I know I'm a good person, so why do I tell myself I'm not?
January 6, 2011 10:08 PM   Subscribe

I've had two events, both of which happened years ago, in which there was a misunderstanding that caused someone else to think I'm a bad person and/or had bad intentions. Even though I know what was going on, I keep telling myself I'm a bad person because of them. I only think of them every few months or so, but for some reason I'm feeling worse as time goes on. How do I stop feeling so terrible?

Incident #1 involved me walking my dog. One of my neighbors had a dead bird or something that he stopped to sniff; I stooped down to investigate it and the neighbor glared at me from the window thinking I was letting my dog go in their yard.

I just walked away but I felt horrible that she thought that of me. I posted about it in a forum at the time to try to feel better but I ended up getting chastised, which still hurts. I can't pinpoint why I feel bad, because I know I'm not the type of person who would do that. It also bothers me that I didn't just speak up and say, "Hey, there's something in your yard you might want to take a look at," which would have solved the problem immediately. At the time I had pretty severe social anxiety so I know I never would have done that, but I wish I had.

Incident #2 was also in my neighborhood. I was driving home and saw a bus, but couldn't see any lights or children, so I wasn't sure what to do. I stopped anyway and after a few minutes she started waving her arms around; I thought she was trying to tell me I was in her way so I inched forward, but then I saw lights/kids so I stopped. I think she must have just been talking to someone and gesturing.

Then someone comes up to me and knocks on my window; I roll it down and she starts yelling at me about how I should have stopped and how her kids are on the bus, etc. I told her that I thought the bus driver was telling me to go but she wasn't listening.

After that the bus driver gestures at me to go which was a more deliberate gesture, but I still sat there for several minutes to be sure. When I got home I ended up crying about it for hours. I went to one of my closest friends for support but he basically said that I was in the wrong and that his niece is a bus driver and he hates people who don't stop for buses.

I felt so guilty at the time that I ended up looking up stories about people who deliberately passed buses, people who drove drunk, people who drove drunk and accidentally hit people, etc to try to convince myself I wasn't a bad person because I hadn't done those things. I don't know why the two were (are?) even comparable in my mind.

Most people I tell don't understand the story because of the lights factor; they assume if I couldn't see them they weren't on. That may be the case, I really don't know, I've always assumed they were on but I didn't see them because I was at a corner. But it is possible she hadn't turned them on yet... I just don't know.

It just bothers me because I was trying to do the right thing; I stopped anyway just to be the safe but when the driver was waving her arms I just kept thinking that I didn't want to sit there and block her way and make her angry. I feel like a bad person either way and I feel like I can't win. The other thing that really bothers me about this is that I feel like I should have had a stronger reaction to the person yelling at me, either by yelling back or crying in front of her (so she'd know how it affected me) or something... anything other than just letting her yell at me and then driving home and crying.

It's been years since these two things happened but my guilt over them just seems to be getting worse. Tonight I randomly thought of them, started crying and thought I should kill myself instead of living the rest of my life feeling like a terrible person. I'm not going to do that, but it did make me realize that I can't just hope I'll feel better with time.

I haven't seen any of these people since and I doubt they even remember it. But it seems like I've gone from knowing I was trying to do the right thing to feeling like a bad person regardless, and feeling even worse that I didn't handle the situations more assertively. I'd like to be able to either forget these things happened, or look back at them and not feel terrible. How do I go about doing that?
posted by biochemist to Human Relations (34 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Oh jeez, man. You are in an unhealthy headspace that has next to nothing to do with these actual incidents and everything to do with neurochemistry and thought patterns. Please, please, go see a therapist and get a handle on this.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:12 PM on January 6, 2011 [36 favorites]

thought I should kill myself

I wish you could see my face when I'm typing this so you know I'm saying it out of concern rather than to be horrible:

You have much, much bigger problems than those two events. They're just symptoms of a larger and more serious mental health issue. You need to talk to a doctor about counselling, maybe some cognitive behaviour therapy, and probably meds. You're absolutely right - you can't just hope you'll feel better with time.

