What can I do to stop my life from spiralling further out of control?
December 28, 2017 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Lately I feel like my life (and myself) are spiralling out of control and I can't keep up. Things are moving way too fast and I don't know how to slow down and prevent them from getting worse. What can I do to slow things down? To get back up? How do I just relax and prevent things from escalating further? Relaxing feels more impossible the older I get.

I feel like I'm mentally ill but have no options for treatment, I feel like my relationship is falling apart and the more I try to fix it, the worse I make it, and I generally feel exhausted, overwhelmed, suicidal and like I have no idea what to do with my life.

Brief background: I graduated from university in 2016 with an honours degree, which I did not think would happen. I spent 5 years in school, mostly stressed out and anxious because I lived at home, barely had any friends or a healthy social life and my mom abused me and my brother every other day. He moved out at 18 and I stayed there til I was 23, well after I got my first "real" job out of school.

I started dating my first boyfriend in my sophomore year of school and we dated for almost 4 years (almost all of my undergrad). He cheated on me, lied a lot and was generally abusive. He broke up with me at the beginning of my last semester, before I was done writing my thesis. I literally did a 5th year of school because our relationship was so stressful and was in constant crisis, thinking I wouldn't be able to graduate in time. But when he broke up with me, I felt a lot better. I focused on my school work, got it done and graduated on time! I also met my current boyfriend during that time.

For months, things were going really well. But I also got my first real job a week before I graduated and suddenly I was working 40 hours a week in a call centre that I quickly started to hate. Office politics were awful, my co-workers all gossiped about each other and it just sucked so much. I felt trapped and stuck, and while things in my relationship were going relatively well, any small stresses got to me REALLY badly. My boyfriend convinced me to quit, so I did. (I've written posts here about that job, quitting and my relationship problems).

So.. I quit, and now I'm here. I got a job in the video games industry, which is basically like a dream job for a nerdy girl like me. I didn't ever think I'd be in this position and it's great! I go out to lunch with my coworkers, which I've never had, and they seem to like me, as far as I can tell. It's not that stressful. They make games and I run their social media accounts. And yet, I'm unhappier than I've ever been and things are really, really bad.

Last night my boyfriend and I got into a fight because I showed up late to his apartment after sleeping in too late at mine, and I kept feeling guilty about it and he kept telling me it was fine but I could also tell he was a little upset. I freaked out. We've been fighting SO much, and most of it confuses me because we just snap at each other so easily now. He used to be more patient and understanding of my anxieties and now I feel like he just doesn't care as much, or just assumes that I'm doing or saying things for malicious or spiteful reasons and then ends up snapping at me without asking me what's going on or telling me something's bothering him. And the more it happens, the more anxious it makes me! I dwell on the things he says when he gets upset like "I don't want you in my life" or "You're a bitch." I never, ever thought he'd call me the B-word in our almost 2 years together, and yet he did just two weeks ago and it feels like it was yesterday since things are going way too fast and I'm overwhelmed. He's an emotional, sensitive and sweet, caring guy who's normally attentive and kind and thoughtful and obsessed with romantic things, but when he's angry at me I feel like the smallest person in the world. I don't get it! We make beautiful art together, our sex is really great and we have so much in common, from the way we think to the jokes we enjoy and yet when we fight it's like this awful war.

I'm not innocent though and I know he says things like that at his lowest, most pissed off moments with me. I feel like I drive him to that point. I freak out, lose my cool and call him names when I'm really upset. He says I "talk at him" and I don't really know what that means or how to fix it, because I'm mostly just trying to explain the thoughts going through my brain at like, 100mph. I don't know why I'm like this. I grew up in a gross abusive household where name calling and physical violence was the norm. I promise I'm not using it as an excuse, it's just that when I get upset, it all comes out so easily before I can even think about it. So he told he's fed up with how I disrespect him when I'm angry by calling him names.

