Feel like I have to start life over

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    … and I’m trying to view this as a positive thing. For the past seven years or so, and possibly a lot longer than that, I’ve viewed very little positively.

    I joined the Army in my early twenties for complex reasons, but the most important reasons, to my mind, were that it was the only way I could see to get away from my severely overprotective and negative family, yet continue to support them financially, and it was a way to prove to myself that I could do anything, because I’d spent my whole life up to that point hearing that there was nothing I could do.

    Well, to shorten that long story, it was a much more traumatic experience than I could have imagined, and like almost everyone else, I started smoking to ‘cope,’ to deal with the PTSD and the pain and to have an excuse to withdraw from people and life.

    Ten days ago, I decided to stop smoking. Well, vaping, actually, because I switched to that for the difference in price and reduction of chemicals, but it’s the same difference, more or less — it’s still nicotine dependency. So I bought some nicotine gum. Then I read a popular website where the belief is that cold turkey is the only way, and a website that went on about the dangers of nicotine replacement therapies, and about how the withdrawals don’t start until you’ve already damaged yourself further with the NRTs, and when they do start, you go right back and smoke. It seems, in my experience, at least, to be true, because the last ten days have been completely nicotine free for me.

    They have also been filled with pain, confusion, emotional strain and severe, horrific anxiety, which is how I found this site. Trying to find ways to cope with the hamster wheel in my head.

    Since I quit, my legs and feet have taken on a lot of edema, causing joint pain. My elbows hurt. I have chest pain, stomach pain.

    It’s true that it could be nothing, it could be my body detoxing, my veins no longer constricted by nicotine, my body trying to figure out how to process food and vitamins and water the same way my brain is trying to figure out how to process oxygen and emotion.

    But anxiety keeps telling me it could also be heart disease, heart failure, COPD, cancer… these ideas spin in my head constantly, they leave me in a frozen, horrified, sad state.

    I’m not here to prod for medical advice or reassurance. I can’t afford a doctor, really, because I’m back from the Army, now, taking care of the negative, dependent family (both parents, a dying uncle, a younger sister, my own small child), and we are broke, broke broke. But I’m going anyway, tomorrow.

    And anxiety is trying to tell me that even if he doesn’t find anything, it will be because he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

    I go back and forth between ‘you’ll feel better when you find out it’s nothing, or even when you know what it is, exactly, if it’s bad,’ and ‘if he says you’re fine, you won’t believe him, and if he says you’re dying, you don’t have any money, so you can’t have surgery, nothing, all you can do is die.’

    Aside from this, out from under the veil of nicotine, now, I am finding that I had completely forgotten about 90% of my emotions and … well, just everything inside of me, really. I have been shut down for years, blind, hiding, and now I am so confused about what it means to be human, and what’s normal, and how to relate, and whether things out here can be good or whether it’s all raw pain or what positive, pretty things to believe and which ones I should laugh at, scorn, mock to avoid being a naive idiot taken in by a bad world out to take advantage of me.

    When you’re addicted to anything, even something as small as a nicotine ‘habit,’ the idea of a ‘recovering addict’ seems abstract and ridiculous. What’s to recover from? I’m fine! Things are great this way!

    But you’re wrong, and when you quit, you realize how wrong you were, but at the same time, the only thing I miss about the whole thing, honestly, is the numbness.
    It was, really, a seven-year-long death in which I felt things very, very dimly, if at all, and looking back, that seems like a relief. But I keep reminding myself that if I’m not already dying from all these things anxiety assures me I am dying from, I would be a few years down the road.

    The trade-off for the numbness is facing real death, maybe as much as fourteen, even twenty years sooner than I otherwise would.

    But the thing is — what really makes me want to sort things out and understand myself and life again — I’m going to die anyway. Someday. I don’t know why, but I feel like, central to this struggle somehow, is the concept of mortality, and feeling like I’ve wasted my entire life to this point, it has been meaningless, and I feel like it will continue to be hard, and bad, and meaningless.

    And I don’t know how to make that better.

    And I don’t know how to accept it if I can’t.

    I just can’t seem to figure out how to live, at all, but I’m afraid of death.


    Adding on… I always do this, thinking of things later.

    I keep thinking the reason I’m emotionally a complete and total wreck, crying for what feels like no reason, sometimes for days at a time, is because I’m in some sort of mourning for the years I’ve lost, for everything I shut out, for what feels like lost humanity I now have to figure out how to navigate again.

    But here’s the thing — I’ve suffered from severe depression since I was ten years old, and one of my most effective coping mechanisms was to remind myself that emotions are all brain chemistry. That they don’t matter. That they’re best off ignored completely, taken for the meaningless chemical state they are, even if they are responses to what we think and what happens to us. Essentially, everything subjective is ridiculous, and only fact matters.