Call a doctor. Now. Please.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:24 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this has nothing to do with those incidents and everything to do with your neuronal biochemistry. Get thee to a therapist or doctor, stat. There are tons of people who go around being huge assholes every day who never give these types of things a second thought. These incidents are totally minor and a result of misunderstandings, not malice on your part. Everybody has a day or two where they aren't firing on all cylinders and do something dumb.
posted by benzenedream at 10:25 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I've actually been to about five therapists in my lifetime (for various issues, never talked to them about these though) and none really helped... so I guess I'm reluctant to consider that option again.
posted by biochemist at 10:27 PM on January 6, 2011

Those events are nothing . . . I must have one like them every other day, if not more. You clearly need help beyond what you could realistically help to receive here. Your pain is palpable, and you need to see a doctor or someone right away.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:29 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Then try to get a referral to a psychiatrist ASAP and describe these exact thoughts and feelings to them. Your previous question mentioned depression - are you being treated for this?
posted by benzenedream at 10:30 PM on January 6, 2011

Response by poster: benzenedream: Not anymore - we tried a few medication combos but ultimately it didn't seem to be working. I've been to the doctor a lot recently trying to fix a medical issue and I haven't wanted to try to find a medication combo that works for that and at the same time try to find one that helps the depression. I'm worried about being a bother or being seen as a hypochondriac.
posted by biochemist at 10:41 PM on January 6, 2011

Consider that worrying about "being a bother" to professionals that you (or someone) are paying to help you is part of an overall pattern consistent with your unhealthy obsession with these other minor incidents.

The easy way to do it would be to literally print your question and hand it to your doctor. Seriously, please do it.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:47 PM on January 6, 2011 [15 favorites]

You did nothing wrong in either case. You're not a bad person. These are simple misunderstandings in which someone makes a mistaken judgment because they don't have all the information. Like if you're stopped while driving waiting for an animal in the road and someone behind honks at you, because they can't see the animal. They are not scorning you, who stopped for an animal; they are scorning the person they imagine in that car, who is stopped for no reason and is IN MY WAY HURRY UP. Their feelings have nothing to do with you and everything to do with whatever is going on in their own head, which is a function of their limited information, what kind of day they had, how hungry and cranky they are, etc. Your actual worth as a person -- what you are worried about -- is not an input into their equation determining their behavior. How could it be? They don't even know you. Their reactions have nothing to do with you.

The fact that these relatively minor incidents are still troubling you after years suggests that you are much more sensitive than usual to how others perceive you, and that you vastly overestimate the degree to which other people notice or care about your behavior. Again this does not make you a bad person and it is not "your fault" that you aren't "handling" this well. It would be normal to dwell on and have troubling handling terrible acts if you had actually committed some. What this does mean is that you should question the signals you get from your brain telling you that you are a bad person and have done terrible things. If you get this idea in your head, I will tell you given this question that this is a vastly inflated or even mistaken perception. You've got a wonky sensor somewhere in your head and it's giving you false positives all over the place.

How to get past it, the standard answer is therapy of course. But I will say that I used to be excessively self-conscious in a similar way (though not to this degree) and I found that thinking about my thinking -- why am I having this thought right now? is there a chance this is my self-consciousness and insecurity playing tricks on me again, maybe I don't need to be feeling bad? -- was part of the process I went through as I got over these feelings; maybe this is something you can start with.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:53 PM on January 6, 2011 [8 favorites]

I suggest a cognitive behavior therapist, reading about cognitive distortions - and here... and reading books by David Burns.

I sometimes have thoughts due to my social anxieties... in which I "mind read" others. I have to keep telling myself that no one actually gives a shit about 99.9% of the stuff I think that they do.