The thing is, the things he says stay with me even after we make-up, while he's able to move past our arguments relatively quickly. We don't have sex that frequently anymore because every time we fight I feel unsafe and not secure enough to be that vulnerable with him. I end up feeling used if we have sex, because my ex would tell me he loved me, only to come fuck me and then leave and lie to me about where he was. Lately I've been suspecting that I have Borderline Personality Disorder because I fit a lot of the criteria, especially the intense fear of abandonment/rejection and the erratic emotions and self-harm.

In the last month I've: thrown objects around my apartment to break them out of anger and while worried that my boyfriend would leave, and I self-harmed in front of him. I stabbed myself with a fork in the thigh, and then did it again not even 2 days later with my own keys (which left these huge, disgusting, painful, purple bruises). I vowed not to do it again and I haven't since, but I'm terrified of how I even got there.

Lastly: I am seeing a therapist on a budget and haven't found it helpful at all. I don't have benefits at my cool new job nor do I make enough money to afford a therapist. I overdrafted twice in the last month and don't even know how I'm gonna pay rent at the end of this month, since I worked for this company for free for a month as an unpaid internship and have only had 2 paycheques from them since starting in late November.

So I'm broke, anxious, insecure and very mentally unstable. What can I possibly do to get the hell out of this awful rut? I have no one else to talk to about this. Does anyone relate? Has anyone been through anything similar? I'm so lost.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Oh, hon.

Just getting out of an abusive situation is a huge accomplishment. Unfortunately, there are very few people who can just leave it all behind when they finally walk out the door. You've undoubtedly learned survival skills that worked for the very difficult situation you were in, but that are not functional for a more normal social existence. Also, you may have been working so hard for so long just to keep it together that, now that you feel a little bit safer, you're just crumbling. This is so common for survivors of abusive families. It doesn't mean you're a bad person or permanently broken. It's just going to take you a while to figure out things that people who weren't fighting to stay in one piece during their adolescence have already gotten some chances to work on.

Have you laid all this out for your therapist? It's not safe for you to be struggling with this alone. If they don't seem responsive, you may need to look for another one. Not everyone happens to click with their first therapist. Also, you don't mention medication, and it sounds as if you might benefit from anti-anxiety medication, at the very least. I don't know what country you're in, so it's hard to suggest resources for lower-cost therapy, but many places do offer some kind of alternative.

In the meantime, I think you need to take a step back with the boyfriend. It sounds like you two are exacerbating each other's issues. Calling you a bitch is not acceptable, but it sounds as if you are using some pretty strong language towards him as well. Easing off some of the drama and chaos there might help your thoughts settle. Is he willing to go to therapy with you?
posted by praemunire at 12:03 PM on December 28, 2017 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Might help to get the double standard you're currently living by clear in your mind.

You're making all kinds of excuses for your boyfriend's recent horrible behaviour, but beating yourself up for your own. How is that fair?

the things he says stay with me even after we make-up, while he's able to move past our arguments relatively quickly.

How convincing are his apologies for speaking to you the way you've told us he has? If my partner had spoken that way to me, then for me to want to stick around, their apology would need to have been genuine, heartfelt and issued as soon as their brains had come back online.

I feel like my relationship is falling apart and the more I try to fix it, the worse I make it

There's a Buddhist perspective on grasping that you might find some value in contemplating.

I recommend letting your boyfriend manage his own feelings while you concentrate on finding healthier responses to yours. Don't take his on as well. In any case you're not actually feeling his feelings; all you have access to is his behaviour. You can't control that either; that's his job. You can object when he behaves badly, and you can encourage when he behaves well, but that's all any of us can ever do with or about other people.

If it's a good relationship, it will survive this rough patch and emerge the stronger for having worked through it together. If it's a bad relationship then it will end, which will be horrible but not as horrible as continuing to live in a bad relationship.

Single best thing that you can do personally to contribute to the goodness of the relationship is learn to monitor your body for signs of stress and find physical things that you can do to alleviate that before it builds to the point where your best option is just scary. Regular muscle stretching sessions are what I use.

In the last month I've: thrown objects around my apartment to break them out of anger and while worried that my boyfriend would leave, and I self-harmed in front of him. I stabbed myself with a fork in the thigh, and then did it again not even 2 days later with my own keys (which left these huge, disgusting, painful, purple bruises). I vowed not to do it again and I haven't since, but I'm terrified of how I even got there.

