Home Anxiety Parents Calling Me Stupid, Having Anxiety Attacks and Suicidal Thoughts

Parents Calling Me Stupid, Having Anxiety Attacks and Suicidal Thoughts

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From the U.S.: I’m living with emotionally abusive parents (confirmed by my counselor). I’m a Middle Eastern girl and I’ve changed my college major a lot of times. I’ve figured out that I want to do computer science and will be transferring in the Fall. I know that I’m stupid because I figured out my major late so I’m going to graduate in 5 years instead of 4. But I don’t plan on being useless forever, I’ve already started to apply to internships.

My parents are confusing. Sometimes they support me and then most times they don’t. They said they will cut off my education funds and want me to stay home. I’ve never been allowed to go outside much, except for going to school and to my weekend job. They also hate the fact that I have friends and get angry when I make new friends; they sometimes say that they will not let me go because I have friends.

I’m sad because I keep looking over my shoulder when I’m outside and having an anxiety attack because “I did a bad thing by going outside.”

My dad says I’m “weak” and a “loser” and I’ll go under the influence of drugs. I have no desire to smoke or do drugs. They say that I don’t study at all and I will never finish college, even though I’m studying all the time.

They hate when I work on a project or study with a friend outside of class. They say that my friends are “losers and wasting my time” because they are spending time with me…studying.

One time, they got really angry because I wanted to choose what I wanted to wear on my own body and they dragged me in my chair and I almost fell off the stairs and they stopped dragging me because I started screaming for the police-I was so scared and hitting the walls that are connected to the neighbors. I’ve never tried to do this again because I don’t want to get hurt.

I’m allowed to work a part-time job, and I work on the weekends for $10.50 per hour. I’m trying to get some more shifts in during the weekdays.

I’m so scared of them. I found some more internships today and I’m excited but then I remembered that they called me stupid. I have nightmares about them calling me stupid.

 First, and most important, I doubt very much that you are stupid. Changing a major doesn’t mean you are unintelligent. In fact, you are average. The majority of today’s college students take 5 – 6 years to finish. According to an article in USA Today: “For a non-flagship public university, only 19% of students graduate on time and even at flagship research public universities, the on-time graduation rate is only 36%. Only 50 of the more than 580 public four-year institutions have graduation rates above 50%.”

As for your relationship with your parents: It’s not enough to label your parents as “abusive”. Once you have a label, you still have a problem. I’m thinking that the real issue might be a clash of cultures. You are acting like an American girl. They want you to behave the way they were taught to behave when they were your age.

Instead of seeing them as abusive, it might be more helpful to see them as frightened. They are scared you will become like young people they see in the news — drug addicted and under the influence of bad people. They are caught between wanting you to be an educated, modern woman and wanting you to be “safe” by being a traditional Middle Eastern woman who obeys her parents and stays close to home. They therefore go back and forth between supporting you and trying to keep you back.

If you approach them with compassion for their confusion instead of with anger, you might be able to negotiate more freedom to make your own choices. If you don’t think they will listen to you, it would be helpful if you could find either an adult friend or a counselor who has a deep understanding of traditional culture and of the challenges experienced by parents like your own. Often parents like yours are more likely to listen to another adult than to their own child when confronted with this problem.Your parents are not alone in their fears. You are not alone in your desire to be more independent than they can easily tolerate.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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