January 7, 2019 at 4:25 pm #272925
I’m unsure as to where to put my entry, and I apologise in advance if I misplaced it. Additionally, I apologise if my text is not very coherent, I try to keep it down to a minimum, but there is a lot that I have to get out of my system.
I feel like I have a handful of loose ends and I feel at a loss with myself. I think I know what my main “problems” are: my self esteem is not very well developed, I used to be overweight throughout my youth and early adulthood and thus did not feel very comfortable in my body, I tend to live in the past, I have difficulties setting boundaries, I tend to care more about other’s well being than my own and I have tendencies to overanalyse most things. Additionally, I’m prone to holding grudges and I’m really bad at forgiving, I have difficulties managing my anger / impulses. In general, I am a very anxious person, I am afraid of losing people. And, nowadays, I really dislike being alone though I used to enjoy it till I went away for my master studies.
Above all, I often feel like I don’t know my self (let alone my “worth”): I often think about myself and things I do and wonder if that is who I genuinely am or if I “established” certain traits to make people like me (e.g. always giving a hand when I see others struggling in any way). For a long time, I suspected that a lot of my niceness came from being overweight and feeling like that was a big flaw I needed to counterbalance by being “good”. However, I also remember the story that I almost was not allowed to go to school early (if you want to be schooled at five you have to take some kind of test in Germany to see if you’re ready) because I spent more time helping other kids solving their test than doing my own. So, maybe being nice was not just my way of making up for being fat. But I know for sure that a lot of my emotional instability must have originated in those days. I started cutting when I was about 13 or 14 and I only managed to let go of that coping mechanism about 6 months ago (I am 29 now). In general, I guess that I don’t like myself very much.
At the moment, I am struggling with writing my master’s thesis and that does not go very well either; I have difficulties focusing on the project, I cannot decide for a subject; at the same time I avoid reaching out to my professor for help. I know this behaviour from my bachelor, though I did not waste that much time back then. I think my hesitation to dedicate myself to this thesis is partly because I am afraid of failing (meaning: not getting a good grade, which is, deep down, what I really want because I did not have as much academic success at the university I did my master studies at as I had at my old university) and partly because I am afraid of what comes after, the great unknown. Because, surprise, I do not know what I am going to do afterwards.
In general, the time during my master studies was tough – the city I lived in was far away from home and I did not know anybody there – which was what I wanted when I started because I know that I do not make friends easily and I know that I have to push myself out of my comfort zone. That was the same reason for taking a gap year and choosing the university I did my bachelor studies at. But this time, it did not work out well. I did not connect with the university because it was an academic dumpster, I did not enjoy what was taught there which resulted in mediocre grades. I did not have many friends at university (I managed to find some towards the end of my studies, but they moved away shortly after), the people I lived with were not my friends though I thought so for the longest time, at least with the last two roommates, a boy and a girl, both in their mid-twenties. In the end, both were only interested in what I had to give: listening to their problems, helping them with their problems, taking care of her dog when she worked/ went out, keeping the flat clean, cooking, that stuff. (Though they would never admit it and they did not see it like that, for sure.) He had to leave in December 2017 because he had a serious drug issue, but the one following him was also an addict and not any better company. I felt very alone, no, lonely during this time and as a result (also of lacking “outsider’s” input for most of the time, which is something I kind of rely too much on when I think about it), I spiralled into a severe depression (I’ve known bouts of depression for a long time, but the summer of 2017 was worse than everything I’d known before; I pondered suicide a lot, I stopped eating for days etc., I cut, I smoked a lot of weed, I drew back from my family) because, through it all, what I thought was: Must be my fault, I have the wrong perspective on this situation, I am weird, I expect too much, it is not them, it is me. During that time I also got to know a guy via my roommate whom I lend money to (I had no romantic feelings for him, but I liked him and enjoyed his company because we were so unalike and still connected), no need to say that he did not give it back and I have not heard from him since; funny enough that he is the only one I am not holding a grudge against because he was and probably still is a junkie. It is not an excuse in itself, but I know that he is damaged and I also know that he will suffer from knowing how he treated me if he ever becomes clean.
