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Author Topic: Getting Over A Seriously Bad Year or Two
Rhizome2
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Does anyone have any good advice on getting past a really bad, stressful year or two? I have, for now, slightly limited resources and ways to cope and get better but I've been making a lot of progress from where I was in my life a couple months ago.

I just want to say I graduated from college in August of 2012 and my life took a downward spiral from there that I'm still recovering from. In September of 2012 my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor residing in the area of her left ear. In that November she had brain surgery, which essentially wrecked her life for nearly a whole year. She had a loss in motor skills, hearing loss in her right ear I believe, her face has permanently lost some muscle tension and shows a slackness on one side that'll probably remain with her for the rest of her life. Also, she was seriously mentally ill as a result of the operation for almost a year. With a forewarning for suicide to all those who might be bothered by it [ moderator note for our community: please take this very seriously as a trigger warning, and Rhizome, thank you for the warning - Redskies ], in late November 2012, some two weeks after the operation, my father warned me to watch my mother as he was going to the store and that she was in a "bad mood". He understated more than a little bit. I followed her around the house as she muttered to herself, went down to the basement to look for something, yelled at me to stop following her, and then went up to the bedroom with nothing in her hands as far as I could tell. I didn't think much of it but had second thoughts and decided to go up to her room, saw her laying down in the bed [ moderator edit to remove detail for our community's safety attempting suicide - Redskies ], screamed and ran over to her to stop her attempt, and she was too weak to resist and I just sat there while she lay looking out the window for 30 minutes in complete silence until my father came home.

What followed that was another 6 months of trying to support her through her arduous mental issues as she would have regular emotional freak outs for a while, sob and cry from her bedside about how she couldn't go on anymore, walk into my room in the early hours of the morning to wake me up and tell me how much she wanted to die and how much she wished she could have my young body and that we should trade places and bodies since I "could take it". She was on suicide watch for a long long time. There were a couple times I was afraid to have my father drive me to a job interview in a town over because I was afraid we'd come back home and find that she had finally done it and killed herself. And all of that pretty much destroyed our relationship for a while and I was so angry at her and simultaneously upset with myself for feeling angry with her and our relationship was really strained until I finally moved out in August of 2013.

On top of all that I tried to help shoulder my LDR relationship with my ex-girlfriend, who lived in a pretty abusive household until July of 2013 when I helped her move out and take a bus to Georgia to stay with someone who offered shelter to her. But during the time until then I watched essentially from afar as my girlfriend would report to me regularly about the nasty fucked up things her emotionally abusive mother would do to her, like berate her for her weight, mimic her voice in a mocking tone, call her stupid, etc. while demanding money from her regularly and threatening to throw her out of the house regularly and other nasty things. She also had a physically and emotional abusive drug-addict brother who would demand medication from her so he could get drugged up, beat her, punch her, choke her, threaten to kill her, etc. until he got what he wanted. On top of all that, she had an autistic brother who could be dangerous also and clearly was effected by that poisonous environment.

The thing is all of that emotional abuse translated into a lot of unhealthy things that bled out into our relationship. We met in college in the Fall of 2011. She graduated after that semester was up and things had gone well enough that I figured we could try to see how a long-distance relationship would do. As soon as she went home, things began to go downhill for next year and a half of our relationship. She got very suicidal and depressed almost regularly. If she came up to visit me at college she almost always at some point got into a screaming argument over the phone with her mother over something her mother was ordering her to do while she was up there. She would use very underhanded ways of punishing me if she felt like I was doing something wrong like purposely not responding to calls or texts of mine, getting sarcastic or berating me occasionally, and very obviously being jealous about how she thought I had a much better life than she did. She also made it really hard to even consider getting out of the relationship amicably if I felt unhappy with being committed to her. She talked about how it would be impossible for us to be friends afterwards, how she would never be able to talk to me again, etc. that was clearly meant to keep me there and solely committed to her and I knew it at the time but didn't know what to do since I was literally deathly afraid her brother might snap finally and seriously hurt her or kill her. Or that she might kill herself. She confessed to having urges to hurt me afterward in Feburary of 2013 and we broke up shortly afterward but essentially kept seeing each other since by that time I had moved back home, which is in an incredibly isolated part of NJ, and I was depressed as well and we had essentially become codependent and we still saw each other and slept together and talked regularly until July when she finally got out and then in October I had to cut her out of my life because she was getting clearly jealous and emotionally manipulative over the fact that I was moving on from her.

