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August 20, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Mental Health

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Being dead can't be worse than feeling this!

Question:

I grew up in a reasonably normal, middle class, family -- no divorces, no abuse, no alcohol or drug addiction, plenty of hugs, etc. I received a university education, have an advanced degree and a successful career. I was married briefly (13 months) when I was in my mid-20s but had no children. I have no undue financial issues or professional concerns in my life. Sounds idyllic, right? Wrong.

At about the time my father became ill near the end of his life, I developed a flying fear. At first, it was anxiety, then loathing, and now it is a phobia - I haven't been able to step on a plane in years. When my mother died two years later, I started feeling increasingly anxious. Now, there are days when I suffer such deep and intense anxiety, I can't leave the house or, if I'm at the office, simply have to go home. Fortunately, my work provides a "cover" and I simply tell my secretary that I have a meeting or need to focus on something and am going home to work. Besides, email and phone mail means no one really knows or cares where you are anyway.

Because I only feel safe at home, I've gradually lost contact with social acquaintances (I've never really had any close friends). I haven't been out in the evening in maybe four years, and leave the house on weekends now only to run necessary chores such as grocery shopping. Since I haven't been in a relationship in a decade, or even dated very much in that time, at least I haven't had to contend with a girlfriend pressuring me to go out. I've lost interest in any of the things I used to enjoy doing like playing baseball, reading and cooking.

If it were just anxiety, I could probably cope with it. But when I am not anxious, I become deeply depressed and, recently, suicidal. I tried seeing a few different therapists but my impression was that they were as mixed up as me so I didn't return. No way was I going to trust these characters with whatever dragons are lurking in my psychic dungeon. In any event, I've known people who have gone to shrinks for years with no discernible change so what's the point? I even tried using the Employee Assistance Plan at work, but the approach was simplistic at best and probably dangerous at worst: The therapist told me to make a list of my issues, then pick one and tell myself the issue wasn't that bad. It was like going to Wal-Mart for heart surgery. I'm at the point where I figure that being dead wouldn't be half as bad as feeling as frightened, anxious, alert, and blunted as I do now.

1) Is there some link between the death of my parents and the various emotional quirks that have cropped up in my life? I went through grieving at each death, so it's not as if I suppressed feelings of loss. 2) Is there a connection between the flying phobia, the intense but non-specific anxiety, and the budding agoraphobia? 3) Is it unusual to not be able to find suitable help? Lacking a support system (i.e., friends, family, spouse, religion, etc.), is there someplace I can "treat" myself? Maybe books to read or quizzes to fill out? 4) If this fails, where can I find information on a simple, painless way to commit suicide? Thank you.

Richard, 40-year-old man

Answer:

Hi Richard!

Thank you for writing to us at QueenDom. I will answer your letter line-by-line. helps it to feel more conversational this way.

I grew up in a reasonably normal, middle class, family -- no divorces, no abuse, no alcohol or drug addition, plenty of hugs. I received a university education, have an advanced degree and a successful career. I was married briefly (13 months) when I was in my mid-20s, no children. I have no undue financial issues or professional concerns in my life. Sounds idyllic, right? Wrong. At about the time my father became ill near the end of his life, I developed a flying fear. At first, it was anxiety, then loathing, and now it is a phobia -- I haven't been able to step on a plane in years. When my mother died two years later, I started feeling increasingly anxious. Now, there are days when I suffer such deep and intense anxiety

It's interesting that you felt more and more afraid after losing each parent. I wonder if they protected you so much that deep down inside you felt you couldn't be safe without them. I also wonder about various aspects of "control" - whether you were overly controlled by your parents when you were young OR whether you perhaps thought you had much more control over them than most kids do. (The fear of flying, especially since it wasn't always there and it started later in life, is the strongest indication of fear of not being in control. How are you in a car when someone else is driving. or even in conversations or meetings in which someone else does most of the talking and your own input isn't particularly needed.?)

I can't leave the house or, if I'm at the office, simply have to go home.

You definitely need a good therapist. The emotional pain you are feeling requires it. And you need a therapist who is either a psychiatrist or who works in close conjunction with a psychiatrist, since psychiatrists are the only mental health professionals who can prescribe the anti-anxiety medication you need.

Fortunately, my work provides a "cover" and I simply tell my secretary that I have a meeting or need to focus on something and am going home to work. Besides, email and phone mail means no one really knows or cares where you are anyway. Because I only feel safe at home, I've gradually lost contact with social acquaintances (I've never really had any close friends).

Do you remember only feeling safe at home as a child? (It's normal for all children in a safe family to feel this way up to about the age of 2 for sure, and maybe up to age five or so. Did you have this feeling later in childhood also?)

I haven't been out in the evening in maybe four years, and leave the house on weekends now only to run necessary chores such as grocery shopping. Since I haven't been in a relationship in a decade, or even dated very much in that time, at least I haven't had to contend with a girl friend pressuring me to go out.

