Can I Just Be happy?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I was once very heavy into drugs with my mother about two years ago until she passed away from a drug overdose and ever since then I feel like a huge failure to her and that it is my fault that she died, after the fact I began to cut myself out of guilt but eventually my boyfriend found out and made me swear I would stop, although I still think about it sometimes. Also I have not been able to make myself truly happy since that day. I believe there is something wrong with me; I feel alone, depressed, I get mad over the stupidest things and I have mostly depended on people to make me happy, like my boyfriend that I have now. We had a great relationship for about 6 months, everything was great but now all we ever do is argue, and he tells me that he never knows what’s wrong with me or what he did wrong even after I try to explain it and truth is sometimes I cant even explain it I just get mad, and that is what got me to thinking that I may have a problem.

For the passed couple of years along with not being able to make myself happy I have become quick tempered, I have mood swings all the time and I tend to pick fights with the people I love over stupid little things that I believe most people would ignore, and I feel like I’m worthless many a times. I have always made pretty good grades in school, I get a lot of attention from the opposite sex and I believe I used to have a really great personality but now I just feel like a monster. I am very against taking medication and have been to many counselors, psychologists and even religious leaders to seek help but nothing has worked but then I came across this website and thought that any advice my be of some help to me. Everyone around me seems so happy with no cares in the world and I am very jealous. I can be happy and pleasant at times but I always depend on my boyfriend for that, I know I need to stop depending on people and learn to do it myself but I don’t know how and does this have anything to do with the death of my mother and my guilt? What is my problem; and how can I get help?

A. I am not sure that I can pinpoint your exact problem on the basis of a short letter. You may be dealing with multiple issues. First, you experienced the death of your mother and this may be part of why you’re depressed. Losing a parent is usually an extremely difficult experience. It’s possible that you have not effectively dealt with her loss and/or the traumatic way in which she passed. It takes time to heal the loss of a parent.

You also mentioned that you feel guilt over her death. I don’t know specifically why you’re feeling guilty. Since you did not mention why, it is difficult for me know whether or not your feelings of guilt are justifiable or inappropriate. I suspect you may be feeling guilty for using drugs with your mother, given the information you offered about your mother dying from a drug overdose. If this is the case, you must realize that her overdose was likely an accident and there was probably little that you could have done to stop your mother from using drugs.

You also mentioned that you used to be heavily into drugs. I am assuming that you are no longer using drugs so heavily. If you are using drugs in any capacity, your drug use may cause some of the symptoms that you’re experiencing. Depression and irritability in particular may be related to drug use. In addition, people usually use drugs as a way to conceal their unhappiness with life. Have you addressed the reasons for your heavy drug use in the past? If you are currently using drugs, have you explored why?

You asked about what you can do to get help for the psychological pain you’re feeling. You also mentioned that you have been to a number of counselors and that you have even sought the support of religious leaders for help with these issues. It’s encouraging to read that you’re open to seeking professional help. This shows your readiness for change.

My advice is this: keep searching for a therapist. There are plenty of ineffective and mediocre therapists available but with effort, persistence and patience, you will likely find a therapist who is truly effective. Search for a therapist until you find one that you like. Interview as many as it takes to find one you’re comfortable with. The symptoms that are experiencing are very correctable. With the help of a good therapist and your openness and readiness for change, you can likely overcome your depression and other symptoms.

Finally, I wanted to address an aspect of your question. People always think that others around them are so happy, and that they’re the only ones suffering. This is a common misperception. Chances are, if we surveyed those people, you’d hear that they too have some complaints. You’d find out they’re not “so happy after all.” Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 May 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Can I Just Be happy?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/05/26/can-i-just-be-happy/