Posted by fxckfeelings on January 13, 2011Share This Post
When faced with scary health issues, from strange lumps to bad thoughts, people often avoid treatments that hurt, particularly after long-standing symptoms have sapped their hope, fed self-hate, or fostered bad habits. They deny anything’s wrong, or they insist that resistance is futile, but either way, if you criticize them for not helping themselves, they will readily agree, hate themselves more, and burrow deeper into their holes and further away from treatment. Before they can find the way out, they need to reconnect with their real strength. Only by recognizing their actual achievements and their past and potential courage, can they face what ails them. The pain may continue, but not its power to intimidate and paralyze.
Please Note: In responding to suicidal goals, as in the case below, we do not presume to offer emotional support. If you’re at risk of hurting yourself, you should, of course, go to an emergency room, discuss your state of mind with a professional, and decide how much support you need in order to remain safe. In most of the cases we encounter, however, our correspondents are not simply suicidal; they are familiar with treatment and have come to believe that it won’t help. Often, we must agree that their feelings are unlikely to change in the near future. What we try to demonstrate, however, is that negative feelings create falsely negative and hopeless beliefs and that there are ways to recover your strength and perspective, even when the pain won’t let up.
I’m considering suicide. My life is a joke. I am in my late 30s and female and I have never had a relationship with a man. Several men have used me for sex and at least 2 of them begged me not to tell any of their friends they’d had sex with me. I’ve never been loved, been held, been listened to, been cherished. I’ve just been used like a toilet. On the outside I’m pretty. I can hold a conversation and I have a reasonable number of friends. But I hate myself and I don’t feel good enough. I was abandoned by both parents and I was raped for the first time when I was about 2-years-old. It’s like men I meet can smell the self-hate on me and they treat me accordingly. I do not have even one person in my life who cares about me or who I could trust. My friends are there to go for drinks or dinner with me if they can find nothing better to do but they are not there to be supportive ever, in any way. What is the point of me continuing to live?
It’s horrible to feel that you don’t belong to the human race, except for your ability to satisfy the needs and cravings of jerks.
Remember, however, that those feelings almost always beget more falsely negative beliefs, particularly about relationships. Whether or not you’ve done anything wrong, you feel infinitely rejectable, comfortable in the company of jerks, and anxious around people you respect, since you know they will reject you for your anxiety and fundamental worthlessness.
You distrust other people, but it’s your feelings and instincts that are far more suspect. In turn, you can’t trust your feelings to guide you in relationships (even more so than the rest of us).
If you do, you will seek out jerks and excoriate yourself after real or imagined rejection, and of course, life will appear meaningless and full of relationships that always end badly. Being needy strips away the friendship filters that would otherwise keep jerks away and it makes non-jerks look like jerks or, even worse, like people whose rejection would be devastating.
For instance, after starting to trust a potential friend, you might be so hurt after noticing that she was slow to answer your calls, even if that dearth of calls was due to a busy work week or broken phone, that you would feel you could never trust her again and would feel like hurting yourself. It’s hard to make real friends when your own sensitivity is such an enemy.
Don’t give up, because there are other ways to build a more rational, positive set of beliefs that can protect you from dark feelings, even if they can’t ease the pain. They don’t require you to risk a relationship; all you need do is assess your own response to the hardships of your life, using reasonable criteria for judging your effort and the difficulty of your accomplishment.
If, while bearing the scars of neglect and abuse, you’ve picked up skills, earned a living, and treated people decently, you’ve accomplished something you have good reason to admire. Forget whether anyone else knows, understands, or respects what you’ve done. Then forget the fact that you continue to hurt like hell, (when you’re not feeling numb). You know what you know, and it’s your opinion that matters most.
If only therapy could help you make better choices and avoid negative distortions, or at least give you a sense of being respected and valued; but it often doesn’t work that way. Instead, relationships with therapists often fall victim to the same false beliefs that ruin potential friendships.
Because of your age, I’m assuming you’ve tried therapy and it hasn’t worked. You aren’t alone in having that experience, but it is possible to see beyond it. Don’t be surprised if a relationship- or emotion-focused therapy or support group hasn’t helped. Don’t give up hope, because there are other approaches that can help you grow stronger.
