Hi, I’ve been having some issues that make it hard for me to think and function how I usually (or how I think I usually) do. It started a while ago and I’m not sure if it’s because of my age (13 years) or just things around me. Because I’m young I feel like I should just wait it out or I’m being overemotional but I would like to check. Throughout my life I’ve had a “separate personality” for everyone I get to know. This is (as I take it) normal and other people do it but I think I take it too far for my own good. I can’t open up to people. I want to and know I need to because of the things I’ve been feeling but I just can’t. Somewhere inside my mind it blocks me off from telling people. I told one of my close friends, that I felt would understand, about me cutting and how I feel through note but we agreed not to discuss it since I refuse to talk about it. I am a very open person and I can socialize great after a minute or two of getting used to different settings but I’m still not open somehow? I don’t know how to explain it. I am open and social but I feel untrue (not myself) and anti-social. I hate people and don’t trust most of them but I converse and act great in social areas. I also feel like I can’t be myself. Thanks to my habit of acting different around all my friends and “molding” my personality to fit theirs I never truly be me for anyone. Even when I try or want to it’s practically impossible for me! I love my friends and family but I have whole other personalities for each one and it actually stresses me out. I can’t be me! I also have other “problems” which I hate to call problems because even if a professional told me I had something I always feel like it’s not true and I’m actually fine. Like there is no way that could happen to me. I have been having urges to kill and hurt things that I can’t understand (turning to cutting myself when I almost hurt my poor cat), I’ve never slept good and I have a hard time dealing with everything! Should I get help? (From Canada)
A: Yes, you should get help. You are describing several things that concern me in your letter. First and foremost, that you have hurt yourself and have thought of hurting others, including your cat. It could be that the stress of never really being yourself and having to keep up these fake identities is becoming too much to bear. There is no reason to continue this habit. People will like you for who you really are, and, if they don’t, don’t worry about them and focus on the friends who know the real you. Although, you may not know the real you either at this point, but it can be fun and interesting to find out.
To a certain extent, we all have a social persona for acquaintances and the public and an authentic self that we show only our closest friends and family. However, from what you are describing, I’m not sure that you let anyone see your true self. Furthermore, you are only 13 years old so are still at an age when you are figuring out who you really are anyway. In some ways it is quite normal at your age to try out different personality styles, but this should not be creating the amount of stress you describe.
Working with a therapist, or your school counselor, can help you form a consistent and stable identity, but even more importantly, help you find healthier ways of coping with stress. Cutting can seem like a good release at first, but it creates permanent scars and can lead to infection and other problems. Your thoughts of hurting yourself and others is really a sign that you need some support. You took the first step by writing in, please take the next one by getting some professional help.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts