How Can I Stop Things From Getting Worse?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I don’t know what is wrong with me and probably I will never figure it out until i die. Probably I don’t even have the words to express things on here but I will do my best. Well basically I look at myself and I see that I have virtually no friends, nothing to do at all, almost no career, no relationship, only an apartment with all kinds of random things laying around that I dont even feel like cleaning, a suitcase that I haven’t unpacked since I moved in 4 months ago. How can I express it? The thing that bothers me the most is that I have no girlfriend, and don’t think I can ever find one again. It seems like those positive things like love that it seems virtually everyone experiences will not be for me. I have never really had anyone I loved love me back. I was with one woman for 4 years who was wonderful and loved me alot but she was nine years older than me and I couldn’t love her because I didn’t think that this was meant to be. I felt guilty all the time and during all those years I was trying to figure out how to leave the only person who has loved me. She took care of this eventually when she found someone else.

This is basically the only girl I have ever slept with (well ok, one other, sort of) and I don’t know why this is. People say I am very good looking but there is some sort of wall between me and the rest of the world. Also I don’t have friends, just one guy who I go out drinking with occasionally (not so much though, I dont drink alot) but even though we have known each other for a long time I still don’t see us as close friends. During this year when I haven’t had a single date he has had five or six girlfriends, many who he met when out with me. I have lived in my city for 5 years and hardly know a soul.

There are probably lots of things i dont understand about human interactions, but I do realize sort of why I have no one and nothing. I was just trying to fill out a match.com profile and I realized that there is nothing to say about myself. You are supposed to be positive, but there is nothing positive to say. What do I do all day? I don’t know. I am wasting my life and I feel miserable at every second. I haven’t had a single positive thing in years. I know if I met one person to love who loved me back it would change everything. You might think it isn’t true but I think it is because I was close recently. I met a beautiful girl and she was changing everything. Then after a month she told me that she had a boyfriend/fiance. This was devastating, but after a little while we started talking again (over the internet, she lives in a different city but we had met in person) and it got pretty intense, we were spending all day on there talking, etc. Then I saw her when I had a connection through her city and after that she started to move away from me, back to her boyfriend, who lives in a different country. But during those times everything changed, she was saying she loved me and everything was different.

I don’t know how I was able to relate to her, but it was a one-in-a-million chance. Of course since I cannot relate to people I cannot find reasonable employment. This isnt so bad right now because I survive by winning chess tournaments but it is very lonely life and I read and hear about people’s varied experiences I don’t understand why I could never find any kind of job. Other times I was not doing so well in chess and financially I could not survive. It took me years to establish my life after college, and I even tried to kill myself one time. I don’t know how to express my total emptiness, lets just say that the only pleasurable thing I have had for years is nicotine, and that I have to quit. I feel somewhat normal during chess tournaments but then I collapse back into darkness.

Whenever I try to talk about these things with people, they say something like “well you are intelligent, good looking, you have a lot going for you” that type of thing. Well I dont know if these things are true or not, but it doesnt explain the empirical evidence–having no friends, basically not having a date for a year (and I have tried), and the feeling of complete emptiness in my life. If those above things are true, it only makes things worse for me since then it means I am wasting myself.

What kind of advice can you give me? I don’t know if medication would help me, i used to take some and I think about it alot but I stopped taking it 4 years ago and am not sure I want to start again. Also I am afraid it is going to mess up my ability to play chess, when I stopped taking it before I improved alot. Also I don’t know if taking it burns out the receptors and has just made my problems worse.

A. The crux of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) involves challenging the thoughts of clients. Are their thoughts realistic? Do they make sense? What evidence is available to support their thoughts and ideas? CBT is primarily based on the idea that your thoughts cause you to feel a certain way and examining those thoughts might help to alter or improve the perception of a person’s situation. I am going to take that approach with you in this response. I will also focus on reality, truth and logic.

Essentially, what you have done is compared yourself to how you think others are living and concluded that since you are not like everyone else there is something profoundly wrong with you.

Even though it’s human nature to compare yourself to others, you should try to avoid it. It’s not realistic. It does not matter what other people are doing with their lives. All that matters is what you are doing and what is best for you. You are unique. There is no one exactly like you. Each person lives a different life with a diverse set of experiences. You have different talents, family members, genes and hereditary traits, etc. than other people do. You have you own life circumstances that are vastly different from others. Because of this, it’s not fair for you to compare yourself to other people. Thus when you compare yourself to other people you are doing yourself a disservice.

With respect to having a girlfriend, you had one but for whatever reason you did not nurture the relationship and she left you. You said that you did not think it was “meant to be.” What exactly does that mean? You said later in your letter that if you could find someone to love you back, “it would change everything.” It seems you had someone who loved you back but it did not change anything.

As for the woman you met who had a fiancé, it did not seem that you knew her for very long. Nor did it seem that you knew her very well. But when you learned that she had a fiancé, you were devastated. I am wondering why you were crushed by this news when you hardly knew her. You may have overreacted.

Ideally, you should strive to be happy with or without a significant other in your life. It’s not healthy that other people can dictate whether or not you’ll be happy. Happiness needs to come from you and by you and should not be dependent upon the will and actions of other people.

With regard to friendships, you said that you only have one friend. You see this as a failure. Psychologist Abraham Maslow noted in his study of self-actualized people that the psychologically healthiest people have very few friends. Why? Because it’s difficult to maintain deep and meaningful relationships with many people simultaneously. It’s time consuming to build long-lasting relationships. If you inspected the relationships among people who have many friends, you’d probably discover that most of those friendships are superficial. Typically, the person who has many friends has “friendships of convenience.” This means that they only interact with those “friends” when their bored and have nothing else to do, rather than because they enjoy and cherish their presence.

With regard to a career, maybe you have not found what you are best suited for. Rather than putting yourself down consider the fact that you may be misperceiving your situation. It is also an extremely difficult time to find a job. The world is in a recession. That may be why you do not have a job. But there could be other reasons as well. Maybe you are not trying hard enough.

Things may not be as bad as you think they are. There are positive aspects of your life that you overlooked such as your health. Don’t underestimate how lucky you are to be physically healthy. You’re also a chess player. It takes incredible patience and talent to play chess. It is a “thinking” game and not many people have the skill to play chess professionally.

You asked what my advice to you would be. I would suggest if you continue to feel depressed that you consider therapy. Depression by definition is the sense of feeling empty. It seems that you have lost the meaning in your life and a good therapist could help with this.

You can also try your own version of self-help by reframing your life situation and basing your thinking on truth and reality. But if you find that you are unsuccessful with self-analysis then professional assistance may be warranted.

You also asked whether or not medication would be helpful. I cannot be sure because that is best determined by a mental health professional who evaluates you in person. But my initial thought is that medication is not necessary. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Dec 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). How Can I Stop Things From Getting Worse?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/12/22/how-can-i-stop-things-from-getting-worse/