I don't know if this question really applies to you...but here ya go!
So I have depression, and occasionally I get into a very sad or mellow mood, but my friends usually think I am mad at them so they stay away from me rather than actually try to talk to me and ask me what's wrong. This happened today, when one of my friends asked me if I was mad at them and I said no, after they have proceeded to shun me the entire day. Is it because of my body language or what?
Amber (age 18)
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Thanks for your letter. I am intimately acquainted with the problems associated with depression. Quick question first: are you receiving any kind of treatment for your ailment?
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Yes, I am currently on Lexapro, though it's a really small dosage.
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Okay, Amber, just wanted to be sure, first, that you were seeking some sort of treatment.
There are two basic causes of depression, as you may know: one is physiological, the other is caused by life events. In the former, a person becomes depressed because there is something amiss with their body chemistry. This can result from many factors: thyroid problems, adrenal gland problems, fibromyalgia, viral infections, brain tumors, stroke, Parkinson's disease, and on and on. This is why it can be important to see a good psychiatrist (rather than psychologist) who has medical training. The other cause of depression is a negative life event (death in the family, divorce, bad news about a disease, being bullied in school) or problems with one's behavior (drug or alcohol addiction, bad dietary and exercise practices, sleep deprivation, overwork, and so on).
In the former case, there is really no advice you can get from friends that will help. You have a medical condition. In the latter case, it kind of only works if a friend has been through the same thing you have. Even so, everyone reacts to bad life events in different ways, and what works for one person might not for another. For example, people kept telling me to go to group therapy for widowers, so, finally, I went. Didn't help at all. In fact, it made me feel worse, so I stopped going.
The thing about friends and family of those suffering from depression is that most people don't know how to handle themselves around people like you and me. We make them uncomfortable because they don't know if they can comfort us or if saying something might offend us or make matters worse. Now, in your case, it sounds as if your friends misinterpret your depression for being sullen and angry. Have you actually told them you suffer from depression? Just saying, "No, I'm not angry at you," is not really enough because they still don't know what is wrong. They might think you're lying and really are angry.
So the first step is to tell your friends what your problem really is and that you have medication for it (there's no shame in this; many people are in the same boat as you). If they come up to you and ask if they can do anything, tell them that the best thing they can do to help you is to be with you, keep you company, perhaps some hugs would be nice. If you're like me and many others, getting "advice" from people who might be well-intentioned but seriously do not understand what you are going through can be very irritating and annoying. As I always say, if you don't know what you're talking about, the best thing you can do is shut up.
But you don't need their advice. What you need is some normalcy and companionship in your life. Having your friends shun you and isolate you is going to make you feel worse, as you already know. You need to reconnect to your friends.
To do this, wait until you're in a pretty good mood and not in one of your dark moods. Talk to your friends during this time. Explain to them frankly what you are going through and give them the heads up that sometimes you may be a bit hard to deal with, but that when that happens you hope that they could come and give you a hug and try to lift your spirits by just being there for you. Tell them you don't expect them to try and solve your problems--you are working on that yourself--but you still need them in your life.
How are you? Last year my brother tried to commit suicide. He was getting bullied in school. We have issues with our dad, and he was getting called names. I walked in on him hanging from his bed, and I nearly had a heart attack. It's been roughly a year since it happened, but I am still very nervous about leaving him by himself because I am worried that if it happens again I will not be there to save him again. I am sorry for coming to you with this because this isn't your problem [Papabear note to readers: this is why I am here! Please never apologize for “bothering” me because writing to me with your problems is what I do!], but how do I get over my fears of this happening again? I honestly cannot walk in on my brother like that again because I feel like I just might go insane. Also, is depression a hereditary problem? Because I do not want my family to go through that again.
Austin (age 17)
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Please forgive the slow reply. I am behind on letters still.
Very sorry to hear about your troubles. I need to know a little more about this, please. Have you sought help for him? Have you checked out the government site for information and help? http://www.stopbullying.gov/get-help-now/ Is the bullying still going on or has that been stopped? Is he seeing a therapist?
Let me know about the above and I promise to reply promptly next time.
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He is seeing a therapist, and is on antidepressants. The bullying has stopped because he moved to a different school. And it is OK for the slow response because I understand that you get likely thousands of letters a day and you are writing a new book, too.
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I’m glad that the bullying has stopped and that your brother is getting help. I cannot imagine the horror you felt seeing your brother trying to kill himself, and I wish I could give you a big, consoling bear hug right now.
Your brother is not the only one suffering in your family, clearly. Have you considered finding a therapist for yourself? This would be to help you deal with what you saw and the anxiety you must be feeling about both your brother and, apparently, your father. Perhaps start with a school counselor. People who are helpful and caring, such as yourself, often forget that their hearts need mending, too.
You don’t mention your brother’s age, but I’m guessing he’s younger and perhaps a teen? The teenage years are extremely difficult ones, with those in their teens and twenties attempting suicide more than most (the exception being people 65 and older), and males are five times more likely to do it than females. Bullying definitely can exacerbate the chances of suicide (though it is only one of many factors). There has also been evidence for a genetic predisposition for suicide (my second cousin and grandmother both attempted suicide). Scientists learned a few years ago that there is a gene that can increase the risk of suicide; furthermore, Johns Hopkins University scientists are working to perfect a blood test to see whether people are at risk. You don’t mention whether other family members have committed suicide or not, but if there is a lot of that in your family it is something to consider seriously. Genetics are not the only reason for suicide, but they can, indeed, be part of the problem.
So, without trying to oversimplify things, there are three potential factors here with your brother: his age, his genetic heritage, and the bullying. You have removed the bullying factor, and he will grow out of his teen years, so that effectively gets rid of two factors, which is good news. In addition, he is getting help, which also lowers the risk. While no one can guarantee that your brother won’t attempt it again, it is also often the case that people do not repeat the act. They learn their lesson and move on, as in my case.
Oh, and make sure he stays away from drugs and alcohol!
Okay, so, what now? One thing is to be aware of the signs that he might be suicidal again. According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), these are things to look for:
If these warning signs are cropping up, then you need to make sure your brother is still attending his sessions, taking his meds, and so on. You can’t keep tabs on him all the time, but you can certainly be involved in his life and give him lots of love and encouragement to comfort him. Make sure he is involved in social activities, has friends, has goals and aspirations in life. Obviously, the happier he is in his social life and the more hope he has for the future, the less likely he will be to do this again.
The factor that is still a question mark for me is your dad. You don’t specify what the problem is with dad—is that something that is contributing to your brother’s state of mind? If so, you definitely need to address that, as well.
By doing the above, you can considerably lower or even eliminate the potential for another tragedy.
Back to you: the things you can do to help yourself include, as mentioned earlier, seeking some counseling yourself, knowing that you are doing all you can to prevent this from happening again, and, finally, understanding that you should never blame yourself if something bad happens. You can only do so much.
