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Not Sure What Is Wrong

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I need some guidance as I have no insurance and no friends to turn to. I feel like I may be bipolar or suffering from depression or anxiety or something I’m not sure. I’m extremely happy with my current life. I love all aspects no matter how difficult, challenging and stressful they may be. But I get into these ruts where I feel defeated and helpless, that I have no control over anything in my life and I don’t know what to do to fix the problems. During this time I have trouble concentration or focusing on one particular task at a time (which I don’t remember happening when I was younger). I get very upset (almost like super p.m.s.) over the tiniest things. For example, my 7 year old step son was being disrespectful to me (as normal 7 year olds do from time to time) and I felt like I was at my breaking point and just starting bawling over it. My manager at work gave me a dirty look and I felt my eyes well up. I snap at my family and get short tempered with them.

It’s to the point where my fiancé is thinking I don’t want to be with him anymore and he thinks I’m unhappy helping him raise his son.

A little background, my fiancé and I have been living together for almost a year, and this summer his son came to live with us (for the better, his mom was very neglectful and a permissive parent). I’m very active in my step-son’s life and he sees me as a parent. We just moved into a beautiful 3br apartment as I allowed my 17 year old sister to come live with us (because my mother has issues of her own i.e. recovering crack addict, and she has many other mental issues that stem from her childhood).

Right now my fiancé and I are focusing a lot of our time on his son because he has extreme separation anxiety and anger issues (angry at his mother). We’ve gone to parenting classes and are helping him to be more independent and self sufficient, and we have a firm and friendly parenting style in our home. And most of the time all the stresses in my life are difficult, but managable. Becoming a step-mom on a whim is VERY hard, and sometimes I don’t’ feel like doing it. But he’s given me a purpose in life and I love him and all of my family very much, and I want nothing more to spend my life with this family and watch it grow. My boyfriend thinks I’m in denial about all of this, that I really am unhappy and that I want out.

I’ve always wanted to go to therapy because of the childhood issues I faced with my mom (leaving us with our grandparents for days at a time while she went out to do drugs) and I really feel I need it. I’m afraid I may have some sort of mental illness.

My fiancé just found out he has celiac’s disease and a lot of his mental troubles have ceased since he has been gluten free, mental troubles he’s had since he was 15( now 28).

I haven’t ruled out that I may have that as well, but I’m just looking for a professional opinion on this manner. Thank you very much for your response.

It is difficult to determine if you have a specific disorder. I often caution people from searching for a disorder label. Just because you become upset or feel overwhelmed doesn’t mean you’re mentally ill. It means you’re human. You may be experiencing a great deal of stress and you are having difficulty knowing how to handle it. Perhaps you don’t have the necessary tools to help yourself when stress arises.

You became a stepmom virtually overnight. You admitted that this new role is difficult. You are absolutely right. Becoming a stepparent was not something you planned for or expected but you are now faced with that responsibility. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed given the situation. Caring for a child is a major responsibility.

You also have your own issues to deal with associated with your childhood. You never had the opportunity to explore these in therapy. I can understand why you’re having a tough time.

You have a lot on your plate. You’re on the verge of getting married. You have a new family that you did not expect to have and you’re raising a child who is experiencing severe abandonment issues. You have your own set of personal issues that have not been addressed. In addition, you and your fiancé are not on the same page with regard to your feelings about your stepson. Therapy is the ideal place to address these issues. Individual counseling, couples counseling, and family therapy should be considered. Individual therapy can help you address irritability, depression, and anxiety. Couples counseling could assist you and your fiancé with your parenting responsibilities. Family counseling may also serve this purpose and help with your stepson’s abandonment issues.

I strongly believe therapy would be very helpful at this point in your life. Please consult this resource to find a therapist in your area.

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