I think your issues go further, though. If you don't want to see a therapist like everyone is suggesting, then i would at least read up on cognitive distortions. A CBT therapist gave me information on it years back and I was surprised at how all of my thinking was distorted. So being aware of that helped a lot.
posted by KogeLiz at 11:00 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, I should mention, when I worried about things like you're doing, besides being aware of my thinking "errors", an anti-depressant helped. I've been off of my anti-depressant for two and a half years now. I still fight with similar - but way less extreme- issues than yours but I think I'm handling it alright.
posted by KogeLiz at 11:03 PM on January 6, 2011

I think I am a reasonably sensitive person and I once was misunderstood by a woman in my audience who thought I had said a very racist thing. I went to her and talked and discovered that she had misheard a name of a person as a racist epithet. I told her what I actually said but could tell that she did not really believe me. Nothing could change her suspicion. Every time I think of that, I am so sorry that she was hurt and felt humiliated in public because I didn't articulate more clearly. I feel bad for her experience, but I don't blame myself or worry that I'm a bad person. I haven't forgotten it and I am still sorry it happened but I think my reaction is pretty much what a sensitive person would feel.

What you are experiencing is far too much pain to be ordinary sensitivity. You sound really, really badly depressed to me. I agree with everyone who says you need a doctor who will help you. I agree it is a good idea to print out everything you wrote here and give it to a psychiatrist and ask for help. If you don't have one you can talk to, ask the counselors at school to help you find another one.

You can feel better and be happier with yourself and not be in this pain. I know you can. Even if you are afraid, please ask and get help.
posted by Anitanola at 11:22 PM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

Nth-ing that you need outside help to get out of this. don't give up on therapists - especially if most of the five that you have seen were when you were a teen or younger. if you live in a city, you should be able to find low cost or sliding scale counseling programs. I know people who have found counseling interns who were better (for them) than more expensive therapists they had seen in the past so don't be afraid of a program which uses interns instead of licensed staff (it saves them a lot of money which is how they can afford to run a low cost program) If you need help finding low cost options, let us know where you live - I'm sure the MeFites can come up with some good leads. Once you start, give it about 2-3 months and if you don't feel like it is making a difference, don't give up - find a different therapist.
posted by metahawk at 11:58 PM on January 6, 2011

You sound like you are really sweet, sensitive, and conscientious. And peaceable, and wanting to please, and a little deferential.

And I think people with those traits, for whatever reason, sometimes becomes magnets for other people's meanness. People feel free to lash out at them, make them the target of their frustration and anger, etc.

I was a lot like this in my childhood and early teens, and became the target for all sorts of people's harshness, and that incident with the woman screaming at me in the car would have definitely made me cry at that age, also. (Interestingly I have also had someone scream at me and threaten to call the cops thinking my dog was relieving himself near their lawn when he wasn't at all, but I was a lot older at the time so I could take it as being ridiculous/funny rather than upsetting and frightening.) Honestly, I'm not saying you should do this or anything, but what changed the situation 100% when I was younger was the fact that I developed strong feelings of indignation and rage whenever it would happen, and would spark back in the person's face in a major way that they didn't see coming at all. It's really not a good or admirable thing to do, and it causes big problems if it spills over into your personal or school/work life, but the way people treat you changes in the instant in a rather shocking way, when you do this, and gradually you can reach an equilibrium where you can be assertive without resorting to it. If you yelled back at her to STFU and get away from your car immediately, I think she would have been dumbfounded and backed off.

But anyway, yeah. That's not a good way to be. But the bottom line is, there are some people out there who will be a complete asshole to you no matter how good of a person you are, no matter how much you try to placate them, no matter how much you try to explain yourself, until you stop putting up with their assholery. Remember that these people aren't always lashing out because you did something bad. Sometimes they're lashing out because it feels good to lash out.

So you say that you have a hard time being assertive in these situations, and that makes you feel worse. I agree that you probably wouldn't feel nearly as bad if you had stood up for yourself in some way -- not going to far as to flip out and tell people to fuck off or otherwise comport yourself in a way you wouldn't be proud of (assuming you wouldn't be proud of doing that).

How to you develop this? I think a good place to start would be with yourself. You said in the title that you know you're a good person, but you tell yourself that you're not. Could you practice being assertive with your own self? A thought comes into your head, "You are bad and you should feel bad." Could you tell that thought, "No, you're wrong" and let the thought pass on by? Try assertively telling the thoughts that they are wrong every time they come into your head.

Maybe a next step could be to write assertive letters to people you've had these incidents with in the past, even if the incidents happen long ago and you'd never actually send the letters.

