How can a loser like me ever be happy? I hate myself for who and what I am. I hate myself for the laundry that's not done, for the dirty socks and clothes on the floor, for a bunch of clean and unfolded clothes, for dirty dishes all over the house. I feel like the filthiest person in the world. My love life is a mess, too. I feel broken. I don't deserve to be happy, and even if I were, I'm afraid someone would show up and remind me about my past and how awful I've been and everyone would hate me again. Can you help me?
Before saying anything else, we want you to know that your honest expression of personal pain has touched us deeply. Our hearts go out to you at this very dark moment in your life, and we want to be of help to you in any way we can.
As you may or may not know, Focus on the Family is an evangelical Christian family outreach. We believe with all our hearts that the key to all human struggles, but especially struggles like yours, is genuine faith in God and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The Bible tells us that each and every person ever born has been created in God's image (Genesis 1:27). It also plainly states that "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). You are God's masterpiece, and He has something indescribably wonderful in store for you if you'll simply put your life in His hands. As the apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the church in Corinth, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).
In psychological terms, you have fallen prey to something that therapists call "cognitive distortion." Cognitive distortion takes place when your mind conceives things that aren't really true and then uses these inaccurate concepts to reinforce negative thinking or emotions about yourself. Examples include polarized or black-and-white thinking ("I'm a loser"), overgeneralization ("I feel like the filthiest person in the world"), jumping to conclusions ("I don't deserve to be happy"), and catastrophizing ("even if I were, I'm afraid someone would show up and remind me about my past and how awful I've been and everyone would hate me again"). Anyone who looks objectively at the statements you're making about yourself can see that they are pretty blatant exaggerations – myths that you've chosen to believe about yourself.
If you want to redirect your life, you need to reframe these negative thought patterns. You can begin the process by embracing what God has said about your worth as a person and His never-ending love for you. Author Beth Moore has written a couple of books that may be a huge help to you in this regard: Breaking Free and Get Out of That Pit. Both volumes are available through Focus on the Family's Online Store.
We realize, of course, that this concept of reframing your thoughts is often easier said than done. We're also keenly aware that you probably can't do it alone. Accordingly, our second recommendation is that you get yourself into counseling with a qualified Christian therapist who can help you turn things around. It would probably be worth your while to seek out a clinician who is specially trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Rational Living Therapy (RLT). Both methods entail a short-term, goal-oriented, hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. The whole idea is to change the patterns of thought or behavior that underlie the emotional difficulties you've been having.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you regain a sense of ownership over your life. This will be important, since it seems obvious that you are feeling overwhelmed and out of control. You counselor may start by helping you set some small, easily achievable goals for yourself. If keeping the whole house clean is too much for you at the moment, begin by concentrating on picking up the dirty socks. From there you can move on to the laundry and the dishes. The important thing is to attack the problem in manageable segments. Don't bite off more than you can chew at one time. You'll be surprised at the difference it makes in how you feel about yourself.
During the counseling process, you and your therapist should also do some serious digging into the past events of your life. The language you've used leads us to suspect that the negative messages you're replaying in your mind were originally imposed upon you by someone else. To say it another way, you seem to be expressing a victim mentality. Were you subjected to abuse of any kind when you were a child? If so, you'll have to get in touch with that pain and deal with it before you can begin making progress in a more positive direction. It's very common for victims of abuse to cope with their hurt by victimizing themselves. And as long as you remain a victim, you can never achieve personal independence or take control over your life.
If none of this helps, we'd suggest that there is a very real possibility that you're dealing with clinical depression. Many of the things you've told us seem to indicate as much. Clinical or major depression is a very serious problem and should be treated as such. It's more than a temporary emotional slump. It involves a persistent – lasting two weeks or longer – and usually disruptive disturbance of mood and often affects other bodily functions as well. The causes of this kind of depression can be extremely complex, including a blend of genetic, biochemical, personal, family, and spiritual factors.
If you suspect that you may be dealing with a case of clinical depression, we recommend that you take immediate action. Get a physician's evaluation of your condition and be willing to consider appropriate medication (antidepressants can normalize disturbances in neurotransmitter function in the brain and are neither addictive nor an "escape from reality"). Some of the physical symptoms of depression, such as heart palpitations and abdominal cramps, are also seen in people dealing with anxiety disorder, so it is especially important to get an accurate diagnosis from a qualified physician. A doctor or psychiatrist may also prescribe changes in diet and hygiene that will help reverse this condition.
In closing, we want to urge you again to seek out professional counseling without delay. Call our Counseling department for a list of qualified Christian therapists in your area who specialize in dealing with problems of this nature. Our counselors will also be happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone.
Mental Health (resource list)
Depression: A Brief Overview