Wasting Time

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I am a third year history of art student (age 20) and started having difficulty with depression and anxiety near the end of high school. However recently i have been experiencing mental confusion, problems with memory and a headache when I talk to anyone.

I believe that my family home when i was growing up was a very difficult place to be , I am considered the most relaxed in the family and the rest of immediate and extended family have problems it seems with anxiety and a lot of negativity. Since my parents split up when i was 13 , which was a very traumatic and bizzarre time due to their own inability to cope with life in any grown up way, at that point, I have been confused as to what to do with myself. I was never provoked or encouraged to do anything constructive while i was a younger e.g. getting a paper round, and so wasn’t used to people outside the family circle ( we had no family friends )

I took history of art as a degree because i was unsure what to do and have somewhat wasted the three years barely doing anything , no job , not a lot of work etc. I ended up just following my friend , whom i didn’t get on with that well, to the same city and despite making friends of my own am now living with his friends in our student house.

I feel like i am wasting time, i am mentally confused a lot , stressed,angry,lonely and embarrassed. I feel like i have had not many experiences and that I am a bit of a subject of ridicule , i have problems with my own identity and have become obsessed with the idea of not becoming my dad due to the fact that i still find him very embarrassing and incapable of dealing with real life (which he will probably admit to himself.) I cannot keep any kind of schedule or discipline , i don’t confide in anyone because i don’t want to and because i’m having problems thinking coherently. i also have huge problems with concentration and not wanting to go outside or face any realities. is this due to stress ? I have had counselling but i feel with the history of art etc. that i am living a false life
What changes can i make to help ?

A: You’ve written a very thoughtful and honest letter. What you are describing is typical of many young people who have come from a difficult childhood. As a kid, you just had to go along to get along. Now that you are a young adult, you have the ability to reevaluate what happened to and with your parents and can make some new decisions about how you want to live your life. Art history actually wasn’t a bad choice. Learning about art can be a route to discovering alternative ways to look at the world. It may have served its purpose and you may now be ready to move on.

I’m concerned about the headaches. Yes, they could be caused by stress. But it’s also possible that you aren’t treating your body as well as you should. I hope you are getting a solid 8 hours of sleep every night and making good choices for food and exercise. If not, that’s the place to start.

Then I think you should go back to your counselor. Take your letter and this response with you. You might want to discuss whether it would be wise to take a year off from school to get some new experiences and to explore different career options. You might find some good ideas for broadening your experience in this article. Once you have a better idea about your own talents and goals, you will be more focused when you return.

Please stop being so hard on yourself. You’ve done a good job taking stock of where you are. Now it’s time to get busy and figure out your life’s direction. That task is easier if you give yourself some credit for doing as well as you have in spite of having parents who weren’t the best.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Dec 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Wasting Time. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/12/21/wasting-time/

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