"Dear woman who knocked on my car window, it was very rude of you to scream and berate me. Treating me like that was not okay. If you take issue with my driving, discuss it with me rationally, but you may not do what you did." Or whatever.

"Dear neighbor, you appeared to be alarmed when you saw my dog sniffing near your property, but I want you to know that he was sniffing a dead bird, not relieving himself, and that I respect your property and wouldn't allow him to pee there." Whatever it is that you would want to say if you could."

Maybe a next step would be to actually send one of these letters to someone the next time an incident like this happens.

I'm worried about being a bother or being seen as a hypochondriac.

As to this ... why does it matter if your doctor sees you as a bother? Seriously, what if they did? Why does it matter if anyone you have a professional relationship sees you as a bother?

Can you decide for, say, 2 doctor visits, you give yourself permission to be as big of a bother, hypochondriac, and any other bad traits you feel you may have, that you would be if you let it all out there? Just let it loose for a couple visits. You can always switch doctors after that.

Also -- it might help you to try assertiveness training specifically, rather than just open-ended therapy or medication.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:21 AM on January 7, 2011 [7 favorites]

BitterOldPunk: that's terrible advice. The OP is clearly dealing with some pretty serious mental health problems. She mentioned thoughts of suicide. Psychedelic drug use is unlikely to help the situation and it's irresponsible of you to advocate it.

OP: Please see a psychiatrist and commit to following their advice. If you don't think you can keep yourself safe before your appointment, go to your local emergency department. The way you're thinking is indicative of pretty serious depression. You can get better, but you really do need to get help.
posted by embrangled at 2:25 AM on January 7, 2011

Last thing ... do you know anyone who is super unselfconscious? I mean the kind of person who always enjoying themselves, is often a little uncouth, maybe is a little too noisy, doesn't have the best manners, etc. You'll walk around with this person, and see all sorts of people give them disapproving looks or scold them or whatever, and they'll just laugh and say okay, and maybe make a half-assed effort to stop whatever they were scolded about. But mainly they'll just think the person is uptight and silly. I think spending some time around a person like that might help you become less freaked out about this sort of stuff.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:29 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I can see your social anxiety from here sweetie. I can relate to everything that you wrote.

The thing is, for me it's all in the past now. The crippling guilt and anxiety about things that happened long ago are all behind me. I still have to work at it, but I am so much happier now that I don't have that enormous weight on my shoulders.

For me, cognitive behavioural therapy combined with drug therapy did the trick. Depression and anxiety often go together, and it sounds like you have that problem too (I did). Talk to your GP about being referred for proper Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and if s/he can't help or doesn't understand, go to another doctor for a referral. Also read up about it on the internet to find out exactly what it is and isn't; don't assume that you already know and that it won't help.

You CAN get past this. Life CAN be fun and relatively free of anxiety - your brain chemistry and negative thought patterns are causing you to feel bad about these long-ago incidents, but it's not your fault and it can be fixed.

IANAD; this is not medical advice. But keep it in mind. And in my case it was pretty much psychological rather than psychiatric (which for some reason a lot of people feel better about, even though there is no shame in psychiatric illness any more than there is in having diabetes, for example). This is pretty much fixable, you just need the right tools.

posted by rubbish bin night at 2:55 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

These people who berated you were simple-minded arseholes who are unable to envisage that the conclusions they leap to are not necessarily the correct ones.

Repeat after me: I am not responsible for the actions/reactions of anybody, much less this type of person.

Therapy is absolutely the way to go. You are not "a bother" to a therapist. People like you (and me - what you describe is not a million miles from my own experience) are the reason that therapists exist.

Everyone recommends Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. That type of therapy is all well and good, but it's not the only one. Personally, I recommend a Transactional Analysis therapist, but that's just because that's what I'm familiar with. The various flavours of therapy are just different approaches to the same goal.

I strongly recommend another shot at therapy. Maybe others can recommend a particular therapist (perhaps you can use an anonymous AskMe for this purpose?).