DBT (dialectic behavioral therapy) is a kind of cognitive-behavior therapy that can help you maintain your perspective and fight negative thoughts and actions. It’s taught as a course, and discourages participants from sharing strong feelings or engaging in intense relationships. As such, it doesn’t offer relief from loneliness, but it does provide ideas and mental exercises to root your self-worth in your own values and actions and thus protect your beliefs from distortions caused by fear, sensitivity, and loneliness.
When emptiness consumes you, it’s almost impossible not to feel like a disposable loser. If, however, you can make an honest assessment of your accomplishments, and acknowledge that there has also been triumph and survival despite tragedy, you will get stronger and find reasons to live and respect yourself.
If you review the things that you’ve done without the approval or involvement of others, jerks and not, you’ll see that you’re not just a member of the human race, but an exceptional one.
“I’ve never found a friend and often feel that life has no meaning; but abuse left me determined to be independent, treat people with respect, and be a good person, and I value what I’ve accomplished, regardless of self-hate or loneliness. I will build self-respect on my own actions, and hope that someday I will have the strength and luck to find a friend.”
My mother only has one sibling, but I’ve never met my uncle because he’s had severe agoraphobia for the past 30 years. My mother says that it started right before he graduated high school (he stopped talking to his friends, stayed in his room more, washed his hands compulsively, etc.), and it’s been going on since then. The only person he regularly communicates with is my grandmother, who also supports him, and while he sometimes talks to my mother, he doesn’t let her see him, and, like I said, I’ve never met him because if I’m in the house he won’t talk to anyone or leave his room (this is how he treats anyone who isn’t my mother or grandmother). My mother says that my uncle’s too macho to admit he has a problem, and “too Italian” to ever leave his mother’s house. I guess my problem is that my grandmother isn’t in the best health, and I know that nobody else in the family has the resources to take care of my uncle when she’s gone. Plus, I mean, he’s sick, so my goal is to get my uncle some help.
If almost every chronic illness is a test of character, agoraphobia is one of the most challenging. The fear goes far beyond anything you’ve experienced; think of it as a migraine headache where, instead of pain, you’re flooded with fear and the only relief is to hide out.
Yes, there are treatments that can dull the fear and help people recover their lives, but they take effort, they’re not a cure, and, somewhere along the line, they require people to leave their caves and endure some additional anxiety. It’s no wonder many people with severe agoraphobia will accept tranquilizers or use alcohol, but will not stick with any other kind of treatment, particularly if they have to leave home to get it.
So don’t blame your grandma or your uncle or put responsibility on anyone, including yourself, to get help. That bird has flown, leaving much pain and helplessness behind. Respect your grandma for carrying an extra load and your mother for bearing the sorrow of losing her brother.
Now that you’ve given up on helping your uncle directly, however, consider an alternative. Ask yourself whether he would accept behavioral treatment if he had no place to stay. Consult with experts and find out what would be available to him if he were flushed out of his hideout.
Obviously, eviction would make him more anxious in the short run, and might make your grandmother and mother guilty and anxious as well. If you believe there’s a positive alternative, however, encourage them to consider offering it to him. Urge them to trust their idea of what would benefit him in the long run and to ignore their gut response to seeing him in pain.
If they’re ready to push him out, good for him. If not, your mother will encounter this option further down the line, after your grandmother dies and the family can no longer afford to keep her house/his prison.
You’re right to fear for your uncle’s health and your family’s future, but as long as fear imprisons your uncle, you are all, to some degree, stuck.
“I’m sorry my uncle has a painful mental illness and I don’t want to add to his pain, but his current dependence on the family can’t last forever and he might do more for himself if he had less support and more encouragement to man up and get treatment. There are 2 generations ahead of me with responsibility for his care; but if, after learning more, I think they’re overprotecting him, I’ll let them know I respect them for caring for him, I’m concerned about what will become of him when grandma is dead, and I have a plan that might allow him to get stronger, regardless of his fears or urges to disappear.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname