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  1. Life Story - Please Help

    Hi. I am a 34 year old man in the UK and this is my life story. I hope someone can help me.
    As long as I remember I have been an anxious person and also felt a kind of despair or depression about the future. I have always found it very hard to make friends, right from the very first day I started school. I could n't cope with school work at first so my first teacher put me with the "remedial" children, basically the least intelligent in the class. Although in later years my schoolwork improved greatly and I appeared to be one of the cleverer ones in the class I never really got over it.

    I could n't talk to my parents about it. My mother would get angry or upset about my lack of friends but then making it difficult by saying it would be rude to invite myself round to other people's houses or getting embarrassed by the state of our house (it just a bit scruffy in parts, that's all).

    My father was a lot older than my mother but seemed to take the role of little boy to my mother (get thinks wrong, make messes etc). I never saw any kind of affection between them. He would often be very quiet and subservient but sometimes get very angry about trivial things.

    I am ashamed to say that increasingly as I got older I wanted my parent to die in a car crash so I would be adopted by a nice family (like on the TV!)

    I did n't go out much as child. When I moved to Comprehensive School (aged 11) I was bullied quite badly for the first 2 years because I did n't make friends. I was what we call in the UK a "swot", someone who works hard at their school so not popular. Some people called me “robot”, presumably because I did n’t speak much and join in with the others.

    I admit I was not a nice person at times. Sometimes when the bullying got to me I would lash out, at boys AND girls.

    In the later years we were all divided up in classes according to ability. The bullying lessened off and I found that there were some girls in the class I was attracted to. Unfortunately, I did n't know how to talk to girls and felt I was n't intelligent or good looking enough to ask any of them out. I become a bit strange in my behaviour, pretending not to like girls at all to such an extent it became a joke and ironically attracted attention to me from girls.

    I felt a lot of guilt about sex which I think stems partly from the fact my parents never talked about it and also from the bullying I had. The other boys would make fun of my lack knowledge about sex.

    Some boys did invite me to become part of their Dungeons & Dragons club but I did find stressful and oddly depressing. For some reason I do feel depressed sometimes in company of other people.

    Anyway the pressure of trying to be friends with people, wanting to talk to girls, guilt about sex and studying got to me. I did very badly in a test one day and deliberately cut myself with a blade in class. The teacher found out and I was marched off to the nurse's office and then my parents were sent for. I was taken to the doctor's for a tetanus injection.

    At the time I felt guilty about having done it. The nurse did n't say much, I don't think she was very sympathetic. The Head of the Year was there but kept saying she did n't understand why I had done it. The subject was never mentioned again by ANYONE afterwards.

    Looking back I don't understand why no-one could see it was a cry for help. WHY WAS I NEVER REFERRED TO A THERAPIST?

    I managed to get through my exams at 16, although I still got stressed and sometimes hit out at people.

    I went to Sixth Form at 16 at the same school which was n't as pressured (less work to do!) and hung about with some guys I knew. I still could n't talk to girls. There was a Christmas disco one year and there was a girl there who I fancied from a couple of years before (when I had self-harmed). I desperately wanted to talk to her but barely said "Hello" and then the party was over.

    At 18 I went away to university which was a big mistake. I just did n't cope. Although I had a few friends (they made friends with rather than the other way round) I did n't cope at all with being away from home, mixing with people and all the stuff about wanting to talk to girls but not being able to. I got stressed, missed meals, developed irritable bowel syndrome. I did n't go and see a counsellor because I did n't think it was for me. I thought it was to do with problems of debt/landlords etc (I was very naive then)

    Eventually, it got to me and I let fly with a lot of abuse (including racism) and hit someone. I was lucky not to be expelled, but dropped out soon afterwards.

    I returned to live with my parents. I enrolled on a different course at a university and saw a cognitive behavioural therapist through the NHS (our public health system). The therapist helped me with my irritable bowel but I could n't overcome my fear of speaking to strangers and making friends.

    The NHS only pays for a certain number of sessions, so I decided to help myself. I went to evening classes in Assertiveness and also one on Transactional Analysis. I read Susan Jeffers' book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.

    I learned to swim (I could doggy-paddle at school), started weight-training and joined a hill-walking club. I went cycling (on my own) most weekends.I also started seeing a Transactional Analysis therapist.