Put simply, your feelings of guilt over experiences like the ones you describe are misplaced. You need to get to a headspace where you fully realise this and are therefore able to change your way of thinking. This is what therapy is for.
posted by idiomatika at 3:59 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah -- depression, anxiety. Not about the bus. Not about the bird.

I suspect you've developed the habit of attaching these explanations to these feelings because having the feelings without some sort of framework for understanding them, some reason in mind to make sense of the way you feel, is intolerable. Instead of event --> other person's reaction --> bad feelings, as it was several years ago when these events actually happened, it's now bad feelings --> why am I feeling this way? --> It must be the thing about the bus. This is the story you've been telling yourself to make sense of how you feel.

The problem is that the story is crap. It's a myth you've constructed to reassure yourself that your unhappy feelings make sense, but like a lot of myths it doesn't give you any power over your situation. As long as you keep telling and retelling yourself this explanatory story you are stuck, because the past is gone, and that makes the whole situation hopeless.

But it's not you as a person that's hopeless; it's just the story you've been telling yourself that's hopeless.

The challenge you face, if you are to move on, is to let go of the crap story. The real, true story is: you're depressed. It's no fun to be depressed. As stories go, it might seem no more attractive than the one that tells you you're a fundamentally bad person. But depression is something that's going on in the present. It's not locked away in the past, and it's not hopeless or unchangeable.
posted by jon1270 at 4:19 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I can relate to what you describe. I feel traumatized whenever someone goes off on me like that woman in your second story. I'll be minding my own business, doing whatever seems logical at the time, and inadvertently draw that kind of negative attention. Later on I may realize that the other person's anger had everything to do with them and little or nothing to do with me, but at the time I have almost a panic reaction. I'm pretty sure I get this from having grown up in an abusive home, specifically with a father who had anger problems and would blow up or hit rather than ask questions. I'm wondering if you have anything like that in your background.
posted by BibiRose at 4:25 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

These events are meaningless, ordinary, minor misunderstandings. You look back at them and stop feeling like a terrible person by taking SSRIs, having therapy, or otherwise dealing with your depression (disclaimer: IANAD).
posted by J. Wilson at 5:29 AM on January 7, 2011

If your best friend told you they were silently suffering this way for years, and then they told you that they didn't want to get help because they thought people would think they were being a hypochondriac, what would you tell them?
posted by facetious at 5:45 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ok, so I completely understand how you feel. There are particular events that have happened in the last 12 years of my life that I think of once in a while, and they send a shiver up my spine. Minor incidents, like the one you describe, that are magnified in proportion in my head.

I, too, have had some bad experiences with psychologists and therapy, so I'm not going to tell you to go right now. I am on medication at the moment for depression and anxiety, but I'm not doing talk therapy. I have been considering talk therapy, though, and it's because I've started an online cognitive behavioral therapy program that simple gets you to recognized examples of distorted thinking, like the ones you're describing.

Link here.

This point of this isn't to take the place of therapy, but maybe it can help you identify ways in which your thinking is distorting reality. I know that you think you're awful because of what happened - I completely understand that. I still get flashes of feeling like a fucking asshole because of something I did when I was 15. That was over 10 years ago.

Get some help, someway, somewhere. It doesn't have to be talk therapy right now, but you have to stop the cycle somehow, before it really spins out completely.
posted by SNWidget at 5:55 AM on January 7, 2011

Therapy, definitely.

But I also wanted to point out you don't necessarily know what people are thinking, especially in the first situation. I'm home all day, and when a dog walks by my house, boy is that an EVENT (especially for my toddler). I look at passersby, especially ones with dogs, because I'm curious about what's going on outside my window. I sincerely hope nobody's thinking, "OMG, she's GLARING at me." I don't care whether a dog poops or pees on my lawn as long as the owner cleans up the poop (although I do appreciate the effort not to let them pee in my flowers). That's what dogs do, and that's what living in a neighborhood means, and if you don't like it, you get a fence put in.

