Will I Ever Get Over Being Raped?

Dear Dr. Meg,

My name is Evelyn and I am 17 years old.  I have some questions.  I saw your article about why not to watch Fifty Shades of Gray and I thought maybe you could answer some questions that I have been dying to get answered. I understand that you are a professional woman who is very busy and I understand if you never reply or never even see this email—but I could really use some answers.

Background information– My father is dead-beat, pays no child support and is honestly probably just completely physco.  I’m a rape victim–my oldest brother was my attacker and my mom knows but I can’t talk to her and I can’t afford therapy and she doesn’t really help try and get it.  Also my mother is practically a child and when it comes to my parental units I’m the adult around here and I take care of myself–I am on my own 24/7.

Here are my questions:

I’m in a relationship with a much older man and I’m told it’s because of my “daddy-issues” and the fact that my oldest brother raped me–can that really have anything to do with it?
Will I really get past what happened?
Is it possible for me to-without extensive therapy-turn out completely mentally and emotionally healthy and normal and able to lead a normal life?
Do you feel that I would benefit from getting professional help?

Again I can only imagine how busy you are- I can only hope that you can find time to just answer these few questions. Thank you so much for your time and I hope to hear back from
you.

Sincerely,
Evelyn

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Dear Evelyn,

YES!! You can get past the hurts that you have endured but first you must understand that the things that have happened to you have taken a much larger toll on you emotionally than you can realize now. So, you must trust the things that I am going to tell you even though they go against what your heart is telling you.Because of your experiences and lack of good parenting, your heart will play tricks on you. It does this because even though you have gotten older, part of your heart is stuck being a little girls craving attention. So, you must rely on your head and a good adult or two who will give you healthy guidance. Let me explain a couple of things to you regarding the way you feel and why you do what you do.

First, you are in a relationship with an older man because deep down, you crave male attention. Your desires are completely normal. God gave your heart needs and this is one of them. But there’s a catch here. You are seeking attention from your boyfriend because he is older, comforting and very much like a father figure. But you should not be dating him. Your heart wants comfort from a father( figure) but when you mix that comfort with romantic feelings and sex, it completely confuses your heart. So, you need to break up with him. If he loves you, he will stick around as a friend and if he doesn’t, he won’t. You need to be strong enough to break up because this relationship isn’t healthy for you. Until you break up, do NOT put yourself in a situation where you will get pregnant. You need to work on you now and a baby won’t let you do that.

Second, the issues with your brother. Being raped is a horrible, horrible insult and rapists should be put in jail. Period. Rape hurts you on deep, deep level. It changes the way you see yourself, men and women. It changes how you feel about sex, how you trust people, how you love your self and others and your sense of vulnerability. You really do need someone to help you through this. I know that you can’t afford a counselor but this is what I would do. Go to a church that has a lot of young people and ask to talk to the youth pastor. Make an appointment (it’s free) and tell him that I told you to go. Tell him what your struggle is and ask if he can help. He will be able to find wise adults or counselors who can help you for free. (Note- help with the psychological fallout from your abuse should not come from a boyfriend-even if he’s older.)

Third, there’s a great book you should read. It’s called The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender. The book explains why you do what you do and why you feel the way you do because of your sexual abuse. It also has a workbook that comes with it. I know that this sounds boring, but do it. It really will help you.

Fourth, if you go to a church, ask the pastor if there is an adult couple who might meet with you periodically to help you out. If you don’t go to church, find one that young people go to and try it. Then ask to meet with the pastor. Your folks are so bogged down with their problems that they aren’t emotionally available to you. This has nothing to do with you- they sound like very ill people. But there are many adults who would love to help you because you deserve help. You should have had help, love and protection during the years you were growing up and I’m so sorry that you didn’t’ get these. You need to know that God wants to give back what was taken away or what you never had.

Fifth. I don’t know if you are used to praying but start. Ask God to help you and show you what to do next. Many folks want nothing to do with God after the hardship that you have had, but He didn’t do it. He hurts for you and never wanted any of this to happen. He will help you out and you can trust Him. So lean hard on Him and watch him work, one day at a time.

