How do I stop hating myself for being a bad person?
March 4, 2012 1:55 PM   Subscribe

How do I stop being a bad person?

I feel like a terrible person and like I am constantly disappointing people. I hate myself. These things go through my head constantly - I am always feeling bad or regretful about something I have done, whether it is the fact that I haven't gotten dressed yet today or a way I embarrassed myself several years ago. I hate being myself - I want either to die or to unzip my skin and step out, become a new person entirely. I failed my most recent semester of college because I couldn't get myself to go to my one class or do any work. I am supposedly taking this semester off to "get better", but it doesn't feel like anything is getting any better. I sit in the dark and refresh Tumblr, or I drink in the middle of the day, or I look at what my friends from college are doing and feel awful that I am not/cannot do those things. All I want to do is sleep so that I don't have to keep thinking about what a horrible person I am. But I have people who love me and who want me to be happy and alive, I just... don't know how to get to that point.

I know people will tell me to go to therapy. When I came home at Christmas, I saw my family doctor and he prescribed me citalopram and referred me to a local psychologist. I have been scheduled for two appointments and missed both of them. Up until the day of both appointments I thought I was ready to go see her and get better, but before I have to leave I chicken out because I feel like she won't be able to really help me. I feel like a complete abyss of a human being and I don't really know an hour of talking per week will help me overcome that. (And previous experiences with therapy have been along the lines of... I feel really great and hopeful during and immediately after the session, but the rest of the week sends me back to normal.)

I suppose what I am asking is, how do I stop hating myself? How do I get myself to a place where I can do productive things like get dressed and clean my room and even go to class, so that I can feel good about myself? I do not know if this community can help me, even, and this whole question is pretty tl;dr, but I don't know where else to turn.
posted by jeudi to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
You aren't a bad person. You just need to go to the doctor. I'm not one, obviously, but I'm married to someone who has gone through some severe depressive episodes in his life and you sound just like him when he is in his darkest places. Go to the doctor and if they recommend drugs, take them. Go to therapy. This is something that can be beaten, but you have to take those first baby steps and seek professional help.
posted by something something at 2:02 PM on March 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is text book depression. Go see a therapist, get on some kind of course of medication. You're not a bad person, and this is normal and common. The first step of getting in treatment is always the hardest part.
posted by empath at 2:03 PM on March 4, 2012 [8 favorites]

You are not a bad person or a terrible person or anything at all but a good, normal person experiencing some totally normal depression.

Have you been taking the prescribed meds since Christmas? Or did you give up on them? (Totally understandable, some meds just don't work right for some people.)

I'm not a big fan of therapy either, tbh, but I really think you should go at least a few times and use the appointments to help you find some meds that work for you.
posted by elizardbits at 2:03 PM on March 4, 2012

You have to want to get help, and that will likely entail forcing yourself to talk to a psychologist/counselor/whatever. People here will suggest therapy, among other things, but you have to take the steps. Nobody can do that for you. Don't question how therapy will help you, just go. You will figure out how later.
posted by bolognius maximus at 2:04 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you actually taken the Citalopram? You need to make seeing your therapist your highest priority, and that may well mean asking for help from a family member to physically get you there. You can go in your PJs, it's fine and you won't be the first. You must go.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:05 PM on March 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

This is depression, I have been there, and am still there in some ways. I was barred from receiving health care at my university counseling center because I skipped so many appointments out of anxiety. You most likely need a prescription for an antidepressant, as well as treatment for anxiety, and therapy will help as well. If you're still scared, tell yourself you're going to try it for two months. If you don't like it after two months, you can change your mind, but two months is often enough to help you start an upward path.

Trust me, there's no way to talk yourself out of this. You might keep coming up with "plans" to crawl out of the darkness, but every time you slip up you'll be back to square one. The right antidepressant can change your life. It will give you more energy and willpower, and the resolutions you make will be much easier to stick to (and you'll be more forgiving on yourself when you slip up). Please give it a chance!
posted by stoneandstar at 2:06 PM on March 4, 2012

Best answer: You are not a bad person. Your brain is telling you you are a bad person. Your brain is mistaken.

