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How to tackle this?



A few years ago I came out of a really difficult relationship and my self-esteem was shot; I felt terrible and went about trying to figure out why. I went into traditional talk-therapy (talk about your childhood etc) and started asking myself why I had ended up with this guy, and finding all sorts of connections in my past. I feel like the traditional therapuetic view is that somehow you were mistreated in your past so you repeat it in your future, and unless you sit in therapy for years and go over and over it until you “release all the emotion” you are doomed to romantic failure forever. The free therapist I went to at my school basically told me the root of my distress was my repressed anger, so I ended up thinking I had to immerse myself as much as possible into my bad emotions in order to “process” them. I started linking up all these events in my life and started to view it as all bad, and hopeless in the future.
Now, I am basically functioning and moving forward in life but I haven’t been happy in a long time. I feel good sometimes, when I go out and socialize, and when I manage to change my thinking for a while, but I have a problem with slipping back into the depressive rumination. I feel like I can’t control my thoughts, feelings, or how I act, and I think my self-esteem is really low. I used to feel very capable and extremely optimistic for my future—one of my friends actually told me that I was one of the mentally healthiest people she had ever met and I was known for being very upbeat. I am still usually pretty social and most people I know casually (at work etc) would describe me as hyper, talkative, social etc which is how I have always been. When I’m alone with my thoughts though, they usually aren’t positive. I used to love myself and have very good self esteem and now my self-image is basically this depressed, anxious, out-of-control person and that’s what I focus on when I think about myself. When I am beating myself up or ruminating I find it very hard to interact socially and I have had issues with feeling very bad and then assuming someone else was attacking me, and getting defensive. The people closest to me would say my problem is bad self-esteem, I “think too much,” am overly analytical, worry etc. I have had people comment that I have become very negative and when I act defensive or have a hard time getting along with people due to my low self esteem it just perpetuates how I feel and reinforces my negative self image.
I don’t talk about it because I feel like my family/friends would get mad at me for being negative, complaining, being too “in my head” etc. Basically that it’s all in my head and I should just get over it. I know that negativity is bad for social relationships so I try to not talk about it, and I do tend to withdraw when it gets really bad. I am pretty much okay meeting new people and acting normal but I don’t want to get too close to anyone so they don’t see how messed up my mind has become (I know part of the problem is how much I judge my thinking processes).
Really though, I am extremely sick of this. It’s been three years and while I am functional, hold down a job, and make plans, I don’t have the same positive outlook toward the future and I certainly don’t have the same level of self esteem. I doubt my emotions a lot and when I act out of control (defensive, angry etc) it really reinforces this feeling that I can’t trust how I feel. I don’t assert myself when someone talks down to me anymore because I fear that it’s just in my head and I will overreact, and it’s become really hard to tell the difference between my own self-dislike and someone else acting badly toward me.
My last boyfriend broke up with me for being moody and he said I also “shut down” sometimes and got defensive when he was trying to talk to me. I know what he means because I can feel it when I do. I go up and down throughout the day, usually I feel pretty down but I have periods of a few hours where I feel normal, and when I force myself to talk to people I feel better during the interaction (though sometimes it gets so bad I have a hard time concentrating on the conversation and talking). I am getting completely fed up and am really resistant to going on meds, but I just want to be normal and happy again. I am seeing a CBT therapist (she’s actually a PhD candidate in training) and she told me to “accept myself as a person with anxiety problems” which I do NOT want to do. I want my personality back. She also hasn’t assigned me any real specific homework so I sort of feel like I’m wasting my time/money, but I have only seen her twice.
So what the hell is my problem and how do I go about attacking it? When I am ruminating I am very problem focused, I feel like I am digging for something and once I understand why I’m upset I will be able to “fix” the problem. I just don’t know where to attack this since I feel like it’s all tied together—I feel depressed, anxious, bad self-esteem, have mostly lost my sense of humor and perspective, have a hard time problem-solving and relating to the people in my life, lowered motivation etc. I think my therapist is having a somewhat hard time with me because she wants a specific issue she can deal with and I just don’t know where to start. I have realized that I react to people based on what I think they think of me (aka what I think of myself) so I am trying to separate that out.
Does anyone have any suggestions? I still do what I need to do and have never been incapacitated (ie unable to get out of bed) but I don’t wake up so excited for the day and for life like I used to, and I feel like I have really lost my spunk and energy for life. For what it’s worth, this has been going on for about three years.


Sep 19, 2009

I just wanted to say, the emotions you are describing sounds just like mine. My problems have been going out probably about 10 years, but I haven't sought help via therapy like you have.

Just wanted to wish you lots of luck getting things sorted out, be strong and you'll get there in the end. It sounds like you are working things through which is a good step forwards.

All the best, Lisa



I can understand a lot of what you say, losing your pep is crap if you can do you have a hobby i.e jogging or going to the gym may help you ??
How about volunteering, you may meet new people and make new friends ??
If you cannot talk to family or friends can you access a therapy service maybe your Doctor could help with this ??