Evelyn- you are a beautiful, young, sensitive and smart girl. You will go on to do great things with your life so count on it! Your job in the mean time is to figure out every day what God wants you to do  in order to heal and get your life on track. He will. Promise that you will write me in a year or two and show me what He has done. Never, never, give up on life or yourself.

Regards,
Dr. Meg

The Importance of Praising Character

The Importance of Praising Character

The New Year is well underway and now that the novelty of having a fresh start has worn off, let us not forgot that in the eyes of our Lord, we have a new beginning opportunity every single day. So considering this, will you continue to join me on my venture to become a nicer person? We have talked about changing the way we talk and finding more restful time during the day by slicing hours with electronics away from our days, so let’s keep going.

One of my goals as a parent and physician has been to be the kind of person who focuses not on one’s performance, but on one’s character. This is a tough challenge in a culture that obnoxiously over-applauds performance. Just this morning I sat with a mother who asked if she could boast about her son whom I was seeing for panic attacks. I complied. For the next five minutes or so, she exuded excitement over the fact that his grades were excellent, that he was bright and that his soccer coach recently told him that he was one of the team’s star players. Now this all sounds nice on the surface but think about the 15-year-old boy sitting on my exam table listening to his mother. He was here because he was experiencing acute anxiety over his schoolwork and about forgetting things in class. When he was with large groups of friends, his anxiety would become strong enough that he had to leave class, sit in the office and calm himself down. Sometimes he couldn’t even make it to school.

How do you think he felt when his mother praised him for getting excellent grades and for being the star of the soccer team? Do you think this made him feel better about life? I don’t think so. In fact, I know so, because I watched his face as his mother spoke. Here’s the point. She is a really good mother but she, like the rest of us conscientious parents has fallen into the trap of focusing on praising the wrong things about our kids. We think that we’re helping them feel better about themselves, but often, we aren’t, when we applaud the stuff that they do and the grades that they get.

Praising a child’s performance is well and good as long as it is heavily preceded by years of praise of his character. That’s the point. Children want to be loved and admired for the person they are, not for the work that they do. The same is true with us. Don’t we all crave being admired and loved simply because we exist? That’s how God loves us. He doesn’t shout from heaven: “Great job at work.  I’m so proud you got a raise” or “kudos to you for scoring the winning goal”.

No, God is far too loving for that. He shouts from heaven that He loves us because we are. That’s it. He loves us simply because he created us and that fact gives us something worth his shouting about.

Every friend, child, parent and spouse wants to be loved because they exist and praised because of their character, not the good stuff that they do. This month, I’m going to look at my loved ones and try to praise them for one character quality that I admire. When I am tempted to tell my college son that I am proud of his work, I will search into his being and applaud the better part of who he is, which is his tenderness, his ability to persevere and his tenacity. After all, that’s what I would want someone to do for me.

How about you? Try looking for the character qualities that you admire in your loved ones (especially your children) and give it a go. Tell them how much you admire them for one character quality this month and skip the pat “I’m so proud of you because you get good grades, etc.” It just might change your relationship.

Parenting Without Anger

Dear Dr. Meg,

I need suggestions on how to bond with my son. I tend to focus on the negative, and get highly annoyed by any little thing he does. I just bought your book, Strong Mothers Strong Sons and Boys Should Be Boys.  I have started reading Strong Mothers Strong Sons.  I had a rude awakening today when my son revealed to me that he told his PSR teacher that I have said he’s a jerk.  I did say this to very insolent & disobedient behavior, but it seems like this behavior never stops. He’s 4, almost 5 and is adopted. We got him at 15-months with his little sister who was 3-months. I’m sad by both our behaviors. Help!

Sincerely,
Tanya

______________________________

Dear Tanya,

Here’s the good news: you recognize that you have a problem with your tongue and this is huge. Really, all mothers get frustrated with their children but many never recognize that they need to change. You are right. You must change the way you speak to your son. There is no excuse for calling him a jerk (or any other mean name)- ever. I know that you meant to refer to his behavior, but what your son heard from you was that in your heart, you feel that he is a really bad boy. That hurts him deeply. I suspect that maybe your anger and frustration toward him doesn’t really come from his behavior. He’s only four. Could the feelings that you are expressing to him be meant for someone else? Is there a possibility that subconsciously he reminds you of another male that you have unresolved anger toward? Whenever our anger toward a small child is out of proportion to what they did, that anger is meant for someone else. So ask yourself if you are really mad at your son or someone else in your life.

