I suck. I suck so much I can't even stop sucking long enough to figure out how to not suck.
November 12, 2012 12:05 AM   Subscribe

I suck. I am not good enough, I don't work hard enough, I'm lazy, and there are a million things I should be doing better. CBT doesn't work because I can refute just about every positive attribute you throw at me. What is wrong with my thought process, why am I so stubbornly stuck in "Never Good Enough Land", and why can't I make this go away? A free association of what's going through my head after the jump.

My thoughts tonight (this is what happens when I'm at a very low point): I pretty much suck. My marriage failed 4 years ago (failed way before then, but the divorce happened 4 years ago). I obviously wasn't doing something that kept my husband happy cause he's married again and I'm not. Tried to get into the dating scene through eHarmony, but of the very few men who responded to me, all were looking for a quick sex score, and the one who had good Christian morals just started dating someone else. The men I know from school and my past who are interested in me either turn me off, just want sex, or are married to someone else but just want sex from me (I am 100% opposed to affairs...they disgust me). So obviously I'm not deserving of a supportive, functional relationship...only thing I'm worth is dysfunction junction.

I suck at school. Others are doing more work faster than me. They are more intellectually curious. They stay up later reading and contribute more to conversations than I do. They are going to have better research and dissertations than I will. No one will be interested in mine anyway, and there are people secretly hoping I'd fail so they can say theirs is better than mine. Other people do awesome things at work and in their volunteer roles and also put forth great discussion ideas in social media that gets them lots of retweets and conversation and moves the field forward. People like to engage in conversation with them.

I also intimidate men with my supposed intelligence, and if I wouldn't seem so smart guys might not be afraid to be around me. But I talk over their heads so I scare them away (I was honestly told this by an ex boyfriend who still wants to date me...I just shouldn't be so smart).

I'm fat. I need to diet but I'm too lazy to plan meals. I have insulin resistance but I don't eat low carb because I am too lazy to put the effort into it. I'm not disciplined enough to exercise and I don't do it right anyway. When I do go for a walk or bike ride, the mantra "You suck at this...you aren't fast enough, you aren't in shape enough, you look stupid" replays over and over in my head. I'm sure people are not inspired by me at all.

I might exercise for 2 or 3 days, but then I miss a day and I suck all over again because I didn't have enough self discipline to make it happen. And then if I actually feel proud of myself for accomplishing 3 days of exercise I immediately berate myself for that, telling myself that I shouldn't be proud of 3 days because I haven't lost weight, I haven't gotten better, and really....I should have been doing this a long time ago so there's nothing to be proud of.

I sleep late in the mornings because I'm lazy. Everyone else is up at 5 or 6am and I should be too.

I'm positive my mom and stepdad talk about how I am not good at things when I'm not around because they talk about my sister that way to me. And they comment on my weight and how I need to watch what I eat now that I'm working overnights and sleeping during the day. And I don't keep my room clean enough for them (I'm living with them until my dad finishes construction on a room so I can live with him while going to school).

Surprisingly enough, I kick ass at work. I'm fast, I do more work, and lots of people tell me they are glad I'm working here because I make their job easier. And I agree...I do kick ass in this job. But that self esteem boost doesn't carry over to any other area. I still suck everywhere else.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy doesn't work because all that consists of is me lying to myself to make myself feel better. Cute little sayings don't make me a better person. I am convinced I suck and I'm not good enough because I have all this evidence that I should be doing everything better. I've been known to stump a few counselors because I'm SO DAMN HARDHEADED ABOUT THIS.

So, what the hell is wrong with my thought process, and what can I do to fix it? Because honestly, I'm so sick and tired of feeling this way but I'm paralyzed with fear of failing if I try to do anything different. I have felt this way since childhood and was always trying to somehow prove my worth growing up. I've been a helper and a pleaser and a peace keeper and a problem solver from a very early age. I want this to stop!

*I do take antidepressants, but currently no therapist because I moved. Anyway, I don't think meds will make this better...it's an active thought process and I don't want to medicate myself so much that my thinking is dulled. I am not suicidal and I am functional, so severe depression isnt the diagnosis here. I am nowhere near suicidal...it's not an option in my mind. I am also a trained mental health professional so that introduces some bias into the situation.

TL;DR: I am firmly convinced that I am not good enough in many areas in life and I beat myself up mentally over it. CBT doesn't work because I can so easily refute "positive affirmations". What do I do to really fight back against this negative, self defeating thought process?
posted by MultiFaceted to Human Relations (42 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Decide that you're not going to waste your own time and energy refuting the positive affirmations. Doing so is like sticking your finger down your throat to vomit up the medicine you've just taken.

On some level, you know that beating up on yourself isn't adding anything to the picture. It doesn't help you get through school or clean your room or lose weight. Maybe CBT won't work for you, but it's worth at least giving it a try with a qualified therapist who is used to dealing with people who are exactly where you are in thinking it won't work for them.
posted by judith at 12:24 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your antidepressants aren't working. You need to go and see a qualified mental health professional who is not you and tell them what you just told us. Print out this AskMe if you have to. But go see someone.
posted by topoisomerase at 12:59 AM on November 12, 2012 [26 favorites]

To clarify, medication that is working correctly should not dull your thinking. You do not need to be suicidal to need antidepressants. Antidepressants that are working the right way can help you realize how awesome you really are in many areas of your life and how you don't need to beat yourself up over it.
posted by topoisomerase at 1:04 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think you are comparing yourself far too much with other people. "Other people do this... but I do this".

You have to develop some self-forgiveness. From there you can nurture some self-love and strive to better yourself because you genuinely want to be a better person, rather than equip yourself for some battle of attrition against 'the world'.

More practical things: If you are on a health kick and have a blow out, you haven't negated all the good eating/exercise you did in the days leading up to it. You just pick it up again the next day where you left off. This sort of thinking applies to any aspect of self-improvement. If you want to get up at 6am and sleep past the alarm - draw a line under it an try again the next day. It sounds hokey, but self-improvement can only happen one step at a time.

Feel free to Mefimail me. Your thought patterns are very similar to the types of struggles I have had in the past and I think I have overcome a lot of them .
posted by TheOtherGuy at 1:06 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

This entire post is nothing but comparing yourself to someone else. You're flipping fundamental attribution errors where everyone else is perfect and you're horrible due to personal flaws.

You need different medicine and therapy.

Saying CBT doesn't work is just your brain trying it's hardest to put you in depression. You spend your entire post comparing yourself to other people or some ideal version of yourself. I can't think of a better thing CBT is designed for so try again with a licensed therapist.

Depression is irrational and over-reactive thinking. You definitely know that based on your understanding of how it is not right to berate yourself for not working out or for working out 3 days in a row then taking a day off.

