Dear Dr. Archer,
I'm an 18 year old male and live in England. I have various problems and I'm concerned they're affecting my psychological health and possibly my physical health, as well.
I had problems with my parents. I never knew my dad; he died when I was 15 from heroin addiction. My mom has a long time partner with whom she's had two children. I can tell he never liked me much, as he treated me like a piece of dirt, and recently he kicked me out of my home. He acted violently towards me after I asked him for some money for cigarettes.
He went off, strangling me in front of my longtime partner and my four year old little sister. I had to defend myself because I couldn't breathe, and my mom could not have cared less. Mom and I used to have a great relationship until he came along. I guess it's hard to take on someone else's child.
I'm now staying at my cousin's house with her and her mother and brother. They've been very nice to me and made me feel welcome and comfortable, but I'm not able to sleep. I don't feel happy -- in fact I feel miserable all the time, and being unemployed doesn't help any.
I haven't slept properly for two and a half weeks. I can't seem to perform normal daily tasks due to being so tired. I feel like death and can't see a light at the end of the tunnel.
I know I need help, but I just wanted a rough idea of what you would think before I go to the doctors, because I don't really feel like taking sleeping pills. Thanks for reading this and I hope you can get back to me soon.
This is a sad story, but you must not let it get the best of you. It's all in attitude. You are a young man who can recover from this quite easily if you look at the big picture. You have your future ahead of you; you have a cousin who loves you; you have a roof over your head and food on the table; you have a bed to sleep in; I assume you're an able-bodied man and so you're healthy enough to find employment.
There's a blog I'd like you to read -- in fact, read it twice. "The Power Of Hope"
illustrates how two people can go through the same experience, and one person will see himself as a victim, while another will see the larger picture and view it with optimism and see it as an opportunity.
He's the survivor, and that's what I want for you. I'd also like you to read "Double E Is Haunted By His Past"
for ways to cope when bad things happen. Follow the links within the letter; the more you learn the better off you'll become.
If you can view what has happened to you as an opportunity -- an opportunity to get out of your mom's house where you were treated like dirt -- and into your cousin's house where you're treated well, where you feel welcome and comfortable, then you'll see that something bad did not happen to you at all. What happened is really a blessing in disguise. It's all in your point of view, Jack.
Look for employment and get on a schedule. Any job, no matter how small or menial to start with. Both your mind and body will work better on a schedule, plus you'll be able to help your cousin with expenses, thus helping you feel better that you’re contributing to the household.
When you're able to do this, I have an idea you'll be sleeping like a baby. If, after your best efforts you still cannot sleep, then you may need to seek professional help.
Also, it is possible that due to the stress, you have developed a depression and may need treatment for this. I would try it on your own, follow my advice and see if things don’t improve. If not, then a psychiatrist is the way to go for an evaluation. Also, sleeping pills for a short period of time are not bad for you and may help break the sleepless cycle.
As a final thought, consider giving up the cigarettes, Jack. They're expensive, they're terrible for your health and they affect sleep. Ditching the cigarettes will be the single best gift you can give yourself and you can use this whole nasty affair as your motivation.
Change your attitude and see just how lucky you are, and I think you'll do just fine. I truly wish you a happy, secure future.