As a child I loved reading and drawing. I was a smart student, but I thought the world was against me. I was picked on because of my skin color. And I think I must have been a bad child because I was hit a lot, but other than not participating in physical things, I don’t remember being bad.

I am now 32 and still feeling that the world is against me. I try to work hard everyday, I try to make friends with other people, I don’t drink or smoke or take drugs, and I keep generally physically healthy. I have had a tough relationship with my family as far back as I can remember. I also have a tough time making friends. People know me and they leave. I am generally not a happy person, I don’t think I know what true happiness feels like. I mostly feel worried, angry, nothing, sad, anxious, etc. I’ve fallen into severe depression a few times, and I’ve also been raped a number of times. I don’t feel like I’ve not worked as hard as others, however I have made very little progress in all areas of my life in comparison. I see everyone progressing in some aspect of life at least whether its meeting a life partner, or having a descent career, or having a great social life. I seem to be going backwards and no-where in all of these aspects no matter how hard I try.

Also in the last 4-5 years, my memories are fading quickly, and I do not remember much anymore. My brain is always numb and foggy, I tire quickly, it takes me forever to do anything, I get frustrated and give up so easily, I cannot focus, and I no longer care how I look.

I know I am hurting the few people still around me by these changes they see in me, and so they yell at me and berate me in the hopes that I will turn things around, but I feel like a ship at storm and am flailing. I feel like something must be very wrong with me, but I have no clue what. Any insights you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

A. There are two main areas that I would like to focus on in my response to your question. The first is that you have described symptoms that potentially indicate depression. You have had episodes of “severe depression” but there is no indication of treatment. The people trying to help you may be inadvertently making things worse. No wonder you feel like a “ship at storm.”

Sometimes our loved ones inadvertently do more harm than good. Family and friends can offer support and love, but they are not trained mental health professionals. We should not expect them to know how to solve complex life problems.

Depression should be treated by mental health professionals. A therapist will offer evidence-based ideas and solutions. They will not yell at you or berate you. They are knowledgeable, non-judgmental, kind, and supportive.

The second area of focus involves your thinking. You seem to be comparing yourself to the ever-abstract and ill-defined “other people” in society. It is simply inaccurate to compare yourself against people whose life circumstances you do not know.

Further complicating these matters is that many people have expectations about how they believe life is supposed to be. They compare themselves against a set of abstract standards and deem themselves as not being good enough. They incorrectly assume that other people are doing better than they are which naturally leads to feelings of inferiority, and so forth. This type of thinking is particularly prevalent among people with depression.

Social media adds to the struggle. People on social media often appear to be living perfect, trouble-free lives but that is far from the truth. It’s an illusion. Avoid overgeneralized thinking traps.

Treatment can help you to address these problems. Choose a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s the best type of treatment to address both depression and the thinking errors that accompany depression. Once your symptoms are treated and your thinking becomes more realistic, you will feel better and less stressed. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle