My name is Patrick and I am 23 years old. In September of last year, my Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was a shock to me and the rest of the family. Luckily, it was caught in the early stages and with two operations it was successfully removed, although she still had to go through six months of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiotherapy. This was obviously a hard time for everyone in the family.
In January of this year, my Dad was admitted to the hospital with heart and lung problems. These were caused by water retention in his legs, which he had suffered from since he was 14, but over the years, this and a lifetime of smoking and drinking had taken its toll. Luckily, he was only in the hospital for a couple of days and he was told to quit smoking immediately. Three months later, he was admitted once again with the same problem and after a month, he sadly passed away. His heart and lungs were just too weak. Everyone was devastated, especially my mum, who I felt so sorry for - what with the cancer and now this.
I have four older brothers but I'm the only one that still lives at home. At the time I coped with my dad's death quite well but my mum was intent on blaming herself. She thought she could have done more to help my dad stop smoking. Everyone told her that this was ridiculous as my dad wasn't the type of person who could be influenced but to this day, she blames herself.
I've never been in a relationship. I've seen girls briefly but every time I have been rejected, usually for somebody else. In December of last year, I met a girl. I had known her for a year previous as I worked with her at my previous job, but I saw her out one night and we got to talking. After that, we started texting each other. Eventually, I asked her out for drink and we got on really well. After this, I took her out on a few more occasions. We kissed but that's all that ever happened. During this time, she was still in contact with her ex boyfriend. She said she couldn't decide between him and me. I know I should have walked straight away but I genuinely liked her and I thought we'd end up together. She continued to lead me on telling me how much she cared for me and this went on for another two months. The situation ended when one of my best friends saw her ex boyfriend and asked him about her. He said that they had been back together for a few months. You can imagine how completely broken I was. To some, this may sound pathetic, but I have never been in a relationship and I thought I had found someone, only to be humiliated and rejected. I'm convinced I'm going to die alone.
With this and my dad's death, I have just completely lost hope. About four or five months ago, I started to self-harm. What started as minor scratches on my arms has turned into me taking a razor and slashing at my legs. I have never felt so low. I feel ugly and helpless and I don't know what to do. I hurt myself because it means I can concentrate on something else, and I don't have to think about how much of a mess everything has become. Sometimes I hate myself, and I think I don't deserve happiness; other times I don't know what I did to deserve all of this. I don't want to talk to my family or my friends. In front of them, I am this happy joke-making person but underneath it all, I'm a mess.
I guess my question is, how can I stop feeling like this?
Patrick, my dear,
Your situation has three problems, which are in a way independent of each other, while in another way they are related.
1. You are grieving for your father and are supporting your mother in her grief, and feelings of guilt. Probably the best thing you can do for her is to encourage her to have one or two sessions with a competent therapist. That will enable her to realize that her feelings of guilt are unrealistic.
2. It is clear to me, although you have only stated it in the title, that you are suffering from very long-term depression. This is a sort of an illness. It is an inner monster that whispers lies about you into your ears. It tricks you into self-damaging behavior, and then encourages you to beat yourself up when things go wrong.
Depression can be defeated. From about 5 years of age until my mid-20s, I was as badly depressed as you are. I didn't know I was depressed, just that I was ugly, and stupid, and a stuff up who could never do anything right and that nobody could love me. I didn't seek help, because what helper could change the way I was? However, when I was about your age, I started on a series of actions that helped. Later, I learned about Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and realized that I had reinvented the wheel: it was what I'd developed to help myself.
I learned to identify my irrational beliefs, to examine them in the light of the evidence, and then to dismiss them. Regularly, events in my life would trigger my despair, but I knew that any time I wanted to, I could get out of it. Sometimes, I enjoyed wallowing in misery for a few days, but I always could climb out of the black pit. Then, I had another change. Now, I know that even if I were ugly, and stupid, and a stuff up who could never do anything right, I would still deserve love and respect and a decent life.
If I could do it, so can you. If I had chosen to go to a psychologist as a youngster, I could have started on the road to inner peace sooner, and got there faster and with less suffering.
3. Your problem with young women is NOT because you are faulty in any way. It is because you are unknowingly doing things that push them away. When you learn to feel good about yourself, you will be sending out a different nonverbal message, and this will stop happening.