During all that time of August 2012 - August 2013, I was either unemployed or underemployed and working very menial jobs. At one point, I worked a warehouse job on the weekdays for eight hours a day and a job on the weekends for 16 hour shifts for what at one point amounted to a 105 hour work week. I worked at Macy's for one month in 2012 and a temp agency for a while in 2013 and the weekend job again for the rest of 2013 until August. I got into a car accident in May at my job as well.

In August of 2013, I got a position that allowed me to move out of my house to another part of NJ. It's kind of isolated as well and I live at the poverty line and make around $13,000 a year but I live and work next to a college where I have access to its resources like the gym, library, and counseling services for free as an employee. The transition was initially really tough though especially since getting used to paying rent and being broke and having no car or regular transportation was a big change for me.

I was also regularly really really depressed, unmotivated, began experiencing debilitating flashbacks to my mother's suicide attempt, felt incredibly weak and utterly plagued by masculinity issues, and tried to obsessively prove myself at my position by taking up more work than I could handle. I dated someone for about a month or so as I mentioned in another thread and that felt apart as I sank further and further into depression. I had very bad issues concentrating on things, couldn't keep my focus during meetings, got all bottled up and become non-communicative and seeing a therapist available at the college didn't feel like it was helping. On a Friday in October 2013, after a day at work where I started off happy and sociable and slowly got more and more depressed and despondent and zoned out during a meeting, I finally broke down in a car ride with my housemate A to Philadelphia as I began experiencing shaking hands, feeling choked up and close to tears, recurring flashbacks to my mom, the things my ex had done to me, my perceived failures at work, my perceived failures in the relationship with the person I dated, and I got genuinely suicidal later that night in South Philadelphia and considered throwing myself in front of a train when I was outside and alone by myself.

Since then my housemate A pushed me to go see a psychiatrist who then prescribed me anti-depressants which especially began to help after he increased my dosage in mid-December, I've sought out a therapist outside of what is provided at the college, I've been happier and more sociable, have even begun to slowly look for dating opportunities again in ways that work for me. I've repaired my relationship with my mom a lot, I'm going to try to repair the relationship with person I dated if I can. I feel a lot better, am making as best of a recovery I feel like I can right now considering the circumstances but sometimes I look back at all of what happened and feel exhausted and still effected by it. I've hardly gone over it with anyone besides a therapist in depth. I don't like sharing the stuff I went through because I'm naturally not that sort of person and I'm always afraid of being seen as broken or as a loser for having gone through that stuff and a lot of the time I don't think the few friends I have here could handle it.

So from people who've gone through hellish periods in their lives, what else can I do to move forward and put all of what I went through behind me? I feel like I've made progress but I'd really like to be strong enough to leave my position, which finishes in August this year on a strong note. Thanks in advance.

[ 01-23-2014, 06:11 AM: Message edited by: Redskies ]

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Rhizome2
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Want to preempt all of that by also saying at this point having been through all of that and also having seen people who have had it even worse, I am very happy to be alive and am grateful with what I have, namely a roof over my head, a place to call my own, some supportive friends, and a future looking forward whereas I felt utterly hopeless only a few months ago. I am really grateful and I've been trying to accept that as one phase of moving forward.
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Sam W
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Hi Rhizome2 and welcome back to the boards,

Just wanted to let you know that someone saw this post. There are definitely folks (both our staff/volunteers and our users) whose experiences mean they can offer more detailed advice than I can, and I'd prefer not to dominate the thread

I do want to say that I am glad you have a support network and are finding the psychological care you need (and that you are finding it helpful). I will also add that it can help to keep in mind that everyone works through and moves past the hard and scary parts of their lives differently. So, it's helpful to not get too frustrated or down on yourself if an approach that works for others doesn't work for you.

