need to learn new tools and coping mechanism to break out of old patterns. They need to understand their thoughts, beliefs, emotions and learn how to make changes. They may also need to learn healthier ways of dealing with overwhelming emotions. The types of counseling that best work in these cases are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (CBT and DBT for short).

PsychologyToday.com lists a counselors and you can read their profiles, see what types of counseling they do, and what issues they treat. This can help you narrow down your search.

I think medication is a useful tool when dealing with psychological issues, but it isn't a cure and it always works best when paired with good counseling. A good counselor will be able to tell you when you might need medication and will advocate for you to only use it as long as needed. Medication can help manage the intense anxiety and depression and sleep problems that can hinder the ability for counseling to work. I ask my clients to see it as a crutch that helps them walk while their broken ankle heals. The crutch doesn't do the healing, it just helps the healing process work.

Good luck to you and your family.
Selah
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