Once I realised that I had no one to rely on but myself, I worked on taking up better habits (practicing yoga, doing exercise) and because I did not like being in the flat, I tried to escape into the woods / to the beach as often as I could and I just walked a lot. Eventually, I managed to lose 40 pounds by the time fall came. Last year, I moved back home (to focus on the thesis which is not happening), I managed to lose some more pounds, to stay active, I try to meditate regularly and I try so hard to be better, but I often feel like I’m failing, especially because I still have trouble eating from time to time and still struggle with depressive episodes.
I know that I should be happier and more optimistic (after all, nothing bad happened to me, right?) because I do have a supportive and loving family and inner circle, but I know that those years just messed me up more. They made me more vulnerable and more sensitive and I try to hide this because I do not want to be perceived as weak (though I KNOW that my closest friends know, or at least can sense, how badly that time affected me and I know that they do not hold this against me, at least I hope). However, those experiences hold me back from reaching out to them because I think I already burdened them enough with that stuff, with my emotional inadequacy as such. I remember that I wrote letters in 2017 to some of my closest friends to try to explain what I was going through; one of them did not respond, we only talked about it when I visited her some time after and she said something along the lines that she had not recognised me in the letter and that she had thrown it away shortly after – I felt disappointed because I know that I was there for her in many situations when she needed help and I feel that this thought often nudges at me and that I feel not as close to her as I did before. But I know that I should not let this friendship go just because I feel that she did not support me the way I would have needed it because – well, who am I to be angry at her for this? I know that I would have answered if I had gotten such a letter from any of my friends, but that’s me.
Phew. I am not sure what I want from you poor people who read this, but if you do read it, I thank you and if you have some insights or opinions to share, please feel free to do so.January 7, 2019 at 7:15 pm #272943
You said you are an anxious person with anger management issues and bouts of depression who works on self management by meditating, yoga, walks in the woods, exercising and the such.
You are dealing with several things in life that is causing you more anxiety such as your friend disappointing you.
My observation from what you shared is that you have this life long issue of anxiety prone to depression. The friend issue is just a symptom of you trying to deal with life’s stresses.
You can continue to work on yourself using the tools you are already using, i.e. meditation, exercise and the like.
You may want to consider supplementing that with therapy to learn more coping skills and approaches.
MarkJanuary 8, 2019 at 6:15 pm #273257
You’re one of those people who I like to call the ‘older sibling’ type. From the time that you were a child, it was in your nature to attempt to assist others who were struggling with something. You like to help people. Even now, it didn’t seemed to have changed much, just that your depression makes it harder to focus on other people. You also seem to the independent type, rarely relying on others for assistant in your problems. After all, you struggle with the image of being a strong person as ‘weak’ is such a terrible label to you. But the more you enforced that image of supportive, but independent friend/family member, the more people will feel its okay to rely on you, especially when you don’t say no.
Also, you rarely ask for help. Case in point, you didn’t ask for the help of your professor whose job is it to help you find answers to your questions. But unless you ask people for help and tell them exactly how to help you, they won’t know how to actually do anything for you. They are not mind reader nor are you. What you assume you know about them and what they know about you might not entirely be on point. And as a person who rarely lets people see your vulnerability, they probably aren’t acquainted with the fact that you too need emotional support from time to time. Even if you have shouldered your friends’ emotional needs, you cannot expect that in return without actually telling them. You need to ask for things from people, you can’t expect them to just sense something is wrong and do something. Not all people are good at being supportive even when a friend is clearly going through a tough time. Even the ones who have emotional intelligence lack the correct directions to help others in their time of needs. Give them that direction and if they don’t think they can provide it, then ask for something that they can do.
People are not mind reader so you have to start telling them that you have depression, that you are a human with a vulnerable side, that you need help and what they can do for you. It will be difficult since you rarely let yourself rely on others, but it’s time to learn how to let others help you. After all, relationships is about give and take so that one person does not have to shoulder all the emotional burden while the other is just relying on the other for emotional support. That is imbalance and will gradually sow resentment.
