Books by Dr. M

Getting to Know the Real You: 50 Fun Quizzes Just for Girls, by Harriet S. Mosatche, PhD
Getting to Know the Real You: 50 Fun Quizzes Just for Girls

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Teens

— January 15, 2018 —

The only thing my parents and I fight about is my messy room. They are very sensitive about the topic, and the issue of me being an "untidy lazy (insert insult here)" has been dragging on for years. The problem is that I'm not changing, and I really don't know how to, or why are they making such a fuss about it. I've never been sick as a consequence of my untidiness, and it is the only thing they don't like about me. Otherwise I'm an overachieving and responsible student, I fulfill all of my chores, but when it comes to my room I either forget or am unable to notice/acknowledge the mess.

— Messy Teen, 15

 

Dear Messy Teen,

My suggestion would be to talk to your parents about why they're so insistent on having your room be spotless. They might say, "Oh, it's because you're lazy and laziness is bad,Ē but you should push them a little further. As you've said, you're not lazy. On top of that, you might want to talk to them about how it makes you feel; you're obviously distressed about it, so perhaps you should tell them that. The aim of all this talking would be to somehow come to a compromise. The result might be: cleaning your room a little bit more than you do now, and in exchange your parents bother you less.

signed, Anil
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— December 31, 2017 —

My dad used to drink a lot and sometimes became aggressive. He'd sometimes physically hurt us. This has been going on for some years. Due to this I started getting involved in drinking and drugs and going out. Iíd lie to my parents that I'm going to study then go out with friends I also started going through depression. I occasionally cut my myself and once had a suicide attempt Whenever I try to talk to them they turn against me and blame me I donít know what to do anymore. Please help.

— Scared, 15

 

Dear Scared,

Thank you for reaching out. Your letter isnít filled with very many words, but it does contain some that really got my attention, and I am structuring my response in order. First, suicide is always a mistake, never a solution. If you ever feel that youíve lost the ability to understand this fact, please reach out to a suicide prevention website, such as suicidepreventionlifeline.org or you may call at phone icon 800-273-8255, and text a message to message icon 741741 is also an option. It gives your mind an opportunity to open up when you can talk confidentially and honestly to another person. Now that we have that addressed, I want to touch on your sharing your fatherís struggle and his history of alcoholism and domestic abuse. You have observed and experienced some of the devastating effects of poor choices. Life is a series of choices. In order to position yourself for success, the wisdom you possess because of your experiences can actually serve to help you. Your father is demonstrating poor coping skills and a lack of self-control. He chooses to avoid his problems through chemicals like alcohol and drugs instead of searching for working solutions. Part of you knows this because you want to avoid making the same mistakes. Part of you is also desperately seeking ways to take control of situationsóthat you must understand you canít controlósuch as behaviors of other people.

So, what do you control? You have power here. YOU control how you respond to the world around you. You are scared of your weaknesses, but I challenge you to think about your strengths, your choices, and your place in life in a new way. Think about all of the things you can control. You control how well you do in school (to a point), you control whether you smile or frown, you control lying or telling the truth, and so forth.

Finally, I hope you have thought about forgiveness. The strained relationships in your life may never improve but choosing to forgive and move forward will liberate you in a special way to love well in other relationships you are building.

My best to you as you start fresh. Asking for help along the way proves that you are already making better choices.

— Amy

 

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— December 16, 2017 —

Hello, I would like to start this off by saying thank you. You have done such good work, and the world benefits by having you all. Recently I have noticed that I have been getting more and more stressed out about many things (I have always been somewhat anxious, but I am getting more and more anxious about more things). We were taking important tests, and I almost started hyperventilating. In the last few weeks I have started the nervous habit of bouncing my leg up and down continuously when I get really stressed. I think that the stress is affecting my grades. I have become a really bad test taker because of it and my grades have started dropping (nothing major but I am worried that over time they will continue to drop). To add to my anxieties, I have two older brother "geniuses" that everyone always compares me to. I know that I am not as smart as them, but people always talk about how perfect they are, and how smart and athletic they are. They have also received many academic awards from my school. My stress levels have gotten so bad that teachers have tried to talk to me about it—letís just say it did not go over very well with me. I am very shy and awkward in those situations and feel uncomfortable in one-on-one conversations except with close friends. So I don't really want to talk to the school counselor. I think he does not like me and kind of scares me, and also does not have a good reputation for being helpful. My parents have added to the stress by comparing me to my siblings so I do not want to talk to them about it either. My brothers would not understand, and I am worried would tell my parents. What should I do about my parents, my stress and the counselor? Please answer me!! I need your help. Thanks,

