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November 18, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Hard Knocks

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Constantly feeling like I am worthless

Question:

My name is Hannah. I suffer from PTSD (because my father used to beat my mom in front of me) and other anxieties. I am currently in therapy and taking anxiety medication because I have a fear of judgment, public speaking and general social anxiety.

I am really struggling because I suffer from a lot of anxiety and it is hard for me to get out of bed most days. I always feel tired; I am always sad and easily irritated. I used to not be this way but recently it is getting increasingly worse. Every day I feel more depressed, more worthless, and more scared. I am afraid of most things and feel that I can't live my life.

My school is a top end private school and I am very stressed and bullied by my own friends. I am scared to go to school because I am afraid that people will bully me and laugh at me as usual. At home, my father deals with extreme bipolar disorder. He used to beat my mom in front of me, yell at me, have random spurts of anger and chug pills down his throat in front of me. He has been taken to the hospital and doesn't seem to want to get help. My counselor thinks this is the reason I am suffering from PTSD.

Because school and home are hard, I feel like I don't have a support system anywhere. I feel like I am fighting my own problems alone. I'm so concerned about my school and home life calming down that I don't have time to face my own personal anxieties. I am scared, feeling trapped and need advice on not letting bullying get to me, methods on how to deal with my anxiety, etc. Please help.

Hannah

Answer:

Hannah my dear,

You didn't indicate your age, but it's clear that you are highly intelligent, and have insight into your situation. This means that you have the power to improve it, even though it doesn't feel like that to you.

Your PTSD is because of having witnessed PAST violence, and yet your distress has been getting worse recently. That indicates that the immediate cause is current, not past. My guess is that it is your school situation.

Does your school have a policy about bullying? Can you talk this over with your counselor, and with that person's help, with the school principal? If doing that face to face is too hard, write a letter. Bullying is never acceptable, and your school authorities have an obligation to stamp it out.

There are ways of bully-proofing yourself, and the process will also improve your confidence, poise and effectiveness in social situations. There are several effective self-help books, all of which are based on the same principles. Bullies prod everyone. Some people don't provide them with any fun, so they go elsewhere. Those who react with either distress or aggression signal that they are good entertainment, so the bullying gets worse.

Because of your traumatic past, you reacted with distress, so they zeroed in on you. If from now on you could act as if their actions were like the noise of wind in the treetops, you'll deprive them of their fun, they'll eventually get bored and stop the nastiness.

Is the bullying physical (violence, interference with your property) or "only" verbal? If they actually do anything that's illegal like damaging your things or hitting you, be prepared, document the evidence, and use it to force the school to take action. Yes, you CAN do this. And when you have, it'll give you immense, justified pride in yourself.

Ostracism and nasty comments: you don't need their company, they can jump in the lake. What they say to you or about you is a pack of nonsense, let them stew in their own poison. You have better things to do with your life than to worry about what they say. So what. This attitude is very powerful protection.

If the bullying has gone on for a considerable time, the best response may be to change schools, because even if you completely change your reactions, they'll probably keep going. The standard approach is to develop a thick skin, learn to react to any prodding with humor, and then move out of the situation.

About anxiety in general: you will get a lot out of my little e-book "Anger and Anxiety: Be in charge of your emotions and control phobias". The best way you can improve your life is to start two new activities:

One is Toastmasters which is a very supportive, confidence-building group therapy for social anxiety. The people involved don't know this. They think it is a public speaking hobby club.

Yes, I know. You couldn't possibly do public speaking. The great majority of Toastmasters members started like that. Within a year, they are confident facing an audience, and therefore in other situations as well. The only problem is that you need to be at least 18 years old to join. However, many Toastmaster clubs run programs for kids. You (yes, YOU!) could bring your local Toastmaster club and your school together to organize one. Again, if face to face is too big an request, do it in writing.

The second activity is a suitable martial art. Examples are judo, karate, kung fu, tai kwan do. This is not so you can learn to bash people up, but because part of learning them is to gain immense self-confidence. I did judo as a teenager. All my life, if anyone became aggressive, I just looked at them in a certain way - and they backed off. I haven't had a physical fight with anyone since I was 21, and that was an awful long time ago.

Next, there is the PTSD. Your counselor should be using "exposure therapy" with you. One form is described in my Anger and Anxiety book. Actually, you can do this for yourself, though it helps to have a supportive person present. One form of evidence-based, highly effective exposure therapy is "Traumatic Incident Reduction". Look it up to see if there is a certified practitioner near you.

Finally, your current family situation is still distressing, right? One protective attitude is to look at your father in a different way. He is not evil, he is not cruel. He is suffering, and doesn't know how to handle it. However badly he is acting, however badly he has acted in the past, he has stumbled around the best way he could. He has been making the wrong choices, and still does, but at the same time, his problems are not your problems. You can't change him, but you can change how his behavior affects you. Instead of fearing him, or being disgusted with his drug taking, feel compassion for him.

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

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