For me, beating depression was a realization that each new moment is independent of the past. I can do better. I don't have to compare myself to anyone.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:09 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

When I had CBT-style therapy I didn't see any of it as being positive affirmations or even positive thinking, but more as ways of not listening to the horrible little voice in my head. Maybe you need to try a totally different style of therapy? At the very least you need a new way of thinking because you sound so sad and exhausted, and I'm personally willing to bet money you don't actually suck as much as that insidious voice is telling you.

I'm not sure exactly what would work best for you. But maybe instead focus on thinking "yeah I suck, I'm not good enough to exercise every day, but I'm going to exercise today anyway". Or "yeah everyone else gets up at six am, fuck it I'm going to get up at seven and just go on with my life". Basically a big fuck you to the stupid voice in your head, live the best you can and just generally try to stop judging yourself. You don't have to think you're wonderful necessarily, but try to be easier on yourself at least. Hopefully that can lead into giving yourself credit for the things you can do rather than holding yourself up to some impossible ideal.

I think that sometimes a big dose of denial can go a long way. When the negative self talk starts tell yourself you're not going to think about that today, refocus on something else. One example, when you're out walking think about one mindless thing over and over rather than telling yourself all the way around how much you suck. Count your steps if you need to, and when the you suck starts up remind yourself you're not doing that today and start the count again (count to ten over and over if that helps, then there's no berating yourself for not having a high enough number). The negative talk is like a bad habit, the only way to break it is by repetition until it sticks. Which is exhausting but can hopefully free some mental energy in the long run. Then maybe there will be some room for new things you learn in therapy (or elsewhere) to sneak back in.

(by the way, I get up at 7.45-8.00 am each day and I rule, so you have my permission to compare yourself to me in the mornings instead of those stupid 5 am people and get some extra sleep)
posted by shelleycat at 1:32 AM on November 12, 2012 [10 favorites]

topoisomerase is right, antidepressants shouldn't dull your thinking. If the meds, or CBT can help you silence some of these unhelpful thoughts in your head, you might find you are able to concentrate even better than before. You say you are hardheaded, but your description says you are a helper, a peace keeper, a people pleaser and have a fear of failure. Could it be that you have a strong need for others' approval?

Your talk about weight loss and exercise shows you have a strong results focus. That might be useful in some circumstances, but it sounds like you would benefit from thinking more about the process - getting in shape doesn't happen quickly for anyone, so maybe you can remind yourself of what you enjoy about the process - getting out of the house, being part of a team, learning a new skill, improving your health?
posted by EatMyHat at 1:32 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is a lot to tease out here that I think would best be discussed one on one with a professional therapist but one thing I can say is that proper CBT isn't about "positive affirmations." It isn't even about "lying to oneself" it's about investigating your negative thoughts rigorously and seeing if they hold up in light of critical thinking. The fact is that distorted thinking usually does not hold up to evidence when examined critically.

To take just one example from your post:

I sleep late in the mornings because I'm lazy. Everyone else is up at 5 or 6am and I should be too.

Who is 'everyone?' Surely 'everyone' doesn't wake up at 5 or 6am. I don't. Lots of people I know don't. It is everyone in your program? At your school? Everyone you know? Define what you mean by 'everyone.' How do you know 'everyone' wakes up early? How do you know they all wake up at 5 or 6 am? Why "should you" be up at 6 am? Is there a contest to wake up early and you are not winning some prize? Have you internalized some cultural belief that waking up early says something about you as a person? What do you believe it says? Why do you believe that you are lazy if you are not up at some arbitrary time? Do 'non lazy' people get up early? I don't get up early and I don't consider myself lazy. Surely there are notable hard working business owners, CEOs, nobel prize winners, performers, artists, and other socially respected individuals who don't wake up early. There are myriad benefits to getting enough sleep.

My point here is to hopefully illustrate that when you start thinking critically about your negative thoughts, and holding yourself accountable for having them, you start to realize that your negative generalizations don't really hold up in a complex world. By following chains of questions like the ones above you might be able to pinpoint the root issues....perhaps that, in the case above, you have some preconception of how "good" people behave and since you don't fit that preconception that you are somehow second rate. I would suggest that your internal model of this "ideal person" is incorrect and arbitrary and therefore not really a good basis for self comparison.

You might also examine the possibility that you really are a lazy bum...and ask yourself what that would really mean. Why would that be so bad? What would happen to you realistically? Would you lose respect of your peers or family? Is that a bad thing? What do you fear most if it turns out you are lazy? Are there lazy people in the world who are happy? Etc...

This sort of rigorous examination of your mental claims is what CBT is about. Examine your negative voice inside and out. Sometimes the sheer tediousness of questioning your assumptions will cause them to implode when you realize that they can't be effectively examined.

Anyway...try recognize your self-shaming in various scenarios and write down your negative thoughts. Then question the hell out of them. Also seconding a therapist. Bring them what you typed out here...Good luck!
posted by jnnla at 1:36 AM on November 12, 2012 [19 favorites]

Also...just as an aside...I'm going to skip work tomorrow just because I don't feel like going. In my mind that could easily be construed by social norms to be 'lazy.' This does not phase me. I still believe I work hard and am deserving and am worthwhile and am pretty great. I love my friends and family and enjoy what life has to offer. If I am lazy to boot...then that's fine!
posted by jnnla at 1:43 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

I know you are already on antidepressants, but have you ever discussed with a doctor the possibility of trying an anti-anxiety medication?

I can relate to a lot of your post (especially the title, which, wow, totally sounds like something I would have played over and over in my head like a tape). I never found CBT helpful for the negative thoughts I had about myself, because they'd pop up so rapidly and feel so overwhelming that there was literally no way I could counter ALL of them with positive statements, and... yeah. Turns out I have an anxiety disorder. I'm now on a medication that pretty much stops the awful self-loathing thoughts in their tracks, without interfering much with my day-to-day functioning.

You most certainly do NOT suck, and you deserve to feel better.
posted by arianell at 2:26 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Well, at least you are good at sucking. So that is a plus. You can not be good at everything, but you can do well in 2/3 areas. For the rest you WILL be average. That is the definition of average: the spot where most of us live. Even worse in some areas you will be below average.
My advice (from a random stranger on the internet, FWIW), matching with jnnla's: imagine yourself being fat, unmarried, lazy until you die. Then say: so what, this too shall pass. Our societies preoccupation with being a positive outlier is putting too much pressure on those in the middle of the Bell curve, making millions compete for the same spot and causing themselves tons of grief in the process. Simple mathematics dictate somebody has to suck: why not you?
posted by Eltulipan at 2:51 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'll be frank, I know exactly how you feel, I constantly put myself down, altough I can rationally understand I'm actually doing ok (and teachers and friends tell me I do good work) it somehow never computes.

