Auntie Dote is HBI's answer to the usual, treacly, self-help advice columnists.

Disclaimer: This isn't an advice website. Yet from time to time we receive email asking for the Heartlessly Bitchy point of view. If you need serious medication, therapy or professional help, seek elsewhere. However, if you still insist on soliciting OUR advice, just remember...

YOU ASKED FOR IT.

All submissions become the property of HBI and by sending email to Auntie Dote you thereby give your permission for letters and responses (sans identifying information) to be published on the website. No emails will be answered individually.

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Ask Auntie Dote
The Auntie Dote for what ails you...


Aug 26, 2006

Dear Auntie Dote,

I have been suffering from clinical depression for about a year now. It got so bad that I had to give up college and, eventually, any kind of useful activity - the doc has recently signed me off work and I've gone onto benefits. Yesterday, I felt so shitty about myself that I actually took a knife and cut myself several times just to see myself bleed - and it felt good, which I know is fucked-up. I've told my parents and my partner about it, not wanting it to become some kind of dirty little secret and not wanting to make a habit of it, but understandably they didn't know how to help, and truth to tell, I don't want to put that kind of pressure on them anyway - I just wanted to be honest with everyone. I am in the hands of a cognitive behavioural therapist (who doesn't yet know about the cutting), but it's very early days and as yet I don't really have any day to day coping strategies for any of this. I'm pregnant, so the doctor says I can't go on medication, but I just feel so crappy all the time. Please help - I need some advice that doesn't just consist of 'there, there, poppet' or 'pull yourself together'.

Thanks in advance,
Vicki

 

Vicki, my problem in responding to you is that it's difficult to provide any meaningful advice to people who are suffering from mental illness such as depression - I’m not a therapist – just a Heartless Bitch with years of experience being an intelligent adult woman on this planet.  Some people find my perspective helpful, but in your case I suspect there isn’t any way to respond that will likely get through to you. You need professional help, but more importantly, you need to be HONEST with your professional help.

 

"Cutting" is a classic symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder, and the one thing Borderlines AREN’T is HONEST. Not with others, and especially not with themselves. Borderlines are passive manipulators to the core, specializing in creating drama in their own lives and the lives of others.

 

For example, if we look at your tale of the cutting we see a complete, utter evasion of responsibility, while at the same time, a hugging of deviant agency – “I do this thing, for pleasure”.  You seem to say:  “I know I am dysfunctional; now react”.  What the hell am I, or anyone else in your life for that matter, supposed to do with that information?  Telling your family and partner about it isn't about being "honest" - it's a way to set up yet another no-win situation for them. If  they criticize or express disgust, you’ll likely get off on the shame-factor.  If they do the “there-there’ then they are patronizing.  If they ignore, then you get to claim abandonment.


You want advice? Fine. Consider an abortion (I know they are safe, and legal in your country), and get back on your medication. You're a single[1] college dropout on disability for depression, with a fun new hobby of self-mutilation. Or, did you have some plan caring for a child that we don't know about? If you can't handle college courses, you can't handle a small person demanding around the clock care.  

After you've gotten honest with yourself, you need to be honest with your therapist(s). After all, THEY are the ones armed with tons of "coping strategies", or at least they should be. Don't continue to cut yourself as a way to feel control over your life. I mean, sure, you can do that if you want to, but It's not going to work. Your feelings of pain, helplessness and shame will return, your cutting will escalate, making you even more hurt, vulnerable and damaged than before. You need help figuring out other methods to gain REAL control over your life. That's the only way I see out of this messy spiral for you.

Take REAL control over one aspect of your life (like, the being pregnant thing --that didn't just "happen," did it? You were probably there at the time), and then move on to something else. Make small decisions every day that are NOT self-destructive. Hell, make a cup of tea. Anything. And feel good about it. Then, move on to the next thing. This is exactly how the rest of us have to make our way through life. And it is NOT easy. Some of us also need help. So join the rest of humanity. You might find some comfort there.

 

But the bottom-line is: life really isn't all that comfortable. Bullets must be bitten. What IS real is the feeling of control you get by actually gaining traction over circumstances, not just letting them swirl over you and letting danger escalate. You need to get back on medication and then get to work on staying healthy. No parent is perfect by any stretch, but adding parenthood to your plate at this time (when you are self-destructive and unable to cope with work or school) certainly isn't fair to a baby, and it could very well bury you and your child in self-destructive behaviors for years.

 

But remember, whatever you choose, it’s YOUR choice, and ultimately your responsibility to live with the consequences.

 

-A.D.



[1] Note:  I say "single" even though you mention having a "partner" because, unless I am mistaken, that means you are "unmarried" and carry sole legal, financial responsibility for yourself and your dependents. Just being real.


Copyright© "Auntie Dote" & Heartless Bitches International (heartless-bitches.com) 2000
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