Tell someone you know and trust about your reluctance to go to your therapy appointment. Ask them to help make sure you go, whether it's taking you there or even going with you.

How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me, by Susan Rose Blauner, is a really useful book.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:10 PM on March 4, 2012 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Just wanted to say, even if you never got dressed, cleaned your room, or went to class again, it would not make you a bad person. You sound really sweet and nice. A really sweet and nice person with depression. Bad people do things like abusing kids and harming animals for fun. If what you have described is the extent of the ways you've "disappointed" people then you're way ahead of me, for one, in the "Not a bad person" scale, and way ahead of a lot of other people also.
posted by cairdeas at 2:11 PM on March 4, 2012 [7 favorites]

You are not a bad person. You are worthwhile.

As Sidhedevil said, there are errors in the way your brain is thinking, but the great news is that you can change this, and things can get much, much better.

Feeling Good is recommended here all the time, and it might be a fit for the way you're thinking.

FWIW, I was depressed for years, feeling many of the feelings you express here (thinking you're disappointing others, disappointing yourself, feeling generally crapping, not doing much work).

I read the book last week and realized how erroneous my thinking and processing was. It takes work, but I feel much better than I thought I could in only a week.

You are not a bad person. You are worthwhile. You can do this.
posted by asuprenant at 2:17 PM on March 4, 2012

posted by asuprenant at 2:18 PM on March 4, 2012

You aren't BEING a bad person, you're FEELING like you're a bad person. This is exactly what the psychologist exists to help with.
posted by fearnothing at 2:21 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, hi! I'm you, from the future.

I stopped going to class and failed a semester of university because of depression. Twice.

I did this because I didn't (a) recognize what was happening as depression, and then (b) blamed myself for it.

I hated myself and thought I was a bad person.*

I can advise that going to the doctor is, as everyone else is saying, the thing to do. You don't get to decide if you have diabetes, and whether the insulin works. Same thing with depression. That's what doctors are for.**

What worked for me is in this post.

The key thing: You are not a bad person, and that you are not in a position to judge. As I said in old post above:
When I was trying to change the way I was thinking about myself, I had to remind myself that I knew that I wasn't well, and that therefore my perspective on the reasons for my failures were not trustworthy. I didn't try to make myself believe it wasn't my fault, but I made myself agree to stop assuming it was and look at it like a scientific experiment. Start from a neutral position, and look at the evidence. It's hard to explain what I mean. But talk therapy will help.
* There are times this resurfaces even now, many years later but, eh, nobody's perfect, (that's hard to say, but I promise it is true. Even for you. Really. And what's more, that's okay).
** Obv as you get control again, you should be a smart, critically thinking patient, but for now, if the doctor says do X, give X a go, okay?

posted by girlpublisher at 2:31 PM on March 4, 2012 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Andrew Solomon wrote a wonderful book about depression called The Noonday Demon. This is one of my favorite quotes from that book:

"Here’s what I know that saved me: act fast; have a good doctor prepared to hear from you; know your own patterns really clearly; regulate sleep and eating no matter how odious the task may be; lift stresses at once; exercise; mobilize love."

It's time to activate your support system. Friends, family, medical professionals you trust, teachers, mentors - this is what they're there for. You say you have "people who love me and who want me to be happy and alive." Ask for their help. Don't give up on medication or therapy. Know what you are capable of, even if it's only getting out of bed, even if it's not even that, and don't beat yourself up about what you are not capable of right now. Treat yourself as you would treat a friend who was desperately ill. Get yourself medical help.

You are not a bad person.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 2:34 PM on March 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

If you are taking the citalopram, its not working, you need to go back to your doctor (or find a doctor locally - it sounds like they were prescribed by your home dr and now you're back at college?) and either have your dose altered or change to something new, and keep repeating until you get something that works, then you will have the strength to keep that therapy appointment and get something useful out of it
posted by missmagenta at 2:37 PM on March 4, 2012

Do you still have the girlfriend mentioned in a February previous post? If so is she local? Because I think you need someone local to walk your ass into the therapist.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:41 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Like everyone's saying here, you do need to get to the therapist and start working through these feelings. Hating yourself and feeling like a bad person is not sustainable. You can't live that way. It's also just not something you should accept for yourself because you can have so much more.

