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becoming the old me in the new year

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Well, recently I’ve been having some problems with sleep- I stay asleep after I’m asleep, but I have difficulty staying asleep- and I think that most of it can be attributed to my worries that I’m slowly regressing back into the person I was a year ago.

You see, before the start of this school year I went to a therapist for several months starting on the 2 year anniversary of my mom’s death from a sudden heart attack- which happened while my family was eating lunch outside on a nice day. By the start of school, my therapist felt that I had progressed enough that, if I agreed, I

could end the sessions. So I ended the sessions (which mostly had to do with me having panic attacks and worrying that I was going crazy or going to die constantly).

I was fine, and quite level headed- with the usual ups and downs of day-to-day life and the usual teenage phases until the winter holiday break. For most of the break I was fine too, then came New Years and the next few days after that I didn’t go to sleep at my usual 10:30ish- which may seem perfectly fine- I sure thought it was at the time. Anyway, school resumed and I was fine again for a few days (until about 2 days in) when I started having real trouble getting to sleep. Now, that in itself was ok- Ups and downs, right?

Well, it would’ve been if it hadn’t introduced a fear to my mind- That I was slowly but surely regressing to how I was prior to and during the end of my 8th grade year and the summer in between the two years. That time was bad to say the least- I listened to only Death/Black metal music wise (I love music), didn’t go to sleep until 1 or 2am on school days, didn’t talk to people during school save a few people with whom I mainly talked about things such as corpses, death, killing- really messed up stuff- and I thought for the most part that I was fine- I was a little arrogant I guess. Later in the year I decided that I was indeed messed up in the head and wanted to go to therapy.

Now I’ve noticed some disturbing thoughts reemerging, along with some old habits- such as staying up very late, apathy, nihilistic views, and certain erm, sexual preferences that I never really liked save for the pure eroticism and the fact that they were regarded as slightly to moderately taboo in society. I don’t like the way things are going, but I seem to have very little control over feeling this way, and even less control over the habits and thoughts.

I’m reluctant to go back into therapy because I’m afraid that by doing so I’ll be regressing even more into the old me- which really wasn’t me but was really more of a facade I built up around myself that had some exterior coats of paint if you will, that were things I really believed in. It’s really distressing to me, for several reasons- one, prior to this ‘relapse’ of sorts I’d just hit a point in my life where I was actually achieving things that I’d always wanted, and genuinely having a good time with life since my mom dying, and slowly but surely establishing what I really liked and disliked, and my general personality and disposition.

I just really hate that I realize that these things are not necessarily true and that I should ‘just let go’ but I just can’t stop, and it’s getting in my way now- I worry almost daily about whether I’m regressing or not, whether I’ll be able to sleep that night, whether I’m a cold-hearted narcissist, whether I’m crazy or not and where my life in general is going. I’m becoming withdrawn again just when I was starting to open up and trust people and it’s not particularly fun at all. Now, I fear I’ve started to ramble awhile back so I’ll end this summary here and hope that it gets answered with some hope :).

Thank you,
Trying to remain optimistic and level-headed

Dear “Trying”,
I really don’t think you are going insane and I don’t think you’re a hard-hearted narcissist. I do think you’re not finished with therapy. Therapy often takes a number of “chapters” before you’ve finished the “book”. Each chapter hones in closer to the issues and builds your personal strength. Going back into therapy won’t make you regress. It will help you go to the next level.

It’s very, very hard for people to go on with life and be happy when someone they love hasn’t been given the same chance. Your mom died way before she was supposed to. She should be there to share the good times and celebrate your accomplishments. My guess is that when things started to go right again, you missed her all the more.

Sleep disorders often go with grieving, especially unacknowledged grieving. Unfortunately, disturbed sleep also creates some of the strange thoughts you are experiencing. Then everything gets tangled up with everything else.

It sounds like you had a good relationship with your therapist and that you were able to do a good piece of work together. I encourage you to see therapy as an important source of support and guidance that you will revisit now and then. It’s normal for grieving an important person in our lives to take anywhere from 3 – 5 years. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be immobilized and a wreak for that amount of time. It does mean that every now and then you’ll revisit the grief and loss. Most people are unprepared for this. Therapy can help you learn some skills for dealing.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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