— Stressed teen, 14

 

Dear Stressed teen,

Despite what anyone says, you seem like a very intelligent person who has done well. Comparing oneself to others, whether it involves peers or family is definitely one way to induce anxiety, as it leads many people to feel that they are not good enough and always being judged. As a result, social anxiety ensues due to the fear of having these beliefs confirmed. In high achieving families, these feelings are not uncommon. There is an illusion that you have to strive for perfection, which will set you up for constant disappointment. You know why? Because there is no such thing as perfection so you are chasing something you will never catch. It is important to keep reminding yourself (and your parents) that you are not your brothers and you are on a different path. You must set your own goals that you are satisfied with, and separate your accomplishments from your brothersí goals. It may me worth speaking with your parents about how it makes you feel when they compare you to your brothers. As long as you are doing the best you can, that is all that should matter. If you want to do better, your counselor can help you seek out tutors. While I am not sure what triggered the increase in stress within the last month, acknowledge what you have succeeded in thus far. The anxiety you are experiencing is a state right now, rather than a consistent trait. Just because your grades are dropping slightly does not mean you are less talented than your brothers or incapable of doing great academically.

Regarding your testing anxiety, make sure you breathe deeply continuously throughout the test to make sure you do not hyperventilate. There are various meditation apps you can also use beforehand to help calm you down prior to an exam. Focus on one question at a time and know that whatever the outcome, you will be okay. If you did not do as well as you had hoped, it does not mean you failed—it was just a First Attempt In Learning. You have so many opportunities ahead of you to be great, and a couple of tests in your freshman year will not determine your future success. Lastly, if you do not feel comfortable talking with your parents or school counselor, it may benefit you to find a therapist you trust who can help you with your anxiety and continue working with you on coping skills. Remember to strive for excellence, not perfection. There are various ways of accomplishing greatness and you are in control of what you want that to look like.

— Kim

 

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— December 2, 2017 —

Hey, so I'm just here to tell you about how nervous tests make me. Today, I had a test and I was 1% off of a pass due to how nervous I was. Whenever I have a test, I panic and rush through it which causes me to fail. Do you know how to be calm and normal? Also, due to the fact that I've failed I have to do the test again. However, most of the people in my class have passed the first time. Do you think they will laugh at me? I'm always scared of getting laughed at. Whenever it happens, I break down.

— Georgia, 14

 

Dear Georgia,

You described two different problems—your test anxiety and your fear of being laughed at by your classmates. Youíve already figured out that your high level of anxiety is interfering with your test performance. Now you need to learn how to control that anxiety so that your test scores actually reflect your knowledge and ability and are not being pulled down by your rushing through exams. Practice some relaxing deep breathing exercises at home first and then at school. You can even do deep breathing in the middle of a test, which should ease your feelings of anxiety. You can find examples of these exercises on the Internet. You might also study more than usual, so you will feel more confident when you take tests. Ask your parents or teachers for their suggestions about staying calm during tests. As for your concern about getting laughed at by other students, try to ignore their reactions. Remind yourself that everyone is afraid of something and that other students are wrong to laugh at you.

signed, Dr. M.
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— November 19, 2017 —

Ok, so when I was, I donít know—6, 7 or 8 years old, my father left. I don't know why. My mum never really told me anything and I never liked asking. I've never really thought anything of it but recently I've been asking myself why my father decided to leave me. Did he not want me? Was I not a good daughter? It just makes me so angry that my own father would do something like that. And now I feel this sort of hate towards him that I've never really felt towards anyone before, and I know it's not okay because he IS my father, but I just can't help it. Growing up I've seen most of my friends and how they were around their dads and how their fathers treated them, and I don't know—maybe I just felt jealous, maybe I just wondered what it would be like if I had a father? Any advice?