But to me it seems you have hope. You haven't gone the suicidal thinking route, you still cling to stuff because you believe it's fine. I do too, and it keeps me going, the idea, next to all the shit thoughts, that I can in fact manage something finally.

If CBT didn't help (I never had it) I know these practical advices we will tell you here won't help. I know this, practical stuff like "don't think about" "stop worrying" is really hard to actively apply.

It's not a sudden change, it has to become a habit.

if you're intelligent, you shouldn't feel bad about it. Observe what your intelligence can do in the long run. I am also intelligent, with a high IQ of 156 six (which again, rationally I understand this, but I still believe I'm a complete idiot most of the time) and because of this, it feels like I'm hyper critical of people, that people get intimated by me, and are scared, although as a person I'm very timid and gentle. But in the long run, I can observe what my words do, work improves, stuff gets more efficient etc.

You make things too difficult for yourself. In order to start changing your food habits, you don't need excessive meal planning, just having good ingredients at home makes the whole difference. Get some chicken, start eating avocados and veggies, kill rice and carbs and get some quinoa instead, eat yogurt with fruit in the morning and in a few months you'll be shedding weight no problem. It's really easy, just stop buying shit, and eat pure food.

If you manage to do 3 days, you can do 6 days, and then you can do 9 days.

Just make a step, just do it, seriously. It's the only advice.

I felt like you recently, then made a significant step and finally got diagnosed with ADHD which simplified things, I started exercises and my routine is on and off and I feel bad and good about it, but it's finally picking up (because I'm paying fucking 60 euros to get some glistening muscles), I'm getting into wanting to look good, I'm buying more expensive clothes, I want to get a tattoo, although I will probably regret ba bla bla

Live a little. Do what you like and understand what you want. You'll be fine.
posted by ahtlast93 at 4:27 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

What you really seem to suck at is self-assessment.

Most of us are in the middle of the normal curve on any single characteristic we have, and at the edges on others. A few lucky or determined folks have some really positive thing they are really good at. (Like maybe you have with your job match?)

You can be better at anything you decide to pursue, of course, since work is the discriminator, not 'talent'. It just takes a while.

If you have only room for one mantra, might I recommend "I will grow". You will.

Things won't usually get different, however, unless you change something. (See how I did that? It's clever restatement!) So, change something. It matters not what. After a bit, if you like what happened, change something else. If you don't like what happened, change something else. Repeat until you die, while prolonging death as long as possible.

That's about all there is to it, really. Good luck. I enjoyed your self-description and FWIW, I think you were good at it.

( Talent is Overrated is a good read for you perhaps. )
posted by FauxScot at 4:41 AM on November 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

Yeah, arguing positively for your own worth doesn't work as long as you are convinced you are lying to yourself.

Print out the question you just wrote, dim the lights, train a spotlight on yourself, and boom it forth as a speech. Then pace to and fro and sing it as an opera recitative (yes, I'm sure you suck at singing, too, that will just make it funnier). Then read it out like you're a cartoon character who just inhaled helium.

When you've done that for a while, get a book called "The Happiness Trap". (Oh yea, read it too, just in case that wasn't clear.)

Then find another therapist and complain to them that your meds suck and aren't working, and also (if you still fully believe that) that you suck and aren't working.
posted by tel3path at 4:59 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't worry about dating right now. IME it's hard to meet a healthy person and have a healthy relationship with then when your mental health is funky. You have a lot to deal with right now and it's ok to put your own well-being first.

I doubt that your intelligence is the problem with men. I believ you are intelligent, just not that every single man is turned off by it. I used to think this about myself. As it turned out it wasn't my brilliance, I was more likely the self-loathing and criticism. Surprisingly, people don't want to date someone who hates herself and who criticizes them. Again, take a break from dating, but know that hope is not lost and when you are in a better frame of mind it will be much easier to handle the dating process and to connect with someone right for you.

Developing an exercise habit is tough. I find it very difficult. But it's supposed to help with some of my issues, so I keep trying again. It helps a lot if you can find something you enjoy or at least don't loathe. It's harder when you're depressed so be extra kind to yourself while you work on it. Actually loving yourself is a valuable skill. If it helps, imagine what you would tell someone you loved if they missed a workout. Would you tell them they were a loser, or would you say "don't worry, you can try again. Lots of people have difficulty developing an execercise habit cause it's HARD. You did good for 3 whole days."

I was listening to an ADHD podcast the other day and heard a woman reveal that it took her 6 months to train herself to leave her keys on a hook by the door rather than dropping them in some spot where she couldn't find them later. It was kind of exciting for me as there are many habits I've been tempted to give up on because it's so hard to actually get there. But hearing about me experience gives me permission to be patient with myself ad struggle around my habits a lot longer. I hope it helps you too.

Keep in mind that you are really struggling with your mental health right now and whatever you are doing or not doing right now is NOT the final say on who you are as a person. Do see a doc. If you haven't tried CBT with a professional well ... Why not? Remember the voice in your head is lying to you, carefully executed lies that seem so like the truth. But the truth should set you free, and this voice seems to trap you.
posted by bunderful at 5:05 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

One thing that I'm learning now is that all barometers of success, no matter who's wielding them, are largely bullshit. Try some readings in Buddhism. Tricycle, Buddhadharma, and Shambala Sun are excellent magazines and should be available at your local B&N. Your library should have some good books, too.

Starting a meditation practice and keeping at it can help your learn to "flick" the negative thoughts as they come. In other words: you are not attempting to argue against them (I agree with you there, good luck with that, CBT was a joke for me unless I could have done it as a full-time job). Instead you just get better at flicking them like a flea. You learn to recognize their transitory nature - that they are no more real than anything good you might think about yourself! If you've ever won an award or gotten praise on a review (you probably have, judging from your question), you know how fleeting those good feelings are.

On the relationship front: Why Love Hurts by Eva Illouz attempts to explain, in sociological terms, why modern dating and love are so fraught with anguish (hint: it's not you, your childhood, your looks, your alleged "overdependence," or your self-esteem). The book was a real eye-opener for me. No easy answers but at least it gives the lie to most of the modern arguments that essentially blame the person (usually but not always the woman) for their lack of "success" in love.

Also, regular mild to moderate exercise helps everything. You may or may not lose weight but you'll feel better in your body.

Good luck. You are not alone in how you think and feel.
posted by Currer Belfry at 5:09 AM on November 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I understand how sometimes, CBT can seem like bullshit if you have a genuine belief, and think it will hold up objectively, in some of your negative aspects.

That said:

Right now, you cannot be in relationships, because you do not value yourself. People who try to be in relationships with you will see that you do not value yourself, and they will value you accordingly. Thus, treat you badly or only ask you for things that aren't worthy of you. Stop trying to find relationships.

