My Own worst enemy
March 24, 2009 8:13 AM   Subscribe

How can I stop myself from destroying myself?

I've had enough. For some reason, known only to the deepest darkest recesses of my brain, I seem to be on a self-destructive path that I'm having difficulty stopping. I'm an intelligent and talented guy and I've watched as I've wasted my energy on doing nothing but avoid doing the work I need to do and hurt myself.

Examples of my bad habits. : Eating terrible food, drinking drinks I know cause me stomach pain, smoking pot, wasting time, looking at internet pornography.

All these things cause me stress that has now manifested into physical pain and discomfort. Every faculty of my body hurts from eating food, to my vision, to my legs to my bowels. I am not joking when I say this.

I have, as an old counsellor described, a devious mind. Intellectually I know what I need to do to make myself feel better and all the pieces are in place for me to have a wonderful life but I just don't do it and my brain will just convince me to do it anyway. It seems I'd much prefer to be a sad sack who is sorry for himself than actually help myself and take the steps to make myself happy.

Going to the Doctor is pointless because I know the cause of all my problems. I don't expect any sympathy either. Getting therapy only helps so much as I am able to talk about my problems (which I seem to love to do at length- part of the problem) but when it comes to the crunch I just continue my old ways despite the pain they cause.

I don't dream any more. I used to think I was going to go somewhere but now, even though I know it is stupid and wrong, I've created a future scenario in my head where I'm alone. I won't end up doing what I want. I have this horrible negativity that distances me from people and in turn keeps me isolated.

Despite this I have lots of friends who I love but feel I don't connect with because I feel like I'm being false with them. I have a cheery exterior, but on the inside I'm in pain. It's the clown that cries syndrome...such a cliche.

I have had suicidal thoughts pop in and out of my head. But I know I can't give into that because it would destroy the lives of too many people - so I have to beat this.
I've tried anti-depressants and won't go back to them as I feel myself slipping way on them. Most recently I took to cutting myself out of sheer frustration that I'm STILL like this. Still wasting time. Making zero effort to further myself. My memory is shot to pieces, I don't remember simple things and I don't feel like I am connected to my past in any way. I feel so False. I've lost who I am. These problems are all I think about except for the few minutes I'm sometimes able to catch first thing in the morning when I think I'm going to be ok. Just getting through the day is a major struggle.

It sounds like I'm hard on myself and I am, but at the same time if I'm not I just don't do anything.

This is what consumes my life. I'm 30 this year. God damn it I'd like to start acting like an adult. Time is spinning by and I've got things to do if I want to get anywhere.

Can anyone else relate? Am I doomed? How can I pull myself out of this false hellish tragedy I've created for myself?

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Well, it's called self-loathing and the antidote is to learn how to start loving yourself, unconditionally. It's going against the fibre of your being, your conditioning, your persona, your childhood and your genes. What you are carrying around is simply a very heavy, toxic load that wears down on you, on your shoulders, in your heart and within the mind. It creates ill health in that it stirs up the bile and creates havoc with the sympathetic nervous system as you manufacture all these chemicals that come from negative thinking and being and that then flows into the bloodstream creating what is known as depression.

Simply - instead of expanding, your cells are contracting. That is the essence of this mindset of the self hater. If you really desire to change you will have to begin a new way of thinking - and that comes from learning from the experts. I have found that the books by Byron Katie and Louise Hay to be beneficial in learning how to undo, unravel and create a new reality/outlook. There are many good videos on YT that will give you a starting point.

I wish you all good cheer, good health and a very happy new beginning.
posted by watercarrier at 8:28 AM on March 24, 2009 [6 favorites]

It's tough to answer a question like this without projecting my own crap onto it, but I'm inclined to wonder whether you're afraid of putting yourself in a square-one sort of position. After all, you're a very successful slacker/drug abuser with highly advance skills in procrastination and avoidance, whereas you're a rank beginner at living healthily, facing down fear and pursuing happiness. Changing these habits is like taking a new job, in a new field and that you're not sure you're qualified for. It's scary as hell. But your fear looms larger than it should because you've been doing whatever you can to avoid feeling it for so long that you now imagine happiness to be much bigger, badder and scarier than it really is.
posted by jon1270 at 8:31 AM on March 24, 2009 [7 favorites]

"I'm 30 this year"

You aren't on a schedule..

Sometime we worry about where we think we should be at a given stage in life and that can build into a panic. It sounds like you're crippled with anxiety. Give yourself the freedom to start again.

"I've tried anti-depressants and won't go back to them as I feel myself slipping way on them."

