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Re: Psychotherapy sites

Posted by Adam on November 12, 1999, at 18:23:53

In reply to Re: Psychotherapy sites, posted by Elizabeth on November 12, 1999, at 14:05:16

>B) the nature of my illness (comorbid depression and anxiety disorder) indicated something else.
> Could you elaborate some on (B)? That is precisely what I have (depression + anxiety).
I have suffered (in addition to depression of unknown subtype) from OCD (body dysmorphia, primarily,
though there has been some drift in my symptoms that I won't get into here). I had, as they say,
a "very difficult childhood", where I contended with the death of one parent, "mild" physical
and verbal abuse from another, neglect (of a sort-one was dead) from both. In many ways I raised
myself, and my illnesses grew with me. It was my instinct always to distrust those around me, to
expect rejection (both I think because of my grave anxieties about image and also because I
anticipated getting hurt by my peers because this seemed "normal"). It was, and to an extent
still is, my instinct to withdraw. People, at a certain level, frightened me, so it was natural
to want to avoid my own reflection and avoid those who might react with the same loathing toward
me that I directed at myself. Often they did, I think because I was such an easy target.

I often was driven by sheer desparation and lonliness, but somehow midway through high school I
forced myself to get more involved with life, sports, doing things like drama and singing,
applying myself to my schoolwork, even dating. The successes that I experienced, the acceptance
from my peers that I slowly gained, were my antidepressant. Transitioning to college meant starting
all over, and again it was a slow building process, often a repetition of the same pattern, and
sometimes a torturous journey driven by fear. But again, doing well in school, making friends,
having a girlfriend, participating, these all bolstered me. Leaving college simply lead to another
period of transition, only the symptoms of unhappiness and anxiety became more severe. Relationships
failed to reassure as they once did, the steady boost of academic success was cut off, and I found
myself slipping behind other peers who were realizing their dreams of medical and graduate school
while I found myself unable to get it together. I needed to be great at whatever I did, and mediocrity
and loss of love became devastation. Coupled with totally irrational fears about my visage (addressed
very well, oddly enough, before my depression became its most severe), I felt I was in some sort of
addictive pattern of self-doubt and the constant quest for reassurance that I was worthwhile. Adult
life beyond the close community of school was isolating, and rather than reach out as I had before,
when my depression worsened, I began to withdraw more. Through many ups and downs, I am where I am
now, not a failure in any sense of the word, but not where I wanted to be.
Since being in the hospital, I vowed I would not be suffocated by my own inertia, that I needed to get
out more, that I needed to experience fun and friendship, and maybe love again, but that I was deeply
and genuinely afraid, and still had a lot of residual doubts about myself in the area of self-image.
It seemed the only way to deal with these problems was to alter my behavior, to come up with strategies
to keep my from closeting myself without having the whole thing mushroom into a frenzied quest for
empty friendships and false intimacy. Talking about my thoughts, reasoning through this process, mulling
on the past, seemes to have gotten me nowhere, except to make the story I have told a bit clearer. I
have felt I needed to act, and to change, to do things I wouldn't normally have done, to stick my neck
out again in social situations, to strike up conversations, to approach an attractive stranger and deal
with being brushed aside. To remind myself constantly that I want to achieve a healthier and more
balanced state so that I know what is truly motivating me, to remind myself constantly that I am OK as I
am in most respects, and to remind myself that failure is an opportunity to learn, not an indication that
I am fundamentally flawed. I have found the practical structure of behavioral therapy, the motivation
of having assigned tasks to complete, and the cognative tools to combat a habitual tendancy toward self-
reproach to be my only psychotherapeutic solution, as imperfect as it has been at times. What I have
found lacking is the opportunity to explore my inner self beyond its impact on my behaviors, the
relentless attack on symptoms without reflection. I truly believe it has kept me on a healthier path,
and I have frankly accomplished a great deal that I probably woudn't have accomplished without being
pushed. I hope eventually these beahviors become habitual, and I won't have to rely on therapy for that.
A deeper sense of self or meaning is what has been lacking. But then again, maybe that's just too
philisophical, and most euthymics don't dwell on such things. I don't know.




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