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Redskies
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Hi Rhizome,

I'll write you much more of a response in a bit. First, I wanted to acknowledge that I edited your post. I hope you feel ok with that - in fact, it's a pretty strong message of just how seriously I take what you experienced. I didn't want you to feel like you can't tell us the full story of what happened to you, or that you have to sugar-coat it in any way; at the same time, I need to ensure the safety of all our community - that's users and staff/vols - making sure that people can make a fully informed decision not to read something that may harm them, and removing specific detail. I hope I've struck enough of a balance between keeping everyone safe and giving you the space and independent voice to tell your whole truth.

I also edited out some personal information throughout your post to ensure your anonymity, in line with our guidelines. I trust that you won't feel that those small alterations change the content, meaning or impact of your post in any way.

[ 01-23-2014, 05:36 AM: Message edited by: Redskies ]

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Rhizome2
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That's perfectly fine and I understand. Thank you.
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moon_goddess
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I am moved by your ability to make a new life for yourself, but also improve your relationship with your mother. I think those are both good.

As someone who moved out recently (under non-stellar but not nearly as intense of circumstances), making a similar amount of money, with a previous history of depression and emotional abuse, I'm not sure where you go from here. Where do you want to go?

I think the most helpful thing for me (YMMV of course) was that I started gravitating toward different sorts of people who may have also had similar backgrounds or hard times in their lives, so even if I didn't want to talk about something, they could still be there, and I knew on some level that they would get it, and not be put off or overwhelmed by the amount of bad that some situations were. Of course, there isn't really a good way of finding these people intentionally, but sometimes you can sort of suss them out. I think it's also important to make sure they aren't currently in the middle of a terrible episode in their lives, because they won't be able to provide the stability that you may need. The upside to these kinds of friends is they tend to be extremely good at being empathetic, and they don't think you are 'broken', plus, if you do feel really screwed up, you won't feel like you're the only one.

The hardest part for me is looking back at the bad times and seeing it as sort of 'wasted' time, where other people were doing things that enabled them to work toward their dream job, and in that respect, it feels like I'm behind in life and have fewer familial resources to fall back on if things go wrong.

It sounds like you're doing really well, though. I think it's great that you're working towards a better life, meeting with a psychiatrist for meds and a therapist to talk about what has happened. Find things that you are enthusiastic about, think about things you want to be doing in five years and take baby steps toward them (like job-shadowing?), acknowledge that sometimes things will probably still feel overwhelming and you might have moments where you still feel really messed up from your past.

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Robin Lee
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Hi Rhizome,

You know, maybe sharing is what you really need to be doing right now. That was some really, really big stuf you went through; the memories, or the feelings with those memories, aren't going to go away right away--as much as it would be nice if they did! Oh, and this business of things being worse for other people? If it's helpful for you to think that way, by all means. I tend to think though that we don't do ourselves any favours comparing our situations to those of other people, and sometimes comparing keeps us from reaching out to people for help and support.

I know your resources are limited right now, but, it seems like it'd be a really good thing for you to have more people with whom you can share your experiences, share them in ways that don't feel threatening to you.

Do you think that an in-person support group would be beneificial for you? Perhaps this is something you could ask your therapist or psychiatrist about?

--------------------
Robin

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Redskies
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Dealing with a serious illness in a family member is incredibly hard. It's physically and mentally very draining, and it leaves a person without the spare facility they need to deal with and process everything that's happening while it's happening. The waves from that role over, and we feel the effects after a crisis - or our closeness to the crisis - is over.

What you experienced with your mother was a serious trauma. It takes time, and safety and security, to deal with and process that. A lot of things you describe are common trauma reactions: flashbacks, feeling zoned out, feeling hopeless, over-working. Have you shared those things with your therapist, and did your therapist give you some guidance?

With you mentioning masculinity issues, I wonder if you were feeling that you should be managing better than you were? I want to say to you that you're a human being, with blood and feelings; it doesn't matter your gender, no human being could go through what you've described here and be unmoved and whole before rebuilding. You are incredibly strong that you are here, as you are, through all of this.

