Hi, I am a 37 year old female. My entire life I have always felt like a misfit. My parents always made me feel stupid and insignificant because I was not a stellar straight-A student like my older siblings were. I was painfully shy and never had more than a handful of friends growing up. As an adolescent I became bulimic, but stopped when my father found out and screamed at me because of all the "money being flushed down the toilet." I went to college for one year and hated it because I had a lot of trouble making friends. I just felt like no one would want to hang around with me. I returned home and attended a community college and got my R.N.. I graduated nursing school and started working at a state hospital where I met my first husband, Henry, who was also an RN working there. Henry was 40 and I was 22 when we met. He had been married once before, no children, and lived alone in the house he had grown up in. Within a few months I moved in with him. At first he was very charming and swept me off of my feet. He bought me pretty much anything I wanted and made me feel very desirable. He had a good sense of humor and made me laugh a lot. But I soon saw the darker side of Henry; he had a terrible temper that could be set off by the weirdest, most petty things. He would scream at the top of his lungs about things that most people would brush aside. He claimed he hated God and hated "white people." I am white and so was he, so I could never understand his reverse racism. Henry collected things: jazz records, african art, exotic birds, dogs, anything that caught his fancy. I often felt I was just part of his collection. We lived in his house that was very big and old and located in a very wealthy neighborhood. This house was beautiful in it’s heyday, but Henry had let it go to ramble and ruin. He never repaired anything and had left the furniture and appliances the way they had been since his parents had lived there. Henry’s idea of fun was to sit around all day smoking weed and listening to his jazz records. I never enjoyed either of these activities and soon started isolating in the bedroom with a bottle of wine and my own dogs. Eventually I started to suggest to Henry that I was unhappy and wanted to end the marriage. Every time he would scream and escalate to the point of threatening suicide. To make a long story short, one night I went out with a co-worker and got very drunk. On the way home I decided that once and for all I was going to leave Henry no matter what it took. I made a very stupid decision to tell him that I had met someone else (I hadn’t), just so that he would hate me enough to let me leave and proceed with a divorce. When I got home he was waiting up for me, and I told him about my alleged lover and that I was going to leave him. He got very upset and cried and said he was going to kill himself. I was still very drunk and just wanted to go to sleep. I told him we would talk about it in the morning. The last thing I remember is hearing him say goodbye to his dog and then the door shut. I woke up that next morning to find him dead in his truck;he had shot himself in the head. I was 28 and he was 46. My life has never been the same. For a long time I was overcome with guilt and grief. I had to continue to live in that big empty house for a year while I prepared it to sell. My parents and siblings would come over and help me, but at night I had to stay there alone because of all of the animals that needed to be cared for. I eventually sold everything I could and put the house on the market. The few friends I had before dropped out of my life, mainly because it was probably too weird for them to know how to act around me, and also because I stopped wanting to be around anyone. Most of the time I felt numb and had no idea what to say to anyone. Eventually I decided to date again and met a man I liked online. We dated for a year and then married in 2000. We live in a new house, I have changed careers, and on the surface it appears that I should be very happy. My current husband is very different from Henry and has been always been very understanding about my occasional depression. I have been seeing a psychiatrist for about 8 years and have been on many different anti-depressants. Currently I take Effexor and Adderall. I like my new career and work with a nice group of women, but I do not have any friends outside of my husband and dog. I always try to be very nice and agreeable to my co workers, and they seem to like me, but I am never invited anywhere with them, and any one on one conversation with any of them always feels very awkward and forced on my part. I just don’t know how to reach out to anyone. I want friends but at the same time I don’t want to get close to anyone. I am lonely, but I usually don’t feel anything at all. I don’t feel happy or sad, just flat most of the time. My relationships with my husband and parents and siblings have really gone downhill in the last few years, because most of the time I just don’t care very much about anything. I feel like a lead blanket has been permanently draped over my soul and emotions. It keeps me from really connecting with anyone. The only thing I really care about and make an effort to take care of is my dog. He has been with me through all of this (he was a gift as a puppy from Henry on our last wedding anniversary). Please give me some advice; I am tired of just drifting through the days. It has been almost ten years since Henry’s suicide, and although I don’t miss him, I feel like he not only took his own life, but mine, too. Will I ever feel normal, and have the ability to make friends and connect with people emotionally?
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Thank you for your very well written and thorough explanation of your problems. You certainly have been through a lot.
The first thing I must mention to you is that your E. Mail question is so very well written that I am struck by the fact that you are far more intelligent than your parents or you have ever given you credit for. As to why you did not do better in school when you were younger I cannot explain but I know that there could be thousands of reasons, none of them your fault. Also, becoming an RN requires a person who is extremely bright and so, I must tell you, that you are quite impressive. By the way, I am not just trying to flatter you.
The second thing I must point out is that, while it is good that you see a psychiatrist, that is not enough. Medication will go just so far. You need a combination of the medication and psychotherapy. In fact, I would recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with a clinical psychologist. It will help you to improve your ways of thinking so that you do not fall so deeply into depression.
Part of your depression comes from chemical issues in your brain and that is where medication can help. However, a large part of your depression also comes from the ways in which you were treated badly during your childhood by a family that had no patience, sensitivity or appreciation for you and who you are. That is why therapy would be so good for you. It would help you learn how to bolster your appreciation of yourself.
Your first husband, Henry, was a continuation of the abuse you suffered as a child. Even his suicide was abusive towards you. It seems very much to me as though you feel guilty about his suicide. I must encourage you to put a stop to your thinking that way. Suicide is a hostile and angry act designed to strike at other people. You did not make the decision for him to kill himself. Marriages end all of the time and people do not kill themselves over it. Sorry, but it was his decision to kill himself and not your’s.
Do not allow Henry to continue to ruin your life.
My advice is to:
1. Continue with the Psychiatrist and medication,
2. Get yourself into therapy with a really good Clinical Psychologist and make sure he will use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,
3. Start to get lots of exercise. As long as you are in good physical health there is no reason for you not to jog, run, bicycle, swim and other cardio types of exercise. There is plenty of proof that it helps relieve depression.
4. Change the way you eat. The foods we choose can impact on how we feel. You can find this information on the Internet or get a Nutritionist.
5. Lastly and most importantly:
You suffer from Shyness. That is something that is built into you and you have plenty of company. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will help you with this.
Best of Luck, You have every reason to expect, demand and live a happy life. Yes, if you take action, you will feel normal again, even better: Happy.