    It’s very inhuman, I know, but it kept me from giving in to suicidal ideas.

    If emotions don’t matter, they can’t drive me to end my life.

    I seem to be of two (or more) minds about everything. Emotions don’t matter. But now that I’ve regained (and am still regaining) so much of what makes me ‘human,’ I feel … irrational. Emotional. Like the difference between Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk.

    My mind is always racing, zipping back and forth between all my conflicting beliefs.

    I need to figure out who I am.

    I need to find out if I could really make life better — my health, my messed up family situation, a stressful, terrible job, my own mental state.

    I am completely lost, and at square one.

    Maybe it’s a good thing.

    I don’t know.


    N….my goodness!! I just stumbled on tinybuddha by chance this morning and read your 2 posts. You know how you always think that there is no one else in the world that is going through what you’re going through?! Well, after reading…I no longer feel that way. So much of what you’ve said has been in my racing mind for many, many moons. I am so anxious to hear how things work out or at least read another one of your posts.


    Hello N, wow, your posts are really moving and, after reading them, I couldn’t help by trying to reach out to you.. N, you didn’t lose anything , you didn’t lose all those years in your life. Throughout all those “lost” years, everything in your life had a reason; everyday had a meaning. God chose YOU to fulfill his purpose. I don’t know you, but I’m sure that during those years, you have achieved a lot and even if not for yourself, being in the army, you must’ve done a lot of good deeds for others and for your country. God wouldn’t have had put you up to this, if He hadn’t known that YOU were the RIGHT person for the job.

    We all going to die at one point, N. All dies, nothing lives forever. Try to embrace your every day because every day that we live is a blessing from God. I don’t know how old you are (30s? 40s?) Many people don’t get to live as long, N. Yet, you have been given a chance to wake up every morning and start all over. Don’t be ashamed of what you feel. Acknowledge your emotions by setting aside a time of a day that you know you’re going to feel down and let yourself feel. Cry out loud, that helps. Don’t hold it in.

    Develop awareness that this will pass and the next morning the sun will rise again to give you a chance to spend your time on productive and good things in your life. Try to volunteer at a local food pantry, salvation army, or a homeless shelter. Helping others will let you feel needed and will give your life a purpose.

    And it is sometimes a good idea to just trust the flow of life, or if you have God, trust in him. Learn to trust despite all odds, that good things are being worked out for you. Some things we can control and some we can’t.

    All of this has a purpose.

    Stay strong as you have been. After all, you have found this site 🙂




    Well, I went to the doctor on Wednesday. I didn’t really get any answers. He listened to my heart and lungs and said there’s no fluid in the lungs themselves. A few months ago I had an EKG, and he believes that was recent enough that there could be nothing wrong with my heart … I am, of course, not sure whether he knows what he’s doing. At the end of the day, when my legs and feet are swollen and everything hurts, I want to go to the ER and have them run actual tests, do some imaging, find someone who really knows what they’re talking about.

    But he says I should just expect my body to be ‘haywire’ for a while. He has no idea what’s causing the edema. He did draw blood to do a comprehensive metabolic, to see if it could be an imbalance of electrolytes or something of that nature — but then again, he said they could all come back perfectly normal on paper, but still not be “my normal,” meaning they could be the cause and even after the test, we won’t know.

    So I’m going to give it about a month, and if the swelling hasn’t stopped, I guess I’ll go back.

    I wonder about the use of going to the doctor at all. I never seem to find one who can tell me anything that makes sense.

    There is so much on my mind recently that I’m having trouble figuring out what’s worth writing about here. For two days, I did a pretty good job staying positive and being happy. Then there was a meeting at work in which more work was piled on me, work that will potentially cause conflict between me and a coworker. Conflict I’ve been avoiding by doing both our jobs and allowing her to spend the whole shift sitting and reading a novel, because she’s one of those people… if I ask her to do something, she’ll do it wrong so I won’t ask her to do it again.

    I tell myself the work stuff doesn’t matter. That’s how I’m trying to cope with that. Work as hard as I can, do my best, and then whatever happens, I can tell myself it’s okay, it’s fine, what do they expect of me anyway? But the thing is, that works until I’m sitting around thinking about the physical and emotional wear on me, the ways this is contributing to poor health I can’t remedy fast enough to counteract it, and then that doesn’t help as much.