I’d like to recommend an organization: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. They have chapters all over the country that offer counseling, not just for those who are struggling with suicide but also for their families who are trying to understand what is going on and how to cope with it. If there is not a chapter in your area, you can do some research to find a group or contact your local hospital’s mental health department for assistance.
Good luck!!! HUGS!!
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Basically the problem with dad is that he is an abusive ass, excuse my language. He tried to hit my mother, he tried to hit my cousin, he hit me multiple times; once, when I was ten, he left a black eye. He scratched me when I was 14, he tried choking me when I was 16, and just recently he punched me in the face and nearly broke my nose. I tried pressing charges each time, but every time my mother said I deserved it. My father also would fight and scream at the younger kids too, but he would never hit them. I think that this probably made my brother upset and stressed out, and after 11 years that is a lot of stress. I was adopted when I was 6 and he was 5.
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I’m sorry to hear this. If all you say is true, then it doesn’t matter at all if your mother defends your adopted father’s actions. I’m not sure what you mean by “I tried pressing charges.” Did you actually contact the police? Did they come over and then listen to your mother instead of you? That makes no sense to me. The authorities take child abuse very seriously.
Okay, what I recommend is two things: 1) contact your local Child Protective Services office and tell them what is going on. You and your brother are being physically and mentally abused by your father. A serious charge. 2) Contact Boys Town, a very helpful organization designed to help troubled youth like you and your brother, and their families.
You may be correct that the abuse contributed to what your brother did. Very understandable. It needs to be stopped. Can you be brave for Papabear and contact the people above? Don’t let your parents know. Your father is the abuser and your mother is on his side; telling them will prevent you from helping your brother and yourself.
Austin, I now suspect we've found the real cause here of your brother's suicide attempt. Your father's abuse probably led to depression for your brother; then, at school, kids can pick up on this; bullies spot troubled kids and target them as their victims. The combination of your father's physical abuse and your brother's peers' taunting were too much for him, and he tried to kill himself. This needs to stop.
Please keep me posted.
I struggle with depression and am receiving help for it but wanted to ask you for advice about trying to change my increasingly pessimistic outlook in general.
While I've been aware of this thought process I possess for a long time now, I've struggled to change it in vain and still find myself naturally biased or focused to the negative. I think this really contributes to my mood often and has been making it harder to get motivated to do things, to feel good about myself, to trust others, and view the world in a positive way.
I would really appreciate any advice or help.
Dyrk Prowler (age 20, Australia)
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Thank you for your letter and sorry for the delay in my reply. It would be helpful to me if you could give me a little personal history, especially if you have experienced tragedy, illness, death, or other events that may have led to your depression.
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Thank you for getting back to me, Papabear.
As for some history, I've been struggling with depression since about halfway through high school, since about age 14-15. Though it had been rather tidal experiencing ebbs and flows, events over the past few years influenced me to seek professional help; my grandfather's death, my once-best friend basically cutting me out of his life, a year of university which was not very good (I've dropped out), struggled and am still struggling to find steady employment, and being online friends with people I, upon reflection, should not have as they dropped and I don't know why they did.
Though I am not friendless (I do have friends good friends who’ve stood by me and supported me), and my family continues to support and care for me. I just can't seem to escape the negative thoughts that seem to be nagging at the back of my mind. As for the help I've received, it has been a year of seeing a psychologist, following their instructions, and have been on anti-depressants for about 9-10 months.
Hopefully this what you were looking for.
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This is helpful, thanks. If you feel comfortable with telling me, could you relate to me some of the things your psychologist has asked you to do? This will help me to not recommend something that's already been suggested.
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Okay, we've mainly focused on the relationship of thoughts, feelings, and behavior. We have on done some thought analysis to try and identify the unfounded negative thoughts. So mainly general perspective things.
This is the main things I remember.
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Thanks for all the additional information. Negative thoughts and depression, while not the same thing, are often related, as in your case. If your therapist is saying your negative thoughts are “unfounded,” I think I see some problem with their not validating your emotions. That “unfounded” comment fails to recognize that there is always a cause for your feelings. That cause could be anything from biological imbalances to emotional and psychological issues to just having problems dealing with the tragedies and stresses of normal life.
When it comes to depression, you’ve come to the right place. From my attempted suicide at 18 to my divorce to the recent loss of my mate, I know what it is like to experience deep depression, sadness, and loss. I have read books, sought professional counseling, talked with friends who have experienced similar losses, and taken the antidepressants. I know about the five stages of grieving, and have discovered a couple others no one told me about.
Not to make light of your experiences of losing a grandfather, a friend, college life, and so on, but there are far worse things people endure in life and manage to survive. Naturally, these things that have happened to you can be depressing, but what you need now is to learn to keep things in perspective and to broaden that perspective.
Before I continue, I would like to note some things you can do to help yourself using diet and exercise because, when you think of it, depression and cynicism can be a physiological response to one’s environment. Here are some things that really help me and can help you as well:
So, those things help the physiological side of depression and a sour attitude. Now let’s look at the more mental side of it.
Everyone faces challenges in their lives. Unless you die at a very young age (a tragedy in itself) you’re going to face loss, pain, and hardships in your life. This cannot be avoided. The key here is how you deal with bad events in your life after they have happened. This is not easy, and I will be the first person to tell you that. After about 10 months I am just getting to the point, after losing Jim, where I can console my heart by honestly saying how lucky I was to have him in my life at all, and I am grateful for the things he taught me and how he enriched my life. Yes, I would have loved it if he had stayed on Earth longer, but if he had to die young I am truly grateful that he spent those last years with me. I am a better person for his being in my life.
All clouds, as they say, can have a silver lining. You lost your grandfather, and that’s sad, but some people never get to meet their grandfathers, for one reason or another. His loss obviously hurt you, which means that you cared about him and will miss him. Think, then, of the blessing he was in your life.
Your friend abandoned you. Well, maybe he wasn’t such a good friend after all, then. You have noted that you have other friends who are still with you. Take this opportunity to appreciate their friendship, and let them know that you are happy you are friends; do something nice for them on occasion. And learn from what happened with the other guy. Think back on it; were their signs about how he acted that, in retrospect, were cues he wasn’t a worthy of friend? Make note of them and learn from that. The more you learn from friendships, both successful and not, the better friend you will be to others.
As for online friends, that’s a whole nuther kettle of fish. Most online friends would fall under what I categorize as “mere acquaintances.” It’s nice to chat with them and learn about them, but they don’t fall under true friend categories. Some do, of course. And those will usually be the ones with whom you hit it off so well that you will make the effort to meet them in person and strike up a more solid relationship.
In life, you will make friends, lose friends, make other new friends. That’s what happens. As the goombah would say, fuhgetabowdit.