Don't feel badly though because you've missed the therapy appointments. Don't discount the visit to the doctor at Christmas -- that's a step, making the therapy appointments is a step, even if you missed them. Posting here is a step. A great step. Keep taking steps.

I feel like a complete abyss of a human being and I don't really know an hour of talking per week will help me overcome that.

It can take a really long time. It can feel like nothing is happening and then suddenly you start to see changes. Also medication along with the therapy can help. But success with therapy takes time, and work on your part, and trust with the therapist.

previous experiences with therapy have been along the lines of... I feel really great and hopeful during and immediately after the session, but the rest of the week sends me back to normal.

Tell the therapist this. They can come up with things that can help you between sessions (Worksheets, journaling, lots of things).

Good luck. You can do this. Just remember no one needs to feel the way you're feeling now. There's help out there.
posted by sweetkid at 3:07 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: (Disclaimer: I'm not a professional, but I've been to many, and have suffered of the symptoms you're describing.)

Self-hatred is narcissism cloaked in negativity. For everything bad thought you have about yourself, you are saying, "I hope that the opposite of this is true". You want to feel put together, smart, valuable, healthy, self-respectful, but the dialectic you use to communicate with the world around you doesn't permit you to say this, for whatever reason, so your brain is formulating it into its negative: "I am worthless. I hate myself."

Your thoughts are obsessive, they intrude on your waking life and distract you from your daily motion. You don't have to stop to think about hating yourself, there is nothing reminding you of it, it's one long thought that is ever present. Maybe you've gotten so used to the feeling that you no longer realize that it is abnormal to have intrusive thoughts.

You want to know how to stop hating yourself? Well, since you've already tried and bailed out on therapy, it's worth thinking about why you want to go to therapy. "To get better," you might say. "To stop feeling this way." or "To cure my depression." Probably, though, you don't know why. Most likely, you're trying therapy out of desperation, because you have recognized that this is not healthy and you want help, but you don't know what the problem is. Maybe you don't know why you're going to therapy, you're just following someone's advice – a doctor or a friend. All too often, people suffering from mental health problems are simply told to see a therapist and are given no further context for why therapy is a solution.

Therapy can help you learn how to stop your obsessive thinking. What you are experiencing is a hugely magnified version of what most people experience on a subconscious level. That's why some people will shrug off your symptoms, because unless you explain that these thoughts are intrusive and confusing, you sound like you're just another moderately unhappy person.

But you know that you are not just moderately unhappy. That's why you're seeking help. That's why you've made the appointments before and why you talking to MeFi about it now. The first task, though, is convincing yourself that therapy is worth the pain.

And yes, that's right. Therapy is painful. A good therapist is a mirror for your own thoughts and beliefs. There are mechanisms in place in your mind to prevent you from analyzing your own thoughts and beliefs. Breaking free from what you know requires that you trust another person more than you trust your own mind. This is a terrible act of courage.

What therapy teaches you is that you can control your thoughts. The brain can monitor itself and skip the bad thoughts that you are so inundated with now. We often think of therapists as helping people sort out their internal conflicts, but this is the real gem you'll get from therapy: the keys to your own mind.

But don't take my word for it. You can test this hypothesis for yourself. Try to breathe deep and focus on one happy memory really, really hard for a whole ten minutes. Feel any better?

Therapy can help you grow the muscles to control your thoughts. But like I said, it's not a walk in the park. You have to really want what it is offering and to be willing to engage with a stranger in whose professional capacities to grow your thought muscles you must trust.
posted by deathpanels at 3:17 PM on March 4, 2012 [26 favorites]

Make appointment with doctor. Then get someone or some people to make sure you go...have them take you. Itr has worked for many and it will work for you if you but give it a chance.
posted by Postroad at 3:54 PM on March 4, 2012

Listen, go to the psychologist on purpose. Go even if it turns out to not be helpful. Walk through it like you're following stage directions. That's all you have to do for now. Walk in there and answer questions. And if it hurts and you hate it, rage about it while youre there. Like this:

I hate this! I hate it! I don't want to be here!