As far as exercise: pick up an exercise game. It can be on a console (like Wii Fit) or on your phone (Like Zombies, Run) Don't think about how lazy you are, don't think about how you didn't exercise today or yesterday. Think of it this way: I am better today because I exercise today - and there is no shame in making it fun.
posted by corb at 5:16 AM on November 12, 2012

Some of the best advice I ever got with regards to self-talk was to stop talking to myself like I was my worst enemy and instead start treating myself like I would a good friend or someone else I cared about. If your best friend was having a really hard time with their love life, for example, would you say to them, "Of course you're having trouble finding a partner! You suck so badly that no one will ever want to date you, much less love you! I don't even know why I spend time talking to you, you're so worthless! You should just settle for the first asshole who likes you, because that's as good as it's ever going to get"? Or would you say something different? If you wouldn't say something to a good friend, then stop saying it to yourself. This isn't about daily dumb affirmations. It's about not being actively mean to yourself, because what does that really accomplish? Have you ever bullied someone else into making a long-term positive change? Has anyone else ever bullied you into making a long-term positive change? I sort of doubt it. So, on a purely practical level, why would bullying yourself be the best way to create long-term positive change in yourself?

Also, you said: I'm so sick and tired of feeling this way but I'm paralyzed with fear of failing if I try to do anything different.

For what it's worth, I started feeling a lot less paralyzed, and started taking a lot more emotional risks with people and started being willing to risk failure a lot more once I realized that no one could ever say anything meaner to me than I was saying daily to myself. And, in fact, it was much more likely that people would be nicer to me than I ever was to myself. Most people do not start spitting venom at you if you ask them to lunch, or if you apply for a job at their company or ask someone for help. That realization made rejection and the possibility of failure a lot less scary, honestly.
posted by colfax at 5:17 AM on November 12, 2012 [14 favorites]

You are, In almost every case above, conflating "the way things seem" with "who I am". You are doing that because you are depressed.

A person in the desert, they don't have water.
A person in the desert, they don't deserve water.

Only one of these statements is logical.

no therapist because I moved

You need to steal an once of your awesome work productivity to get yourself back in therapy. I would also suggest re-examining your anti-depressant dosage with said therapist. The way you are hating yourself is a sure sign of crisis, not your inherent self worth.
posted by French Fry at 5:47 AM on November 12, 2012

So, you are wanting to die young, killing yourself slowly and gruesomely so you can say on your tombstone "I told you I was worthless"? Ever read or hear about diabetic complications and what that is like to die from? Except for the divorce, I was you for a good part of my life, and still struggle against it every day, but now feel I am getting somewhere. Part of what turned me around was my doctor putting a good scare into me about the insulin resistance and weight, and realizing my awful family history of diabetes, and that the grandma I never knew died at about the age I am now from diabetic complications.

I had never tried to diet (too undisciplined and disorganized) and hated exercise, plus my house is always a mess, I lose things, am very scattered in general and have struggled with depression for years, and the same kind of self-hatred you express, as well as considerable anxiety. I was on anti-depressants that helped minimally and scornful of therapy, being "too smart" for that and nobody in my family believes in it either. So what made a difference?

I was scared enough to sign up to work with a trainer at my local gym, even though I was convinced I would be the worst most clumsy weak old lady there and that everyone would laugh at me. Didn't happen, and the trainers I have worked with have been encouraging and kept me going when I felt like giving up. Fear of dying was stronger than my fear of failing, finally. I did cut the carbs, not on a strict diet and not totally gone, and just tried to eat a little better and a little less. Also try to walk half an hour most days, either outside or on the treadmill, where I have met other women I like to talk with and the time goes fast, The thought I hang on to, corny as it is, is "just do it" and stop making excuses and comparisons to other "better" women. I was amazed to find that none of this was impossible or even terribly difficult once I committed to doing it.

As I said, I still struggle a lot, still deal with depression and anxiety, still hate myself some days, still have to cut off my self-hating negative thinking, not replacing it with cheery bullshit but just saying "stop it!" when I start obsessing like that on my faults. I am so far from where I want to be, but feel so much better, more confident, more in control than I did, and have lost around 40 lbs and gotten my blood sugar under control the last few visits to the doctor. My emotional health has improved along with my physical health, and
I find that being committed to work out and responsible to someone else setting up a program for me and encouraging me to stick with it has really helped to change my life, a tiny bit at a time. I could not do it myself, needed to ask for and pay for help, but it has been worth it.

You might consider "just doing" something like this, ignore your demons telling you that you will fail, and try anyhow. You could surprise yourself as I did. It really is worth a try.
posted by mermayd at 5:52 AM on November 12, 2012

I too have been stuck in a rut where I often tell myself how much I suck and compare myself to other people. I think that rather than CBT, ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) is very helpful for self-esteem issues. I recommend that you read The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, because it is all about this exact thought process you describe, and it offers practical methods for how to live with negative thoughts without letting them bother you.

I can give you an idea of what I found helpful in that book. Harris argues that every person has negative thoughts about their worth, or comparing themselves to other people. Also, our mind is a storyteller that never shuts up. So, we often hear these stories from our minds about how we suck, how we'll never be good enough, etc. He suggests that these thoughts are harmful when we dwell on them and believe them, but also when we argue with them, criticize them, or basically try to control them. (Which, from your question, is something you've noticed with CBT). He offers ways of just observing the mind, taking those judgmental thoughts we have as simply stories, and treating them as such. I could get into some of those techniques here, but in the book they are used as exercises, and because I think that the pace of the book is part of why it's effective, so I won't go into too much detail there.

I hope that helps somewhat! I got the book from the library, maybe yours will have a copy. When I read your question, I noticed that your emphasis was really on your thought process, and your way of thinking is exactly the type that is referred to throughout the book. If anything, you'll feel better to now that you aren't alone.
posted by to recite so charmingly at 6:28 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding colfax. Is anyone around you as unkind to you as you are to yourself? Are you as unkind to other people as you are to yourself?

What would the world be like if everyone were so unkind?

What would the world be like if everyone were very kind?

What would *your* world be like if you were kinder to yourself?

Don't treat "positive affirmations" with such disdain. It takes guts to be gentle and kind....even to yourself.

Hey, all I know about you is what you've written in the post above. You're obviously whip-smart and feisty, you're a great writer, you're excellent at what you do professionally. Not everybody has those assets--not by a long shot--so honor those things in yourself. Practice looking for the good, looking for the beautiful, experiencing gratitude--in yourself, about yourself, and also in the world around you. If all you're looking for is the terrible and deficient and ugly, that's all you'll see. If you intentionally look for the honorable and beautiful and good, you'll see that too. Really.

