Dear Dr. Norquist:
Lately, I have been more depressed than ever before. It scares me. I wouldn't do anything to hurt myself, but I've never felt so down, empty and alone. I have trouble getting out of bed to go to work. All I want to do is sleep. I haven't been able to share my feelings with my friends or family. I'm used to being the one they come to for strength and support. I'm so down on myself. I'm involved in a relationship that I know isn't good for me, but I can't seem to leave. My boyfriend was unfaithful to me, and yet I still can't leave. I cannot forgive myself for not leaving. He was the love of my life. I was in heaven for the first year of our relationship, just being around him. Now I feel humiliated, angry, mistrustful, and full of self-loathing most of the time. I have no one to turn to. My boyfriend wants to stay together, but I can't get beyond my anger and mistrust. I hate to admit how dependent I am on him. He took "heaven" away from me, and now I'm in hell and can't see the way out.
Dr. Norquist responds:
Thank you for reaching out to share and to ask for help. I know that reaching out is not an easy thing for you to do. As miserable as things are right now, please know that things will not always feel this bad. It's hard to recognize this when in the midst of a major depression. Your pain and depression are significant, and should be approached from both the psychological and the physical level. Your depression is affecting your physiologically, and it would be best if you would seek an evaluation for psychotropic medication to help alleviate the physiological and emotional symptoms of your depression. This medication will not permanently solve the situation, but it will soften your pain, ease your ability to function in your daily life, and allow you to experience hope. It will get you over the hump, so to speak, and make it easier for you to start the healing process.
You have lost your center. You mistakenly believe your happiness, your "heaven", lies with your boyfriend. You have projected your center of power onto him. He is not the holder of your happiness. This is the belief that you must change. You are left craving the emotional high of that first year together, much the way a substance abuser craves that memorable drug high, and in so doing, starts to revolve his/her life around the substance. You are the creator of your own happiness. You need to re-discover your own wholeness, and learn how to steer your life from your own center. In this way, you will reconnect with your own power and start taking responsibility for your own life, thus regaining a sense of confidence and self-worth.
When you find yourself thinking self-degrading thoughts, choose in that moment to stop that pattern. Recognize that it is a dead-end, a way to keep the status quo, the result of a wrong turn you took off the path that is rightfully yours. No matter what happens in our lives, or what anyone says or does, we have control over how it affects us - should we consciously choose to take that control. How you perceive and think about a situation determines how it affects you. Remember, you are only the victim if you choose to see yourself in that role. You can turn this into an opportunity for much growth in the ability to create a full and satisfying life for yourself.
Dear Dr. Norquist:
My husband works in another state and is away almost all the time. His company is 400 miles away or about a one-hour flight. Last fall he came home for my birthday and I asked if I could come up to visit him and celebrate Thanksgiving weekend together. He said 'no,' that I needed to be 'less clingy,' to 'develop my own friendships and to not depend on him.' This was not the first time he has responded this way. I have not been able to get this out of my mind. During the past few weeks I've been considering getting a divorce from him because I think I can no longer stand being married and be so very much alone. Am I overreacting?
Dr. Norquist responds:
It sounds like the two of you have differing needs for closeness. Has it always been this way, or did this develop over time? It is certainly very normal to want to spend Thanksgiving with your husband. Most happy couples look forward to sharing time with each other. Either your husband's need for closeness is very limited, or he is getting his needs met elsewhere. It's also possible that his unavailability (emotionally as well as physically) leads you to feel more needy (or "clingy" as he states), thus encouraging more distance on his part. Whatever the cause, this is something the two of you need to sit down and discuss together. Define for each other (and yourselves) what you want from your marriage and see if you can discover together how to work things out.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)
Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life's stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding and treating physical symptoms and health-related concerns. Practitioners of the following techniques are available to answer your questions: psychology, acupuncture, therapeutic and neuromuscular massage, yoga, meditation, spiritual & transpersonal psychology, Reiki, Cranial Sacral Therapy, and Alexander Technique Ó 2001 Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center