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Anxiety, mental fogginess, emptiness, emotional disconnect, social estrangement...



New member
Mar 10, 2019
Longmeadow, MA, USA
My mental health story seems so long and complex that I don’t even know where to begin, although I guess most people who have struggled with mental health problems probably feel that way since the issues themselves are so internal and so chronic.
I guess I’ll just go chronologically and try to hit on everything I can. I’m currently a senior in high school in the US, a few months away from graduating. Last year, as a junior, I began to burn out toward the end of the year after a year of exceedingly hard work in academics and extracurriculars (although my efforts really were concentrated mainly in school). I realized that my habits were too extreme to keep up—what with the unhealthy sleep schedule and routine perfectionist pressures I placed on myself—but I kept on doing them anyways, believing (correctly, in many ways) that I had to do so in order to succeed. But, of course, I eventually discovered I wasn’t invincible, and near the end of last year I began to crash. The first symptoms of the conditions I’m now dealing with daily began to appear, including fatigue, mental fogginess, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating, not to mention the first rumblings of anxiety. Again, I ignored them, hoping they would pass and listening to the encouraging words of those around me as I continued to ostensibly succeed and enjoy myself even while my mental health began to dip.
Over the summer, the time when I expected to recover from last year, my mental health took another series of major hits. I worked as a lifeguard at a local amusement park for six weeks, and this turned out to be enormously stressful. Though I learned a lot from he experience, I showed up every day feeling nervous, stressed-out, and incompetent (likely due to the anxiety more than any real lack of skill), and I felt that I had to fake confidence and calmness despite my constant apprehension. I also found it incredibly difficult to socialize with the people I worked with at this job—how much of that is their fault and how much is mine, I’m not certain—but those factors collectively made my lifeguarding experience a negative one for my mental health.
After lifeguarding, I went to France to do a homestay for two weeks by myself, something which my mom had helped me arrange and which I was truly excited for. And although I loved the trip and have no regrets about it in and of itself, it took another toll on my mental well-being. Traveling alone to France made me exceedingly anxious, and though I chalked it up to ordinary nerves at the time, I now realize it was something more than that. It felt like I had constant butterflies in my stomach even when I had no reason to be nervous whatsoever, and this background feeling lingered nearly all the time.
My mental fogginess also got much worse over my trip, to the point where my short-term-memory started to become worrying. I felt like an imbecile and an imposter who had no business in a foreign city by himself, and other people began to notice my mental disengagement and comment on / tease me about it as well. I brushed it off, thinking I had already proven I was smart and capable and was allowed a few slip-ups. Not really how it works.
Eventually school started, and the rest of senior year has been similar to the summer up to this point. On paper, and in appearance, I’m doing fine, and I’ve even achieved a bunch of goals that I set at the beginning of the year. But my mental health has only gotten worse and worse. My mental fogginess is now atrocious, making it enormously difficult to remember things (which includes pretty much everything, such as facts for school, people’s names, people’s appearances, the dates and times of events, vocabulary words, what I did today/yesterday/a week ago/a month ago, childhood memories, etc.), but also to engage in conversations with others, concentrate in school, think about my plans for the future, and learn material I used to be passionate about. I feel stupid and brain dead and useless; in fact, I don’t feel like a member of the human race sometimes, since why bother being part of the most intelligent species on the planet if my brain can’t function properly? My anxiety has also endured throughout the year, varying in intensity in accordance with the different stressors I’ve faced so far but always remaining there in the background.
It’s hard to even describe exactly what the causes of this anxiety are, since I feel there are so many of them and they’re so interconnected. I’m certain, however, that my anxiety and my cognitive issues feed off each other in a vicious cycle. That is to say, every time I try to “get my life together” and stave off anxiety, I’m brutally reminded that one needs a fully functional brain in order to shape one’s life how one sees fit, and then this fact alone—the fact that I truly cannot think clearly these days to save my life—causes more anxiety and stress, which then reinitiates the cycle once more.
I guess I’ll take a stab at describing what’s been stressing me out and contributing to my constant anxiety. One of them is the fact that I’m 18 now, legally an adult, and yet I feel like I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. In certain ways, it seems like I’ve been on Earth for far too long already—like I’m bored with all that life has to offer—and yet, I also feel like a child and an imposter in an 18-year-old’s body. It seems like I missed out on a crucial stage of maturity that everyone else went through, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this can be attributed to my mental problems more so than anything else. Said otherwise, I feel like I’ve forgotten how to be a young adult, as if my brain just imploded and erased all the knowledge I’ve gained over the past 18 years. This blankness in my brain, and my apparent inability to access lessons I’ve learned in the past, make me feel like my life up to this point has been a waste; after all, what’s the point of an experience if you can’t learn from it and use that knowledge later on?
I also just generally feel this enormous pressure to get my shit together. Everyone’s been asking me where I’m going to school next year (I don’t know yet, decisions come out in a few weeks), what I want to major in, and what I want to do with my life. Those questions are stressful enough if you can think clearly, access prior experiences in your brain, and are in touch with your emotions (because it seems that part of my brain is fried as well), but since my brain is failing me, all of those tasks are nearly impossible. So whenever I think about those questions now—and I realize they’re important questions that no one else can answer but myself—my brain goes into panic mode, scrambling to go back to thinking “normally” but unable to do it. Thus, at the time in my life when I should be taking action and planning out what I want my future to look like, I get the desire to curl up into a ball and retreat off into the corner, or else my mind jumps to suicide simply because I can’t see any joy in living without a properly functioning brain. On the one hand, I feel like I’m capable of doing whatever I put my mind to, as if the sky is the limit and I only need to focus to create the life I want to live. And that surely is what pretty much everyone who cares about me would tell me, including my parents. People tell me I’ll succeed wherever I go and in whatever I do because of what I’ve accomplished thus far, but this seems like the most quixotic promise one could possibly make. Yeah, sure, I can maintain good study habits and whatnot, but I’m not even sure what I want to study. I’m not even sure what I want out of life. And I don’t want to toil away at something only to realize years later that it was a waste of time.