Totally legit.
posted by vitabellosi at 4:06 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

You sound just like me when I took my year off. (I took another year off after that, and then I got so aware that I was WASTING MY LIFE that I went back to school with a vengeance, giving a shit this time, determined to prove to myself that I was worth a damn, miraculously aced that last year, graduated, felt proud for the first time in a very, very long time.)

Turns out, I have ADHD (Inattentive)--lots and lots of it. I'm thinking maybe you might too.

Do the descriptions in this thread ring any bells?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:07 PM on March 4, 2012

If you get a good feeling for an hour after therapy and then it fades fast, talk with your psychiatrist about an in-patient program. This could last three days, a week, whatever, but it puts you in a supportive environment 24/7 and can go a long way in a short time to get you where you would like to be. It's like boot camp for the soul.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:16 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

No matter how much your depression tries to convince you therapy can't help, scientific studies say otherwise.
posted by callmejay at 7:22 PM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm speaking from my own hideous experience: The worst thing depression does is create the beliefs that "No treatment can help me, and I should just pull myself together and am a loser for not doing so." That's absolutely normal. Please try to suspend your disbelief and talk to a therapist.

Another thing you need to know is about medications. You may need to try 2 or mre of them because each drug affects people differently. Citalopram works for me, but does nothing for my sister (whose depression is similar to mine). My mother takes Desyrel, but my sister tried it and felt like a zombie. Unfortunately, finding the right medication is sort of a crap shoot.

When you do find the right one, it will allow you to function better. Your improvement grows with time because you'l have small successes that will build one upon the other. You don't just wake up happy one day, but it gives you the ability to actually take action on your own behalf.

I really wish you well. I've been where you are and have known the self-loathing and pain.
posted by wryly at 7:22 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not going to assume you aren't a bad person as it's completely a matter of perspective/preference/opinion/religion. I, for one, am pretty damn bad according to the majority of moral and belief systems that surround me. You just have to come to terms with your inner evil and either quash it or tell your conscience to stuff it. I prefer to alternate. A precarious balance of sorts. After all, not all of us get to become shining examples of human goodness and moral fortitude.
On the other hand, you may just suffer from major depression. It seems to come with the territory, though so you might be bad and depressed. I feel your pain.
Medication. See doctor/psych, try different kinds. Take them on time, don't stop suddenly. If you do, you'll find yourself in even worse shape.
You don't have to take them forever but it's very difficult to get out of the hole you're in without them.
Look at the bright side, you still have people who care and you aren't too far gone to realize it.
posted by IronLizard at 10:30 PM on March 4, 2012

I suppose what I am asking is, how do I stop hating myself? How do I get myself to a place where I can do productive things like get dressed and clean my room and even go to class, so that I can feel good about myself?

STOP STOP STOP drinking in the middle of the day. If there is anything in the world that is going to make you feel like a total loser its that... and nothing will stop you from being more productive. Also, "shoot the damn dog" is an amazing book!
posted by misspony at 2:37 AM on March 5, 2012

Please go talk to a doctor right now.
posted by bukvich at 8:05 AM on March 5, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all of your input, guys. I have made an appointment with the psychologist for the sixteenth, and my mom will be able to take me to that first appointment.

Some follow-ups -

elizardbits - I have been taking the meds as prescribed. However, I missed my follow-up appointment with the doctor and so I have not told him that things have not improved much.

DarlingBri - this is a long-distance relationship, sadly, so she is not able to provide much more than emotional support.

Sys Rq - I have read through that post several times in the past and do not really identify with much of it (besides the lethargy mentioned in your Wikipedia link). Thank you for the suggestion, though.

All of this has been really good to hear, and I hope I can keep it in mind until my first appointment. I will mark a few best answers, but you have all been extremely kind and useful.
posted by jeudi at 11:51 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

That's great jeudi. Best of luck to you, and thanks to your mom for giving you support in getting to the appointment.
posted by sweetkid at 2:52 PM on March 5, 2012

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