Try to reconnect with who you were before you felt like you were a mess.

"I have had suicidal thoughts pop in and out of my head."

Call a suicide hotline if you ever feel suicidal!

Just because you've tried therapy doesn't mean you found the right therapist. Keep looking until you find somebody you have rapport with.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:33 AM on March 24, 2009

Think less in your head, and more with other people.
posted by devnull at 8:35 AM on March 24, 2009

I'm 30, and I have plenty of self-image issues ... but I'll be damned if I'm going to hate myself. Sure, I've made plenty of poor decisions, some with long-lasting consequences (e.g., I'll probably be digging myself out of debt for decades), but I'm the only me I'm ever going to have.

Your tragedy is false, just as you said ... but your depression is very real. And some of your conclusions (e.g., that therapists and antidepressants can't help you) are probably wrong. Change therapists, change psychiatrists, and give your treatment options another shot; in particular, look into therapists skilled at CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), since it's goal-oriented — and working towards your goals (not to mention figuring them out) is what you need.

And how is pornography a bad habit? Seriously? You think that taking care of your libido in a totally safe way is bad? Jack off to your heart's content knowing that you're giving yourself attention and — more importantly — avoiding STDs and accidental pregnancies.
posted by korpios at 8:51 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm going to yell at you a little bit now. I may become rather heated. This is because I have Been There, and am still angry at myself for wasting all that time, and what you're saying all sounds awfully familiar.

It seems I'd much prefer to be a sad sack who is sorry for himself than actually help myself and take the steps to make myself happy.

You're damn right it does.

It sounds like I'm hard on myself and I am

The hell you are. You're not being hard on yourself at all -- you're wallowing. Being "hard on yourself" after the fact is just more self-pity to indulge in; it's not much different from the drinking or the smoking or the cutting. It's fun to just wallow deep in the shit sometimes, to go oh woe is me and turn the radio up real loud and isn't this sad, isn't it oh my? Doesn't get you anywhere, but it passes the time.

What you're doing right now is putting up a whole buttload of handy excuses for why you shouldn't have to do any work to solve these problems. For every potential escape, you've got an excuse for why you shouldn't bother. "Your brain" is not "convincing you to do it anyway;" you're doing what you want and then making excuses for yourself afterwards. Oh, your brain made you do it. Well that's just fine then, it wasn't you who did it. It was just your brain. Silly brains, can't take them anywhere.

You want to be hard on yourself? Be hard on yourself before you engage in self-destructive behavior, and stop yourself doing it. That is literally all there is to it. It is just that goddamn simple. Throw away the pot (no, don't have one last huge smoke for old times, just throw it away), pour out the booze, and fer chrissakes put away the goddamn razor blades.

Then you have to do the same thing with the things you do to yourself that don't have a physical manifestation you can symbolically flush down the toilet. This is harder, because you can keep pretending about the stuff that's only in your head and nobody will know but you. But you still have to do it. Yeah, it sucks. Yeah, it's hard. Yeah, it's work, hard work that it seems like nobody around you will understand why it's hard. (That's false, by the way, but it is how it will seem while you're doing it.) But it's the only way out.

The therapist can help, can show you the way, or a way at least -- but can't do it for you, especially if you keep talking him or her in circles. You have to do it.

That thing you felt was "slipping away" when you took the antidepressants? You want that to go away. Excuses. "Going to the Doctor is pointless because I know the cause of all my problems"? Oh, awesome. Do you know the solution to all your problems? No? Excuses.

How can I pull myself out of this false hellish tragedy I've created for myself?

You just fucking well do it. All the cliches. One day at a time. Fake it till you make it. They're all true. This was the one truly useful lesson I learned in therapy, is that those cliches are cliches for a reason. Because they are so huge, so obviously true and so terribly important, that people have said them so many times that they've become corny and unbelievable cliches. But still true.

You can enlist your friends to help. It's a lot easier to lie to yourself than to someone else. You might be surprised how many of them will know exactly what you're going through.

Don't worry about the big picture stuff right now, the "will I die alone" and the "nobody understands me" and the "who am I, really, anyway". That shit's so far out of reach right now that trying for them will just discourage you. Worry about the stuff that's in reach.

Most of the rest will take care of itself in the process.
posted by ook at 9:09 AM on March 24, 2009 [26 favorites]

I second what was said above. Try learning CBT, an excellent book is "Feeling Good" by Dr. David Burns. Also, I'd give medication a second shot. It certainly safer than cutting yourself or worse killing yourself. Lastly, remember all those truisms (which can often seem annoying) and really do them. In particular... break down large tasks into small pieces and tackle them, remember that motivation follows action, not the other way around, and lastly, try to help other people in some capacity even if its actually for selfish reasons -- to make YOU feel better.