Anyway, one time on a weekend I saw someone walking by, glanced out the window, stared for a second, and said, "Oh, God, sweetie, go help her," which resulted in my husband staring out the window, and then racing to get a baggie. The woman saw us looking at her and was totally embarrassed and already apologizing for letting her dog poop on our lawn by the time my husband got out there, thinking we were glaring and coming to berate her. But that wasn't the case at all. She had an infant in a Bjorn, a toddler trying to bolt off into the street, and a dog desperate to do its business, and then she couldn't manage to bend over for the poop without losing hold of one of the three. I sent my husband out to pick up the poop because dog poop is not a big deal and she was clearly having a rough time! But imagine if she'd managed to pick up the poop and run off before my husband got out there with a baggie -- she would have gone on thinking we were mean, glaring people who didn't want her dog pooping on our lawn.

Anyway, you don't know what the neighbor was thinking. She could have been thinking, "Oooh, a dog, this is the most interesting thing that's gone by my window all day." Or "Man, my day has sucked, I wish I were out walking a dog instead of working on this report." (grouchy face)

And finally, I hadn't even THOUGHT of that until just now. It was probably four years ago. These other people don't remember these incidents, I can almost guarantee; you're not the star of anyone else's mental movie and they're not sitting there thinking ill of you. They've forgotten.

(and look, the mom who yelled at you about the bus is a crazy person, and I'd have cried too because crazy people are scary. I'd try not to take it that much to heart because if she were a normal person, she would have called the police, not put herself and her kids in potential danger by screaming at a stranger in a car. That's crazy. And solves no problems. Also, in my state, bus drivers can report the plates of drivers who illegally pass buses to the police for ticketing by mail. Dunno the rules where you are, but I'd figure if you didn't get a ticket in the mail, you didn't do anything wrong.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:52 AM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

Echoing KogeLiz that a cognitive-behavioral therapist is what you should be seeking. These are relatively minor incidents that have become a major stressor for you. CBT skills can help you to reevaluate your guilty or anxious thoughts and allow you to move forward. You sound like a person who is genuinely trying to do the right thing in life, and I hate to see you beating yourself up for incidents where you were not at fault and which were probably promptly forgotten by the other people involved.
posted by Bebo at 6:58 AM on January 7, 2011

I recognize myself in your question. I'd describe myself using many of the same words, and I also have incidents stick in my head, too. For example, I hate talking on the phone because a pizza guy was rude to me once. I'm in therapy right now working on these things. You said that you've gone to therapy but never talked about these thoughts. This is precisely what therapy is for. The trouble is that you have to find a good therapist, and unfortunately there are a lot of crappy ones out there. You also have to go in with the express mission of talking about these thought patterns. I had a hard time talking about them at first because I was ashamed that I had this mental problem. But it's nothing to be ashamed of, because it's pretty common. And seeking help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.

Good luck. I am thinking of you.
posted by emkelley at 7:01 AM on January 7, 2011

Aw, man, dude. My heart aches for you. This is not a good way to live.

I've experienced similar things... events which other people would think were relatively minor, in which I was somehow perceived in a bad light, drove me MAD for years. Small embarrassments, big misunderstandings, etc.

In my case, this was a symptom of needing both cognitive-behavioral therapy and antidepressant meds.

While I can't say what you need, know this: it's not normal or healthy or sustainable to be SO torn up over your real and perceived failings. It's like walking on glass, constantly. I'd advise that you find a team of health professionals: a med management guy/gal (a psychiatrist who ONLY deals with prescribing, combining, tweaking, etc. psychiatric meds) and a cognitive behavioral therapist. Different therapists have their places, but CBT ones are quite good if you need concrete help breaking through bad thought patterns RIGHT NOW.

I wish you luck... and peace.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:50 AM on January 7, 2011

I've been to the doctor a lot recently trying to fix a medical issue and I haven't wanted to try to find a medication combo that works for that and at the same time try to find one that helps the depression. I'm worried about being a bother or being seen as a hypochondriac.

This is the depression and anxiety talking. It likes having a free reign in your brain and doesn't want to be fixed. Tell it, "depression, thanks for your input and I know you'd like to stay around, but I'm tired of dealing with you and feeling like this, so now I will be taking care of myself and getting help. This is the end of our relationship. From now on, I'm ignoring your input because it's not in my best interest."

