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February 21, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Mental Health

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High expectations

Question:

I am a senior in college. I live alone, have a few friends here at school, have more friends at home, have a steady boyfriend. My parents were very strict on me when I lived at home. They expect very much out of me; neither of my parents attended college. I had very good grades through elementary school, high school, and my first year of college when I lived at home and went to a different school. My grades are suffering terribly and my parents are not offering much support or understanding. I have trouble getting up in the mornings and going to class. I have this feeling like my insides are shaking, and I have nausea. I usually miss classes because of this. I have constant battles with myself about caring and not caring about things. I am beginning to wonder if college is too difficult for me. But I have made it to my senior year, so there's no sense in quitting now.

I would like to know how I can control this depression and anxiety I go through everyday. Should I start seeing a therapist regularly because I hate dumping my problems to my friends. This problem is beginning to take a great toll on my everyday life, and I desperately need some advice, please.

Blue college student

Answer:

Hi Blue college student,

I will be answering your letter line-by-line... It's more conversational that way.

Blue College Student

I am a senior in college. I live alone, have a few friends here at school, have more friends at home, have a steady boyfriend. My parents were very strict on me when I lived at home. They expect very much out of me; neither of my parents attended college. I had very good grades through elementary school, high school, and my first year of college when I lived at home and went to a different school.

Tony

The "very strict" parents and the fact that you feel pressure to achieve in college even though they didn't even attend college raises some concerns. Makes me wonder if you sort of carry them around with you in your head, even more than most of us do... and if you treat yourself mentally in the same "strict" ways that they treated you.

Blue College Student

My grades are suffering terribly and my parents are not offering much support or understanding.

Tony

Does your boyfriend offer much support and understanding? Do your friends? When they do, do you accept it well or do you find that you almost throw it away...?

Blue College Student

I have trouble getting up in the mornings and going to class. I have this feeling like my insides are shaking, and I have nausea. I usually miss classes because of this. I have constant battles with myself about caring and not caring about things. I am beginning to wonder if college is too difficult for me. But I have made it to my senior year, so there's no sense in quitting now.

Tony

My best guess is that you are not having a big problem with school, but that you are having a big problem with the end of school and the beginning of "being on your own." The fact that you sometimes don't know what you care about and what you don't care about also indicates to me that you doubt yourself way too much (and maybe are hoping to get your decisions "approved of" by other people more than you'd need to). The "feeling like my insides are shaking" sounds like fear to me... I realize that some of it is related to the fear of doing not doing well at school on tests and such, but I also wonder if some of the fear comes from this internal way of treating yourself "strictly" in some of the ways your parents did.... Remember also that the nausea and even the shaking feeling might be a medical problem rather than a psychological one. Always check out the medical possibilities first.

Blue College Student

I would like to know how I can control this depression and anxiety I go through everyday. Should I start seeing a therapist regularly because I hate dumping my problems to my friends. This problem is beginning to take a great toll on my everyday life, and I desperately need some advice, please.

Tony

My best guess is that you have what therapists call "unfulfilled dependency needs." If I am right about this, you need a caring therapist who is regularly available for you. (Notice that I said "regularly" and I didn't say either "constantly" or "for a long time"....)

I think you basically just need someone who has a caring role in your life - like a kind and loving and NOT strict parent - and that you know that you can always rely on them when the need arises. After you establish such a relationship with a good therapist and after you have proven to yourself and to the therapist that you are going to allow yourself to rely on them sometimes, you may only need to see them when you want or need to, not all the time.

Your comment about "dumping on your friends" is interesting. Do you find that your problems come up with friends a whole lot more than their problems come up? That's usually a good test. Over the course of a friendship these things tend to come out rather even in healthy relationships.

This applies even more to you and your boyfriend. If you spend a lot of time and emotion talking with your boyfriend about these concerns and he seldom talks about his own feelings and such, I would want to warn you that even the most loving and caring lover cannot possibly be a good enough "parent" for someone who didn't get enough from their parents when they were small. Hoping to get this from your boyfriend instead of from a therapist would be taking a big chance on eventually losing him or on establishing an unhealthy relationship for the long haul.

I hope this letter does help.

Remember that if you have questions about what I've said, you can write again. Please realize that although I am doing my best to help based on the relatively little amount of info in this one letter, it is also very possible that I could be wrong in my guesses and opinions - and that we aren't necessarily limited to just this one letter. (I find it a bit pretentious sometimes to have only "one shot" at helping someone in this way.....)

Please try to find a good therapist, one who feels like a good match and seems to be both confident and competent at helping you. If the first one doesn't feel just right after a few sessions, go to another one until you find the right person for you.

You have already done very well in many ways. I'm sure you'll also do well at finishing your senior year, finding a good therapist, improving your life while you see the therapist, and at most of the other things you care about too!

Sincerely,

Tony Schirtzinger

This question was answered by Tony Schirtzinger.

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