Good luck.January 10, 2019 at 4:04 pm #273731
Thanks to you two for your answers and input! I guess I’ve known, or rather felt, for some time that I should try therapy to work on my problems more efficiently. So thank you, Mark, for suggesting to take this step!
Your analysis is quite accurate, GL, I dislike the label “weak”, “sensitive” as well. I want to be strong and supportive, most of all, I want to rely on myself rather than others – because I know if I do I easily overdo it. I’m the youngest of three and I often could rely on my sister for doing things I didn’t feel capable of, mostly without having to ask for it. We’ve always been very close and open with each other; in a way, I did not need to express my needs because we always just kind of knew. But that is also where this fear of being too dependent (which, for me, equals “weak”) comes from because I know that there was a time when I heavily relied on my sister (or any other close person) to do stuff and I ceased to do things on my own. But there’ll be moments when I cannot rely on people close to me (be it because we’re far away from each other, or just kept up in our own businesses etc. etc.), so I’m desperate to be(come) independent. Additionally, I admit that I used the independence “card” to cut people off when I felt hurt, giving the typical “I don’t need you” speech.
I also remember times when I did express my needs and people ignored it, or told me that I was needy, dramatic or annoying because of telling them how I felt. They didn’t understand and they made sure I knew – being the insecure person I am I took this as a truth about me. I guess that’s also why I started to focus on giving people the chance to just be themselves rather than putting my needs first or setting any boundaries. Increasingly, I just closed up because I didn’t see the point of exposing myself just to take another hit, but stayed “available” for others. I still manage(d) to open up to people, but I never shook off these notions of having been labelled “needy”, “clingy” or “annoying” – so, there’s the other part of my will to demonstrate independence.
Of course you’re right in saying that people, we, cannot read minds, but, most of the time, I’ve experienced being pretty on point in doing so when dealing with people around me and I just forget that this is not something I can expect of others. It is true that I have to work on this (on the whole “expectation” stuff as such) and that I have to ask for help / reach out to others. As a matter of fact I wrote my professor this morning, telling her about where I want to go with my thesis and my ideas, also asking for her guidance in those areas that I have been struggling with. So, I took a small step in the right direction.
Thanks again for dealing with this and giving advice!January 11, 2019 at 7:52 am #273835
You shared that you are “a very anxious person”, and angry, “prone to holding grudges”, that you have “difficulties managing my anger/impulses”. You are nice, but “suspected that a lot of my niceness came from being overweight and feeling like that was a big flaw I needed counterbalance by being ‘good'”, but you are not sure, “maybe being nice was not just my way of making up for being fat”.
At 13 or 14 you started cutting, something you stopped about fifteen years later, at 28 or 29. At 29, currently, you are struggling with writing your master’s thesis. You experienced severe depression during the summer of 2017, “worse than everything I’d known before”. You “pondered suicide a lot, I stopped eating for days etc., I cut, I smoked a lot of weed”. Next, you lost 40 pounds before fall, moved back home “to focus on the thesis which is not happening”, lost more weight, but still “struggle with depressive episodes”.
My understanding at this point (I will use quotes in your posts not related to your childhood to express what I believe your childhood was like): as a child you “felt very alone, no, lonely”, you “had no one to rely on”, and that you felt that you “already burdened them enough” (them, being your parents).
You naturally felt needy of your parents, all children do, but like the friend who “had not recognized (you) in the letter and.. had thrown it away”, your parents also did not recognize you as a child, left you alone with your intense feelings, so you didn’t know then, or now, who you are.
As children we need our parents as our mirrors, this is how we get a sense of who we are, but when alone, lonely, isolated, we are overwhelmed with our feelings, we don’t learn who we are and we end up confused, and in pain.
For example, if your parents saw you being sad, if they said: “you look sad”, then you have a name for what you feel. You know that you are sad. Next, they ask you what happened, you tell them, and they can help you solve the problem you encountered that day.
But if they say nothing and you are sad, feeling worse and worse day after day, and they still say nothing, it is like you don’t exist. And learning how to solve the problem of the day doesn’t happen.
Does this make sense to you?