— Emilia, 13

 

Dear Emilia,

Itís too bad that you and you mother have never had a deep conversation about why your father left. Most likely, you would have found out that the reason had to do with the relationship between the two of them and had nothing to do with you. I understand why you feel envious of your friends who had loving fathersóit was definitely something that was missing in your life. You might want to talk to peers whoíve had similar experiences, others who have had a parent walk away from their families. Consider also talking to a counselor who would be a safe person to whom you could express your sadness and anger with your father. Itís not too late to talk to your mom about your need for a father figure. Maybe thereís another relative or family friend who can play that role for you. And even if thatís not possible, youíve learned a valuable lesson about the importance of parenting and open conversations about important issues. Hopefully, you will take that lesson with you as you become an adult.

signed, Dr. M.
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— November 4, 2017 —

So I've been told I look like one of the preppy popular girls but I'm not one of them. I honestly can't stand those girls who are so full of themselves most times. Anyway I'm insecure and I guess that's normal for a 9th grader but I'm unhappy about what I look like, I feel like I have a decent face but I don't like my body. I am also very afraid of being judged, and people who meet me don't think that I'm afraid of what people could possibly be saying behind my back. I don't cut, but I just want some advice to feel good about myself. I'm also a very shy quiet person. Any advice?

— Seeking Advice, 14

 

Dear Seeking Advice,

The high school years are often filled with peer pressure and identity conflicts. This is just the beginning stage of figuring out who you are and who you want to be; but this can be tough to navigate with all the external pressures of what other students expect. It sounds like you are trying to conform to a persona that does not actually represent you in order to survive and avoid being judged negatively. You are definitely not the only one going through this. Learning to feel good about oneself involves lots of practice, so try the following:

  1. Practice looking in the mirror and focusing on the things you do like about yourself instead of what you don't. Remind yourself with sticky notes around your room listing all your great features and qualities. Body image is very subjective and often distorted compared to reality. However, if you are genuinely concerned about your health and want to make changes, consult with a doctor about whether changes need to be made, and learn about healthy strategies to achieve a mutually agreed upon goal.
  2. Practice self-esteem building by increasing interactions with people you feel comfortable around first, and with whom you can be yourself. Immersing yourself in extracurricular activities you enjoy is another great way to boost your confidence. While this may involve stepping out of your comfort zone, chances are this fear will be overcome quickly, as you begin to meet people with similar qualities and interests. Don't be afraid to be yourselfóitís a great way to weed out the people who aren't worth your time and thoughts. If people judge you for that, chances are they are deflecting from dealing with the things they don't like about themselves.
  3. Practice cognitive reconstruction: the act of changing negative thoughts. If you type "cognitive restructuring exercises" into Google, youíll find plenty of resources and practice activities. Chances are the negative things that you believe people are saying behind your back are coming from your own insecurities and not even true. I've learned from personal experience, that people usually don't care as much as we think they do. Again, if they are judging you, it says more about them than you.

You also might want to consider therapyóeither group or individualówhich will give you an opportunity to discover and develop your identity, but also explore where your fears come from and ways to deal with them.

— Kim

 

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— October 22, 2017 —

Hi! Recently I have been feeling like there is no point to my life. I recently left a school where I was bullied and am being home schooled until the start of the new academic year, when I am moving to a new school. My mum works very hard to look after me and my four siblings and my dad works long hours. I don't really have anyone to talk to because all of my siblings believe that I am being favoured because I am being home schooled. I can have had a perfectly normal day then suddenly be sobbing my heart out on the floor, or having a panic attack in the bathroom, finding it hard to breathe. I don't really connect with anyone of my friends as they are all rather shallow and love to talk about stuff such as crushes and dating. I have no interest in such matters and find that I am often excluded whenever I meet up with them. I just wanted some advice to cope better as I feel awful about myself. Also I just wanted to say I think it's great how you are running this for everyone who wants advice.Thanks!