Good luck.
posted by jmmpangaea at 9:35 AM on March 24, 2009

Well, smoking pot will make you want to eat more.

Also, do you work out? Get a gym membership and try working out every couple of days. It can give you a great sense of accomplishment and help you feel more in control of your life.

If that dosn't help, try anti-depressants. You sound depressed.
posted by Paris Hilton at 10:04 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing ook's advice: start simple and throw out the pot.

You didn't describe your usage patterns, but constant pot use can have an insidious impact on your mental health and general outlook on life. Whereas other addictions can have more acute consequences, constant-pot-use-gone-wrong can be like a slow and steady draining of your inspiration and motivation.

Sure, lots of people smoke lots of pot and don't seem to have any adverse effects; you are likely not one of these people.
posted by Adam_S at 10:16 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ditch the pot. Start exercising- but start slow. Give yourself some easily attainable goals at first. Wake up early, go for a brisk walk, make yourself tea/coffee and eat an egg and a grapefruit while listening to good music.

It's these little daily things that will build new habits and with new habits will come new thought patterns. Don't try to fix everything at once. Ditch the pot, brisk 20 minute walk in the morning after you wake up early (early is key), simple breakfast. Turn your morning walk into a game- take a photo of something new everyday.

Don't give up on meds- get into some therapy b/c you do deserve some sympathy. You are saddled with pain, low self esteem, and pot dependency. The pot is sapping your motivation entirely which is why this has to go first. You may need meds from your therapist to help handle the anxiety that's going to result from ridding your body of thc.

Stop thinking about where you ought to be at year 30. This sort of thinking and comparing out is horrible for all of us. Check out the Feeling Good Handbook mentioned above and CBT. And stop beating yourself up.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 10:27 AM on March 24, 2009

You sound exactly like I felt before I found the right anti-depressant -- including thinking it was pointless to bother going to a doctor or re-trying anti-depressants or doing any of the things I knew I should be doing to feel better (e.g., appropriate diet, exercise, getting on a normal sleep schedule, etc.). Now that I'm on the right anti-depressant for me, I feel like I'm the real me again. Most of the things I knew I should be doing but somehow couldn't make myself do are now just a normal part of my life, just like they're a normal part of non-depressed people's lives. Please talk to a doctor about how you feel. Lots of people try different anti-depressants until they find the right one. You don't have to go through your life feeling this way.
posted by Maisie at 10:30 AM on March 24, 2009

I kind of feel like I should follow up on that a bit, now that I've had a breather.

All of this is easier said than done. (Lookathat: another true cliche.) I'm talking like a big old hardass here but obviously I'm still struggling with a lot of this myself. And maybe being yelled at isn't what you need right now, maybe you're the sort who'll respond better to talk about expanding cells and stirred-up bile and unconditional self-love or whatever. One of the weaknesses (but possibly also one of the strengths) of this kind of discussion is that we can't tell who you are; can't tell what sort of presentation will get through to you.

But that's kind of the point: the difference is only presentation. Everybody in this thread is saying the same thing, just in different guises.

So if you're reading through this picking and choosing which advice you're going to follow, just remember we're all saying the same thing: you have to change. Continuing as you are is unacceptable. You know this. You have to change. You (specifically you, no-one else) have to (as in have no choice but to) change (as in actively, effortfully, not half-assedly, change, as in both your behavior and your self).

The only thing left is deciding how much more time you want to waste before you get started.
posted by ook at 10:30 AM on March 24, 2009 [8 favorites]

I've gone through the same cycle you're in right now, and people here are right: at root, you need to ditch the self-pity, and start feeling good about yourself, your potential, and the day ahead of you.

What I found helped me tremendously over time is that it's not big decisions and "fuck yeah, today is the day I change my life" moments, it's the cultivation of good habits. Sleeping well is one of the best of them. Eating better and exercising. Doing productive instead of unproductive things.

The trick to forming habits is not launching a big program, it's repeating tiny things continually. It's going to bed a little earlier until you're constantly going to bed (and feeling sleepy) around the same time. It's eating a salad instead of a hamburger. It's spending the next ten minutes doing something useful. It's not worrying about whether the arc of your life is good, it's deciding that the next minute will be good instead of bad.