Okay, on to your college efforts. After a year, you dropped out. Were you attending a four-year school? Maybe that’s just not for you. You don’t have to attend university to get some further education that can be useful in a job. Take a step back and think about what you would really like to do with your life. Perhaps it is something where you can go to a technical school or a two-year college, or become an apprentice to a tradesman of some kind, and afterwards find perfectly good employment. Many people go to a four-year school because they feel it is expected of them. They spend two or more years just taking classes that don’t interest them, fulfilling core requirements, not really getting inspired.
Instead of worrying about school, take some time to think harder about what you really enjoy doing, then make your plans accordingly. They may or may not involve a bachelor’s or graduate degree, and that doesn’t matter. What does matter is finding your passion. There are many successful people out there who don’t have a college diploma.
By always focusing on the negative in life, you create a feedback loop that worsens the problem. It is like rolling a pea down a snowy hill and creating a massive snowball capable of leveling a town. The way to stop that is to not place the pea on the hill at all. Start counting your blessings and thinking about what is good in your life and try to make that your feedback loop. One way to help with this is to stop watching TV news (if you do so) because it is designed to make you feel scared so that you will watch more TV news, including the ads.
Another thing to note: don’t worry about the things you can’t change and focus on only those things you can. And don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking of all the things you need to do at one time. Tackle one problem at a time. Live in the present. Depressed people often live too much in the past; anxious people worry too much about the future. The present is the only certainty we have. Live for now.
Okay, hope none of that was too cliché for you and helped some. And, if it didn’t, at least you didn’t have to pay me :-)
Write again if you need to. If not, I hope my words helped you some and I wish you well.
I have a bit of an unusual problem and I really don’t know what to do. I’m in a long distance relationship with another fur for three years (living in two different countries), we’re both trans women and despite having different schedules we both made an effort to talk to one another regularly through good times and bad. Though recently she has been responding less and less and becoming seriously depressed to the point that all she does is work (14 hours a day), make lunch, sleep and nothing else. She has no appetite and rarely drinks fluids. Nothing gives her joy anymore.
We’ve talked about getting help but meds are expensive and therapy even more expensive. Last time we talked she was worried about her friends, one tried to commit suicide and was in the hospital. He might lose his job and can’t afford to pay the bills. Another lost his mother and another yet lost his apartment. She is usually a very helpful person but she feels she can’t even help herself let alone her friends. I’m legitimately worried about her to the point of tears. I feel so useless not being able to help her when she needs it the most, I just don’t know what to do. I know it’s not an easy problem but any advice you could give would be helpful, thank you.
Concerned in Canada
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You don't explain why she might be depressed, so I can only respond in general terms. First of all, yes, she does need to get some professional help. Does she have insurance? You say she works, so she may have insurance through her company. As you know, the Affordable Care Act requires you to have insurance (you're in Canada, and I'm guessing she's in the USA? Actually, if she's in Europe she is even better off). Recently, a U.S. law was passed that said insurance companies need to include 3 free consultations with a psychologist; some provide more, depending on the policy. Anti-depressants, of course, must be prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist and should also be covered by insurance. So, saying "medication costs too much" really should not be an issue (Lexapro cost me $20 for a month's supply, and my insurance is pretty lousy). Furthermore, a little Internet research should lead you to free group or even one-on-one counseling for depression.
Your friend needs to think of her own well-being first before trying to help others. You might have noticed, for example, that Papabear has been posting less often of late. This is because I am still grieving after losing Jim last year. On good days, I will write the column, but on bad days I focus on myself and feeling better.
Therefore, my advice to her is that, while it is nice of her to be concerned about her friends, she is not in a position right now to help them (other than being a shoulder to cry on, perhaps, on occasion). She needs to try and help herself first.
The same goes for you. Stop worrying about all those other people. Are you doing okay? If so, good, and do your best to help your girlfriend. Do some research on getting her help that is at no- or low-cost. Believe me, it's out there. Be there for her, she needs you.
If I knew more about what was going on with her, I'd try to give more details, but that's as much as I can do right now. Write again if you wish to.
I have had depression for almost 8 years but was diagnosed around 4 years ago. Now, I didn't have much in my life, my parents had split when I was young, my dog died on Christmas morning, I have been bullied and have Asperger’s. I found out about furries at a relatively young age, and since then I have always hated my life and wanted to, become, a character from a furry comic. I can't really explain my case but I notice things happening to me but can't change that. I've been to too many counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and mentalists to feel happy about my life. I have been having extremely suicidal thoughts lately as I have delved further into the furry universe and I have almost distanced myself from what is reality in my mind. I honestly don't know what to do anymore as I can't live in this reality while my mind thinks and believes in so many others that are better. I need help or I don't think I can play this game of charades (life) anymore.
Fisker (age 17)
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I understand exactly what you are feeling; really, I do. And since you have tried psychologists, psychiatrists, and other counselors, I won’t refer you to them. You’ve come to me, and I am honored.
You and I both know that life can be cruel and unfair. I just lost my love, Yogi, a few months ago, and, believe me, especially those first few weeks after his death, I wanted to follow him. But death is the easy way out, living is the challenge.
So, why are we alive? Why are you, Fisker, subject to so much grief? Is God just a cruel torturer, watching us suffer as He laughs at us from his throne in Heaven?
No. Fisker, what you and I (all of us) are is spirit temporarily encased in a mortal coil. We are here, in the physical world, to learn, and one of those things we must learn is sadness. It’s been said that God never hands us more than we can handle, but I don’t think that’s true, either. Sometimes we can’t handle it, and some people who can’t handle it take their own lives.
I’ve questioned my existence for a long time, and even more now. When I was 18, I attempted suicide, but, of course, lived. Today, I am alive even when my dear Yogi is dead. The only answer I can come up with is that we are not yet done with what we have been sent here to do. If I had died at 18, this column would not exist and I couldn’t try and help others. If I had taken my life after Yogi’s death, I wouldn’t be here now to help you, either.
My piano teacher told me something similar. He suffered from a stroke, was in a coma, and even believes he saw the other side. He came back, though, and is now my teacher. He has been there to comfort me in my loss and has become a dear friend. He told me the other day that he thinks one reason he lived and recovered was to be my friend.
Fisker, you are still here because whatever powers that be that have given us the universe want you to be here. You are only 17. You have a great deal of living to do. Although things are tough for you right now, I can guarantee that they will change. And, since you are at a very low point right now, my prediction is that they will get better. (You can only sink so low, right?)
Your life will change. YOU will change. OMG, I am such a different person now than I was at your age. And you will be, too, when you are mine. The thing you must do now is hold on while you get through this bumpy ride because if you do you will eventually find yourself on better footing.
If I can do it, you can do it. I’ve been through my parents’ divorce; I’ve been through bullying; I’ve been through death, and more. Hold on and you will someday find your reason for being here as I have found mine: this column.
In the meantime, I am here for you. You can write me anytime.
I've been a lurker on this website for a year, circa. I've never written you, my issues have just seemed too insignificant, but now, I really need an ear. This isn't furry related, I'm sorry about that, but...
