Dear Dr. Archer,
I'm a 22 year old gay male. I wouldn't say I'm depressed, but I do often feel sad. Not exactly sad, maybe just unhappy. Empty, even. Often I feel like a hollow animated corpse walking around. Then again, I slip into these deeply depressive states, only for a couple of hours or a day or so. It's never for too long, and never longer than a week.
I have bouts of anxiety also, from time to time, with nothing causing them. One minute I can be fine, and the next moment my palms are pulsing and there's a relentless babble of butterflies trying to gnaw their way out of my stomach. I never seem to stay in one consistent mood for very long, and I'm not sure if that's out of the ordinary.
I can get extremely angry over the smallest of things! Example: Once I was working on a computer and it was slow; it kept freezing and I got very irritated. I got so angry I punched the screen and broke the entire computer. I often break things when I get frustrated, although I tend to not express that anger around people. When I get angry with people, and I do more often than anyone knows, I internalize it and take it out on myself.
It's not only my moods that change rapidly and unexpectedly. How I feel and think about myself and others changes quickly, too. One minute or day I can think I'm perfectly wonderful, and the next I feel I'm the worst person to disgrace the planet. One minute I think I'm incredibly smart, and the next incredibly stupid. I feel pathetic and socially inept, no matter how much I'm told otherwise.
I get very attached to other people easily, like they're the best person I've ever met. Then out of nowhere little things they do start to annoy me and then I want nothing more to do with them. Of course that doesn't last either, because before I know it I'm praising them again.
I consistently worry that everyone I care about is going to up and leave me. I fear being abandoned more than I fear most things. As an example, a prior friend -- whom I was in love with -- used to call me on a daily basis, sometimes more. If a day came that he did not call, I'd assume he was never going to call again. I'd think he was finally getting rid of me, like I always suspected he would. The following day he'd call, due to his phone being disconnected because of a storm or something.
What really confuses me, however, is that even though I fear abandonment, when people do leave me, I'm not usually hurt too much. I might be at first, but then I just sort of forget about them, as if they weren't really a part of my life. I remember THEM, but it's not emotional. Just like if people aren't around me, it's like they don't exist. If I think of them, I won't call because I think they'd tell me to stop talking to them.
Suicide has crossed my mind more than once or twice. It used to be a daily occurrence, but not so much anymore. I used to also cut and burn myself frequently, and those feelings and urges still haunt me. If I'm offered a drug, I'll probably take it; sometimes I'll do anything to feel differently. My problems are not due to substance abuse, though. I've had these feelings long before I took any drugs. In fact, I was VERY against any drugs. One day I just thought, what the hell, when offered cocaine.
It was impulsive, just like shoplifting and sex. If a guy implies he wants to have sex, I'll end up having sex with him. I know it's dangerous and bad, but I just can't seem to stop myself. Now, here's where it really gets insane.
I don't deal with stress well, and I feel stressed often, for no reason. I feel like everyone is out to get me, like complete paranoia. Like they're going to hurt me, they're conspiring against me behind my back. When I calm down from the stress, it tends to go away and I think of how crazy I am to think such a thing. It seems like I'm leaving a dream, but it's no dream.
Now for the eating. I'm 5' 7" and about 112 pounds. I've never been over 120 pounds, and am terrified of becoming obese. It's 8:40 p.m. and today I've only had a tiny bit of potato salad, yet I feel like I've eaten too much. I often starve myself, and I've already passed out and had seizures due to malnutrition. Anorexia, right? That's what I'd say, but every doctor says there's no way I have anorexia. I'd like your professional opinion on that.
My symptoms are far worse in the summer than any other time, if that means anything. Thank you in advance for any help. I'm worried I might be crazy.
You have several things going on. I cannot make a diagnosis over the Internet, but clearly things aren't right. These symptoms could be the result of a number of possible disorders. You most likely are suffering from depression and anxiety and it does sound like anorexia is a possibility, as well.
Attempting suicide is the first issue which needs to be addressed. If you still have these feelings, Brodie, this takes precedent over all else. All other symptoms can be addressed and treated after that. Don't worry about the diagnoses at this point – if you feel you want to self harm go to an ER or call your doctor immediately.
It also sounds like you have emotional detachment issues, because you are giving up on your personal boundaries, emotions and sense of self worth. This means you don’t feel worthy of others and hence constantly expect them to leave you. When they do, you don’t get too upset because you never emotionally invested in them in the first place. It becomes a viscous circle and one that is hard to break.
You may have some problems to overcome, Brodie, but you have excellent insight, and you took the time to write to me and list your symptoms. This tells me you are both ready and serious about overcoming these issues. Now I want you to turn that insight into self assessment. Start keeping a journal, and chart your feelings, thoughts and actions. In other words, express yourself.... on paper.
By physically putting your negative thoughts and emotions down on paper you will be able to see in black and white the problems you face and both acknowledge and solve them one by one. Keeping a journal is extremely therapeutic, plus it organizes your life into categories and shows what is working and what needs work. Reading what you write can help you set goals to embrace the positives and address the negatives.
For a journal to work best, you must be brutally honest and write down everything -- no censuring. Write your thoughts as you think of them, no matter how troubling they may be. This is only for you to read, so write it all. Each month, look through your journal and see if you notice improvement. Done correctly, a journal can validate, nurture and help you resolve your troubling issues.
You may need a therapist, but you can also try this on your own. With such insight into everything you've told me -- other than suicide -- I believe you can overcome much of this on your own. Many people who have a fear of abandonment also have a weakened sense of self worth, making the fear of abandonment even more prominent. Read Angie Works Hard, But doesn't Take Care Of Herself
and starting today, implement those suggestions I offer Angie.
When you start to value yourself, you will become self satisfied and content with who you are. At that point you will only enter into relationships with people that you also value and you will fight to keep those relationship It's the difference between needing a relationship and wanting a relationship.
If you don’t make any progress on your own, then seek the help of a therapist. You have plenty of insight, and I am confident you will be successful. Good luck!