On top of all these problems—the fogginess, the anxiety and stress, the depression it causes—I’ve entered into a state of deep existential questioning. In spite of all the hysteria about “finding your passion” and “doing what you love,” I can’t help but wonder if our entire species isn’t full of bullshit. It feels sometimes that, since we’ve already covered our basic survival needs at this point, we spend our lives weaving these massive illusions of meaning that help us avoid the reality of our own death and of the intrinsic meaninglessness of everything around us (I’m not trying to make a nuanced philosophical argument here, I’m just describing how I feel. And it’s difficult to philosophically reason myself out of this miserable nihilistic loop in the state my brain is currently in). I can’t help but wonder whether everyone around me who appears content is just faking their enjoyment of life—I realize everyone dissumlates a certain amount when around others—or whether they’ve genuinely sorted things out and have reached a place of satisfaction with their lives. Perhaps they have a sense of purpose and I don’t, but if so then how can I possibly find purpose without first working out my mental difficulties? I feel like I’m banging my head against a wall, futilely trying to improve my life only to discover that I’m a mental wreck and that my attempts to act “normal” only exacerbate my instability.
I just generally feel so scared, hesitant, uncertain, self-destructive, empty, lonely, pathetic, confused, and worthless because of all this. I wake up every morning being not entirely sure why I’m even bothering to get out of bed. If I once knew the reason, then I must have forgotten it somehow—my brain just closed down and erased it as some sort of viciously unproductive coping mechanism. I feel like every time I take one step forward, I take two steps back, as if every time I overcome (aka ignore) my anxiety and do something worthwhile, my brain punishes me for it. I don’t feel truly passionate about the topics I once cared about. I’m terrified that pretty soon, I’ll be exposed as the mentally and emotionally damaged intruder to the race that I am, and I’ll be ostracized from the company of others, not to mention rendered unable to pursue anything I want to accomplish in life. It seems that our world is so competitive, and so demanding of self-confidence and technical competence and perfectionism and social skill, that there’s simply no way I could succeed with the issues I have now. People already tease me about my horrid short-term memory and absent-mindedness (they seem oblivious to the fact these are new problems for me—I guess everyone is just that self-absorbed), so how long will it be until they realize I’m faking literally everything, pushing my brain to do tasks that I used to be capable of doing effortlessly? I fear that I’m on the edge of losing my mind entirely, and that everything I have now (and I really do have a lot to be thankful for, I just find it hard to relish any of it because of my all-consuming anxiety and depression) will soon be gone, flushed down the toilet and forgotten about, and I’ll be stowed away in some wretched asylum where I’ll be treated like an animal instead of like a human being. Are these fears totally unreasonable? I’m not so sure. My mind can’t even handle that conundrum at the moment.
I just don’t know what to do. I tell myself not to be so pathetic and self-pitying, to just suck it all up and “be a man,” but that just makes everything worse. The pressure to be an intelligent, skillful, principled, dignified, self-confident young man, one who is on his way to shaping a great future, is in direct conflict with the mental state I’m in. I’ve learned that one cannot be a man without a working head on one’s shoulders, and this makes me feel even more like a fragile excuse for a human being who mistakenly stumbled into someone else’s life and societal role.
I wish I knew who to reach out to about this. I definitely can’t ask my mom for help, since she’s the toxic, emotionally abusive bitch whom I blame, in part, for all of these problems. After years of watching her bully and abuse my sister and father (sometimes in physical ways, such as ripping off their clothing or damaging their belongings), not to mention me and my brother (though in less extreme ways—we keep our distance from her), there’s no way in hell I’d ever open up to her. In fact, I want her to be out of my life forever once I’m financially independent—if that’s even feasible considering how depleted I am right now. And I couldn’t talk to my father about it, since he’d inevitably talk to my mother, who would attempt to help for a little while before her own emotional trauma took over and made my situation worse. I couldn’t really talk to my sister or brother, since both of them are battling the effects of their own childhood trauma that my mother caused and I don’t think they could handle even more of it from a sibling. After witnessing the terrible depression and eating disorder my sister has gone through because of my mom, not to mention the results of my mom’s own childhood abuse that she suffered, I feel it’s almost inevitable that I’ll eventually break down as well, despite my efforts thus far to remain strong and distance myself from the toxicity of my mom’s presence.
I’ve also started seeing this girl whom I’m really quite fond of, but my relationship with her is also taxing on my mental health. I love being with her alone, but at school the predominant emotions are jealousy, or paranoia that she doesn’t give a damn about me (is it fair to blame my mother for this?), or fear that she’ll realize what a waste of time I am, or undue hatred toward her for all of these imaginary things, which in turn evolves into guilt and self-hatred that makes me just want to block her out completely. I can feel this creeping tendency to push people away or hurt them emotionally, just as my mother did to me and my family members, and I’m scared as hell that I’ll do the same to my girlfriend, who doesn’t deserve any of it. I’m also worried that she’ll see I’ve become mentally flimsy and emotionally capricious and stop wanting to spend time with me.
As you can see, I’m a well-disguised mess, and I don’t know what the next step is going forward. Should I seek professional help? How would I do so without my mom finding out? Am I in need of some psychoanalytic treatment in order to reverse whatever damage was done in my childhood? Should I just toughen up and keep myself busy and try to ignore all my problems, as I’ve been doing so far? Should I quit some of the activities I’m doing that are causing stress and worsening my sleep schedule? I’m so tempted to reach out to friends, but I’ve already tried it before and, despite their kindness, correctly gotten the impression that everyone else is busy with their own lives, and doesn’t have time to sort through mine.
I’m so sick of feeling this way. I feel slow and inefficient, even while I have so much to do and to think about that everything (homework, extracurricular activities, sports, etc) makes me stay up late into the night, and then I wake up feeling exhausted and drained the next day. I wish someone would point me in the right direction, because I’m so lost and confused and downtrodden right now, and I don’t know how much longer I can deceive everyone around me.
Thanks to anyone who read all this, and for any and all help you can offer. I know this was a prolonged rant, but I just couldn’t keep it all in any longer.