— Michaela, 14

 

Dear Michaela,

For a 14 year old, you seem to possess a good sense of yourself. You also seem to be a deeply thoughtful person. Perhaps you may even be tempted to think far more, far longer, and more analytically than the situation may require (over-thinking). Sometimes, things that seem to be a waste of time, like dealing with all of the social challenges of being in school where bullies often lurk, are really just opportunities to put all of the pieces of the Identity puzzle together. Experiences begin to help you to decide what you identify with and what you donít. This is how we recognize that parts of our personality are more fixed, while other parts are more fluid or temporary. One good place to read about personality is a site called personalitypage.com where you can read about the various types of personality combinations that are a general guide to the type of person someone is. The really cool thing is that experiences can be a change factor! Someone who is shy can discover they love acting because they get to act like people who are not shy sometimes and suddenly find shyness much less of an obstacle.

You seem to have a good idea of who you are and what you like and donít like, which is awesome! You shared that you feel out of place with your peer groups and with your siblings, and that makes you feel anxious and lost sometimes. This is a completely normal reaction when searching for a place to belong. This is where your power comes in. You get to explore and determine what is important to you and that means you have to broaden your horizons, especially when you have made a major change in your life like leaving a particular school. Finding a sport, hobby, charity, etc. that requires expanding your base of experience interacting with a variety of others is an important part of finding the best fit for your interests and relationships. And keep an open mind about your old friends, because just as you are changing, so are those around you. Patience and effort are two big parts of how you will find activities you enjoy and people you enjoy sharing experiences with. As you focus on growing and learning rather than anxiety and isolation, you might be surprised at all the new things you can do!

— Amy

 

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— October 8, 2017 —

I am a 17 year old male and I have three older brothers. I love my brothers but I don't like any of them. Iíd like to let them know how I feel but I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. My mom would like for us to spend more time together but tensions might flare. I know that it is important for families to be close but I am not sure if I can bring myself to develop a brotherly relationship with them. Do you have any suggestions?

— Blake, 17

 

Dear Blake,

It sounds like you do have a brotherly relationship with your siblings, but itís not a close one. You say itís important to have a close family relationship. Do you want one? And do they? Competition is very common among brothers, and sometimes that's hard to deal with. Keep in mind that all relationships take work, and relationships with brothers ebb and flow depending on where everyone is in their lives. Do the four of you have any common interests? That would be a starting point for an activity or simply a discussion. Another idea is a family hike, which can be a way to have fun and bond. All of you could also go have dinner in a neutral place. Research studies have indicated that even when siblings donít particularly like each other, they typically will support each other when theyíre needed. Since you love your brothers, itís worth that extra effort to find ways to connect, at least occasionally.

— Mrs. B.

 

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— September 24, 2017 —

Hi! First off, I just wanted to let you know that I came upon this website a few years ago and it has helped me quite a lot. Thank you for all that you do. Here is my situation: I have been in the same choir for almost 9 years now. My friends there are like my family and I love the director and her style of teaching. However, my mom and I are probably going to move to another state soon and our new place is two and a half hours away from the place where my choir rehearses. Because of this, I will most likely have to leave the choir and my friends, which will break my heart. I have been looking up choirs in the area to which we will be moving, but I'm scared that I won't be satisfied with the music and that I won't have as many close friends as I did in my old choir. This choir is the only reason my mom and I haven't moved out of state sooner. I feel like I'm going to lose a part of myself if/when I leave. Please advise me on how I can cope with this.

— Worried Choir Person, 16

 

Hello Worried Choice Person,

I can absolutely understand how upsetting it is to leave behind the choir that has been a central part of your life for nine years. As you said, you will be leaving behind dear friends and the spirit that comes from creating beautiful music together. However, I think some of the feelings you have experienced being a member of this special choir will stay with you.

One thing you can do before you leave is to record some sessions of the choir practicing, and also record a performance. It will be a treasure to have those, and you can listen to them and recapture the feelings when you sang as part of that group. Even though there will probably be a tinge of sadness when you listen, you will also appreciate anew the special qualities of the choir as a whole and hear the contributions of different singers, including yourself.

You are wise to have looked up possible choirs you might join in the new area you are moving to. You should definitely try out a few options to see where you feel most comfortable as far as the type of music, the personality of the choir director, and the members of the choir. I suspect each choir has its own "personality" and you have to find the one that best matches your own OR you think will bring out things in you and possibly challenge you in new ways. You will not quickly be able to replace friendships and the feeling of belonging that comes from nine years of experience but you will start on that path. A year from now, once you have selected a new choir and become an involved participant, you will likely feel the start of new friendships developing and will be experiencing new musical adventures.

