Downward Spiral

Published: November 11, 2015
Dear Downward Spiral,

Hi teenhealth fx. I have a big problem. I became friends with this boy and after awhile he started telling me about his mental problems. He suffered from depression, anxiety, paranoia, and he cut himself on a regular basis.I am very protective of my friends and so I started staying up late incase he woke up afraid or needed somebody to talk to. I was fine at first, but slowly the lack of sleep started to affect my grades and I was in danger of losing the #1 spot in my class. This cause immense amounts of stress. So as well as being constantly worried about my friend, I became worried about my slipping grades too. This continued for awhile and my friend became by boyfriend. He stopped cutting and started talking to his parents about his depression and anxiety and started getting better. This was amazing, good news, but I still worried about him sometimes and now he needed more of my attention because he was now my boyfriend. This meant even less sleep and worse schoolwork. One day I got really stressed and without thinking I scratched myself hard enough to bleed. So my boyfriend saw and he told me never to do anything like that again and made me swear on our relationship I would never cut. Anyway, a week later he broke up with me without warning and didn't give me a reason why. Plus it was at the worst possible time. I'm super busy with school and a show I'm in, plus swim season is just beginning, and the stress really got to me. So I was really hurt and confused and angry so as a way to get back at him I guess I busted a disposable razor and cut my side a bunch of times. After that, I threw up. Another week passed and he started completely ignoring me, even though he said he wanted to remain friends. And I cut myself again. And threw up again. And now I am the anxious, depressed, paranoid, self-harmer, except I have no friend to turn to. I barely eat, I rarely sleep, and my grades are falling fast. I feel like I can't pull myself out of this downward spiral. Please help me.

Dear Downward Spiral,

TeenHealthFX can certainly appreciate how angry and hurt you may be feeling that you had been there for your ex-boyfriend while he was struggling emotionally, only to have him break up with you without a clear reason and then not to be there for you during the difficult time you are currently going through. While a certain amount of anger and hurt would be expected, clearly something about this experience has created a significant amount of distress for you.

Given the level of distress you are experiencing, FX thinks that it is very important for you to meet with a mental health professional. We recommend you talk to your parents about setting up a consultation with a reputable clinical social worker or clinical psychologist. If your parents need assistance in finding someone reputable in your area, they could speak to a social worker or psychologist at your school in order to get a referral, or speak to your primary care physician.

In addition to speaking to a mental health professional in order to get a better understanding of what specifically is fueling the current emotions and behaviors you described in your question, FX would also like to point out the importance of taking care of ourselves when we are helping someone else in need. It sounds like in being there for your friend, you were neglecting your own needs. And the problem with that is in the end it means you are not being there for yourself or able to be there for the other person because you are too drained and stressed to be of help. So it would be important to discuss with a therapist, and be very conscious in the future, of making sure you are taking care of yourself during times that you are providing emotional support for someone else.  

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.