My stepmom found porn on my dad’s phone and figured out he uses escort services when he’s out of town for work. My dad denied it. I believed him. But she showed me proof. I’ve been sick to my stomach ever since. My dad divorced my mom because he said she was a drunk and refused to have sex with him. I believed him. But now I think he’s a sex addict and must have cheated on her, too. I was so rude to my mom and I feel like such a shit. So I don’t have a mom or a dad or anyone I can trust except my girlfriend (we’re in high school). I don’t know what to do but don’t say therapy. I went once and it’s useless.
Psychotherapy is a framework for understanding our lives and ourselves. It’s information. But since that information is filtered through human beings, I’ll assume you didn’t find the right therapist. It takes diligence to find a therapist who stays present with a client’s issues, maintains healthy boundaries and whose personality and therapeutic style is synergistic with the client’s. It’s like high school teachers—a few you like, some you dislike, but there’s always at least one teacher you really connect with. You might not always like your therapist because competent therapists push us to change, and change is often painful. But if you find the right therapist, you will appreciate how he or she supports you in becoming the person your soul knows you are.
Let’s talk about your parents. First, on behalf of all adults, I’m sorry. We fail teenagers too often, and that’s heartbreaking. You have the right to be angry, hurt, disappointed. You also have the right to grieve the loss of the father you thought you had. You must also grieve the loss of trust you believed existed between you and your father.
After grieving, open to the gift in your crisis. Adolescence is a time of practicing independence. Teens need the freedom to pull away from parents and practice making their own smart decisions. Ideally this is a gradual process, but not always. You’ve been shoved into those choppy waters without adult supervision. Accept the universe’s invitation to find better role models. Think about the qualities you admire, and the adults who possess them. Invite one of those adults—a relative, coach, teacher, pastor or neighbor—to coffee. Ask the hard questions about how that person became who they are. Establish an ongoing relationship with at least three mentors. Tell at least one about your family drama. Here’s why: Each of us carries a story that once caused shame or embarrassment. By telling the story to a caring adult, you’ll discover that you’ve done nothing wrong. Yes, even being a brat to your mom isn’t your fault, because your father manipulated you. (If you were an adult, of course, you would have to take some responsibility for participating in the manipulation). So again: You’ve done nothing wrong. Breathe that reality into your heart. Repeat it to yourself daily.
One last thing: imperfection. People are more complicated than we imagine. Beneath the shiny surfaces of a persona, every person is a mix of darkness and light. Understanding this truth allows us to have compassion for ourselves, and others. It does not excuse bad behavior; it inspires us to make choices for the highest good.