If you decide to post this on your website, I'm going to say this to readers- please don't read if you're contemplating suicide, or you're simply sensitive to the topic.
This letter's going to be a little hard for me to write, and a little hard for you to read, so I am just going to dump it on everyone from the beginning.
On the night before this letter was written, my friend's father committed suicide.
Now that you know the gist, I'm going to go into detail, trying to be as unemotional about it as possible. Only the facts.
This friend and I are very close. We're also neighbors, she lives right across from me, so I often hang out at her house. We've been through a lot together. I brought her into the fandom (she's a sassy Siamese), we've shared classes and done work together.. Let's call this friend Carly, I guess.
Yesterday started out normal. It was Sunday, so I shot her a text in the morning, just a simple greeting and a joke. Got up, worked on some homework I procrastinated on, groaned because I'm pretty sure I missed half the math problems, drew and listened to music, cooked some, it was all normal, right? Everything was going alright.
Until I saw the cop cars.
My father came into my room and told me there were cop cars, four of them, located in Carly's driveway. I'll be the first to admit I don't have the best attitude when it comes to cops. My first thought was, 'Someone's getting arrested, maybe there was a mistake, maybe they're key witnesses to something, maybe they're bored and hauled a bunch of cops over here for some petty reason, they're gonna take someone away...' Even with some of the things I thought of, my parents said I was exaggerating. The things I thought of didn't even touch what really happened. There was no ambulance, so I assumed nobody got hurt.
So, after some pacing and worrying, I calmed down and drew some more.
My phone buzzed. I knew that notification sound, it was the messenger I only used with Carly.
I opened that messenger up, and my heart stopped.
"Syntax, my dad committed suicide." (She didn't actually use Syntax, but you know.)
Five simple words.
I knew her father. He'd laugh whenever I accidentally passed out overnight at their house. I'd help him prepare meals. I liked him. If I had to choose a second father out of fathers I knew, it would be him.
So, those five words left me a crying mess for the night. My parents tried to cheer me up, but I wouldn't take it, I just curled up and drew, wrote, anything to escape. I couldn't do anymore schoolwork.
Now, to the day I'm writing this letter. I slept horribly. I did text Carly that my family and I are here for her, always and forever, that our door is never closed to her. She's clammed up, understandably. In the phases of grief, she's probably still numb.
I skipped school today. I do feel guilty about skipping school because someone else's father committed suicide, as if I was just using it as an excuse. I've been crying most of the morning, it took a lot to get up and do something. Eating and drinking made me feel like I was going to puke. I just feel terrible, over someone else's father!
I really am angry at everything at this moment. Carly's father, especially. Damn him for leaving three children behind. I'm not even going to apologize for my language, that man deserves more harsher words than the English language has. Carly's mother left him, and Carly hates her mother, so in a way, she has no parents. Damn that man, how dare he call himself a father? Damn school, I'm going to have to return to it tomorrow, and I still must work, even in the face of all of this. Can't time just stop for a second and let me breathe?
I've tried extending a hand to Carly. She's clammed up, but I extended it anyway. I just really wish I could hug and support her, but I don't think she'll let me, and that stings.
Even as I write this, time's blurred, the colors of my room seem a little darker. My head's cloudy. I did nothing but lie in bed for fourteen hours, probably slept some of that, so I think that cloudy head is from mourning and oversleeping.
My question is, where do I go from here? How do I live on when something like this is facing me?
I hurt for my friend, hell, I hurt for myself. It's terrible. The world's terrible, and it's hard to comprehend how it's still spinning. Since Carly only had her father, she's probably going away. Close family may be able to come over and look after everyone, but chances are she's going to go to a completely new environment, with new parental figures, and I'm extremely worried for her. She's not the most mentally stable, and has considered suicide many times. Will this be the last straw? Please, help. Say anything, anything at all, I need to hear something.
Your raven in mourning,
Syntax (age 15)
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My sympathies to you and to “Carly” and her family. I understand completely what you are feeling. When I attempted my suicide, my mother was very angry at me for a long time. I didn’t understand at first, but I do now. To the survivors, it feels as if the person doesn’t give a damn about his or her loved ones. It seems like a slap in the face. As you noted, Carly’s dad leaves a family behind and has taken away so much from them.
But please note this.
Depression (and the suicides that sometimes result as a consequence) is an illness. When people are severely depressed, they don’t think rationally. The days before I tried it (actually, I tried twice), it was like I was a zombie, living in a hazy dream. I didn’t do my school work, I didn’t talk to people, it was truly bizarre. I was legitimately out of my mind at that time.
I’m not sure what led to Carly’s father’s suicide, but I’m sure the decision didn’t come on a whim; he must have been struggling for some period of time. It’s very sad no one noticed and he didn’t get help, but that’s academic now. Some people are very good at hiding it (I was, too, and it completely took my family by surprise), so, please, no pointing fingers as to who is to blame for missing the signals.
Also, don’t feel weird that you are in shock and it is affecting your life. As you said, you are close to Carly and you liked her father, so it is logical to be in mourning, too. Just because it wasn’t your father doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt (you said he was like a second father, so, yes, that’s painful).
Don’t just assume that Carly will rebuff any gesture on your part. I would, if I were you, begin with a nice gesture, such as sending her a thoughtful card (actually, buy one and drop it in the mailbox to expedite it, or just writer her a letter—and don’t send an ecard, send a real card or letter), and in the card write your heartfelt sympathies and emphasize that you are there for her to talk to. Ask her to email you or call you or text you when it is okay to come over and give her a hug and shoulder to cry on.
Something that concerns me deeply here is you mention Carly has also thought of suicide (this could be an indication of a genetic predisposition in the family). She needs some counseling. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255 and talk to one of their counselors, both for you and for Carly, and ask them for advice on how to proceed in this situation. They are there to help.
Life at these times can, indeed, seem dark. The most effective weapons against the darkness are love and kindness. If you wield them, you can survive this and most any other challenge.
* * *
Dear Papa (again),
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.
I contacted the hotline, and the hotline told me to contact the school. The school has much more authoritative power than me, so I am sure they can handle making sure Carly gets proper counseling and assistance. I am uncomfortable leaving the health of my friends in hands I cannot see or control. Tomorrow morning, I will speak to them about Carly's thoughts and actions, and what's going on, so at least I have power over that. I will most likely request to know what they are going to do from here.
You have a point about my unrelenting anger towards the father. What's gone is gone. I can point fingers all I want, I can point it at myself, but he's still dead.
Somehow, I have managed to gather the energy to get out my schoolwork. Actually working on it is a whole other story, but I'm sure I can get it done.
Thank you again,
* * *
When it comes to something like this, I try to reply ASAP.
A combination of help from school counselors and also your support for your friend is a good strategy. Did the online hotline do nothing other than refer you to the school counselor? That sounds a little disappointing. I might have to look into that and see if there aren't better hotlines out there.
