Some Family Patterns

Katie grew up in a small beachside suburb in far north Queensland. Her parents and sisters rose early to surf everyday and loved the beach life. Summer was full of hanging out at the beach and evening barbeques. Her mum ran a local shop and her dad was a carpenter. Both were very involved in the community and surf-lifesaving. The family was well known and well liked and everyone called them easygoing people. Katie was pale-skinned, never liked the beach, and preferred to sleep in. She just didn’t seem to enjoy the same things as her family. She felt that she didn’t fit in no matter how much her family tried to include her. At school she didn’t identify with the surf culture and preferred to develop an alternative image. People didn’t describe Katie as easygoing. She seemed uninterested in everyone and unhappy as a teenager. Her parents tried to cheer her up but that pushed her further into being withdrawn and negative. She spent more time in her room alone longing to leave home. Katie started to self-harm to cope with her feelings of despair. She also binged on alcohol. At 15 she was hospitalised after she cut herself . Soon after she left home in Sydney. In Sydney she got a job but struggled to meet people. She continued to feel out of place and coped with self-harm and alcohol. Her family told her she was always welcome at home and asked her to come back. This made her more distressed.

Li’s mum and dad worked hard throughout their life and dad was often working during Li’s childhood. Her mum was always busy with housework and looking after the family. Dad was often tired and short-tempered. When Li was eight she was sexually assaulted by a neighbour. She was afraid of what her parents might say so told no one. She became withdrawn and cautious of people. The family thought it was ‘just Li’ and didn’t take much notice of the changes. As a teenager she experienced emotions very strongly, particularly fear of new people. She developed problems with trust and tended to get angry when people tried to get close to her. This led her to be bullied and to occasionally bully others at school. She had one close relationship with a friend at school but they fell out over a boyfriend, and her other friendships were not that supportive. At 15 Li became quite promiscuous. Her parents found out and were angry at her. They felt they had worked hard to bring her up the right way. There was a lot of conflict at home and Li started to self-harm. She wanted to punish herself when she felt she did things wrong as the guilt was overwhelming.

Sonja’s parents were hard working who built a very successful business. They had all the signs of success; a big house, cars etc. Sonja went to a private school and her parents had high expectations for her. They felt they had worked hard to get her a good education and that she should not waste it. They made her work hard and study. She did well at school but never felt it was enough. Her parents would punish her for not working hard enough but rarely praised her successes. They thought that hard work was the norm and that their daughter didn’t need to be praised for it. At 14 Sonja developed an eating disorder but her parents didn’t notice. They thought that she looked good and was being careful with her appearance. Soon after she started to self harm whenever her emotions became too greatintense felt “too strong”?. Her parents did not know she self-harmed and were in denial about her eating disorder. By the time she was sixteen Sonja was suffering from depression and had regular panic attacks.