Good luck.
posted by Sublimity at 6:33 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Another person who has definitely Been There and had many of your same thoughts:

1) Keep shopping for therapists. I also felt like CBT was meaningless because it's just lying to yourself and saying "I am special" in front of a mirror like that'll help. And some therapists will be too foofy and encourage the "fake it till you make it" approach. But some therapists will listen when you say "this is too foofy for me" and help you find something else. CBT is not just "positive thinking", it's also training your brain to say "OK, I realize I am catastrophizing / being irrational / etc." and sometimes , it helps a lot to realize you KNOW your thinking is distorted, therefore you have a bit more control over it.

2) The biggest thing that helped me to internalize out of CBT was working on giving yourself permission to feel inferior or guilty or whatever, and permission to suck sometimes, for lack of a better word. You can build up so much guilt that just hangs over you from the constant "I shoulds". But everyone, sooner or later, has a day where they skip studying or don't go to the gym or whatever. Give yourself permission to say "today sucks and I suck today and that's just part of the human condition".

3) In conjunction with #2, It helped me TREMENDOUSLY to start thinking of my depression as a real illness. When you have the flu, no one tells you to suck it up and keep going because other people are doing things faster or better than you. Depression is a real illness and it's OK if that illness occasionally says "I'm not going to accomplish x thing today because I feel like crap because I'm sick". It is SO EASY to internalize that depression is not as Real as a physical illness and that you have no excuse for not doing x thing. But you do have a reason and you're trying to get better and along the way, it's OK to need to rest. I cannot tell you how much this improved my ability to cope with depression.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:38 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Since you say your marriage ended four years ago, and I'm assuming that you were married for at least a few years, and I'm making a wild guess that you didn't get married straight out of high school (though I could be wrong on this), I'm thinking you're at least a few years older than the "average" student in your program. Being a "non-traditionally-aged" student can be isolating. You're just enough out of the general social/cultural cohort to feel uncomfortable, although people are generally adult enough to not be outwardly rude about it. You are not the same as them, and that's OK!

And one other thing: you say "I sleep late in the mornings because I'm lazy. Everyone else is up at 5 or 6am and I should be too." In a recent post you asked for ideas about coping with working overnight shifts. Are you still doing those? Because that will mess up your sleep schedule like nobody's business. If "everyone else" means "all the other people in the place where I'm living right now", well, they have their own life/work schedule that is probably different from yours. People who work 100% day shift just DON'T GET IT. I don't even work overnights - I'm a nurse, I work three 12-hour shifts a week and on work days I do get up at 5am. Non-work days? I'm sleeping till 7:30 or 8:00 and sometimes I even take a NAP and those who don't like it can bite me.
posted by shiny blue object at 7:09 AM on November 12, 2012

CBT isn't about positive affirmations or cute sayings. I agree with you for the most part on positive affirmations--they do not work to change negative thought patterns. True or realistic statements do. You seem to be confusing realistic statements or scenarios with positive affirmations.

1. Find a qualified therapist. Have an open mind. Try not to dismiss. Do the work (it's hard work).

2. Don't worry about dating right now. Deal with your mental health and you'll be in a better place to date down the road.

3. Get outside. Walk. Walk for your mental health. Instead of berating yourself the whole way, download novels (not self help) on your iPod and get lost in a good book.

4. This may sound harsh but so many of us lack personal responsibility. So many of us are unwilling to do the hard stuff of an adult. I have been depressed. I have been overweight. I was like a child when someone mentioned my weight. I would crumble and cry and feel resentful. I had the stubbornness of a child and would continue to eat too much and make excuses and feel like a victim. I have made so many excuses. Other people were better, more interesting, more disciplined, had better parents, whatever. You do NOT have a responsibility to be perfect. The people you are comparing yourself to (stop comparing) all have their own pain, struggles, and issues. What are you going to do about you? Weighing yourself every 2-3 days and having a little melt down and giving up when the scale doesn't move is a childish way or reacting. Believe me, I have been there. Whether your mom or stepdad comments does not change the fact that you have a responsibility to yourself. A therapist can help with how you react to things.

5. ... there are people secretly hoping I'd fail so they can say theirs is better than mine.

I'm positive my mom and stepdad talk about how I am not good at things

Here is a realistic and true statement: You cannot know, and do not know, what other people are thinking unless they tell you. You don't know what time people are waking up or reading unless they tell you.

6. Keep rocking your job. Good luck and good health. You deserve the best. I hope you will realize this very soon.

7. Stop reading Twitter and Facebook. When you are in a bad mental place, Facebook and Twitter can mess with your mind. It's like high school all over again and is not a true and accurate depiction of people's lives.
posted by Fairchild at 7:09 AM on November 12, 2012

Agreeing with everyone above me that it sounds like your anti-depressants are not working. Based on nothing but personal experience, you might want to consider anti-anxiety medication. You say this is an active thought process and you don't want to take medication to "dull" it, but is it a rational thought process? Instead of thinking "ugh, I suck at eating healthy, I want to do better with that" it sounds like you're thinking "I suck at eating healthy because I am lazy and even if I exercise it's worthless because I'll never stick to it because I suck and I'm not worth taking care of because I'm lazy and worthless."

You might resist therapy and medication because you think, deep down, that those irrational "I suck and it's worthless to even try because I'm just goin to fail" thoughts are true, but there's a part of you that knows that they are wrong and wants that to stop. CBT shouldn't be foofy self-affirmations, but it should help you learn to recognize irrational thought patterns and address them. And medication should help make the "I suck" thoughts not turn into a downward spiral of "I suck and I'm worthless and everything I do will be a failure."

Oh and by the way, your ex sounds like an insecure jerk. He was intimidated by your intelligence, and the kind of man who wants a woman to dumb herself down to protect his fragile self-esteem is not worth wasting time on. Can you imagine telling your best girlfriend to make sure men don't realize how smart she is?
posted by inertia at 7:22 AM on November 12, 2012

So, what the hell is wrong with my thought process, and what can I do to fix it? Because honestly, I'm so sick and tired of feeling this way but I'm paralyzed with fear of failing if I try to do anything different. I have felt this way since childhood and was always trying to somehow prove my worth growing up. I've been a helper and a pleaser and a peace keeper and a problem solver from a very early age. I want this to stop!

What is wrong with your thought process is not something you can fix by thinking your way out of it, or willing yourself out of it. I'll agree - you need to adjust your meds to give you the breather, or the leg up, that you need. You need a therapist who is aware that you're having these issues:

Pervasive Thoughts:
A pervasive thought tells you that something that is true for one situation is true for every situation. However, most problems are specific, not widespread.

Permanent Thoughts: A permanent thought tells you things will never change. However, there are few things in life that are permanent. Things constantly change.

Personal Thoughts: A personal thought a) leads you to take too much responsibility for things that are not in your control, or b) leads you to believe that the problem only happens to you. There are many problems that are not in your control and there are very few problems that only happen to one person or one family.