Keep in mind that with FaceTime and Skype, you can see and talk with your old choir members, and since you are only 2 1/2 hours away, you might be able to visit in-person periodically.

I am so glad to know that the AskDrM site has helped you in the past, and wish you the very best in your new home.

signed, Dr. B.

 

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— September 10, 2017 —

About 2 months ago I began texting a girl who goes to my school. She's beautiful. I had a hard time getting the nerve to talk to her at school, but I eventually texted her and asked her out. She said no, saying that she didnít feel the same way. I was crushed because I thought things were going really well and we have a lot in common, but I figured that I should remain friendly because I don't want to be rude and cut her out cause itís a small school and I see her frequently. We still text or snapchat somewhat frequently. I thought I was moving on, but we just had a school dance several days ago and she looked amazing and I realized that I was not over her. I don't know what to do. It feels like I don't want to move on. Is there any advice that you have for me?

— TW, 17

 

Dear TW,

I'm sorry you're dealing with this kind of stuff, which can be messy and leave you feeling unhappy. I think part of your problem is that you keep talking to this girl, which is not giving yourself a proper chance to move on. I'd suggest then that you stop communicating with her, but be sure to let her know why so sheíll understand and to avoid any problems with your mutual friends. Once youíve made a cleaner break, you might be able to feel more comfortable truly moving on and starting a relationship with someone new.

signed, Anil
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— August 26, 2017 —

So I have been with my boyfriend for about a month even though I have known him for about 2 years and he is quite close with his ex and they do the same activity and coach so they are spending like 6 hours a week together and they seem really close and he has hearts by her name and everything and I know it sounds petty but I have known him longer than he knew her and he still trusts her more than me and it's getting to the point where I feel like even though he's dating me I feel like Iím competing with her all the time. I like him a lot but I can't carry on feeling like I'm the second option and he always goes on about oh yeah she still loves me and sends me all these screenshots of their conversations and I'm like what is the point and I have told him about how it makes me feel and he just carries on doing it and it's just getting me really down Thanks in advance if you get to respond.

— J, 15

 

Dear J,

From what you described about the situation with your new boyfriend and his ex, it sounds like the two of them have not truly ended their relationship. He could be trying to make you jealous, but that kind of manipulation is more destructive than constructive. If you really like him, make one more attempt to let him know directly how hurtful it is when he goes on and on about his exís feelings for him. A good relationship should not make you feel down but should make you feel loved and valued. If he cannot make a true commitment to you, you might need to give him up and start dating someone who is a positive force in your life.

signed, Dr. M.
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— August 11, 2017 —

So, my boyfriend tried to commit suicide long before we got together. It scares me because I like being friends with very happy people and he is usually happy but I feel like I don't know him anymore. Can you help me try to figure this out?

— Paula, 15

 

Dear Paula,

It is totally understandable that your boyfriendís history of suicidal thoughts and actions has you feeling concerned. Most people realize that suicide is a serious mistake and solves nothing. We all make mistakes throughout our lives, but suicide is one of those permanent ones. There are some details that you didnít include, which may lead me to make some assumptions.

It seems your boyfriend trusts you enough to share his past and that is a good thing. His history might make you feel as though you canít completely trust him or how he might react to tough times. Also, if you are attracted to happy people, I can only guess he must be pretty happy these days. If he has moved on from whatever events had caused him to have suicidal ideation, then my advice is to encourage that. Observe how he handles challenges and provide him with support and optimism if you feel it is necessary. Sometimes when we learn good and bad details of someoneís history, it naturally paints them in a different, but not necessarily bad, light. I personally admire anyone who has found better ways to cope with stressors after they learned the hard way about how NOT to handle stress. It may indicate a degree of strength, rather than weakness, and that is very admirable. I would suggest talking more about your honest feelings and allow him the opportunity to share the wisdom he seems to have gained through his experiences. If you ever have any fears that he might feel suicidal again, seek interventional help through a resource such as https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Finally, about your feeling that you donít know him anymore, I would say that you actually know him better now. Nobody is perfect. We all have aspects to our history that others might find questionable, even worrisome, but a good relationship is built on trust and communication, and your boyfriend seems to have those two important factors going for him.

My best to you both,

— Amy

 

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