    So anyway, today I’m not doing very well at staying positive. I don’t know whether it’s the PMDD I suffer from making areas of my brain not function correctly, making it impossible to feel happy, or just the objective issues in my life, work among others, such as my younger sister’s $1300 dentist bill I’m not sure how to pay and my family’s unhappiness at the situation we’re in and my inability to make enough money to get us out of it (small trailer, inadequate food, inadequate everything).

    Today, my thoughts are between:

    I’m ashamed of how hard it is for me to handle work in a happy way/This job is so hard and unreasonable that no one there can, everyone’s miserable and looking for something else.

    I need to have a more Can Do attitude and try my best/I can’t possibly complete everything they expect of me in the time I have with no help, and they don’t take I’m Doing The Best I Can as an acceptable answer.

    So many dual thoughts like this, I think today’s goal should just be to forget the physical pain, which I can’t help and will worry about until it makes me even sicker, and try to focus on getting my mind quiet and organized, try my best, even if it is PMDD, to be as positive, or at least as calm and borderline pleasant, as possible (the anger, just boiling, is really terrible).

    I don’t know. I suppose it’s obvious I’m still very, very confused and conflicted.

    Thank you for your kind replies, C and Madonnika.

    C, I hope what you’re going through eases up on you.


    I tried to communicate effectively today, which has always been hard for me. My father is bipolar, my mother is simply mean, and whenever I said something as a child that wasn’t acceptable to them, or made a noise they didn’t feel like hearing at the time, I got hit. I learned not to speak up for myself. I withdrew. I have a hard time making eye contact, or even feeling like I deserve to inhabit the space I stand in and the air I breathe.

    So today, because I want to make a change, I took my frustration to work and sat down with my boss and said, ‘Okay, I know I have poor communication skills, but I’m working on it. I’m frustrated because ______, _______, and ______.’

    She told me to relax, do the best I can and not stress out about getting everything done. She told me she’d heard from others that my lack of anything to say about anything had caused problems for them, and they thought I didn’t care about anything or was just an angry person (which I assumed, dimly, through my nicotine haze anyway).

    For about an hour, I felt fantastic. I did it. I talked to someone about my frustrations. I was honest, I was vulnerable, I trusted another human being to hear me out and respond with kindness and understanding.

    And then I realized — I still have too much work piled on me, none of my concerns were addressed in a way that actually gets the work done, and I feel stupid. I feel incredibly stupid. I feel like I’ve traded in the smart, cynical person I was before who saw the nastiness in everyone and the ways in which all they wanted to do was take advantage of me, for some idiot who says, ‘I’m flawed, and I know I need to work on it and try to improve the way I’m viewing this impossible situation I’m in, because I can’t actually cause any positive changes externally whatsoever.’

    So I end tonight feeling depressed and angry, and as if I’ve completely betrayed myself, and less like I know who I am or who I want to be than ever.


    N – good morning. You communicate very effectively, so don’t ever doubt that about yourself. First thing I did after reading the last two was to Google PMDD. Did someone diagnose you with that? The reason that I ask is because that is EXACTLY what I think is causing most of your strife!!!

    One excerpt from my google search said:
    Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe, sometimes disabling extension of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Although regular PMS and PMDD both have physical and emotional symptoms, PMDD causes extreme mood shifts that can disrupt your work and damage your relationships. In PMDD, however, at least one of these emotional and behavioral symptoms stands out:
    •Sadness or hopelessness
    •Anxiety or tension
    •Extreme moodiness
    •Marked irritability or anger

    I’m no doctor, but I would bet my bottom dollar that you should be telling your gynecologist (preferably) or your doctor to begin treating you for this immediately. In fact, I was going to suggest antidepressants before I even read about the PMDD…and it is the first treatment listed for it! I take wellbutrin XL, 300 mg a day…and it doesn’t make me happy…but it keeps me “level”, not suicidal, and it helps with the racing thoughts. I’ve tried to live without it, but I absolutely cannot. In addition, hormones are a major factor in a woman’s life and can totally control just about every physical and emotional thing in our bodies! My final thought is that if you can get the physical pain and symptoms under control, it will allow you to focus on the mental issues.

    Maybe you already considered all of this or are taking drugs now, but if not – this could be the whole basis for your suffering.

    I digress for the moment…to give you time to read and respond. I’d like to see where you’re at with all of this. (was that proper English??? I don’t think so. lol)



    C, I am aware that PMDD is a root cause of many of my problems, as I’ve been suffering from it since I was ten. I’ve made the choice not to take pills, but (with the confidence I gained from quitting smoking cold turkey that such things are possible) to turn it around and, if I can’t stop suffering from it myself, to change my thinking and behavior in such a way that no one outside of myself has to feel its negative effects.

    The basis for my suffering is definitely depression, and feelings of hopelessness which continually lead me into ruts in which I can’t accomplish anything or even see how it could be done.