I found these descriptions on another site, they're what we're working on with my kid (I don't have her materials handy.) There are ways to work through them with help, that are not positive affirmations, but replacement thoughts.

Recently I had an ask where I had to recognize that I have a phobia. We've also been working on my kid's anxiety issues. Some of what's working, after first doing exercises to identify issues, is now working on regulating the worries. Learning to push the worries to a certain block of time, for example - mindfully refusing to listen to those voices in our heads. In my kid's case, modeling needs to start happening - we'll be doing yoga together, because that works for her and she doesn't have the option of reading all the internet into the wee small hours of the morning to unwind and even just showing her that I'm willing to try new things to help my brain is a good thing. Staying connected with people that are positive for us, and minimizing those who are negative influences is another thing we need to work on - I'm stepping off a volunteer position committee where I want to "win" against someone - though I can't really - is not unlike her choosing to play with another group of friends at recess.

I'm not sure this ever stops. What happens is, you master yourself. I think you can do this, but much as our doctor has said I can't be my child's therapist, you can't be your own.

It is exhausting to have all this in your head, and I feel for you. This can also be why you're feeling dull and left behind - you're mentally fatigued, and your mind needs a break. You've been exhausted by your brain for years. This is why we are working on this with our kid now, and with the right CBT, we're seeing results within months.

It's hard working on it, and from where you are, you might need to find a way to unstick yourself. It's hard to "break out" of a rut like that. (Think of the chapter The Toil of Trace and Trail in the Call of the Wild. Find a therapist to cut you out of the traces, and get better.

Replacement thoughts: "I need help. Once I take care of these issues, school will be easier and I'll have energy to contribute more. I'd like to work towards a supportive functional relationship. I'm smart, and when I'm emotionally ready, I'll be better able to identify the right partner when he comes along. My health is hard to manage when I'm fatigued - but I try when I can. I'll sleep better when my health and brain activity is better managed, and I'll have energy to deal with more. I'm not so susceptible to others' opinions when I'm feeling stronger. I'm tenacious at work, and will learn to transfer that to my health. I've lived with this too long, and now I want to help myself and please myself and find peace within myself and solve my problem." Take care.
posted by peagood at 7:40 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your intelligence is not what's "intimidating" men, so let go of any conflict or torment you're putting yourself through over this and don't even think of underachieving or "dumbing yourself down." In my experience (as an attractive enough but not perfect or model-level lady) intelligence has made me much more attractive to men....including those who are objectively much less intelligent and/or successful. If you have a sense of humor and know how to laugh (at yourself included), can assert yourself and engage in debate and leadership without coming off as overly serious or browbeating, your intelligence and accomplishments will only be seen as assets. Women I've met who believe they are too intimidating for men to find attractive are either shopping in the wrong aisle, or have something else going on that's the real issue (like anxiety and insecurity, it sounds like in your case). Tough but true.
posted by availablelight at 8:04 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know someone who was where you are. CBT did not work for him--it made things worse. He finally found a therapist who recognized that. She said that CBT works well for people who are not good at self-reflection, but for people like him (and you!) who ruminate all the time it can be the absolute worst.

For him, what helped was:
1) Finding a good therapist who was willing to try approaches that actually helped him rather than insisting CBT should work and if it wasn't it was because he wasn't trying hard enough. (Please ignore the people in this thread who are telling you that. They don't mean to make you feel worse.)

2) Finding a good psychiatrist who was willing to try different medicines and combinations of medicines until something helped.

3) All that other stuff people talk about--exercise, hobbies, etc. But that stuff would not work until he got through the previous two steps and got to a place where he could turn off the automatic negative thoughts so that he could exercise, he could have fun, etc.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:23 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding the recommendation for the Happiness Trap.

The book is a plain-English introduction to acceptance & commitment therapy. Like CBT, it recognizes that your thoughts are causing you pain, but unlike CBT it doesn't have you fight those thoughts with logical arguments. Instead, you just walk away from the battlefield. You learn to defuse the thoughts so they no longer affect you as much and so you can focus on what's really meaningful in your life.

A quote from the book:

"In ACT, our main interest in a thought is not whether it's true or false, but whether it's helpful; that is, if we pay attention to this thought, will it help us create the life we want?"

While ACT has some buddhist-style mindfulness, the defusing techniques are much more active than meditation. Defusing makes you aware that the thought is just a string of words. The techniques include singing the painful thought in your head to a silly tune, hearing it in the voice of a funny character, acknowledging it as just a story that keeps popping up in your brain, and so on. It might sound trivial but for me it has been working far better than the battlefield created by CBT.

The process doesn't stop at defusing thoughts. You also learn to focus much more on your values and what you want from your life. There's a lot more to it, so I strongly recommend you read the book.
posted by ceiba at 9:10 AM on November 12, 2012

First, if I may, a parable:

In the forest, there is a species of bird that can sing the most beautiful song in the world. The song that this bird can sing will break your heart and make you feel like everything is going to be all right; it is the musical equivalent of a hug from a long-lost friend, a meal shared with good company in a warm place, falling asleep beside one's love. It is perfection.

But nobody has heard this song in living memory, because many, many generations ago, the song attracted a clever tree-climbing cat, and who hunted the birds mercilessly and to death. Facing extinction, a clever bird realized that it could hide if only it did not sing the beautiful song. But in the spring, that bird's hatchlings came out of their eggs and began singing, and the bird shushed them, punished them for singing, saved their lives by terrifying them into remaining silent. The hatchlings learned never to sing their beautiful song because they knew that their mother would come and beat them until they stopped.

And in turn, the hatchlings grew into birds and nested, and when their own hatchlings came out of their eggs and began singing, these birds knew what a loving parent is supposed to do, so they shushed them and punished them for singing and terrified them into silence. And so it was for generations, and the song, this beautiful peace-giving song, has never been heard.

In time, the cat died. The birds are safe now, they could sing if they wanted to. But by now, generations later, the birds don't know that the reason they had to give up the song was to protect themselves from the cat. Each bird is terrified that if it sings, its mother will come and beat it into silence. Each bird has learned the lesson, and has dutifully passed the lesson on to the next generation.

And the world would be a better place if each bird would sing the song that is in its heart. And that first bird, the one that shushed its hatchlings from singing, it was only doing what it needed to do to protect its children. And each subsequent generation was doing the same thing. But things are different now, and the lesson that has been beaten into the hatchlings for generations is no longer protecting them from death. No matter how well-intentioned it was, and no matter how loyal each bird felt toward its mother bird, this rule against singing was now useless and indeed counterproductive.

