The idea that your life is completely ruined may be an overstatement. In cognitive therapy that would be called “catastophizing.” Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that you made a series of bad decisions that have negatively impacted your life. You may be guilty of bad judgment in the past but it’s evident from your letter that you realize your mistakes. It’s important to acknowledge the fact that you are able to realize your mistakes. You’re able to see that your behavior was wrong. I am pointing this out because there are many people who make mistakes but they never come to understand or have the insight to know that what they did was wrong or needed to be changed. Give yourself credit for realizing this. It shows that you have a level of self-awareness and sensitivity that some people don’t have. This is very encouraging. Because you are open to seeing your mistakes and naming them as such, then it means that you are open to change and therefore there is hope for you.
You asked the question where do you start. My question to you would be what is it exactly that you want to start doing?
If you wanted to start therapy again, which you should not be ashamed to do, then you could call 10 to 15 different social workers, therapists, or psychologists and ask them various questions about what type of treatments they offer for people having similar problems. The idea is that you want to have a conversation with them about issues that you’re experiencing and how they’ve treated other people with similar disorders. By talking to them on the phone you can get a sense of what they are like, if they’re nice people, or if they sound like someone you would want to interact with further. You can tell a lot by talking to someone on the phone. That should be how you begin to find a therapist. I know you mentioned that you don’t want to start over again with a new therapist. That is a very common complaint. I understand that you don’t want to go back to the beginning and have to re-tell your life story. I can understand that. But having to re-tell your story is a small price to pay if you’re able to find someone who can truly help you and get your life back on track. Many people would be willing to give almost anything. including having to re-tell their story, if it meant that they were able to find somebody who could actually help them feel better. If you found someone you really liked then you would be very glad that you decided to restart therapy.
If you’re asking about how to go back to school then the answer would be: in the same manner that you began attending college before. How did you become enrolled before? You probably made an appointment with an academic advisor, filled out forms, etc. This is exactly what you would do again.
Don’t give up on the idea of school. You went to school before and as you mentioned you were in a nursing program and were an honors student. It seems from your letter that you didn’t graduate from the program. There is a pretty good chance that all those credits that you acquired before could still be used towards a degree in the future. You may be able to pick up where you left off. Maybe you’re not ready to return to school full time and that’s okay. Only do what you feel like you’re able to do now. You don’t want to overdo it and risk having another breakdown. There’s a good chance that you could resume your place in nursing school if you chose to.
If you’re asking about how you essentially “get back into life” then the answer is that you do it one day at a time. If you’re having difficulty interacting with people and knowing what to say or having the appropriate socialization skills, then this would be something that you can work on in therapy. Maybe your last therapist did not offer you the most effective help. Perhaps if you found someone you liked and you felt more comfortable with, they could help you with this and other issues that you may be struggling with.
These are my recommendations. You should strongly consider going back into therapy for the reasons mentioned above. You should also rethink the way you currently conceptualize your life. You seem to believe that you’ve ruined your life but I would suggest that may not be the case. It may be more rational to say that you made mistakes in your life and unfortunately now you’re paying the price for them. That may be a more realistic portrayal of your current life circumstance than saying you’ve “ruined your life.” It may not be easy to resume your life exactly how it was before but it seems that you’ve learned a major lesson from your mistakes. Every human being makes mistakes but not everyone realizes the error of their ways. The idea is to make as few mistakes as possible. When we make errors in judgment what’s most important is that we own those mistakes, analyze them to see what went wrong and try our hardest not to make them again. That’s precisely what it seems like you are doing and if so, you’re on the right track. Thanks for writing and I wish you luck.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on May 4, 2009.