It sounds as if part of you wishes you could've done more for your ex-girlfriend. You told us you helped her to leave: please know, really know, that that is a huge, huge thing, and a very hard and important thing. When someone close to us is in an abusive situation, it's so hard looking on and not being able to do more. It wasn't your responsibility to make things better or ok for her, because that just wasn't in your power. It's also ok for you to have any feelings you do about the not-good ways she behaved and treated you: you get to have those feelings. It doesn't mean you're blaming her, if that's not what you want to do; people who are in abusive households sometimes don't learn or can't access healthy ways of relating to others because of what's going on around them and what's being done to them. How she behaved to you was not ok, and I'm sorry you experienced that. I'm glad you were able to leave a relationship that was harmful to you.

I'm not surprised you still feel exhausted. You are most definitely not a loser! If we defined "loser" as "someone who's been through some tough stuff", there would be a Lot of incredible people who we'd be calling "losers", and I can't think for the life of me why we'd want to do that. You're also not "broken". However you feel, however you're doing, is a reaction to the earnestly hard things you've experienced; recovery and healing is a good approach for any thoughts and feelings that are not serving you well.

Like Robin, I also think having people who you can share with, people who are supportive and kind, could be helpful for you. I'd suggest, too, being really good to you. Recognise that some of your mental and physical energy is needed for your recovery, and really give some energy to that when it calls - if your body or mind want to rest, let it rest. If they want something nice, give it something nice. Treat yourself well and give you what you need. Know that it's ok and normal to have days when you feel better than others, and allow yourself that.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Rhizome2
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quote:
Originally posted by moon_goddess:
I am moved by your ability to make a new life for yourself, but also improve your relationship with your mother. I think those are both good.

As someone who moved out recently (under non-stellar but not nearly as intense of circumstances), making a similar amount of money, with a previous history of depression and emotional abuse, I'm not sure where you go from here. Where do you want to go?

I've been thinking about this a bit.

I basically spent the first five months of the position I'm in being emotionally in the fetal position and not terribly productive or contributive. I got to hear a lot that whenever I was spoken about in supervisor meetings, I was a "topic of concern". For a time I could barely pay attention in meetings without zoning out, I'd get crushingly depressed in the windowless little room I work in as my work days would drag on, I felt like I was screwing everything at work and then also screwing up everything in life and relationships (friend or otherwise).

In this past October, I had a Friday where my mood at work started off as happy and pretty good and then continually crashed until I was hopelessly depressed by the time I left. My housemate drove the two of us to Philadelphia for a party we were supposed to go to and I utterly broke down in the car with hand shakes, verging on tears constantly, negative thought loops running back to [Trigger Warning: Suicide Mentions] my mother's attempt, stuff my exgirlfriend had done to me, my perceived failure with a woman I was dating for a month or so who I had really really really liked and had pushed away because of my depression, my inadequacy at work, and my inadequacy in everything basically because I felt like such an utter and irredeemable failure. My housemate had told me on the car ride there he was having an intervention for me right there and then said he was going to make sure I went to go see a psychiatrist and get on anti-depressants. But I left the party that night because I couldn't stand to be around anyone and ended up literally just walking the streets of South Philadelphia feeling like that maybe just ending things, for lack of a better phrase, wouldn't be such a bad idea. I had a really thinly devised idea of how I might do it but by the morning I had pulled myself back enough to realize I had just gone somewhere really scary and made damn sure to take my housemate's advice. [Trigger Warning: End of Suicide Mentions] That Sunday I started to do the legwork of finding a psychiatrist and scheduled an appointment in November and got on 10 mgs of an SSRI that numbed the intensity of the flashback episodes and the low moods. I got bumped up to 20 mgs in December and that's made a world of difference for me. It was like a haze being lifted and since January has started I've finally felt like I've really been stitching myself back together. I'd like to keep it going basically.

I've taken steps to work on the job and career part. I decided on the spot a couple months ago based on my lifelong interest in biology and ecology and my experience of Hurricane Sandy (right before my mom's operation in November, our household was without power for nearly two weeks and while I had always been interested in issues related to the environment and climate change, thinking back to my experience with that and the enormity of the problem overall I feel like it's the right direction to go in). I've consulted with someone at our Center who heads our environmental division and he's given advice on how to pursue it as a career along with lending me books to read. I've slowly started to contribute more and more to my job.

I also cut myself off from dating or being involved with anyone for a long while with the person I was dating for a bit I got so emotionally attached to her because I felt so comfortable sharing stuff with her and talking with her initially that over one of our initial Skype conversations I told her about my mom and she was the first person since I moved that I ever told about and as I descended further and further into depression I let my feelings spiral out of control and sort of alienated her. We don't really speak a lot anymore and it bothers me. I've taken steps overall to put myself out there again though, I just had a small lunch date today that went really well, and though I think being single for a good while is probably the best thing for me, I still want physical and emotional intimacy and I've made steps to begin to try and cultivate a comfortable sort of middle-of-the-road between being in a committed relationship and something like just a plain hook up. I'd also really like to repair things with the person I was dating to the extent that we can at least be friends who talk to each other regularly again.

Finally, I've been repairing my relationship with my mom. When I moved out, we were barely on speaking terms and I was so confused and upset with how I felt about her and then I felt guilty that I felt confused or upset or that I wasn't being the best supportive son I could be. In December before Christmas, I had a nice regular phone conversation with her that ended with me testing the waters at the end and saying "Have a good night, I love you" and she responded "I love you too, have a good night". And that was the first time she had said she loved me in over a year. Earlier this month, she said it to me at the end of a phone conversation without me having to say it first, and both of those things meant so so so much to me.

quote:
I think the most helpful thing for me (YMMV of course) was that I started gravitating toward different sorts of people who may have also had similar backgrounds or hard times in their lives, so even if I didn't want to talk about something, they could still be there, and I knew on some level that they would get it, and not be put off or overwhelmed by the amount of bad that some situations were. Of course, there isn't really a good way of finding these people intentionally, but sometimes you can sort of suss them out. I think it's also important to make sure they aren't currently in the middle of a terrible episode in their lives, because they won't be able to provide the stability that you may need. The upside to these kinds of friends is they tend to be extremely good at being empathetic, and they don't think you are 'broken', plus, if you do feel really screwed up, you won't feel like you're the only one.

The hardest part for me is looking back at the bad times and seeing it as sort of 'wasted' time, where other people were doing things that enabled them to work toward their dream job, and in that respect, it feels like I'm behind in life and have fewer familial resources to fall back on if things go wrong.

It sounds like you're doing really well, though. I think it's great that you're working towards a better life, meeting with a psychiatrist for meds and a therapist to talk about what has happened. Find things that you are enthusiastic about, think about things you want to be doing in five years and take baby steps toward them (like job-shadowing?), acknowledge that sometimes things will probably still feel overwhelming and you might have moments where you still feel really messed up from your past.

Thank you so much! I've actually found a good friend lately who has dealt with a lot of similar stuff and I've been confiding in her a lot lately. I'd like to find more.

[ 01-24-2014, 05:06 PM: Message edited by: Rhizome2 ]

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Rhizome2
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quote:
Originally posted by Robin Lee:
Do you think that an in-person support group would be beneificial for you? Perhaps this is something you could ask your therapist or psychiatrist about?

I've just scheduled an appoint with a new therapist from outside of the college but close by for tomorrow. I've only ever done one-on-one therapy but now that you mention people have continually brought it up as something to seek out and I might try to see if I can.
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Rhizome2
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quote:
Originally posted by Redskies:
Dealing with a serious illness in a family member is incredibly hard. It's physically and mentally very draining, and it leaves a person without the spare facility they need to deal with and process everything that's happening while it's happening. The waves from that role over, and we feel the effects after a crisis - or our closeness to the crisis - is over.

What you experienced with your mother was a serious trauma. It takes time, and safety and security, to deal with and process that. A lot of things you describe are common trauma reactions: flashbacks, feeling zoned out, feeling hopeless, over-working. Have you shared those things with your therapist, and did your therapist give you some guidance?

I just had a session with a new therapist besides the one provided by the employee assistance program at my position. I took your advice and went out of my way to mention all of that. The next time I see her I'd like to talk to her more in depth about my issues with concentration and spacing out but I did get it out there with her. She was really helpful and said I should keep a journal as a record of my daily emotional state and also gave me thoughts/feelings workbook reading to do.

quote:
[QB]With you mentioning masculinity issues, I wonder if you were feeling that you should be managing better than you were? I want to say to you that you're a human being, with blood and feelings; it doesn't matter your gender, no human being could go through what you've described here and be unmoved and whole before rebuilding. You are incredibly strong that you are here, as you are, through all of this.