    So the reason for my original post was to explore my confusion due to coming out of this, to having more emotions than I had before due to quitting smoking — another reason I don’t want to take drugs, it was the nicotine that so twisted my brain that I’m having to learn how to live with my own consciousness.

    I’m trying, now, to be positive and change my thinking, so the root of my problems is no longer my depression (thank whatever deity is appropriate (or not)), but my confusion in the aftermath of that depression (and, yes, my fear of falling into it again).

    I have a lot of questions now, about how to become a really positive, stable person (or whether stability in positivity is even possible). I am constantly having to remind myself to go easy on myself, try to love myself and remember that I’m no good to myself or anyone else if I’m wallowing in pointless, subjective self-loathing rather than looking objectively at the present and what I can do to improve it, and, in so doing, improve the future. I imagine (those words are important, here) that I sound very mature and stable already, like I’ve actually already answered all my questions, but the truth is, I’m only doing my best and trying to go with what feels right.

    Inside, most of the time, I am still a mess. I wonder if all I can achieve is to not let anyone know that. I wonder if it’s because of physical reasons, the results of nicotine having left my body, or whether emotionalism exists outside chemicals at all (factually, I don’t see how, but does THAT matter?). I’m riddled with questions and confusion, and I know I’m the only one who can decide on the answers, so I’m trying as hard as I can to find ones that satisfy me and will serve my life in a positive, constructive way.

    I looked (again) at Buddhism, which did help in ways, but when I got to the parts that feel (to me) more like every other religion, condemning you to a life spent tethered to the things you did in the past, ensuring that one day you’ll be horribly judged, I just felt worse. I had to remind myself that I believe those parts to be fantasy, metaphor, not fact.

    What I keep coming back to, trying to center myself on, are these things, cobbled together from systems of belief and thoughts I’ve had and found:

    I need to improve my self-esteem until it is real self-esteem, dependent on no external sources. Until I really do love myself, stand up for myself, believe in myself, and can therefore do those things for others effectively and routinely.

    Having done this, I can possibly maintain a high level of emotional intelligence that would allow me to control my emotions in a way that would serve my life and the lives of those around me, so that my depression never gets so out of control that it hurts me and others again. So that I might actually be able to live in real happiness for more than a moment.

    To find that happiness, I need to always strive for something helpful and productive, so that I have something to feel good about. I also need to remember that there is no ‘end’ at which I will suddenly ‘find’ happiness, the point is to be happy now, just because I’m alive and working towards good things and care about myself and other people.

    This all sounds well and good, until my brain starts in again. If I’m relaxed, I’ll make mistakes. I’ll forget things. I won’t perform as well. The stress is necessary, you can’t be happy all the time.

    Then I’m afraid to be happy, but at the same time, in seeking to eliminate the negative emotions, I am now marginally afraid of feeling them at all, because it makes sense that they’re pointless.

    But it seems as if some of them tether me to earth and keep me connected to other people, but maybe that’s just because the only people I know have always BEEN negative.

    And then I realize that my quest for self-improvement may just be a whole new way for me to be too hard on myself.

    I saw some interesting Eckhardt Tolle quotes here, so I looked him up, and I wish I hadn’t, to be honest.

    Both of us twenty-nine at the time of a search for a solution that would eliminate emotional suffering, but I feel (please don’t take this as a judgment on your own personal beliefs, I could always be wrong) as if what he’s found is a kind of… nihilistic enlightenment that could be the source of a lot of power for anyone with less than decent intentions. Reading about it, working overnight and accidentally experiencing it for myself, I realized: his ‘stillness’ is a more intense version of my old coping mechanism for dealing with my inability to be happy. I would tell myself nothing matters. Nothing is really real. I don’t have to care about anything at all.

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding his methods (I don’t think so, but I could be), but I see no joy in that.

    The silver lining, there, is that it makes me feel a little better about my confusion in my own journey to be a better person.


    Smoking is not your root problem it seems – but a coping mech you became addicted to. Start out one day at a time by attending a 12 step cessation program.

    Where are you hormonally? Are you younger – older – etc. Hormones create a disturbance for many a people. I had pmdd and then severe perimenopause for yrs.

    Your living situation is stressful. If you attend a CODA (codapendent) no more 12 step it may help as well. Your fam is very dependent on you – and it is destroying your quality of life. If you can get to some meetings, it will help you to get back to a rational, enjoyable life. But you have to attend regularly and work the program.

    Do any programs exist (Wounded Warior) in your line of service to help you adjust?

    • This reply was modified 9 years, 1 month ago by gen.
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