Ellen, 15, is a bright, attractive well-liked high school sophomore. Nevertheless, she has plunged into despair and is contemplating suicide. In this three-part series she talks about her feelings, the problems at home and at school and the help she receives from her friend, Jenny.
PART ONE It's like a pain that hurts so deep down inside I can't find where it starts and where it ends. Sometimes I can't stop crying, and other times I can't find any tears, and I just shake with sorrow. I Can't Go On: A Therapist's Comments Ellen is seriously suicidal. Why? How did she reach that point? Do her problems seem to be more severe than anyone else's? I just feel so alone.
Amanda, 13 1/2, is not one of the "in" kids whom everyone wants to sit next to. "What's wrong with me," she's wondering, "and how will I deal with the anxiety of the first day?" I always hate the first day of school. Not the shopping part - that I like. It's fun to get new clothes and shoes. And I love wrapping all my books so everything looks perfect, and getting all the new notebooks and pens, and cool erasers. But I hate thinking about who I'm gonna sit near. I know that all the "in kids" are gonna stick together, and I never fit with them. I wish I could be part of that crowd and that everyone would fight to sit near me. But I'm just a loser and always have to go over to someone and ask, "Do you wanna sit next to me?" It makes me so nervous.
Dr. Michael Tobin Comments on: Teenage Suicide. Ellen is seriously suicidal. Why? How did she reach that point? Do her problems seem to be more severe than anyone else's? Okay, her parents have problems - they fight. But how many children grow up in families in which parents fight and suicide never even crosses their mind? Other kids may think that she's even popular. So how come a kid like Ellen thinks seriously about killing herself? I think the answer can be summed up in one sentence: Ellen feels absolutely and totally cut off, alone. Ellen feels that she's in a world in which she has no connections with friends, with family.
My sixteen-year-old daughter told me that a girlfriend of hers told her, in confidence, that she was thinking of suicide, and has actually tried it several times. She threatened to really go ahead with it if my daughter tells her parents that she is thinking about it. My daughter, in deep distress, came to me. What should we do? Worried in Washington Dear Worried in Washington: This is one matter that you can't take the time to play around with, using trial and error. The good news is that your daughter's friend has issued a cry for help and has not yet done the deed. There are several tracks of parallel action to be taken immediately.
Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I am a 27 year old mother, worker and full-time student. I have a little girl who is three. My question is: How do you balance all of these things without one area lacking? (Especially my daughter and school work?) Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
One of my surprisingly vivid childhood memories comes from my days as a short and mildly uncoordinated centerfielder for my Little League team. I would spend the majority of the games standing in the outfield eating my baseball glove and counting dandelions. Very little could snap me out of my outfield boredom trance. I would realize that it was our team's turn to bat when a guy in a different colored uniform would be standing next to me in the outfield. Yup, I was oblivious to the world. But I did notice Super Coach. Super Coach, as he was known by all the Little League parents, was a Little League father and coach, as well as a walking advertisement for his son, the Boy Wonder.
Q: Dear Dr. Sylvia, I have a soon-to-be ten-year-old son already experiencing girl problems. At first I thought it was the usual boyfriend-girlfriend cute thing all the kids go through, but now I see it is much serious. He walks this girl to her car everyday after school while carrying her books. He writes her letters telling her how much he loves her. The other day he said she broke up with him and he started to cry. He didn't want to go to school the next day for fear she may do it again. He was sent down to the office twice complaining he didn't feel well. Now he isn't doing so well in school. He isn't allowed to talk to the girl on the phone anymore, and I told him to tell her that they should only be friends (which I don't think he has done).
Dear Dr. Sylvia, We listen to your radio program every week and have found this site as a way to ask a question that is pretty complicated. We have guardianship of our six-year-old granddaughter, Shelley, daughter of our adopted daughter who came to us at age three. Shelley's mom has many problems, among them attachment issues that have followed her all her life. Shelley, her firstborn, was eight weeks premature, and is a twin whose sister died at one month from complications of pre-maturity. Shelley has been with us permanently since she was four-and-a-half. Before that, she spent weekends, which became longer and longer. She is now six. Lately she's been expressing feelings of abandonment: "My mommy loves Jennifer (her two-year-old half sister) better than me.
Our six-year-old son, who is a middle child, has a very hard time taking criticism. When we scold him for hurting someone accidentally or for bad behavior he gets extremely angry and embarrassed and usually runs off to his room yelling and crying and doesn't want to see us. A short while later, his rage seems to abate, but we're wondering if there is something we can do to help him accept criticism and understand that he needn't be so angry when such things happen. A Guest Expert Marcia Levine, MA, answers: Many children have rather colorful reactions at this age to correction and to blows to their self-esteem. Your son is at the age when he has internalized your standards; they have become his own.
My eight-year-old daughter doesn't want to go to school. For the past few months, she has said she doesn't feel well a couple of times a week and I let her stay home. She complains of stomach aches but the doctor says there's nothing wrong. Now she's fallen behind and has missed a lot. She likes her teacher and has friends. I don't know if this means the school isn't good or there are other problems. What do you suggest? A Guest expert Silvia Silberman, MA, answers: You may think of a tummy ache or other body pain as a way of expressing pain, preoccupation or anxiety that is otherwise difficult to express. Eight-year-olds' preoccupations usually belong to one of three realms: 1.
Dear WholeMom, I have a 21-month-old son and have just found out that I am pregnant. This second pregnancy was not planned. We live in a little two bedroom apartment and my husband and I just bought a house we are to move into in mid-October. The reason I mention this is that the baby is due in mid-November. How can I help my little boy adjust to two big changes that are happening right on top of one another? In addition, I am with him three days a week and am still nursing him (sometimes a couple of times a day). I want to wean him as I cannot nurse two children (even though I have read that the La Leche League says it's okay). We had also just bought him a potty and were going to start toilet learning-- he has started to tell us (once in a while) when he has to go.
Q: Dear WholeFamily Counselor, Hi, my concern is of my five-year-old son. I really think he has panic attacks and I don't know how to deal with this. It started about a month and a half ago at preschool. He said he was scared to be there alone without me anymore and wouldn't stay. I haven't been able to leave him there without a fight ever since. Nothing has happen to him there he just started fearing me leaving him. He gets hysterical and inconsolable. He also says that he feels like throwing up and that his throat feels funny. He says all this in the mist of his screaming and crying for me. I waited outside the door one day and he cried for a half hour. He gets very angry and will kick or hit things.
We moved across country two years ago and our 16-year-old daughter still hasn't forgiven us for it. She blames us for uprooting her and she misses her friends terribly. Because she was very attached to her friends, we promised her before we came that she could go back summers. As the summer approaches and she prepares to leave, the pain of separation from her old friends seems to surface even more. She has good friends here but she seems fixated on the fact that we've uprooted her. I want to let her express her feelings, but I feel she becomes abusive. Is it a mistake to keep sending her back? How can we help her resolve this painful issue?
Yesterday evening, as I was folding laundry on my bed, my eleven- year-old son walked into my room and said, "Mom, I'm having one of those funny feelings again." He looked pale and taut with tension. He paced around my room, breathing nervously. "What happened?" I asked. Did you see something on T.V. or on the computer?" "No, its nothing like that. It was.... just the headline of a story in the teen newspaper supplement. I threw it in the garbage and I don't want to talk about it.
I thought that Cary did a wonderful job of dealing with her son's distress. She was there for him without pressuring him, and eventually he was able to open up and unload a bit. He knows that she cares and he has a safe place to bring up difficult issues. Cary knows what is going on with her child and while it is distressing that she can't control everything in his environment, she is better off knowing than not knowing.
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