    Careerwise, I did n't achieve. I have never felt good about changes so I did n't feel enthusiastic about starting a new job with new people. Also I have always been very nervous at interviews so I ended up taking numerous temporary clerical jobs through an agency. Eventually I found a clerical job at my local town hall.

    Unfortunately, I developed problems with my feet and it became very painful to going walking so I stopped going to the hill-walking club. I still don't know the cause but it may a back problem in origin.

    In an effort to sort my problems once and for all I tried a weekend residential course. It proved to be a very strange experience. The therapist was very bossy, for example tried to force me to sing when I could n't sing along with the rest of the group. She insisted I commit to leaving home but that left me feeling scared and very depressed.

    After that I went away twice to a New Age community, thinking of joining it for a year. However, I felt very anxious being with people I did n't know and I seemed to have a real mental block about my feet. The pain seemed to distract me from participating fully.

    All this time I still been seeing the TA therapist, but now in a group, which I left because the others were talking about relationships and I just could not relate to what they were talking about. I just was n't relative to me.

    Recently, I changed jobs and I now work with budgets and accounts. I thought it would be a step up but I don't feel I have enough work to do(!) and I am unclear a lot of the time what I have to do.

    Last week, I made a big mistake and logged on to the Friends Reunited site, here you can find out what school friends are now doing. Most seemed to be married and successful careers. The girl I fancied, the one from the party that I never managed to talk to has married a man from the Royal Air Force (must have been the uniform!) and has a job selling pharmaceuticals.

    I am filled with regret at what I did n't do and the things I could have done 20 years ago (TWENTY YEARS!). I don’t feel I am doing anything useful in my life. I keep thinking about the girl I liked even though it’s 20 years ago.
    I still live with my mother. My father died 6 years ago and became increasingly difficult as he got older. My only conversations with him were about how he was irritating me by picking his nails or fiddling with his false teeth, or talking about me in third person to my mother as though I was a small child (has he set the video for ….?). I think he had the early signs of senile dementia.

    So what now? I tried various treatments for my feet and now I am going to see a chiropractor to see if he can help me. I am still swimming, I do Pilates to help with my posture. But to change my personality. Lose the despair, depression, anxiety. I just don't know. I just seem to be missing the vital spark, the thing that other people have which makes them embrace life.

  2. Life Story - Please Help.

    I just wanted to say hello and welcome to our site!

    I am at work right now, so I can't respond in an appropriate manner at the moment because that would take some time, but I will THINK about how to respond, how's that?

    I just wanted you to know that I have read your entire post and more of us will be along soon with suggestions and good advice.

    Oh, and don't worry about the Friends Reunited site. We have one here in Canada called Classmates. I am sorry I ever registered there. I never quite completed high school like many of them did, and you're right, they all SEEM to be popular and successful and have lots of friends. Those are the ones who signed up and, quite frankly, possibly did so just so that they can show others how wonderful their lives have become! I'll bet there are a lot of people you can think of whose names you DIDN'T see there as well..........

    I'll be back later, but I just wanted to say hello!

    Anna

  3. Life Story - Please Help.

    Well, I read over what you have written again, and all I can say is why do people have to be so darned cruel or uncaring or contemptuous of others? Every person has good qualities inside of them. Those qualities just have to be recognized and drawn out. It appears that has never happened during your lifetime so far, which makes me very very sad.

    I know how hard it is to write your feelings down as you have above. I can feel the heartbreak and loneliness and sense of "missing out" on the "good things" in life in just about every line you have written.

    You do seem to have tried quite a few things to overcome your shyness and insecurity around people. You have done and are still doing things to keep yourself healthy and fit, even if you do have problems with your feet. I hope you find some help with that aspect of your health. Does your National Health pay for any orthotics such as special shoes or arch supports if they could help you with your foot problem? I know those kind of things can be expensive if you have to pay the entire cost on your own.

    Are you taking any medication for your depression/anxiety? Sometimes that can be helpful. Do you enjoy any sports or hobbies? That could be an enjoyable route to meeting people with similar interests to yours.

    I will keep thinking about ways to get you out of this depression. You can count on it. Right now I am going to bed, so I'll sleep on it! Bye for now!

    Anna

  4. #4

    Life Story - Please Help.