I know it's hard to concentrate. I'm trying to do some work here myself, knowing that my dear friend's mother is suffering a brain hemorrhage and I can do nothing about it. I'd go see him, but I have a cold and am fearful of making him sick and making matters worse.
This is life, though. I could get all philosophical on you as to my beliefs as to why this goes on, but it wouldn't console you much. I hope you will be somewhat comforted by the fact that people do care about you and what you're going through.
My mom and I moved out of our house and into an apartment. I really don't mind it, but my mom hates it she also works from home for costumer support and she hates her job. We also live near my dad and brother, which my mom hates, and again I really don't care. The problem is that she is always taking out on me and I hate it! We are always yelling at each other for stupid petty things! How can I get her to stop yelling at me?
Tuski (age 14)
* * *
What is happening here is what psychologists call “displaced anger.” This means that other things are bothering your mother, and even though they have nothing to do with you and you didn’t do anything wrong, her anger needs an outlet and, unfortunately, you are it. Here’s an article about that.
The thing is, your mother probably doesn’t realize she’s doing it. She gets irritated because of her job and things that are happening in her family, and she probably tries to hold it in, but then the least little thing will set her off.
What you need to do is show your mother that she is exhibiting displaced anger. Tell her that you understand she is going through stuff and she is unhappy, but that you are on her side, so please don’t take it out on the daughter who is routing for you, Mom! This will, hopefully, wake her up to what’s happening. (Oh, and don’t use the argument “I’m okay with where we live and being near Dad, so what’s wrong with it?” because that will just make her defensive and more irritated). If she does wake up to the problem, you should see her attacks on you diminish significantly.
But she’ll still need an outlet of some kind other than you. Start doing some activities with your mother that will help relax her. This will both help with stress and with the mother-daughter bond. If you can afford to, take an exercise, yoga, or tai chi class together. Try to take her mind off things by doing a fun activity together, even if that is shopping, or just going to the park, or a cheap matinee.
Tuski, your mom is going through a rough spot and she needs your support. I know this will be hard, but to end this cycle you need to stop fighting back for a while, even if she yells at you. Just don’t react. Let her yell for a bit, and, when she stops, ask her if she is done yelling (very calmly). Then explain to her what I told you about displaced aggression and how you are trying to help her.
This might take a while and some effort on your part. The less you yell at her and the more you behave supportively, the more likely she will back off of you and see you as an ally and not a punching bag (using a real punching bag, by the way, is a great way to destress).
Hope that helps! Let me know how it goes!
I am not very good expressing myself and English is not my mother tongue, so sorry for this letter may being a mess.
Well I don’t really know where to start or what exactly I want to ask.
I feel that until a few weeks ago, my life was a lie, I was wearing a mask, not being the person I am, just to please someone else.
When I was younger, I don’t remember my age then, signs were strong that I might be gay. I denied every sign, and made myself believe otherwise.
I did not wanted to give children in school another reason to pick on me, since as long as I can remember I was picked and hated by others just for being different. I read books and was in general interested in school, didn’t mind sports or all the "cool" TV shows everyone watched and expensive brands everyone has worn, I just didn't care.
After moving to an differnent city, I acted as cool one, at this time I realy hated gays and in general everyone. I made a few "friends" but yeah, the wrong kind.
We moved again, I started an job, and me still acting, fell into a deep depression.
A pit of self-denial, self-hatred and eating, I ate a lot.
On my 18. birthday my mom kicked me out, she couldn´t stand my depression any longer (Now I understand her and it was in my opinion the right thing for me)
I got a place for myself, and alone by myself I started feeling a little better. I didn´t had to act so much, but still depressed, on some days I couldn´t even get up.
Worst thing, I did not know why.
Then I met someone online, a friend, my best friend for the next 3 years.
I never told him from my depression, he was just there talking and playing games with me.
I decided to change, at this point he basically changed my life.
I started eating healthy, started doing sport, lost weight, found another job (i will start studying next year), accepted not being straight.
But still, I was living a lie, wearing a mask.
So, I tried to talk to him, about me, my feelings and all the stuff.
He didn´t care, in his opinion we weren’t even friends.
One day I had a mental breakdown, literally cried near him, I am happy I did not harm myself there. He blocked me, since when I am no fun, he wont play with me.
1 Month after not having any contact, he came to me and said HE would forgive ME for being like this, and we can play again, since he got bored.
I could never be myself near him, all I had to say, he didn´t care or "i should suck less".
It was realy an abusive "friendship", I was only there for his amusement. But I was attached so much I would say it was dangerous for me, mostly for my mental health.
1 month ago I put an end to this, I abandoned all contact. And since then I feel kinda free, being myself is so much more fun.
I can finally refer myself as an furry too, I was "kinda furry" since I was little.
I had kind of an "enlightenment" there.
My weak point is always trying to see the good in people, I despise humanity, but I love the individuals, I don’t want other people to feel like I felt, depressed, lonely, unloved...
I am yet not 100% sure about the real me, I still have to get "experience" there.
i am pretty lonely, I have no one and I feel like I cant make contact, I don’t know how, I never knew.
I would love to get known some people/friends/furs (mostly on the internet)
But I don’t know if I can, I am scared to find the wrong people, people using me again, people taking my kindness for their advantage.
If someone presents me sweet lies, I know I will buy them, I want to buy them, I want to see the good, I just cant stand the bad anymore.
I am scared that if I find another wrong friendship, it would "break."
All the scars inside can make you stronger, they sure did for me, but I am scared of an limit.
I kinda still act, no one I don’t know sees this side from me. I wont let them see, but I see nothing wrong there at least, hard shell, soft core I think, but what I wish for is someone who says he wont go, just an arm around me, some human warmth.
It sounds silly but if someone someday lays his arm around me, I will cry.
Thanks for reading that mess,
maybe I just wanted to get rid of these words.
another yet lonely wolf (age 22, Germany)
* * *
Papabear hears you. The game of the human race is a game of masks. Few people are completely themselves in front of others. That guy you were playing games with? He was probably doing that to forget his own troubles, and so, when you told him of your feelings, he couldn’t handle it and rejected you. He was trying to lose himself in game fantasy and you brought him back to reality, which he didn’t want.
School days can be the worst for someone who is different, whether that is being gay, or nerdy, or unathletic, or just not cool. Kids are terribly cruel to those who aren’t doing the things everything else is supposed to be doing, such as liking sports, or the newest music, or wearing chic clothing. All of that is preposterously shallow. The sad thing is, you would think that people would grow out of that as they became adults. In my experience, though, most of them are still playing school yard games and fighting for popularity.
Congratulations to you for not being shallow and wanting to be a genuine person.
At 22 you have a long way to go, so don’t give up. I’m 50 years old and am just now really coming into my own. You’ve made more progress than I did at your age.
I understand there is no real central question here that you are posing to Papabear, and it is absolutely all right for you to just write it all down and have someone listen.
I’m not going to solve all your problems in one letter. I agree with you that truly genuine people who care more about others than themselves are harder to find than shallow, self-involved people. But! They are out there.
