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Ralph

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I could really use some help. Things are going pretty damn well for me right now, but I still feel like shite. I think it might be guilt over stuff I did in the past. I didn't hurt anyone, I didn't cheat, steal, or even harass anyone. My sin was schadenfreude. I went through a phase where I took pleasure in watching or hearing about the horrific things happening to people that are not me. Somehow since then, probably because of getting sober, my empathy got turned back on and I am now disgusted with that side of myself. Yet I cannot change the past. I do stupid things when I drink, even stupider things when I drink and take cocaine. That's why I am quitting. There are many reasons, but this is one of the bigger ones.

This is a problem because the guilt over what I know is inside me is seeping out to other areas of my life. I'm not as patient as I was just a few months ago. I've turned from someone who loves to smile into an irritable grump who is quick to complain and I'm constantly judging my situation as this is good, that is bad, and so on. I try not to judge people, but that doesn't always stop me. I'm even driving more aggressively - it's like I don't know myself. That creates tremendous anxiety, and I'm afraid that this anxiety will become something I try to escape by behaving badly again. I don't want that. I don't want to go to that place again.

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Getting into conflict with ourselves is a key reason why we get into trouble :( Good call in seeing it, Ralph. Does it help to understand why you went through a phase of schadenfreude? The mind is a complicated thing. Maybe you were not able to grieve your own horrific past, that was too much, so you kept in contact with that side of human experience in that other way. Hoping you can understand and forgive, Ralph.

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So far, I believe I went through that phase because I was wrapped up in self pity over what had happened to me in the past. It felt cathartic to focus on people that have it worse than me, because it both normalized the violence that I experienced and gave me other people to feel superior over. Screwed up, I know. Plus like pretty much anything else that works for me I took it too far. I feel that this behavior has stained my character; I became a worse person as a result of wallowing in my negative emotions.

I think I could forgive myself, if society weren't so focused on punishment of people who have made simple but big mistakes in their life. We ruin peoples' lives over a DUI or youthful indiscretion and that seems just fine in this culture. Well, if I have to answer for my sins, then I will be in a very sorry state indeed.

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It's a point that gets missed quite often when the word "society" gets used: it's just a bunch of people. Sure, we can be herd-like at times. But we don't have to ... And if one of us manages to raise their head above that, it's hard to hold it against those who haven't been able to, yet.

We all have to answer for our sins, but I imagine the conversation like this:

"Did you sin?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so."

"Big deal; so did everyone else. Are you sorry?"

"Yes, I truly am."

"Then you're miles ahead already."

Yeah. Me no theologian, obviously.

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My conscience torments me more than any external punishment could, at least any punishment stopping short of cruel & unusual. If I had a dollar for every time people have told me to stop beating up on myself, I'd have at least $35. So I've been trying to go easier on myself. Best way is to keep busy. If I'm focused on what I'm doing I can't mull over the past or worry about the future.

I could not go back watch those videos/photos now. It's too much. However, this is a cycle. I get weird, do creepy things, then I come back to reality and, dear God, what have I done??? Some images are burned in my mind. I try to distract myself from that. So in my imagination the dialogue would go more like...

"are you sorry?"

"I'm mortified."

"Then why did you do it repeatedly?"

"Because I was hurting."

...but I don't know what the heck would come out of that. It's said that, "Hurting people hurt people." Well I try not to hurt others, so I hurt myself instead. This spirals quite rapidly. I don't know what to do. Most of what I think will work blows up in my face.

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What would a forgiving act look like? Some sort of action that says "I am being patient with me today." or "I am breathing a space inside this pain." Have you considered getting a pet, Ralph? Animals have a way of bringing us back to our better sides (as long as we can handle their behavior without getting too angry).

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When you feel you are hurting, can you listen to the pain and care for the hurting part? What feels comforting? What advice would you offer a friend who had written something similar?

I hope today is okay for you, Ralph.

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The answer to "why did you do it repeatedly" is "because I'm human."

Which of course leads directly into what the ladies are saying, why do you expect more of you than you do of others. If sin as a concept resonates with you, you might ask whether that excessive expectation is tantamount to a sin against your own self.

"Mortified" is an interesting word. Monks in the Middle Ages were encouraged (by some in the Church, not all) to mortify the flesh in various ways (that we won't go into) in order to take on the suffering of others, supposedly. Personally, I don't think it works that way; I think we can hardly take care of anyone else if we don't first care for ourselves. For one thing, how would we learn how, if we didn't practice on ourselves first.

Again, consider how little of a theologian I am.

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I've considered getting a pet for just that reason, but I'm afraid if my depression recurs then I won't be able to take proper care of it. I can't even properly care for myself.

I expect more of myself than of others because, somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm campaigning for sainthood. Not something I think I have a serious shot at achieving, but there is this perfectionism streak in me that extends even to my moral behavior. Of course, it's all ego-based. What could be more of an ego boost than receiving an "attaboy" from God Himself? You might say *being* God in Heaven might be more so, but then I would no longer be "me;" I would be someone else. Something else entirely. No, it's all about this little point in the universe called "ME," and getting the big boss man in the sky to say, "thou good and faithful servant..." I'm obviously not much of a theologian myself, nor a moral overachiever, it would seem.

I used the word "mortified" with both connotations in mind. I am so ashamed of my behavior that the word "embarrassed" doesn't even begin to cover it. At the same time, part of me wonders if I shouldn't take up mortification of the flesh as a way of dealing with my own impure urges. Not as penance, but as a preventative.

It's not going well. Mind's a mess. Heart's a mess. I don't even know what I'm doing, here, on this planet. I wish it could all be over with.

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What pet would you get if you were to get a pet, Ralph?

Do you visit pet stores or rescues? Sometimes rescue shelters need volunteers...

Sorry you are feeling down on yourself. I think we frighten ourselves with our thoughts sometimes and that can create a spiral. Have affirmations ever worked to make a shift in your thinking?

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There are programs here in my state where one can foster a pet until it finds a permanent home too. The person can then decide to keep the pet as well. I have always found animals comforting and they motivate me too because they need me and rely on me. Maybe owning one might help you to take care of yourself? I know I sure get a lot more exercise now that we have two dogs! I understand your concerns, though, and perhaps a low maintenance pet would be an ideal choice.

What might calm your mind and soothe your heart? I'm sorry you're struggling, Ralph.

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I'm not sure how being in physical pain all the time would act as a preventative for anything except joy.

I've been campaigning to be Einstein, personally, but apparently, the job is taken.

I love that image, though, campaigning for sainthood. For one thing, it makes you wonder about the folks who really elect saints, while not being saints themselves. Seems like a slight lack of proper objectivity there.

What if the first step is to be eligible for a part of you to say to you, "thou good and faithful servant"?

Meh. People here care about you, Ralph. I think there's a good reason for that.

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You all make really good points; I am grateful for your help. I had thought about volunteering at the Humane Society or a rescue, but then I thought I would get attached to the animals and it would be too much to bear if they had to get euthanized. Same with fostering except that I would probably fall in love with all the animals and end up with 12 dogs & 22 cats with no idea how to feed them all. So that's the surface thought. Below that is a more accurate reason. I talk myself out of it because I think I don't deserve anything that would help me be happy. Also there is the fact that I'm more than a little bit flaky... meaning I'm not sure I could keep up the proper care and feeding of an animal. I just don't want anything to be solely dependent on me.

I'm not sure how being in physical pain all the time would act as a preventative for anything except joy.

Not sure either, but what does prevent one from acting out in impulsive and destructive ways?

What if the first step is to be eligible for a part of you to say to you, "thou good and faithful servant"?

If that's the first step, I'm in some trouble. I would see that as a long term goal. It would take a lot of work to get there.

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"[W]hat does prevent one from acting out in impulsive and destructive ways?"

Well, I would probably boil it down to being centered, which I know is of little help by itself. One difficulty is that those impulses are also a part of you (and a part of everybody.) They cause trouble when they're brutally repressed, because they don't stop being a part of you, they just stop being a part of your conscious mind. By forcing them to act from your unconscious, you (your conscious identity) has even less chance of affecting them.

Culturally, and that culture includes a long history of Christian teachings, we tend to be rather one-sided. We're told that our conscious minds, our wills, are the guardians against sin, or fallacy, or bad things in general. We try to "purify" our minds by removing all the impulses that every human has. You could describe it as a "get thee behind me" sort of attitude, traditionally, but personally, if there were a devil around, I'd want him out in front of me so I could see what he was doing.

I know it sounds difficult to accept that one has negative impulses, but that's not the same as giving those impulses free rein. What I mean by "centered" is accepting one's shortcomings without necessarily acting them all out.

I said "eligible", not that you would immediately (be able, or want to) say that. If you treat yourself as a valuable instrument of, call it God's work if you want, then you're more likely to be able to do such work, and thereby earn the praise. If you start with the assumption that you'll never be eligible for praise, well, it doesn't seem likely you'll try to earn any, does it? Or at least, it seems likely that you'll be telling yourself defeatist stuff the whole time.

Ideally though, the praise would be something you'd give yourself, in the long run, because waiting for even well-earned praise from the outside world tends to be a losing proposition.

I talk a lot of religion for a non-theologian. :-)

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They cause trouble when they're brutally repressed

I think this is exactly what is going on. Yet I feel like I cannot acknowledge my issues, because if my secret is exposed, there is nothing for me but punishment. Mainstream people (those who have never struggled with an addiction or mood disorder) would see me as a monster, or at least an object of disgust. I see me as a monster. I don't embrace this though. I'm not some rebel who is comfortable with his misfit status. I'm highly conventional and my failure to fit in eats at me daily. I want to change, but how?

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whoa, Ralph, easy on you. Have you been able to get to know each person that you are calling mainstream? Most people have troubles. And acknowledging your issues includes the fact that you have traumatic violent stuff in your childhood. Are you able to acknowledge that to you? This is important stuff to get help for in therapy if possible. You do not have to confess everything to strangers. I used to think I had to explain myself to everyone. I think I was trying to explain myself to myself ultimately. We are here and listening, friend Ralph. You fitting in with you is possible, it just takes some work sometimes, and some help sometimes. Healthy fitting in is about working through difficulties and that being ok, and people still liking you including yourself.

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I don't know who I am. I know I'm not thinking straight. My thoughts will randomly shift from one topic to another. I can barely function. Couldn't even make coffee this morning, by the time I gave up I was already 15 minutes late. Luckily I managed to shower or else people might begin to see I'm falling apart.

I don't feel like I have to explain myself to everyone, I'm just petrified of someone discovering my horrible secret. I thought I was done with all this pain. I had "processed" it. but it keeps coming back. What's the point?

Behind this I have some hope. I'm not alone, and I'm grateful for that. I feel like I need to fight for the person I could be, because that person would do some good in the world, or at least in the local area. I can't do very much good until I get my own act together though.

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(((( Ralph )))) I hope you can forgive you for having a tough struggle. For some people, getting to the point of saying "I hurt" instead of "I hate myself because I hurt" or "I refuse to hurt about this" is a big shift inside. Suppression is what leads to it coming out in other ways like watching those violent movies and such. It is so tough when we are against ourselves for having trouble in the first place, like we "shouldn't" be having trouble. Eventually a person can get to "I can heal."

Does your therapist help?

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Yes my therapist helps. I need to call her but somehow I manage to procrastinate it all day. Maybe if I went into work early then I could take some time in the middle of the day and feel it was okay. My next appt is a couple weeks from now but I think I might need to let her know about the suicidal thoughts.

Last I saw her they were just fleeting thoughts, now they are getting more serious. To the point where I have a method and a backup method in mind and I just need to get supplies for the backup method. Of course I don't want to hurt my family and my partner. If it weren't for them I would have ended it already, but I've dealt with this for over 30 yrs now and while it's gotten better, these impulses are still there and I feel like it wouldn't take much to push me over the edge from where I am. At least I'm not drinking over this. That's actually a big change.

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I'm sorry you're feeling so down, Ralph. :( I'm not sure if I can say anything that might help, but there are people out here who care. I hope you can contact your therapist and that she is helpful.

Sending care.

puppy_hug_____by_emmyliaa-d5wtqvp.jpg

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The impulses are still there, Ralph, and that's okay as long as you can stay aware that they're impulses and not requirements to act. Can you defuse the situation a little by getting rid of your means, or at least telling someone what you're thinking?

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I had an emergency and called my therapist who wanted me to go inpatient. I talked her down from that into letting me stay at a friends' house and they would keep me safe. I don't hear the bad thoughts as much when there are other people around, so it's dangerous for me to be alone. This is noticed when I go back to my apt to pick up stuff. The bad thoughts are right there, screaming do it do it do it do it...

So far I am not out of the woods but I'm feeling better each day. I still just want to die, but I know that would hurt all the people that care about me. Now more people know I have been suicidal because I've gotten in touch with other friends for support as well. I've found out I have more friends than my suicidal thoughts would have me believe.

It's primarily music keeping me alive. The patterns, the harmony, melody, and countermelody are something to focus on aside from my internal dialog. I'm in danger of jumping off a high place and not entirely sure I should be driving but I think I'm okay with that.

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