    Two things come to mind, Thirty:

    1. Don't be misled by or worry too much about that website: First, former classmates who don't feel they've done as well as they wanted, classmates who are now in jail, or anyone else who feels they can't live up to what the others posted there probably aren't going to register and post their details, so it really isn't a balanced sample of people you went to school with. Second, because, quite frankly, on personal sites like that people exaggerate or downright lie.

    2. You might want to try a different kind of therapist, or one who is more experienced. I generally see Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) as a starting point for anxiety disorders or depression when the person is in a crisis phase or when I think they need help just coping with the symptoms, because CBT gives the client tools for feeling more in control. However, I think that's really just the beginning -- first, it's not always the huge success story the books claim it will be (although I do think it's helpful for just about anyone and should be part of the therapy). Once the more serious or disruptive symptoms are somewhat under control, I then combine CBT with what you might call "psychotherapy", which is looking at the history and patterns (relationships, behaviors, reactions) that have brought the client to this point... and looking at ways to change those patterns. I would also note that some forms of anxiety (and depression for that matter) may well respond better to a combination of appropriate therapy with appropriate medication.

    Transactional Analysis is a tool used by some therapists but really it isn't much in vogue any more, at least in North America. And the effectiveness of group therapy depends very much on the composition and dynamics of the group and the skill of the group leader in managing those dynamics.

    I guess basically I'm saying that perhaps you shouldn't give up on therapy based on the limited benefits you've seen so far -- it may be more a question of the wrong therapist or the wrong therapies rather than anything about you or the specific issues/problems you are trying to address.

  5. Life Story

    Thank you for replying to my post.

    I'm not taking medication at the moment but I am beginning to wonder if it might help me. I've always had to force myself to meet people. I only did this because I believed somehow I would lose the anxiety and become more confident around people, but it did n't work for me. Inside I would be feeling anxious and desparate not to show it. I would get worked up about silly little things like am too hot/cold, what if I start getting hungry, what if my feet hurt etc. Would medication help me become more relaxed (but not tranquilised) so that I can start meeting people?

    The National Health Service was a bit clueless about my feet, like they were about my irritable bowel. I saw a podiatrist privately who supplied me with some orthotics but after 2 months I did n't notice any difference. I went back and he looked at me again and decided the problem was I had one leg longer than the other. He recommended I see a chiropractor, which I have done. My first assessment was last and will see him again on Tuesday for the results.

    I am quite nervous and indecisive about shopping anyway and I think developed a bit of a complex about my feet.

    I could do with seeing a counsellor who is patient enough to help me with some (apparently) trivial problems like my feet and gradually help me so that I become more confident. Any ideas what sort I should look out for?

    I am still very depressed about what I missed out on as a kid and I still have trouble forgetting about the girl I liked from school. Female companionship is something I’ve always wanted even when I felt I hated most people. I think I have unrealistic expectations that there is ONE person who I could become close to, help fill the emptiness and whose love could change my life, but at the same time it’s the one thing that makes me want to carry on.

    Let me know if you have any advice about asking the doctor for anti-depressants and types of therapy.

    Thanks.

    Thirtysomething

  6. #6

    Life Story - Please Help.

    1. Look for a therapist who has specific experience with anxiety disorders in general and social anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder in particular (I'm not diagnosing you or suggesting you meet the criteria for either of these disorders but what you describe shows sone elements of both so you need a therapist who has dealt with these issues before).

    2. Look for a therapist who does not use CBT exclusively and who will essentially give you individualized therapy (not just pgeonholing you into some prefabricated therapy because that is easier for the therapist) -- you can and should ask the therapist some questions when you call to make an appointment: what is his/her training and experience and approach to therapy with a new client?

    3. Your doctor will probably have his/her own preferences and frankly many of them do not react well to suggestions about medication from patients or non-physicians. There are several options, but these days the starting place is likely to be one of the SSRIs, not only for depression but also for anxiety and/or OCD-like traits. Note that you may need a bit of trial and error here to find one that is beneficial and does not cause side-effects (some people have no side-effects at all, others have transient side-effects while they are adapting to the medication -- these should show evidence of going away within about 5 days, and others just don't tolerate a particular SSRI, in which case the solution is usually to switch to another in the SSRI family.

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