Sounds to me like you got there via being set up to fail by years of parental abuse (which, by the way, huge congratulations for walking away from), then being blindsided by a one-two punch of money-related and relationship-related stress.

Does anyone relate? Has anyone been through anything similar?

I've been driven to psychosis by work-related stress and cultural isolation while working outside my country of origin. After getting my marbles back I spent many many months being very frightened of thinking about the kinds of things I was thinking about in the leadup to the psychotic break.

It's bad and frightening when the world just goes all wrong.

You're having a genuinely shitty time right now. It won't last forever. You will get through this, and you will have learned important things from it about how to be a person.

Internet hugs if you're up for them.
posted by flabdablet at 12:30 PM on December 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Take a breather from your relationship; no matter whose “fault” it is, it’s not healthy for you and you need to concentrate on your own health.

Remember, two wrongs don’t make a right, so it’s not okay for him to call you a bitch today even if you called him an asshole yesterday. Two wrongs are two wrongs, they don’t cancel each other out, it’s just double the toxicity.

Have you mentioned BPD to your therapist? Does this therapist know you are currently self-harming? They aren’t mind readers and I’ve had more success in therapy when I say I’m actively in crisis, suicidal, and need an emergency plan rather than hoping they will perceive it somehow.

Have you considered group therapy? Sometimes that’s helpful because you benefit from others’ perspectives even if the therapist is a dud.

It sounds like you could really use a friend— not a boyfriend, a friend. Is there anyone you can get in touch with in person or on the phone/online?
posted by kapers at 12:42 PM on December 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

Best answer: In addition to individual therapy, would like to go to therapy with your boyfriend? Maybe a couples therapist could help you two learn healthier ways to relate to each other.
posted by Eevee at 1:35 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You are a survivor. You are very resilient. You’ve accomplished so much and you can get through this.
In the meantime, Dial down the intensity with your boyfriend. Share less of your thoughts and feelings with him. Instead pour those into journaling, into art, into physical activity. Just for now. Your boyfriend is not your priority.
Get DBT. Even if you don’t have borderline. It’s good for survivors of abuse. You can find workbooks at the library or on line to get started. Ask your therapist to teach you how to challenge your thoughts.
Make a list of things you can do to get more money. Post the list where you can see to remind yourself you do have options.
If you need support call a crisis line and talk; it’s free.
posted by SyraCarol at 2:44 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

It sounds like your life is sorting itself out in a lot of ways, and though things have been good with your boyfriend in the past, the relationship is not working now. It really is ok to be single for a while to calm your life down. You've been so entwined with awful abusive people all your life, that I can totally understand why you would feel like you need to hang on to the first person that has been decent to you. The thing is, right now you only know how to relate to awful people, you're bringing those coping methods into your current relationship, and that's just making things worse. It's ok to break up with him to give yourself a chance to breathe, and find out what you are like when it's just you. The therapy may end up being a lot more effective if you simplify your life, and it also sounds like a really good time for you to concentrate on your career rather than your personal life.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:47 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Find the number for a crisis hotline and put in your phone today. Make an absolute firm commitment to yourself that the next time you get the urge to hurt yourself (either suicidal thoughts or as a gesture to your bf) you will call and talk to someone first. It is free and confidential. If you don't know who to call, just ask here.

Seriously talk to your doctor about medication. Within US healthcare at least, it is often far cheaper (especially some of the common generics) and it can help soften the impact of the anxiety and depression while you try to work your way out of the situation. It doesn't have to be long term but it might help you get through things to a better place where you can then manage without.

Another free but amazing resource for understanding how your family shaped your coping skills is Al-Anon. I know two people who found it a life-saver in trying to understand how much of who they were had been shaped (even warped) by the people that they lived with. Parent, ex-bf, I'm sure someone (or several ones) you lived with had addiction issues making you eligible (and no one checks your id at the door or questions if you deserve to be there)
posted by metahawk at 3:06 PM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

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