Well-known member
Feb 8, 2019
California, USA
I’m glad you wrote this out, sometimes it helps, working it all out in writing. Sometimes you get insights into problems and possible solutions.
You are at a very stressful point in your life. You’re no longer a child, but not really a full grown up yet. It feels like there are so many important decisions that the rest of your entire life will be affected by, and that you MUST make the right choices or your whole future will be ruined.
This is not true! There are so many different paths in life, and they are not always known from the beginning. We do the best we can, we try and succeed, or we fail - but it’s no disaster.
You seem like a very intelligent person who has had a hard family life, but has plenty of good things going for you.
I would really recommend seeing a doctor to get a mental health specialist referral. Is there any way you can do this? It’s the first step you need to take to get your mind in a better place.


Well-known member
Mar 11, 2019
You’re obviously a really intelligent person and I can tell you have the right ideas in place. What I suggest though is stepping back and acknowledging that at your age things are just going to be very confusing and overwhelming. This isn’t to discount your feelings or thoughts, they do seem very frenzied and the Brain fog and memory issues are definitely of concern ( tell your doctor, these are physical issues which may have a physical cause that have to be addressed )

The thing is though what you’re feeling is what you should be feeling. Finishing high school and then facing up to your whole life ahead of you - I didn’t know one person at your age who wasn’t going through this. There is no telling what is the best path on the other side, you just have to do it on the side you’re standing on right now.

If only we could look into the future and pick accordingly, how different life would be. Take heed in the fact that you’ve finished school, have goals in mind and seem to be doing really well? Glad to have you here and thanks for sharing!