Help! Why Can’t I Stop Making Self-Destructive Choices?

I am a senior in high school. Ever since I was little I have been exceptionally smart, scoring in the top percentiles on my standardized tests in school and always finding it easy. But as I got into high school, I never did well. Somehow I always sabotage myself out of the grades I know I should have and not trying. But it's because for some reason I alternate between not caring about it at all most of the time and then suddenly some days I am insanely motivated and will work all day long, but the next day I am back to the apathy. And lately it has not just been schoolwork. I have been getting more and more self-destructive. I have become a very frequent pot smoker, I care less and less about myself, and I just feel like I cannot stop making self-destructive choices. I feel like a bystander with no control. Also, my mental well-being has begun to deteriorate lately. I am starting to care less and less about my life as a whole. It's not like I want to die, but if I died, I would be relieved because I want to be done with everything. I feel like I have some sort of mental illness, but no clue what. My mother is severely bipolar, but it is only obvious during manic episodes; otherwise, she is perfectly normal. My father is an alcoholic. Could this be the reason, or a reason, that I am feeling this way? —Ruining My Life
Dear Ruining My Life,

While there is no simple answer to your question, I do suspect your parents’ issues with bipolar and alcoholism likely play a role in what you are experiencing now. I would imagine that between your mother’s manic episodes and your father’s struggles with alcohol, sometimes your home can be rather chaotic. I also wonder if the chaos feels unpredictable. The combination of chaos and unpredictability can be very anxiety provoking and scary. It could certainly be connected to the decline in your academic performance and the frequent use of marijuana that you describe.

You raised the possibility that you may have some sort of “mental illness.” With the little information that I have, it is impossible for me to determine whether you are, in fact, experiencing a diagnosable mental health issue. I wonder if you are concerned about this possibility based on knowledge you have about genetic links between mental health problems and addiction. While this is a possibility to explore, it seems just as possible that you are having a completely normal and understandable response to the environment that you are living in.

You have described some of your behavior as sabotaging and self-destructive. I wonder if, consciously or unconsciously, you are trying to create some negative outcomes so that your parents, a friend, a teacher, or someone will notice and inquire about what is going on with you.

You have described some of your behavior as sabotaging and self-destructive. I wonder if, consciously or unconsciously, you are trying to create some negative outcomes so that your parents, a friend, a teacher, or someone will notice and inquire about what is going on with you. Is some part of you trying to get someone to notice that you need help? If this idea resonates with you at all, I suggest giving yourself permission to come right out and ask for some help. Is this something you feel like you could discuss with your mother and/or father? If not, maybe you could talk to a counselor at school about how to get some help. From what I can gather, finding a therapist to help you address the concerns you’ve raised would be very beneficial to you.

You strike me as a resilient, resourceful person. You wrote to Dear GoodTherapy.org to get some help. You have insight into your behaviors, you are able to draw connections between your parents’ issues and your own, and you are able to question both. All of this makes me think that with the right support, you will be able to heal and move on from this challenging phase of your life healthier, stronger, and more self-aware.

Respectfully,

Sarah

Sarah Noel
Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • Becki

    Becki

    May 8th, 2015 at 8:37 AM

    Could the smoking pot all of the time have anything at all to do with that poor decision making?

  • Kendall

    Kendall

    May 8th, 2015 at 12:29 PM

    it sounds as if you have gotten yourself into this very vicious cycle of bad behavior and I just don’t think that this is something that you you should even try to go through alone. Sometimes we all make mistakes but the adult thing is when we finally learn that it is not okay and it is not healthy to try to cover up one more mistake by making another one. That means that you now have to take some responsibility for some of these choices and move forward from that point.

  • jackson

    jackson

    May 9th, 2015 at 11:02 AM

    Please seek out help before letting this go much further

  • Khalani

    Khalani

    May 11th, 2015 at 3:40 AM

    I have to think that there is a part of you that feels like this is what you deserve so this is what you do in life to make sure that you don’t have anything better than this. It may not even be that you are doing this on a conscious level.

  • Kelly

    Kelly

    May 11th, 2015 at 9:15 AM

    Khalani, I found your thought to be really interesting. The way you worded it resonated with me personally.

  • Khalani

    Khalani

    May 13th, 2015 at 1:57 PM

    Thanks Kelly, that means a lot. I have been to that place before where everything that I did was wrong and self destructive. I didn’t really get it at the time, but after working with my therapist we found that this is all I believed that I was worth and so these were the same choices and decision that I kept making time and again. It was a very hard pattern of behavior to break free of.

  • Kelly

    Kelly

    May 15th, 2015 at 10:12 AM

    I agree from my own experience as well. It’s hard work but once you’ve got it, you’ve got it :)

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