This avoids all the baggage that comes with trying to change your life all at once: fear of failure, pressure to succeed at self-imposed goals and the stress that comes with that, and opportunities for self-pity. And most of all, it's easy to keep trying when the effort is small.
posted by fatbird at 11:24 AM on March 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

Maybe self-pity isn't the greatest of ways of describing this - perhaps it's delayed grief and utter sadness at loss. Usually it's loss of a childhood that could've been. Absent parent, abuse - too many factors to name but very legit reasons to feel grief and sadness. The thing is to work through this safely with either a therapist or in a group setting and learn how to detach from the experiences you've endured. You are not your experiences but honor them is part of the healing process.
posted by watercarrier at 12:55 PM on March 24, 2009

ook I have one thing to add. I don't think he HAS to change. He can CHOOSE to change. The should's in my life ironically kept me from doing them. I felt like a failure before I started because I SHOULD have been doing it before. Stop thinking like this, it's not helping.

Anonymous you can decide to do something about it. All above is good advice. There are more anti-depressants to try and other types of therapy, both of which are going to help you. You may fail, you are going to fail, but you should value and be proud of every attempt you make to better yourself. It doesn't matter how small it is. Start with some small goals, like eating a salad, once, and celebrate it. You are taking care of yourself. Rinse, lather, repeat.
posted by Gor-ella at 1:24 PM on March 24, 2009

Excellent advice so far! It would be good to know more details - do you have a job, how do you feel about it, are you studying something, what are your plans and desires for the future?

One thing to remember is that you are more than the sum of your habits, and that you are still a good and worth while person, and will continue to be even if you continue to waste your time the way you do! However, you know that change will make your life even better. It is possible to change in small cumulative steps. This is certainly easier and more likely to succeed than striving for one giant change in your whole life. So just pick one small thing and aim to change it for the better. Getting a job, or getting on the path of a job search, picking up physical exercise, making a commitment to go to sleep/get up at a standard hour, making a commitment to learn an enjoyable or useful subject are all relatively easy and enjoyable activities that will make a difference in your life right away. Just pick small things and aim to make a small change!

Note: Although we often get most down on ourselves for destructive bad habits like eating to excess or smoking, they are often much easier to quit once you have done something positive to improve your life, rather than aiming to remove an ultimately destructive but momentarily gratifying vice with little results and much self-flagellation.
posted by sid at 1:42 PM on March 24, 2009

I'm so sorry that you're going through this. If you're accustomed to being miserable the prospect of being any other way actually seems more painful and scary. It sounds like you are stuck, and angry, and frustrated, and you're asking for advice - and yet - it sounds like you're angrily warding off and refusing it.. there is a lot of good advice here already, I'm just throwing in my 2 cents.

First, for depression and anxiety - why not go to a doctor or therapist? And let the doctor be the doctor. If a doctor or therapist makes an observation about your behavior or a recommendation on how to change it, don't get caught up with "I know, I know the cause of all my problems, I know, I'm just such a screw up that I can't fix them." Just be a patient and do what they tell you. Because if you knew everything about your behavior and how to change it, you'd have changed it by now, wouldn't you?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is advocated a lot here (eg the Feeling Good book), because it works for a lot of people if they follow instructions and go through with it. You are probably not a unique, particular case who simply can't get any better from doing therapy - unless, of course, you decide beforehand that you can't, don't follow directions, and don't listen. I'm not trying to be rude by saying that, I've been through some rough times and.. it helped me to think of it in those terms: I'm not actually a special snowflake for whom therapy wouldn't work, and it's not actually true that I couldn't do it. Maybe I choose not to, but I could make a different choice. (Note: am eternally grateful for a friend who laid it out for me kind of like ook does, above.)

Try not to be so hard on yourself and take things slowly, changing takes time.. including changing that black-and-white thinking. And the harsh judgment you pass on yourself seems waaaaaayyyyy out of proportion to what you're actually doing. Eating junk food/drinking crappy drinks, wasting time, looking at porn, smoking pot = don't maybe 1/3 to 2/3 of the entire population of the country do most/all of these things??? I get that these aren't exactly positive behaviors that you want to occupy the majority of your time for your whole life, but in the grand scheme of things.. give yourself a break, they are not that bad.

I've learned a lot from reading up on alcoholism and addiction (cutting, after all, is an addictive behavior) as well as some Buddhist texts.. like the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, especially in terms of.. finding a different way of thinking that isn't centered on constantly judging, or the fear of being judged by others. So, I recommend that too.
posted by citron at 3:04 PM on March 24, 2009

You could try a CBT book -- I recommend The Feeling Good Handbook. It's a book, so you can't wallow to it. The exercises should help you think through the choices you are making. I've found it very effective when trying to get seriously unstuck from anxiety/procrastination/depression/what have you.