It might help to think of the depression as this other thing that is taking over. It wants you to think that saying, "hey, I could use some help on this" is being a bother to people so that you won't actually do it. Because hey, it's nobody's problem but my own! But this exercise has been helpful for me and other folks because you can realize there is still a huge part of you that doesn't WANT it to take over. That's the part of you asking for help here, and wondering how to fix your response to these two events.

Since you are interested in biochemistry, why not treat this as your next experiment: how to figure out the mechanics, biology and chemistry in your particular situation to get it fixed! It's not a bother, it's science, and it's your body, and it needs some help. It is absolutely pragmatic to find the solution to this problem!

Have you seen an actual psychiatrist? I like the idea above - print out your actual question above and take it to your GP or psychiatrist. That will give them the information to get started on helping you end the previous clinical trials (5 therapists) and getting towards finding a good solution for YOUR body! Good luck - you are being brave.
posted by barnone at 8:59 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Hey biochemist, your explanations of the events make complete sense. it's clear to me that you would not knowingly disrespect someone's lawn or a bus driver's signals. Sometimes other people misinterpret you. Blame and guilt for that rightly falls on them. If you can forgive them for yelling at you, that would be another good deed in the world. But either way, I'm sorry that they did that to you.
posted by salvia at 9:09 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I can almost guarantee; you're not the star of anyone else's mental movie and they're not sitting there thinking ill of you.

I'm sure Eyebrows McGee is right about that. But even if they are thinking about you still, so what! I tend to think those people do remember, and they do sit there miserably hating me. (This is probably because I grew up in a hate-y sort of place, and know that sadly, some people are like that.) And I used to worry about that, but then I realized, it's really their problem. If they are or were mad at you for these trivial misunderstandings, that makes them horrible mean nasty little jerks, and you are so much better than them, because you want to be a good person and you care. If you pissed off the curmudgeon who sits in the house all day mumbling angrily whenever someone with a dog walks by, oh well. If you got on the wrong side of the batshit lady who remembers every time anyone ever almost drove past the bus, and who rants about it for years to the annoyance of all the other parents at the school, good. You're giving them soemthing to do with their sad lives.

That's not to dismiss the suggestions of medication and/or therapy, just to suggest another way of thinking about it for now.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 9:10 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

tldr You might want to check out this thread: The feelings you describe are a dead ringer for how I feel when my anxiety is in the driver's seat. There are coping strategies, but I gotta say, meds did me a WORLD of good while I was learning how to better deal with the practical jokes my brain likes to play on my sense of perspective.
posted by Ys at 2:09 PM on January 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you everyone. I've decided to give my doctor a call and look into CBT in my area. Unfortunately there don't appear to be any psychiatrists around me, but if any MeFites are in the Ohio area and want to PM me I'd be grateful for a recommendation. In the meantime my friend recommended a therapist so hopefully they'll be better than the other ones I've seen.

BiBirose: Yes, I do have something like that in my background. Even though my parents weren't alcoholics, it seems like my reactions to other people mirror those listed in the AA Survivors group.

Everyone else: It's good to know that I'm not the only one that's gone through such misunderstandings, and that it can someday be something I look back and feel bad the other person felt that way, but not attribute it to my own worth as a person.
posted by biochemist at 4:33 AM on January 8, 2011

If you go to WebMD physician finder, you can select the area and specialty (psychiatry). At the bottom, click "more options" and you can enter your insurance. I found a number of psychiatrists in your area that takes your insurance -- will send the names via MeMail.
posted by barnone at 10:17 AM on January 8, 2011

Although I recommend considering drug therapy as well as the CBT (IANAD, but it worked for my similar problem), CBT is psychology rather than psychiatry so you won't need a psychiatrist for that, rather an experienced and qualified psychologist. Ideally (as in my case where there is an anxiety clinic here in Amsterdam) the psychologist will work closely with a shrink to make sure that your drug therapy and CBT are working well together.

Keep at it - you really can fix this. You may also like to take a look at this book while you're searching for the right people to help you. My CBT therapist recommended it to me and it helped me a lot. YMMVbut don't give up - help is out there.
posted by rubbish bin night at 3:52 AM on January 9, 2011

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