Now, regardless where your anger comes from, you need to control the way you talk and show it because it will have painful consequences for your son. If you are explosive- yelling, calling names or hitting him- you need to get help ASAP from your doctor, a counselor or your pastor. If, however, your anger comes out in speaking badly to him, then you need a plan on how you will stop this. I would do something like this.

1. Challenge yourself to recognize when your anger is building and when it does, remove your self from him. Go to your bedroom or even the bathroom and have a good talk with yourself.

2. When you have removed yourself, tell yourself that he’s only a child and his moods, behaviors can not have that much power over you. When you allow him to make you this angry, you are giving the power of a 4 year old over your emotional state. You can stop that.

3. Tell a close friend that you are struggling and ask if she will touch base with you once a week when you can tell her how your anger is doing. Bringing your anger out in the open has a beautiful way of diffusing its power and intensity. Tell her exactly what you say, how you feel and how you want to change it. Ask her to help you.

4. Pray. The power of prayer is extraordinary. Ask God to help you control your tongue toward your son. Also ask God to show you who you are really mad at. Ask him why you are so mad. Then wait. I promise, he will.

Tanya, you sound like a terrific mother. Work these suggestions over and over and be patient with yourself. When you mess up and say something mean to your son, go to him immediately and ask his forgiveness. This will mean a lot to him. Remember that changing our behavior takes time so expect results in weeks and months, not days.

Regards,
Dr. Meg

I Miss My Son

Dear Dr. Meg,

I am a mother of 4 kids.   My two eldest are 16-year-old twins (girl/boy) and my twin son has essentially abandoned me.  I am divorced from my children’s father (3 years) and my 16-year-old son has been living with his father for 6-months now.  He will not see me, always forgets dinner plans, etc.  He has told me that I am crazy and all of his friends think so too.  He has been involved with abusing marijuana and alcohol.  My other children remain with me and do not feel the same as he does.

Their father is not the best influence for a teen boy in respect to relationships with women and is a bully and manipulator (hence why we are divorced!)…and has alienated me from our oldest son.  I have almost accepted that my son will never return and have said goodbye to him, but it’s killing me. What do I do?

Best,
Mother Missing Her Son

___________________

Dear MMHS,

The situation that you are in is not uncommon for many divorced mothers. The teen years are a time when young boys need their fathers and many will do whatever they can to be with them. Boys feel that they need their father’s approval, guidance and acceptance and this is true. So, the fact that your son is alienating himself from you doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like you. He may feel that at this point in his life that he needs to choose you or his father. Neither of you may tell him this, but he may feel this way.

You need to realize that he is only, 16! He is still a young boy and has a lot of maturing to do. In fact, I always tell parents that their job isn’t fully complete until their child is 25 because by this age, parents can be sure that a child has full brain development. So, you must get this thinking that “he will never return to you” out of your head. The full story of your relationship with him hasn’t been written and there is a lot more ahead.

I encourage you to be patient and to pray for him. Ask God to protect him and to keep his heart open to you and his father. Make sure that you always take the high road with him too.  This means that there is no criticizing of his father (this will make him turn away from you) and show him that you are steady, will always love him and that you are always there for him. Write me in a couple of years and let me know how things are. I guarantee they will be quite different than they are now.

Sincerely,
Dr. Meg

A Psychiatrist’s Letter to Young People about Fifty Shades of Grey

A Psychiatrist’s Letter to Young People about Fifty Shades of Grey

Article taken from Miriam Grossman MD
February 11, 2015

There’s nothing gray about Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s all black.

Let me explain.

I help people who are broken inside. Unlike doctors who use x-rays or blood tests to determine why someone’s in pain, the wounds that interest me are hidden. I ask questions, and listen carefully to the answers. That’s how I discover why the person in front of me is “bleeding”.