One day, a bird started singing absent-mindedly, almost without noticing. When she noticed, she stopped, embarrassed and terrified. But nothing bad happened to her, so the next day, she sang a little louder. And a little louder, and then her neighbor bird flew over and shushed her, and she stopped, embarrassed again. But the next day, she couldn't help herself -- it was just so wonderful to sing. And the neighbor came over and started beating her until she stopped. But nothing bad happened: the cat was gone and she was in no danger. Again the next day, she started singing, and this time all the birds in the forest came to her and shushed her and told her what a bad bird she was for singing. They started beating her and telling her her song was ugly and horrible and she had no business singing. Who did she think she was, anyway, to flaunt the rules like that? They told her that she was a terrible bird for even wanting to sing like that. She knew the rules, just like they all did.

The little bird's spirit was torn, because on the one hand she loved her song. But on the other hand, she knew that all the birds of the forest would shun her if she sang.

Now, a little encouragement:

Somewhere along the way, someone did you a favor, or at least they thought they were doing you a favor although they might have just been trying to make themselves feel better. But they convinced you they were doing you a favor. Maybe it was your parents, who believe that rising early is the key to happiness and prosperity, and they wanted you to be happy and prosperous. Maybe it was your ex, who wanted an intellectual equal and needed to demean your intelligence in order to have that. I don't know where you got these messages, and I don't need to know.

The cat is gone. The things that people taught you about yourself, they might have been like the mother birds telling the hatchlings to shush. They might have thought they were doing you a favor. But the cat is gone. And after a certain amount of time, the mother birds were just acting out of fear and loyalty to their mothers. There's really no other reason to shush the hatchlings. The cat is gone.

Consider that what you've learned about yourself is like the birds and the song. Consider that right now, there are no good reasons to beat yourself up for doing or not doing something that you want to do or not do. It can be hard to beat the very urgent conditioning that our parents and other influential figures impress upon us.
posted by gauche at 9:42 AM on November 12, 2012 [11 favorites]

do more CBT. It works over time. You have to stick with it for at least 6 months.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:25 AM on November 12, 2012

I'm like you in a lot of ways, I think.

I'm utterly, utterly stellar at self hatred. As with you, CBT and other things that involve positive self talk are either harmful or useless, because I hate the saccharine chattiness of it, and on some level, I take the excercises as a kind of poisonous challenge: I detourn them into festivals of self hatred, and force them to do the opposite of what they're meant to. And even though this makes me feel lousy, it also makes me feel triumphant, because I have defended my beautiful truth-- the truth that I am loathesome. Whee!

Except I'm trying not to do all that shit anymore, because honestly? Spending 1/2 of your mental processing cycles in orgiastic self-hatred is not a way to make any sort of progress toward anything. If the things you want from life are at all challenging (and for you, they clearly are), you don't have the processing cycles to spare.

When I was first trying to get help and get my brain back, the only writer/therapist/etc. who made the least bit of sense to me was Pema Chodron. I started with Getting Unstuck, and went from there.

Chodron is a Tibetan Buddhist nun, a student (if it matters) of the late Choyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The heart of her message is that you have to learn to treat yourself with compassion, because that's the only way to develop the kind of compassion you need to embrace and live fully in your world.

I like Pema Chodron for a lot of reasons. One is that, in order to do the work in her way, you never have to talk yourself up. You just observe yourself. You observe yourself, and you learn to recognize that the things that give you pain are the thing that make you fully human. You learn to see your failings as opportunities to understand and feel empathy for the millions of people in the world who are failing in similar ways. Pain, anxiety, misery -- all of these can be tools for building strength of soul.

And the other thing is that Pema Chodron's not about trying to make yourself happy. The goal, instead, is to learn to tolerate the things that make you squirm and seethe, and to stop reacting to those feelings in ways that make your life worse. You don't fight your pain-- you sit with your pain, and you learn to engage it clearly. In that way, your pain becomes an important teacher.

The thing I'm starting to realize is that really, it doesn't matter if I suck. If it's a fundamental truth then fine, it's a fundamental damn truth, and I don't have to spend all my time thinking about it, any more than I have to spend all my time thinking about the fact that AskMe is green. If it is, it is. So what? It doesn't change the fact that I've got a pitch to finish before midnight, and a dog who needs to go outside to pee soon.

Good luck with this. And good job asking for help. It's more than I would have done when I was really in the throes.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:58 PM on November 12, 2012 [10 favorites]

CBT sucked for me. Acceptance and Committment Therapy has been good, with added mindfulness. Startlingly good. It's changed a lot of things because it isn't about my thoughts as such, but my actions. And that a lot of my thoughts are actively getting in the way of my actions and spending time trying to refute the thoughts is unhelpful because it's just more time not doing, not being, just running in useless internal circles.

But one of the single most important thought processes and ideas I have ever been exposed to is this: on that fourth day, where you didn't exercise, that was not undoing the work you've done, it was just one day out of four where you didn't exercise. And that's all. It isn't a sign of anything other than one day out of four not exercising. And you have a choice now, on the fifth day, as to what you want to do. And even if it ends up one day out of ten you exercised, you still have the choice to make it two out of eleven.

Comparison to others is bullshit too, but changing my views to something less black and white was really helpful. I don't always make it work but it's getting easier and easier.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:27 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

The best thing I read about being stuck in The awful place where you are iis that you might try imagining each horrible thought as a little mouse. The You are Fat mouse, the You are Dumb mouse, etc. now imagine taking each little mouse by the tail, dropping it into a jar and listening to it jitter it's horrible little speech. Imagine there is a volume knob on the jar, and slowly turn down the volume. Now you can see the horrible little chittering mice scrambling around but you can't hear them and they can't go back in your head. If they do, back in the jar with them. It's dumb but it can help.
posted by emjaybee at 5:02 PM on November 12, 2012

CBT is not the best fit for everyone. You might look into DBT (Dialectical behavior therapy). You mention in the small print that you are a mental health professional. This can make this situation more complicated. You mention that you have stumped counselors by being obstructionist regarding treatment. It sounds like your subconscious (or conscious) mind is trying to sabotage treatment. Perhaps you should try to find a therapist who either a) has successfully treated mental health professionals before or b) has a style that will call you out on your issues without negotiating or allowing you to control the treatment process.

Having said all this, your question sounds like you are in a place where you want to make changes. You mention your diet and weight as a place where you feel out of control. Everyone can write down what they eat. You don't have to make any dietary changes, just write every bite down, which is the first step in a healthier lifestyle. Most people can walk 30 minutes a day, try it and write it down. Do you want to move out? Do you have a written budget to work toward living on your own? Do you have a neat room? Can you make your bed everyday? These are changes that are possible. Monitor how many times per day you say the word "can't" and try to say it fewer times tomorrow. Change is possible but isn't magic. Small steps will take you places in time.