Besides... what do you have do lose? It's only twenty bucks on Amazon.
posted by wyzewoman at 3:33 PM on March 24, 2009

(By the way -- The Feeling Good Handbook talks about how thinking "I should do this, I should do that" is particularly counter-effective. It just makes us feel bad and then, when we don't do it, a little bit rebellious, like we're still doing what our parents told us not to. Thinking through advantages/disadvantages to doing something, and then thinking "it would be nice if I did this", seems to work better.)
posted by wyzewoman at 3:36 PM on March 24, 2009

Gah. See that the book was mentioned twice above-thread. sorry.
posted by wyzewoman at 3:37 PM on March 24, 2009

When I was depressed, an -undisclosed- period of time ago:
a) I thought I wasn't depressed, and that I just actually sucked
b) When I did think that maybe I was depressed, it didn't matter, because [insert list of reasons as long as your arm as to why suggested action wasn't going to work, it hadn't in the past, etc etc] therefore, there was no point doing it/trying again.

It wasn't until AFTER I came out of that nearly 2 year bout that I accepted I had been depressed.

And, it wasn't until I started entering into ANOTHER depressive episode, and I knew what was probably coming, and I KNEW that I didn't want to be in that place again, that I decided:
"Screw it. I'll try everything."

I mean, really. When you're in that place where you think you don't care about anything, why would you care enough to NOT do the things people are recommending? If you're occasionally suicidal feeling, why do you really care if the anti-depressants have funky side effects. Why not just try them long enough to give them a decent chance at working? (Up to 3 months for many medications).

I keep catching myself 'explaining' to someone else why something won't work, and then going - oh, right. Actually, screw that. I've decided to just give everything a shot. What was that pill, therapist, crystal, happy thought you wanted me to try again Doc/friend/workmate? Sure, why not?

Also, sit down, and give a wild guess as to how many different a) anti-depressants and b) therapists you would have to try to get one that actually 'works'.
4? 6? 12?
You're not being an optimist about this are you?

It may take awhile before you get to a 'good one', so, commit to slowly trying at least that number before giving up.

Extra note: With anti-depressants, inform your Dr of side-effects you are having, but try not to go off any unless you can find at least ONE Dr who agrees, and things that is a good idea. And actually, they are very likely to support you in that, but facing up to telling the Dr you want to go off might just make it easier NOT to lie to yourself about *why* you're going off - especially when you haven't been on a medication long enough to get over the initial side effects, or for it to become effective.

I found that even just being willing to change my ideas about these things was helping. Realising where I was being irrational, and 'caring' enough to be opposed or 'self-destructive', when I thought I just didn't care about anything at all.

Good luck.

(P.S. Russian Roullette tactic: Try acid, you may see more clearly where and why you're screwing yourself over, and realise you are as worthy of love, and self-love as anything else in the universe)
posted by Elysum at 7:16 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Like other's have said you should get into CBT, but it is really useful to understand how CBT works. Otherwise you might decide today to throw away all your pot, but simply relapse this weekend.

First is the cognitive aspect. This means that you need to learn how your mind works, so you have to pay attention to your thoughts. Right now you are so busy thinking about yourself that you are ignoring how these thoughts are affecting you.

Specifically, You need to watch your thoughts so you know what happens in your head before you decide, "fuck it I'm gonna just gonna smoke a bowl," or "It's 2am already, but I'm gonna fap to some porn instead of getting a good nights sleep". Once you start paying attention you will start to be able to predict when these thoughts are going to come. However you will still probably do them anyway.

This is where the behavioral aspect comes in. This means that you have to train yourself to have new thinking patterns in situations where in the past you would have had self destructive behaviors. Therefore, you need to specifically challenge yourself. Put yourself in a situation in which you would normally just get high, but instead you do something productive. You will still fail, almost all the time in the beginning, but you will be more aware of yourself and you will be slowly training yourself to think in new ways.

It is best if you do this with a therapist you trust, and don't give up on anti-depressants all together. Though if you try them again and still don't like them that is OK too.

Also start meditating, shouldn't be too hard if you like getting high.

Good luck.
posted by afu at 11:58 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Getting out of town breaks a lot of connections that make things work. Your dealers disappear, you find new friends and co-workers, things can really change when your in a new location.

If moving isn't really feasible, then a similarly large change in your living space might help, ditch all of your furniture, and re-paint. Or just rearrange your furniture. Make it feel like you're in a new place.

Big changes in your surroundings will help you make big changes in your lifestyle.
posted by krieghund at 9:07 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

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