Years of careful listening have taught me a lot. One thing I’ve learned is that young people are utterly confused about love – finding it and keeping it. They make poor choices, and end up in lots of pain.

I don’t want you to suffer like the people I see in my office, so I’m warning you about a new movie called Fifty Shades of Grey. Even if you don’t see the film, its toxic message is seeping into our culture, and could plant dangerous ideas in your head.

Fifty Shades of Grey is being released for Valentine’s Day, so you’ll think it’s a romance, but don’t fall for it. The movie is actually about a sick, dangerous relationship filled with physical and emotional abuse. It seems glamorous, because the actors are gorgeous, have expensive cars and planes, and Beyonce is singing. You might conclude that Christian and Ana are cool, and that their relationship is acceptable.

Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated! The people behind the movie just want your money; they have no concern whatsoever about you and your dreams.

Abuse is not glamorous or cool.  It is never OK, under any circumstances.

This is what you need to know about Fifty Shades of Grey: as a child, Christian Grey was terribly neglected. He is confused about love because he never experienced the real thing. In his mind, love is tangled up with bad feelings like pain and embarrassment.  Christian enjoys hurting women in bizarre ways. Anastasia is an immature girl who falls for Christian’s looks and wealth, and foolishly goes along with his desires.

In the real world, this story would end badly, with Christian in jail, and Ana in a shelter – or morgue. Or Christian would continue beating Ana, and she’d stay and suffer. Either way, their lives would most definitely not be a fairy tale. Trust me on this one.

As a doctor, I’m urging you: DON’T see Fifty Shades of Grey. Get informed, learn the facts, and explain to your friends why they shouldn’t see it either.

Here are a few of the dangerous ideas promoted by Fifty Shades of Grey:

1. Girls want guys like Christian who order them around and get rough.

No! A psychologically healthy woman avoids pain. She wants to feel safe, respected and cared for by a man she can trust. She dreams about wedding gowns, not handcuffs.

2. Guys want a girl like Anastasia who is meek and insecure.

Wrong. A psychologically healthy man wants a woman who can stand up for herself.  If he is out of line, he wants her to set him straight.

3. Anastasia exercises free choice when she consents to being hurt, so no one can judge her decision.

Flawed logic. Sure, Anastasia had free choice – and she chose poorly. A self-destructive decision is a bad decision.

4. Anastasia makes choices about Christian in a thoughtful and detached manner.

Doubtful. Christian constantly supplies Anastasia with alcohol, impairing her judgment.  Also, Anastasia becomes sexually active with Christian – her first experience ever – soon after meeting him. Neuroscience suggests their intimacy could jump start her feelings of attachment and trust, before she’s certain he deserved them.  Sex is a powerful experience – particularly the first time.
Finally, Christian manipulates Anastasia into signing an agreement prohibiting her from telling anyone that he is a long time abuser.

Alcohol, sex, manipulation – hardly the ingredients of a thoughtful, detached decision.

5.   Christian’s emotional problems are cured by Anastasia’s love.

Only in a movie. In the real world, Christian wouldn’t change to any significant degree. If Anastasia was fulfilled by helping emotionally disturbed people, she should have become a psychiatrist or social worker.

6. It’s good to experiment with sexuality.

Maybe for adults in a healthy, long term, committed, monogomous relationship, AKA “marriage”.  Otherwise, you’re at high risk for STDs, pregnancy, and sexual assault. It’s wise to be very careful who you allow to get close to you, physically and emotionally, because just one encounter can throw you off track and change your life forever.

The bottom line: the ideas of Fifty Shades of Grey  are dangerous, and can lead to confusion and poor decisions about love. There are vast differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships, but the movie blurs those differences, so you begin to wonder: what’s healthy in a relationship? What’s sick? There are so many shades of grey…I’m not sure.

Listen, it’s your safety and future we’re talking about here. There’s no room for doubt: an intimate relationship that includes violence, consensual or not, is completely unacceptable.

This is black and white. There are no shades of grey here. Not even one.

Miriam Grossman, MD is a medical doctor with training in pediatrics and in the specialty of child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry. She is also the author of Unprotected and You’re Teaching My Child WHAT?

 

miriamgrossmanmd.com