When I moved out I basically felt like I was in a stupor or malaise all the time and then I felt angry with myself for feeling that way because I knew I had been stronger than that before. Also, I was really obviously weak, and let myself get walked over by a couple people around me. I got really focused on not wanting to seem weak and indecisive and all of that pressure just made it more difficult and made it seem worse.

I think also dating someone so immediately didn't help because we got kind of enamored with each other pretty quick, she said I was "perfect" at least two or three times when we were initially hitting it off, and then she seemed kind of bemused and frustrated by me obviously not knowing how to/being unable take care of myself. And then I felt unhappy and frustrated because I couldn't fully provide the sexual or any other supportive part of the relationship she wanted and I felt like such a weird, tense, awkward goofball around her basically all the time the more and more depressed I got. And I was afraid even though she said at one point, as a friend, that she'd always love me, that she was basically writing me off as some weirdo loser.

So seeing her and talking to her became this enormous pressure instead of the natural thing it had been for a while. And I just felt like a weak, precocious, unassertive, immasculine garbage for a good while even though I recognized that those thoughts were really unhealthy for me.

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Robin Lee
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In case you're still thinking that you're weak, or if you do find yourself thinking that again, I wonder if it'd be helpful to think of weakness as the other side of strength, something that is there to balance strength out. If there's too much strength or tension on something, it'll snap; there's always got to be at least a little (and sometimes a lot) of give or counterbalance.

This sounds fanciful, I know, but it popped into my mind as I read your post, and wanted to share it in case it might be a helpful perspective for you.


Know too that new partners becoming enamoured of each other to the point where they idealize each other beyond what any human being should have to measure up to is not uncommon. It's also not uncommon for that to lead to feelings of disappointment and feeling pressure. It doesn't matter if one partner is having a hard time, or is just going through their life as usual; putting someone up on a pedestal is rararely likely to lead to healthy interactions. So, I suspect that the way things went for you and this partner had a lot more to do with the explosive way your relationship started than with any struggles you had personally. Sure, when we're struggling emotionally, that can put strain on a relationship, but so to (and perhaps even more so, in my opinion) can an expectation of perfection


I'm so glad the new therapist you talked to was helpful. It sounds like she's jumping right in with giving you things to do to help you find some clarity and assist with the therapy process.

--------------------
Robin

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Rhizome2
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Hey guys,

I just wanted to come back to this thread and say that three months later, I'm doing a lot better and that I really really greatly appreciate the support and advice I got from posting here.

Currently, I enjoy and am doing very well at my job, am applying to better paying positions that I might get when my terms is done, and am finding my anti-depressants and a better overall mood have been keeping me in generally good spirits. After waiting a while to make sure I was in good enough straits, I even started seeing someone new in a non-committed but supportive and very positive relationship that seems to work for the both of us pretty well.

I'm still pretty broke and haven't been able to see my therapist nearly as regularly as I'd like but I feel a whole ton better about myself, my life, and my future than I did compared to just a few months ago. There's none of that "giant insurmountable wall" of pressure or depression bearing down on me anymore.

So yeah, I just wanted to update this outpouring from a few months ago to just say thank you very very very much for allowing me to have a place to vent about the serious stuff I went through.

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Rhizome2
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Also, an addition, my mom is doing pretty well and my relationship with her has progressed pretty nicely too. It's mostly positive. Sometime in the future I'd like to talk to her about that day but for now I'm pretty happy with just having things on a positive stasis.
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Sam W
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Hi Rhizome,

Thanks for the update! And yay, so glad to hear that things are improving for you (and that it sounds like you're taking active steps to keep them moving in that direction) [Smile]

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Redskies
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Hi Rhizome,

I'm so glad things have improved for you, and your mom too. It was clear even then that you were taking steps to make things better for yourself, and to do what you needed for yourself, and that's a big deal and a thing that many people find really hard. So, Go You, in a big way [Smile]

I'm glad we could be a place that helped, and it's lovely to get your thanks and update.

--------------------
The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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