Depression and low self-esteem: How do I love myself?

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    Hello people of all genders, first time using a forum to talk -about myself like this but I guess I just wanted an outlet to address how I’m feeling and hopefully get some advice.

    Some background about myself – I’m a 21 year old male currently doing my honours year at University.  Contrary to the idea that University is ones best time in life, for me it has been the worst.

    The Problem – for a number of years now I’ve been experiencing a lack of emotion and confidence in myself. I chose to close myself of from all social situations and instead submerdged myself in the digital world. But things have taken a much darker turn recently. I have lived these last 2 years at University living in my flat room and hardly ever leaving. I hardly ever attended class but somehow managed to attain decent grades; I was on track for a 2:1.

    However, I was finding it harder and harder to leave my bed and had no energy/tired despite sleeping 14 hours a day. And when I did leave my flat I was having panic attacks; finding it hard to breathe and getting really paranoid about other people judging me. I kept bursting into tears and felt extremely sad and numb all the time. I then started to have suicidal thoughts and urges, telling myself I’m worthless and better off dead. I have also destroyed my body by binge and over eating which doesn’t help my self-esteem. I have lots of friends that are worried about me but I feel no emotion towards them.

    My doctor prescribed me anti depressants, which I haven’t taken yet due to my family wanting me to be home to take them, and have been attending counselling these last few months but have found little success with it.

    As of now I am currently sitting on a train home and typing this. My family are extremely concerned about my safety and convinced me to come home. I have really messed up this term at University with needing extensions on my coursework and planning to defer my exams and dissertation to the end of summer. I’ve lost all sense of personality and enjoy nothing that I used to.

    My question is how do I love myself again? How do I look forward to the future? To start believing that I’m worth something, that I’m worth living? How can I move past this when my inner dialogue is constantly telling me I’m worthless, that I should just kill myself? How do I gain the confidence to start living life, to value friendships and to be able to put myself out there to find a partner?

    Sorry for the long post. I’m hoping someone out there can supply an answer because I sure as hell cannot, thanks for reading.



    Dear Michael:

    Who in real life, early in your life, told you or express to you that you are worthless?

    I am asking because you wrote: “my inner dialogue is constantly telling me I’m worthless”. That voice telling you that is not a voice born out of nowhere.




    Michael, you poor thing. You are not alone.

    OK let’s tackle things one at a time:

    First of all, yes, I would concur you are suffering with depression, and I think the medication you have been prescribed is going to be helpful in resetting your brain, because something has taken you to this dark place. Your family are wise to want you nearby when you at least start the medication. I am presuming you have been prescribed some form of SSRI? Young men have had adverse effects (rarely) and so keeping an eye on you as your body adjusts to it is smart and sensible. Bear in mind it is going to take 6-8 weeks to build up to full efficacy, although you will probably notice to start to feel better after a week initially. Just feeling that you are DOING something to help yourself will help you feel better!

    But longer term, those drugs are only masking the problem. The root cause of all this still needs to be addressed.

    Here’s a big secret: EVERYONE has the same self doubts that you do. Literally everyone. Yes, including the cute girls in the student union bar you never go to anymore, and the guys that seem to have it all including bags of confidence. We ALL have the same doubts! The difference is the way in which you are handling them.

    You have taken yourself deep into the rabbit hole of avoidance, and now we need to find you a way out! The good news, you have hit about as low as you can go. The only way from here is up. The bad news – you are going to have to fight to get there. But fight you will, because every word of your post screams that you want out of this. Am I right?

    To answer your questions directly: loving yourself is such a stupid piece of advice in my humble opinion! How TF do you “love yourself” anyway?! It has such an ambiguous meaning! Try this instead: RESPECT yourself. How do you do that? By overcoming challenges, which will make you feel stronger. Let’s start with the physical, because without your health, you have nothing else anyway. Your tiredness and lack of energy is almost certainly coming from 2 places: your depression, which you are taking care of with meds, and your diet and lack of exercise. So start small: promise yourself as of right now that you are going to start taking better care of yourself. No junk, just proper food. It’s not hard to do. Beans on wholegrain toast with a bit of cheese is a good meal! A bowl of cereal. Anything but crap. Write down what you eat everyday so you can see it in front of you in black and white. Promise yourself you will drink 2 liters of water a day. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Get a pet bottle, drink one before 12pm, and then refill it 3 more times and drink it over 12 hours – one bottle every 4 hours. Totally doable!

    Next, make a second promise to yourself – get out and walk for half an hour every day. Just a walk. Rain or shine. It doesn’t matter where you go, just get out. I GUARANTEE you that doing these two simple things will build up your self-respect and you will start to like yourself again.

    Nail the above two, and then do this: limit your gaming time each day. I know! Ouch! But try it. Set yourself a time limit, and then the rest of the time do something else. Walk some more. Read a book. Go to the cinema. Do SOMETHING – anything – but sit online. Online takes you into a fantasy world of escapism, which is great IF you can find your way back again. If you are suffering with depression and not happy in the real world then guess what? You are not going to WANT to come back and you will bury yourself further  -exactly what is happening with you!

    So where are we? 1) medication 2) diet 3) exercise 4) cutting down on digital time. These things combined are so simple and will already take you more than halfway there.

    Now let’s look at your future. If you do the above, you will already be able to feel better about yourself and your future. So now we need to enjoy the challenges you have overcome and start looking at achievements that will pump you up even more. You should be feeling better or at least motivated enough to now complete your degree. a 2.1 is no small achievement, so imagine how you are going to feel when you get your diploma! Put the steps in place for what you have left that you need to do to get to that point, and aim for one step at a time. Break it all down into nice, easy, achievable goals – even as small as “go buy the textbook I need” or “go to the library”. Write them down and tick them off as you do them.

    Think about what you actually want to do with your life. Do you know? If not, it doesn’t matter. You are 21 years old. You lucky lucky thing! You have your WHOLE LIFE ahead of you to try all these different things and see what sticks with you. Don’t rush into a job for the money. That was a big mistake I made at your age. When you find your passion, you will make money from it because you will be so good at it, it will come easily to you. If you do already know – make new lists of steps for what you need to do to achieve it. One step at a time.

    When you value yourself more by doing all of the above, you will put your own oxygen mask on, and then you can tend to the masks of the people around you – your friendships. As for finding a partner? Don’t look for one! Just keep doing what you are doing. I had given up all hope of ever getting married and having a family, and made peace with that. I took off on a fantastic trip to Thailand, hiking through the jungle back in 2001, by myself. In my hiking group, there was a man who barely spoke English but was cute as hell! We got on really well despite the language barrier. He literally lived on the opposite side of the world to me (Tokyo!). 17 years on? We celebrated our 15 years anniversary last Saturday, have 3 kids and live in California! The LAST thing I expected to come out of the northern Thai jungle was all this! But I wasn’t looking for it and had made peace with myself and my life.

    I know this is a long post, but I am hoping you will see it as nothing less than a roadmap to guide you out of where you are, one step at a time. I nearly killed myself a long time ago. I thank God every day that I didn’t. Because I am living a life now I literally never dreamed could be mine. Follow the roadmap Michael. You WILL get there. Best of luck to you.

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