Good luck.
posted by artdesk at 11:36 PM on November 12, 2012

Hey man!
Speaking as someone who felt exactly like you one year ago (and who still sometimes does) in addition to completely agreeing with everyone who has suggested finding practitioners and antidepressants that are right for you, I think a good starting point should be working on the physical element of your problem instead of the internal, mental elements.

I'm saying this because you feel this way and think these thoughts partly because of some habits you have, but also because you have a chemical imbalance in your brain! I remember my therapist showing me this study where people were hooked up to a machine which would stimulate the nerves of their bicep muscles so they would move their arm without wanting to do it voluntarily, but when asked about it, the test subject people would justify their arm movements and be convinced that they had a reason for moving their arm and that it was part of their decision process. This is how your rain works-- if there is a chemical imbalance that makes you feel bad, you will find a personal explanation for it! You may be going through a vitamin D deficiency and that will manifest itself in your mind as negative feelings about yourself, or about how you're doing at work, or your relationships. The key here is that this can work both against you or in your favour.

So what I did was attack it with a double-edged sword. On one hand, I worked on changing my thinking habits. On the other hand, I worked on my body, which totally affected how I felt! Take vitamin D3 tablets and molecularly distilled omega 3, get 7+ hours of sleep, eat lots of vegetables (I tried really hard to avoid sugar because it gives me such bad mood swings) and EXERCISE!! Get zombies, run and automate running 3-4 times a week into part of your daily routine. Or join some sports clubs and automate going to them!

This can also be incorporated into your daily life. Change your posture! Watch funny shows and deliberately make the effort to smile and laugh at funny bits.

So if you do all of the following: 1) find a better therapist and get a prescription for antidepressants that work for you, 2) exercise 3 or 4 times a week, 3) sleep 7+ hours a day, 4) avoid sugar, 5) take omega-3 and vitamin d3 supplements every day
you will feel a difference! Not straight away, but try it for 30 days straight and it might just surprise you how much of a difference tangible lifestyle changes and make to the way you think and feel.

Good luck!
posted by dinosaurprincess at 6:25 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think you understand what CBT is. It's not lying to yourself, it's quite the opposite. It's a way to help yourself realize that you have been lying to yourself. Your post is full of lies to yourself.

Read the book Feeling Good. It explains how to do CBT and it has nothing to do with "throwing positive attributes" at you.

"I suck. I am not good enough, I don't work hard enough, I'm lazy, and there are a million things I should be doing better."

There are at least six lies in this tiny excerpt. Take a look at this list of cognitive distortions and see how many of them fit.

I see a ton of overgeneralizations, labeling, mental filters, disqualifying the positive, and SHOULD STATEMENTS.

These thoughts are both symptoms of and causes of depression. They are not your fault, but you can fix them. A good therapist and/or medication may be able to speed up the process.

But definitely check out that book.
posted by callmejay at 10:32 AM on November 13, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! You are all awesome, and the fact that you took time to answer (and some of you MeMailed me) makes me feel supported, which is what I needed.

I'm still getting my ass kicked emotionally this week, but I'm on the upswing from the bad place I was in Sunday night. I do agree with the comments above that say this sounds like anxiety...it does to me as well. I'm fearful of the usual anti-anxiety meds because a simple Benadryl knocks me out and I don't want to be knocked out all the time. But it's getting close to refill time so I'll discuss with my psychiatrist.

I'll also look for a therapist (I promise!). After thinking over the past couple of days, I realize that I get overwhelmed when I keep all of these thoughts in and don't try to process them/let them go. I also have pretty much decided that I'm giving up on trying to date or get friendly with men (as in actively seeking them out...I won't be rude!) until at least after New Years. I'm just worn out, and obviously I have other things to focus on.

Re: The book recommendations...I'll be checking them all out so thank you!!

I just wish I didn't have to fight these thoughts any more...I'm so tired of them and I'm ready for them to be gone. I just don't know exactly how to make that happen.
posted by MultiFaceted at 5:14 PM on November 13, 2012

"I am firmly convinced that I am not good enough"

What does "good enough" even mean? It's not a feature of reality. It's a feature of what's going on in your head. You don't have to pay attention to your head's idea of what's "good enough" if you don't want to.

"CBT doesn't work because I can so easily refute "positive affirmations"."

Are you spending an equal amount of time trying to find supporting arguments for them? If not, that's a little one-sided, isn't it?

I think the way to think about CBT is: The world is the way it is, but you can improve your mood by (a) correcting negative false statements and (b) focusing on the bright side of true statements. It's not about lying to yourself. It's about improving your mood using whatever works, and making your model of the world strictly more accurate along the way.
posted by astrofinch at 9:08 PM on November 14, 2012

OP, I'm like you in that Benadryl knocks me out.

Take it from me that anti-anxiety meds have little in common with benadryl. It's true that if you are very stressed and take one before bed you might be able to go to sleep quickly. But I've taken them during the day and they don't knock me out.

Don't let that be your reason for not asking about them. And your psych will likely start you on a very low dose anyway.
posted by bunderful at 5:09 AM on November 15, 2012

I, like many others in this thread, found this question to be eerily reminiscent of my own experiences with depression/anxiety.

I also hate CBT. It works for other people, but it just did not work for me, could not work for me. Certainly not for more than a couple of days at a time. It added one more insurmountable task, and was a bad fit for my personality. This was not a failing of mine, it was a BAD FIT.
I just wish I didn't have to fight these thoughts any more...I'm so tired of them and I'm ready for them to be gone. I just don't know exactly how to make that happen.
I find Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to be a much better fit. My gateway drug was the book Things Might Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong*, and the most startling idea there was that you DON'T need to fight these thoughts anymore. Even though they're still there.

The fight is a Chinese finger trap. The more you struggle and twist, the more stuck you get. ACT teaches you how to relax, to turn down the volume, to self-soothe. It taught me to have respect for myself as a scared mammal, and do the things for myself that I do for babies and cats when they're afraid (turn down the volume, give them space, see that they're fed/rested/etc). It helped me to see that ruminating and strategizing and planning/catastrophizing was kind of like throwing a terrified cat into a shower. Not exactly conducive to calming down my mammal brain's panic.

So I had to figure out ways to be gentle with myself, and that meant NOT fighting those thoughts. Just letting them be and realising that while they're uncomfortable, I can bear it and it eases. This goes completely against our instincts — our instinctive strategies are great for other problems but horrible for anxiety — but it works. It works stunningly well.

ACT also directly addresses your previous question about dealing with the unknown and ambiguous. TMGTHW talks about this a lot. I think this fear of not-knowing is the root of most of my anxiety. I'm learning that I can bear it, that I don't need to solve it just because it's uncomfortable and scary.

*The writers of this book used to do CBT with their patients. They abandoned it because of patients with experiences like yours and mine, and they talk about how ACT is a different approach and why they think it works better for people like us.
posted by heatherann at 8:33 PM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

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