By Thomas Whitfield
I’ve been with my girlfriend for almost two years, and a few months ago she started to have terrible nightmares about being assaulted. One night she woke up crying, sweating and shaking in the middle of the night. The next day she told me that she was raped as a kid and had never told anyone. I was also sexually abused, so I totally understood where she was coming from. Over the last bit of time though, things have gotten worse, and she hardly leaves the apartment now. She always seems like she’s just moments away from crying, hardly sleeps, and EVERYTHING seems to send her spiraling. I want to help, but I don’t know what to do. It just seems like a big change overnight, and I’m sort of freaking out. -Female, Gay, 24
Some people who experience traumas develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research is conflicted about exactly why some do and some don’t. People often think of PTSD as associated with military service, but PTSD can affect a variety of people, including those who have been sexually abused. I’m not able to diagnosis her from this message, but a lot of the above-mentioned symptoms are associated with PTSD, and there is help. Contact a therapist who specializes in cognitive processing therapy, prolonged exposure or eye movement desensitization reprocessing. All are equally effective for treatment. This is not likely something you can handle on your own with her, but you can be there and be supportive of her getting help.
My mother is driving me bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S! She had terrible health while I was growing up, and I sort of took on the role of caretaker for her. Now, as an adult, she calls me and vents almost every day. Sometimes it’s about work, other times about my siblings. I want to be close with my mom, but every time I’ve asked her to stop she gets upset and says she has no one to talk to. It’s getting to the point that I make up excuses to not answer my phone and then lie about it later to her. Friends of mine are close with their moms too, but their relationships are healthier. I feel like I’m the adult and she’s the kid. HELP ME MAKE HER STOP! -Male, Gay, 23
You need to establish some boundaries with your mom. You’re her child and not her therapist. Sure, in close relationships people share their issues and ask for advice, but you shouldn’t be her go to. She needs to establish her own social support network. With clients, I generally recommend engaging in group activities they enjoy in an effort to meet others that have similar interests as them. Your mom could benefit from the same. Let her know her behavior is affecting you, and then tell her that certain topics are off the table for discussion. Stick to your own rules, and when she starts her old habits, point it out and remind her of your boundaries.