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Ask A Therapist: Depressed, Anxious, and Socially Awkward

Q: I don’t remember a time in my life where I’ve been totally happy but for the past approximately 2 years i have been extremely depressed as a result of my social anxiety and loneliness. I have always found social situations ‘awkward’, in fact the last time I remember frequently leaving my house for social reasons was when I was about 13. I then became more and more of a recluse from there on, i went out with my friends less and less outside of school, then upon leaving school i stopped doing things with my friends more and more until the point where i have not left my house for social reasons for about 2/3 years. I no longer have any friends and although my family is nice and supportive they cannot provide me with what I need. I have not spoken to anyone in person about my problems, I simply can’t. My parents will just tell me to go to a doctor. Doctors will just prescribe me with a drug that I don’t want. I don’t feel a psychiatrist can help me. I’ve become extremely lonely and depressed. My self esteem is extremely low and although I’m not a bad looking person I simply cannot accept my imperfections, no matter how hard I’ve tried. I feel I am in so deep that I cannot make a recovery. I cannot throw myself into social activities to make friends because of my social anxiety. I no longer find anything enjoyable and nothing at all interests me, this leaves me with the motivation to try nothing. I feel like I’m in a corner with no way out, every possible path I need to take to fix myself, I cant bring myself to walk down whether its my self esteem, depression or social anxiety stopping me. I hate it and I hate the person I am, I’m so sad it hurts. I feel so lost and lonely I cry randomly, its pathetic. There is no reason why I should feel like this, I’ve had a very normal life without any trauma, this only makes me feel guilty for the way I am. Guilt I don’t deserve to feel when there’s so many more out there in far worse situations.

I just want to live my life and be happy, but I truly believe I will never get there. Sometimes I feel like giving my life and donating what i have to give someone else a shot at life. Someone who can appreciate life.

I have read a lot of advice online about people in similar situations to myself but what are my options when the things I need to do to fix myself, I simply cannot bring myself to do?

A: Thanks so much for writing in and reaching out for help. I have seen many clients in my therapy office who express similar feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, focus on their own imperfections, and have extreme guilt for feeling so sad and lonely because they’ve had a “pretty normal life.” It sounds to me like you are suffering from severe depression and anxiety that are keeping you in a downward spiral, unable to reach out for help. The good news is you have reached out on this forum, so I am very hopeful that you can reach out in other areas.

I urge you to talk to your parents and ask them for help. You said you haven’t talked to your parents because they will tell you to go to a doctor. If they love and care about you they will tell you to go to a doctor or a therapist because that’s the right thing to do when a family member is ill. I suggest that you keep an open mind about medication. While it doesn’t need to be the first course of treatment, it can definitely be a helpful tool in treatment. Ask your doctor for a psychotherapist referral as individual psychotherapy can be very effective. Often, a combination of medication and psychotherapy can be effective in treating depression and anxiety.

In order to experience some change in your life and find happiness you will need to take some action, even if you don’t want to, and even if it’s a small one – like talking to your parents about how hopeless you feel. You can do it. It sounds to me like what you’re experiencing isn’t really “you” but is mental illness clouding your thoughts and feelings. You can have more satisfaction and joy in living than what you’re experiencing.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Ask A Therapist: I Think My Girlfriend Is About To Break Up With Me

Q: I think my girlfriend is about to break up with me, because there were these girls she didn’t want me to hang out with but I did, because I was mad at her for cheating on me, which she told me about a long time ago and was open about, so I decided to have secrets of my own, which I know was a horrible idea. Well we had this big fight where she wanted me to tell her everything, and I did for the most part, leaving out one time where I had this party and invited this girl over to my house. She just found out yesterday and is really upset, and I don’t know what to do. For some reason, I’ve lied to her a lot, because I don’t want to get in trouble, and I know that if I’m honest she’ll accept it and everything will be okay, but for some reason I can’t get it through my thick skull. I keep messing up time after time. I don’t want to lose her because she understands me and is the best thing to happen to me. I don’t know what to do, I slept all day today just because I didn’t know what to do. I really don’t want to lose her and I feel so bad for making her feel horrible, and when we were talking and she was crying I really felt bad about it and hated seeing her cry but I still felt sort of detached for some reason. I don’t know why I feel detached sometimes but I would really like to not feel that way. For some reason I think subconsciously I like to feel miserable, because otherwise I don’t know why I do the things I do. Sometimes before I do or say anything I think to myself “this is not a good idea” but then I do it anyway.  I really don’t want to lose her, I’ve been through so much with her, more than anybody. shes my best friend and my confidant and shes always been there for her. I just want to be normal, and not lose the most important person in my life.

