I’ve felt empty and isolated for a long time. I feel as though I haven’t been truly happy in many years and will be stuck this way forever. I haven’t enjoyed my teen years like I’m supposed to.

I’ll be starting college in two months, and would like to get back on track and start over in life, but it just seems impossible.

Each best friend I’ve had throughout my life has ended up moving away. This happened four times. My last and closest friend (who was like a brother to me) moved away shortly before high school started. I later found out that he had wanted to leave.

Well, after he moved away, I never really made true friends during my four years of high school.  I’m very shy in social situations which makes things more complicated. I didn’t feel like I had anyone to rely on but myself. I spent most of my time after school alone. Additionally, my parents had marital problems throughout high school and got divorced several days after my graduation.

I live in a rich, conservative, religious place and had to hide being gay during high school because of my low self-esteem and a lack of trusted friends. I worried that people would be disappointed/disgusted if i told them. I also had to abandon my religion which I once trusted. Worst of all, I had to create and act out a fake straight-person identity, and never developed a real identity for myself. I don’t even feel like myself most of the time. I’ve never been in a relationship whatsoever, which hurts my self-esteem further. Often, I feel sad/dead/empty on the inside, no matter how little it shows on the outside.

Additionally, for three months during my junior year, I would suddenly get dizzy/lightheaded, over-heated, shaky, and feel extremely nauseous about ten times a day. It lasted maybe 15 minutes each time. It seemed to be a mental thing because it only happened when I was in a non-relaxing setting. However, I was mostly able to ignore it, so I never saw a doctor or told anyone. Eventually it stopped happening, except on rare occasions.

The only thing I’ve managed to achieve in the last four years is good grades. I still haven’t told anyone I’m gay either. I want to tell my older brother and sister because I’m closer to them than anyone else. Hopefully it will happen before the semester starts.

For the future, what I want more than anything is to be a valued member of a group of friends rather than just an extra, disposable person. And I also hope to gain enough confidence to have a relationship and be open about myself, not hate myself, and feel normal again.

Could there be something wrong with me or my life that could be causing all of this? Also, how can I learn to forget the past and start new during college?

A: Thanks so much for writing in. How very painful to feel like you’ve never really been able to develop your sense of self, and openly explore and express who you are inside. Your parents’ marital instability and divorce likely didn’t help you to feel safe either. The dizziness and shakiness you described feeling during your junior year of high school sounds like anxiety, which is very understandable, given all of the stress and isolation you were holding inside.

Have you ever worked with a therapist? If not, I highly suggest it. “Forgetting the past” isn’t necessarily the goal of therapy. It is possible for you to process your experiences and make sense out of them in a way that allows you to move forward in your life. Your therapist can also help you develop healthy relationships and explore the best way to come out to your family. The great thing about becoming an independent adult is that you can define your life on your own terms, and seek out relationships that support who you are, and who you want to become. If you need help finding a therapist who specializes in working with GLTB issues click here.  Also, check with the student services department at your university for support groups for gay students to help you know that you’re not alone, and to help you find groups who are struggling with similar challenges.

Thanks again for your courage in writing in for help. Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Oct 2011

APA Reference
Hanks, J. (2011). Isolated, Low Self-esteem, And Want To Come Out To Family. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/10/15/isolated-low-self-esteem-and-want-to-come-out-to-family/

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