Everything in this letter sounds lonely. No references to other people except when you refer to them as if they are scary and you need to avoid them. Again I wonder if you weren't always this way or whether it all did start in adulthood with the loss of one or both parents

I've lost interest in any of the things I used to enjoy doing like playing baseball, reading and cooking. If it were just anxiety, I could probably cope with it. But when I am not anxious, I become deeply depressed and, recently, suicidal.

You MUST see a therapist! You are talking about your LIFE here!!

I tried a seeing few different therapists but my impression was that they were as mixed up as me so I didn't return.

Maybe they were! But not all therapists are so lousy! Find a good one, even if you have to shop around for a while.

No way was I going to trust these characters with whatever dragons are lurking in my psychic dungeon.

Don't think of it as such a yes/no, black/white, trust/mistrust thing. What helps people in therapy is the relationship, and the relationship with anyone - therapists included - takes time. Of course you will start out not trusting them very much. That's how you feel about the whole world, so that's what you bring to the therapy meeting. A GOOD therapist won't hassle you about trusting them, but will simply be glad you are coming regularly and letting whatever degree of trust they deserve come along in time.

In any event, I've known people who have gone to shrinks for years with no discernable change so what's the point?

You sure seem to be working hard to convince yourself not to go to a therapist.. (Those people who went for years must realize that they ARE changing, whether you see it or not - or they would have stopped going. But that's them, and we are talking about You. And you need a Good therapist regardless of what happened to them.)

I even tried using the Employee Assistance Plan at work, but the approach was simplistic at best and probably dangerous at worst: The therapist told me to make a list of my issues, then pick one and tell myself the issue wasn't that bad. It was like going to Wal-Mart for heart surgery.

I agree completely! That's disgusting!

I'm at the point where I figure that being dead wouldn't be half as bad as feeling as frightened, anxious, alert, and blunted as I do now.

Yes. But I must remind you that the scariest person in your life right now is You! YOU are the person who is threatening to kill yourself, nobody else is. And I'm very concerned about this because such thinking often starts after the death of parents who seemed "ideal".. I won't go into detail about this right now, but let's just say that many people find themselves rather obsessed with "life and death" issues after they lose their parents, and good therapists are familiar with this kind of problem and they CAN help you.

[1] Is there some link between the death of my parents and the various emotional quirks that have cropped up in my life? I went through grieving at each death, so it's not as if I suppressed feelings of loss.

I just don't know enough about you specifically to answer this question. I will say that grieving takes care of all the Sadness and even the Anger that we feel when we lose people who are important to us - but it doesn't take care of Fear, and that's what you are talking about.

[2] Is there a connection between the flying phobia, the intense but non-specific anxiety, and the budding agoraphobia?

Another great question that I don't know you well enough to answer adequately. Some anxiety is primarily a medical matter which is cleared up by medication alone, and some of it requires talk therapy. And you definitely need a good medical opinion (psychiatrist) as well as a good psychotherapist to talk to about this question specifically and about everything else in this letter.

[3] Is it unusual to not be able to find suitable help?

Unfortunately there are many bad therapists, just as in any profession. I definitely believe you when you say that some of the therapists you've met - maybe all of them - have been of no value for you. But, yes, it's very unusual to go to two, three, four, or five therapists and NONE of them is good at what you need. But even if you've been to ten lousy therapists you still must find a good one. This is too important to let a few lousy interactions with a few people keep you from what you need. Also, you haven't mentioned anything at all about medication and I wonder if any of the therapists asked you about this. With the level of anxiety you mention here I think medication from a psychiatrist is the first thing to consider. (Don't think that I regularly "push" medication.. If anything, I think of medication a lot less often than most therapists do.)

I also must say that your level of distrust does play into the way therapy goes. Thinking that you need to stay alone in your house shows that you don't trust anyone outside of the house. So you begin therapy distrusting the therapist, and it could be that this makes you greatly over-react to whatever inadequacies the therapist does have and you greatly under-react to any degree of competence they demonstrate.

Lacking a support system (i.e., friends, family, spouse, religion, etc.), is there someplace I can "treat" myself? Maybe books to read or quizzes to fill out?

No. This is all too serious for that. (I have a lot of self-help information at my site, so I do believe in people helping themselves. but not when they talk about such a major degree of anxiety and also mention that they think about suicide.)

[4] If this fails, where can I find information on a simple, painless way to commit suicide? Thank you.

I WANT YOU TO LIVE!

Richard, PLEASE call a therapist immediately. If you need information about how to find one there's a topic at my site: "Are You Considering Therapy?" which has some ideas. Also, of course, there is much information about this at the Queen Dom site (which you are on now as you read this response).

Thank you for writing to me about this. I certainly hope that I've been of some help.

The MOST important thing about this letter is that You Wrote It! It shows that you know you need help from someone outside of yourself even though you have so much fear about getting it and you've had bad experiences with some therapists in the past.

Before ending I want to say that I hope you'll accept my apology for the people you've run into who you think of as in my profession. I do hear about various bad therapists that people come across but anyone who minimized the kinds of problems you are talking about here is truly horrible and I'm sorry if they called themselves "therapists."

Tony Schirtzinger

This question was answered by Tony Schirtzinger.

For more information visit the site or contact information page on QueenDom.

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