How do you find them? You take the risk of reaching out, even though you might get hurt. Well, not might—you will get hurt. If you keep trying, though, you will find someone genuine.
If you like, you can start with me. I’m happy to listen. I don’t judge, and I completely understand where you’re coming from.
Write again when you feel up to it.
Back in 2011, my father died on Christmas morning. After saying my last good bye, some people took him away in a body bag. The rest of my Family came over my house that day, and they took all of the stuff that my Dad said that he would give to me and my sister when he died (a MAC, a flat screen TV, Money, and other valuable things). A week later, I found out that my aunt made my dad drink in order to sign a contract saying that she would get all of his money when he died, and my dad didn’t know what he was doing because of course, he was drunk.
Many years have passed now, I’m a teenager, I’m going to get a job in 3 months, and I’m growing up in general. But the question is, how do I move on, and forget about all the bad stuff in my life. I’ve been taking anti-depression pills, but I’m still depressed, and I don’t like being sad. I’ve seen a counselor, but that didn’t help either...
What do I do about my depression?
Excalibur (age 13)
* * *
Apologies for my delayed reply, and I'm very sorry for your loss. Interesting story you relate here, and it has parallels with some that I have come across in my life. For example, when my ex-wife’s grandmother had died, her relatives swooped into the house, destroyed or hid the original will, and took what they wanted. All my ex wanted was a set of dishes that her grandmother had promised her (she wasn’t looking for money), but her relatives took those, as well. In another story, a friend of mine was very close to a man named Butch for years and years. Well, a gold-digging jerk came into Butch’s life and, as Butch was weak and dying from AIDS, got Butch to change his will at the last minute so that everything went to him, even though they had only been lovers for a couple years. None of Butch’s other family and friends got a thing. Another story: when my mate Yogi’s first husband died of heart failure his mother burned all of his photos because she hated her own son for being gay. Yogi thus lost all of those precious photos.
Your story is, sadly, not unique. People can be extremely petty and greedy, and relatives who should be loving and caring often turn out to be materialistic dirt bags. The thing is, hon, if you allow your relatives’ bad behavior to depress you, then they will have defeated you not only in grabbing material goods but also by emotionally manipulating you.
The way out of your depression is to realize that you are a better person than that. Let them have the Mac and the money, or whatever. It won’t fill their empty souls or turn their charcoal hearts into diamonds.
Focus, instead, on the love you had—and still have—for your dad. No one can take memories away. Do you have photos? Videos? Cherish those, too.
You can defeat your depression by acknowledging what is important in life. Your relatives think what is important is stuff and money. You must realize that the only thing in life that is truly important is love—genuine, unselfish love—and the kindness that it brings.
You can’t change people who are determined to be petty and small and hateful. But you can change your reaction to them, and the best way to do that is to let it be. Let them have their stuff. He will always be your father, and they can never take that away from you.
I find, when my soul is troubled, that the best cure is to go out into the world and love. Love other people, love animals, be kind to nature, do something spontaneously nice for someone else with no desire for reciprocation and your soul will be filled to overflowing and your depression will become a distant memory.
Dear Papa Bear,
I've "picked up my pen" several times to write to you, and each time I've stopped myself because I don't have a question - not really, I think. And yet I feel that if I don't reach out to someone, someone I don't know, someone who doesn't know me, I'm going to break down, or explode, or do something really quite stupid. I suppose, if I have to have a question, it's --- No. I was going to write, "What am I doing wrong?" but I'm not going to bully myself like that. Instead I'm going to say, "Does it really get better?"
As you can see, I'm an older male. (I'm a dragon, in case you're wondering about my fursona.) I'm older, I'm single, I've never been in the best of relationships, although I was with someone for a while whom I did care about very deeply but we still went our separate ways in the end. I'm also hurt, and lonely, and wanting nothing more right now than to have someone to curl up against and tell me, "It's going to be all right."
There's no easy way to say any of this, so I'm going to be honest. If this comes across as bluntness, then I apologize.
I grew up in a time and place where it was wrong to be gay. Homophobia was endemic, and it was underlined by government, by society and by religion. In 1988, Margaret Thatcher passed legislation which made it illegal for teachers to educate children about anything but normal, heteronormative relationships. People could be fired for being gay, or beaten up and the Police would look the other way. I was raised that being gay was a sin.
I also grew up experiencing a lot of abuse. (There's no other way to say it.) It wasn't deliberate abuse, most of the time, but it was still abuse. I walked on eggshells from age 8 to 18, and even after that to a degree. I was bullied at school, experienced emotional and psychological abuse at home, and yet had some of the most wonderful family members I could hope for --- at times. Because, as we all know, nobody is always abusive, only when that switch in their head kicks in.
The issue is this: my parents are both also survivors of abuse themselves. When I talk about this (which is rarely), I try to make it clear that the abuse was not deliberate: my parents and family did not set out intentionally to cause me harm. The fact is, however, that it happened, and the results are effectively the same. I can't find it in my heart any more to blame or be angry with my parents for their actions: they did their best, in extremely difficult situations, and they, too, are as much the products of their pasts as I am. In recent times, with the death of the primary abuser (whom we could never work out if they knew what they were doing or not), my family has become much happier and more relaxed, home has become a place which I look forward to visiting and my relationship with my parents is the best it has been for a long time.
I was expected to do well at school, to be the model pupil, to make everybody proud, to get top marks --- and I did, for a while. But it's difficult, Papa Bear, to try to please everyone, and I was 17 when I had my first "breakdown". (The big one was to come at the age of 19, when I fell in love with a guy for the first time.)
I learned early on to read people, and also to try to become what I thought they wanted me to be. And so I did. For my parents I was the good son, for the teachers the dutiful pupil, for the minister the diligent worshipper --- and so on, and so on, and so forth. I tried to please. I strove to please. Not least because the merest thing could set off a major explosion at home, but because by pleasing I had learned I could forestall such explosions. Or the cold, silent treatment, which was even worse. Or the sudden fury which would rise, and raise, and blow, and then be gone, and the person responsible would blink in apparently genuine innocence and claim they hadn't lost their temper at all.
Perhaps it's not surprising that I started eating. And eating. And eating. I always felt tired, too, and I found that consuming food smothered the feelings I had, and that was a good thing: it wasn't done to have feelings. Feelings could so easily get you in trouble.
I should also add that I grew up extremely isolated. My social circles revolved around home, school and the people I met at a church... I have no siblings, and for most of my life no friends. I find it very difficult to make and keep friends, and although I don't enjoy being alone, being in a relationship is equally scary because it's "unknown."
I went to university at 18 and by 19 had found the Internet and fallen in love with a guy. What little strength was left in my mind gave way and I broke into a million pieces. I ended up back at my parents' place for a year—arguably the worst thing that could have happened, in some ways—and finally went back to school. But in between I visited some friends in the US and... and realized something else was wrong. I like guys... so why can't I get hard? Why is it that someone in the shower with me is straining hard, and I'm not? (He later confessed he wasn't really terribly gay, which in retrospect makes it even worse.) And it wasn't only then, it was almost every time I was with a guy—Was? Is. I still can't "perform," as a rule, unless I'm so exhausted I can't think about it and then, for some reason, I manage. But the upshot was that the things I wanted to be able to do, the things that felt most right, simply don't work for me. But that's a whole other issue, I know.
So time moves forward. I fall into and out of relationships, jumping into them with almost anybody who shows me a crumb of kindness and then having my hopes dashed when things come crashing down. And I'm seeing people I know, people I love, moving on, finding relationships, finding joy and happiness, and here am I, still alone. It's difficult enough under such circumstances not to ask, "What am I doing wrong?" I know that it's probably not me that's at fault, though given my background it's hard to break away from that.
A few years ago I moved to the US to start school again—my fourth degree, a graduate degree this time. And I started to work on myself. I've been in therapy for four years now, and even now it doesn't seem like it's enough. I've had hypnotherapy sessions (from a licensed and qualified hypnotherapist) and even so it never feels as though it's enough. I've been diagnosed with several linked endocrine dysfunction issues, and being on medication has helped: my testosterone level is normal, now, instead of being half of what a geriatric man would have (which was leading me to question my gender, on top of everything else), and taking thyroid medication helps my mood and also my energy level, the constant falling of which was at least partly responsible for my overeating.
And yet, all this year, I've been in and out of a funk which I can't escape. I can shake it for a few days at a time, maybe even two weeks, but right now the black shuck feels as though he's tied to my heels. I'm tired, Papa Bear, I'm tired of being alone, I'm tired of having to care for myself, I'm tired of chasing after pennies... I'm tired of not being who I know I can be and who I want to be. Dammit, Papa Bear, I'm just *tired*. I'm tired all the way through to my soul and I don't know how to stop being tired. Maybe it's because I want too much, too much. I'm told that if you stop wanting things then you find it, but that doesn't seem to work, either.
I'm sorry for the tone of this letter, Papa Bear. I know it's a jumbled and disorganized mess but I've got a child's wail trying to get out through an adult's throat and I don't know where to begin. Please tell me it will get better, Papa Bear, because right now I just want to curl up in a corner and cry until the pain goes away, and tonight I don't know if it ever will.
Merrys (age 40, upstate NY)
* * *
I hear you. Listen, before I write something you've already heard before, please tell me more about what your therapist has said (surely, something more after 4 years than just endocrine issues?) Did you go to a psychologist? Psychiatrist? Or just a counselor? Did you address the obvious issue that sex is in the brain (explaining your problem with tumescence with guys)?
Like I said, I don't want to reiterate what a therapist has said--since that obviously hasn't worked. You can help me target a solution better if you tell me what already hasn't worked in the therapist's office.
Write back soon.
Everyone needs hugs. I'm not near New York, but here's a virtual one.
* * *
Hullo Papa Bear,
Thank you for your email, and thank you for your hug: I really appreciate it. Hugs are good.
I've been seeing the same therapist for the past two-and-a-half years, and it was the sexual side of things which took me to him. Before that, I spent time with a couple of other therapists, one of whom was absolutely lovely and helped a lot and the next was a little passive and I didn't feel helpful. They all work for my school's Student Health Centre as counsellors, though all of them are highly qualified: my current therapist has a PhD in psychology and 30 years' experience.
To be honest, though, Papa Bear, it's not just about the sexual side of things. I can understand that you picked up on that most strongly: I mean, a gay male dragon who can't mate must be in a bad place, right? (And yes, it sucks.) But equally I think that there's nothing more honest than a person's genitals: they're either into someone or they're not, and I have had times, even when I had the lowest testosterone level ever, when simply smelling the breath of a young male sitting next to me while we ate lunch together was enough to make me fully hard in moments; equally, making love to my ex-boyfriend (who is female-to-male transgendered) I could be fully and achingly hard for him—but usually only when we were both utterly exhausted.
Sex is in the brain, but so are an awful lot of other things, accrued from down the years and which can be terribly hard to get rid of. I don't like to be one of those people who points at others and blames everyone else for their own misfortune, but regrettably I cannot escape that I have been badly damaged by my past.
Right at this moment, I don't even want sex. Right now, inside, there's a scared child who wants to be nurtured and cared for, and it's so painful to admit it: in this world of apparently well-turned-out young people, in this fandom where sex is made to seem easy and everyone is virile and the young are well-balanced, this old dragon feels very much out of place. How can I say, to whom can I say it, that I just want to be held and comforted and tended and cared for, because at the moment I just don't have the strength to be strong? At the moment so many ghosts from my past are coming to the surface, and all I can see, over and over again, is my eight-year-old self—the age I was when everything began to change—and he's hurt, he's confused, he's afraid, he doesn't understand why things are changing, and yet he has to grow up in the space of a few weeks and become a caregiver to someone who should be caring for him. Eight years old and almost an adult. Eleven years old and he has his plushies taken away from him: "Don't you want to be a big boy now you're starting senior school?" How could he answer, "No," and not feel he'd disappointed everyone. Twelve years old and the joy has gone from birthdays and Christmases, and it's another 28 years before he can feel comfortable telling people that it's his birthday, because it's gone from being a day of delight to something he learns is another reason for people to mock him for his naïveté.
It's not just about the sex. I think the sex is a symptom. Perhaps as much from being most of my time alone, and having no confidence when I have been with someone, to also being with the wrong people, quite likely—as I said, there's nothing as honest as a set of genitals.
I just needed to reach out to someone, Papa Bear. I need a Papa to hold me right now—someone to hold me, who won't mock me or laugh at my weakness, or make fun of the "little dragon" who is trying not to cry (and failing). I know I must sound pathetic, and yet right now I don't care. I feel so damned tired, and lonely, and there doesn't seem to be the slightest chance of that changing any time soon. Each time I think I've learned to love myself even a little bit, some voice in the back of my head pops up and I feel as though I'm back in square one, all over again.
Abuse is horrible, Papa Bear. Even when it's not intentional. It's like kudzu, or the ground elder we get back home, or Japanese knotweed. And you can never be sure it's entirely gone, because the worst of it is that you learn to do it to yourself: you learn to believe that you deserve all the things that happen to you, you learn to believe it IS your fault, you learn to believe that there's no other way it can be.
* * *
Hi, Little Dragon,
I understand better now, thanks for taking the time to write out your feelings. Yours is one of those letters that Papabear gets that goes to the front of the line, so I will write to you later today after work.
In the meantime, I am attaching an audio file [inserted a recording from Don Miguel Ruiz]--one of several. If you like the first one, let me know and I'll send more. I think it might help.