A: Thanks for writing in for help with your relationship. Whether or not she breaks up with you, it’s important for you to get to the bottom of you why you continue to do things, like lie and cheat, that you know aren’t a good idea. Frequently, relationship sabotage has roots in past hurts. Is there anything in your relationship or family history that might be emotionally driving your pattern of pushing your girlfriend away? Your emotional detachment to her sadness also suggests that there may be something that is unresolved for you in close relationships.  I suggest that you get a therapist and explore what’s driving this pattern so if your girlfriend stays with you, you can learn how to maintain closeness and if she breaks up with you, you can prevent this pattern in future relationships. Also, consider reading the book “Getting the Love You Want: A Guide For Couples” by Dr. Harville Hendrix to help you start understanding the deeper patterns that may be getting in the way of your love relationship.

Take good care of yourself and your relationships!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Ask A Therapist: How Do I Disengage From My Ex?

Q: I was with my ex girlfriend for a year and half.  A few months before our breakup she moved a few states away and we tried to maintain a long distance relationship.  I did not go with her, because I was nearly finished with college.  At the time it seemed like a spur of the moment decision on her part to leave the area, but she really wanted to move out.  When she was away, we talked about moving in together and other promising things about our future with one another.  Ultimately, she met someone out there and left me for him.  I was angry and upset and we talked about the situation at length. She said didn’t want to be with one person for the rest of her life.  I told her we should stop talking and said maybe we could be friends down the line.  A couple of months passed and she contacted me telling me heart felt things and insulting her own actions in regards to how we split.  I was excited to hear from her, but I told her it wasn’t a good idea for us to be talking to one another being that I still had feelings and she was still with her new boyfriend.  But, to my fault, I ended up contacted her a few times; sending casual “hi, what’s up?” emails.  She came back home to visit for two weeks and we ended up hanging out a lot.  She told me she still loved me and we were intimate and sexual with one another.  Emotionally though she seemed very back and forth about me and her current boyfriend.  Also she seemed guilty one moment for hanging out with me and then was alright about it the next.  Obviously she is confused and giving off mixed signals, and I feel like I’m being led on.  We have talked openly about the situation before but didn’t really come to a conclusion.  She told me she is uncertain if she is going to continue living there or if she is going to live back in this area.  Either way, I know this situation isn’t healthy for me and I should definitely disengage from it.  But I don’t know what I should or shouldn’t say or if I should even say anything at all and just walk away from it.  Thanks for your help.

A: Thanks for your email. Letting go of a past love relationship can be very difficult, especially when you felt a strong emotional and sexual attachment. I’m glad that you can see that holding on to this relationship isn’t good for you and that it’s time to take responsibility to change.

The underlying question for you to answer is why you are reaching out to and trying to engage in a relationship with a woman who moved away from you, found another boyfriend, clearly states that she doesn’t want to be with one person, and is willing to cheat on her current boyfriend with you. Are you afraid you won’t find someone else to love you? Are you trying to get her to choose you over her current boyfriend?

She isn’t the only one who’s confused and sending mixed signals. You have both sent mixed signals to each other. From what you’ve described, you aren’t far enough down the the road to “be friends” without becoming intimate, so I suggest that you set strong “no-contact” boundaries with your ex and stick with them. No contact means no contact. It’s time to start spending your time developing yourself and seeking a relationship with a woman who wants to be in a committed relationship with you, instead of holding on to an unhealthy past.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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