* * *
Hi Papa Bear,
I don't really know what to say. I feel honored that you'd take the time, and yet embarrassed and awkward at the same time: "why should I get special treatment?" is what the voice in my head says. That, and being called "Little Dragon", when I try so hard to be the big, strong, fierce dragon everyone expects a big, long dragon to be... I'm not sure if to be embarrassed by that, too. Expectations, again.
Thank you for the audio file. It was very beautiful. It reminds me of things I've heard before, in particular St Paul's letter to the Corinthians in which he says, "For now we see but through a glass darkly..." I'm not a Christian, or at all religious, but I do remember that.
*leans into your hugs*
Thank you, Papabear.
* * *
You're welcome. Here's another recording to listen to while I work.
* * *
Thank you. *snugs up against your side and puts his head on your chest while he listens*
* * *
I won’t pretend to be able to solve all your problems in one letter, but I will try to make a good start here, and I hope you will correspond with me more in the future if you need to talk.
You don’t go into what your therapists covered (other than endocrine issues, which, in turn, could cause problems with testosterone levels, and, indeed, the original cause of this can be stress), and you don’t explain well what the abuse was as a child, except that you were made to grow up too soon and, evidently, not allowed to be yourself. Your parents, having been abused themselves, did what usually happens in such cases: perpetuated the cycle of abuse on to you (good news being that you have risen above this and now have a good relationship with them). This, it seems, wasn’t because of family being deliberately abusive, but they probably didn’t understand you and just weren’t very good at raising their one child. They may have been good people, but just not competent people.
Because you weren’t allowed to be a child, and because you became a people pleaser—always working to make parents, clergy, teachers happy—you didn’t get to discover yourself. And because you didn’t get to discover yourself, people with whom you were attempting to have relationships with became frustrated because they couldn’t figure you out because you didn’t know who you were. The first step in finding out who you are is to stop trying to be the person you think others want you to be. This doesn’t mean that you should disregard or be mean or indifferent to others, but you shouldn’t hide who you are to please others. Once you have stripped away that false mask and let yourself be you, you being a process that, while it might take some time, will eventually lead you to you.
While, as you say, not laying the blame on anyone, it’s clear that your problems stem from the abuse you had as a child, the fact that you weren’t allowed to be a child (what I call Michael Jackson Syndrome), and that this has all caused you severe stress that has led to endocrine issues and sexual dysfunction. One might also say you wish to return to childhood (or, anyway, divest yourself of the burden of being an adult) because you didn’t get the emotional support you craved as a child. Furthermore, you were not allowed to be gay because of family and society, further suppressing your true identity. Is this what your psychologist told you?
The problem is easy to identify. You could, actually, blame your upbringing, but that won’t solve the problem. So how do you solve the problem?
Well, you’ve found one way to cope, I feel, by being a furry, which is a way to try to relate to one’s child side. Interesting that you picked a dragon as your fursona, the dragon being a strong, tough, loner figure, representing what you are trying to be. In that sense, I suggest that you actually have picked the opposite fursona of the one you need. I don’t see you as a dragon; I see you as a bunny—soft and cute and snuggable ... and vulnerable. Perhaps you might adopt a second fursona. Many do.
You would also do well to try and recapture your childhood. Not the way Michael Jackson did (bordering on insanity, poor man), but to regain the joy of Christmas, birthdays, going to amusement parks, etc. You sound like you need friends. What’s your involvement in the furry community? (And, by the way, your impression of furries that they are all “virile” and sexually confident and well-balanced.... poppycock. Just read through the letters on this site, which is a receptacle of insecurities and sexual and relationship problems. We all need help.) Hanging out with furries is a super way to regain that feeling of childlike playfulness.
So, we now have: find out who you are, rediscover your childhood, and start making friends (btw, this is from one of my favorite sites, Tiny Buddha, on being a friend: http://tinybuddha.com/blog/25-ways-to-be-a-true-friend/). When you are good friend material, you will attract friends to you like moths to a flame.
And what happens when you get lots of friends? Well, chances are that one of those friends will become more than a friend. It starts with cuddles, and you need cuddles more than just about anyone I’ve ever talked to.
“Working on yourself” doesn’t mean working on your appearance, or getting an impressive education, or making lots of money, or, in a relationship, doing whatever the other person wants from you, or working on your conversation skills and trying to be the life of the party. There is nothing really wrong with you, except that you weren’t given a fair chance to ground yourself because you didn’t get the childhood everyone needs. Remember, people don’t transform from children into adults, they are, rather, adult shells encasing the children still inside them. That child, that vulnerability, that need to be cuddled and protected, remains in all of us. It’s the brave ones who admit that they need a big hug or cuddle, and no, it’s not about sex.
One last word of advice. Don’t stand around waiting for that hug. Be proactive and hug someone first. You might be surprised that this can break down walls and one of those people will give you a big hug back. Maybe it will lead to a new relationship; and, yes, relationships can be scary, but it’s better than no relationship at all, if that’s what you’re looking for.
As to your original question, “Does it get better?” It certainly can, although I can’t guarantee it. But it helps to get to a goal when you have a clear, well-paved path to walk on. I hope I laid a few stones on that path for you tonight.
* * *
Dear Papa Bear,
Thank you for your considered and considerate reply. To address all your points in any depth is going to take a while, so I hope you'll forgive me if my reply takes a while to complete. I wanted to say "thank you" now, though: reading your words, as I have several times already, I have found both comforting and reassuring, and I feel better already.
One thing I'd like to mention now, though, and I'll address it more fully in later, is that I'm Otherkin, and that's my connection to being a dragon. I didn't choose to be a dragon, I simply am one. And I'd argue that even dragons can be vulnerable and weak and need cuddles, too. I know I did, when I was an eggling, first time around. :-)
Thank you again for your patience, your kindness and your support. I have very much enjoyed writing to you, and also listening to those two audio tracks you sent me.
With very best wishes, and much thanks,
* * *
Hi, again, Little Dragon,
That is, indeed, a vital piece of information you left out, your being Otherkin. And you’re correct that even a tough-looking dragon can need a cuddle now and then. If I had known this, I would never have suggested you change your fursona (though you still might have the heart of a bunny *grin*). That would be like someone suggesting I be something other than a bear. I am a bear, and you are a dragon, and that’s that. You remind me of Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon--a fierce beast with a heart of gold.
This whole conversation is an excellent reminder to readers of this column that appearances can be deceiving. The guy who looks really tough and confident on the outside might be just the guy who needs a good squeeze and a sympathetic ear.
It’s also a reminder of how many—really, most—people in the world go about their lives wearing masks to please others or as a protective measure against ridicule and prejudice. Some might say that furries are all wearing masks, pretending to be animals or anthros, but I feel it is quite the contrary: we are stripping away our false selves and revealing who we really are on the inside, says this bear.
I don’t think this is the end of this particular conversation, but it is enough for now. Perhaps I’ve worn out the patience of the readers of this column with such a long post, but they, as always, are free to wander off elsewhere into cyberspace. I hope that those who have stayed have gained something here.
Bear Hugs to All,
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.