I've been struggling with self esteem issues my whole life. My father was in and out of my life as a child and I was in the middle of him attempting to kill my mother one night. Luckily her side of the family is really close and things were stopped before any blood was shed. I was told that I was very unresponsive for a few days afterward, all I would say is, "Why would Daddy try to hurt me and mommy?". I was three or four, I don't remember. Later on he would promise to come pick me up and I would wait for him diligently and 95% of the time he would never show up. It left me feeling unloved and worthless, compounded by my mother the serial dater. I was diagnosed with clinical depression at 14 and attempted suicide. I was also a self-mutilator and I can remember sitting in my room as a teenager cutting myself and saying, "You're worthless, ugly, nobody likes you, end it now and everyone else will be better off." Luckily an observant friend "told on me" and got me the help I desperately needed. I struggled with clinical depression for years after that, (and still struggle with dysthymia even today at 30).
I never had very high self esteem even after my life was saved through psychiatric intervention, suicide was never very far from my thoughts. I got pregnant at 19 with my high school sweetheart's baby and having her changed my outlook considerably. I suddenly felt like I had a reason to live. She needed me and loved me no matter what I was. I broke up with her dad when she was two and got married to someone I jumped into the relationship with, my thought process at that time was, "He loves me, he likes me, I need to grab him up before he gets away, because I'm unlovable, I'm lucky he feels this way, it might never happen again."
Three months into the relationship he turned abusive. For two years I was trapped in an extremely abusive marriage. I had no choice in anything, even getting pregnant with my second daughter. I was property, no better than the dog in our house. What little, tiny bit of self-esteem I had managed to get was shattered. After he finally left me, I was diagnosed with PTSD and put into rape counseling along with CBT. I'd always had anxiety and panic attacks, but I was completely house-bound at this point, the stress from all the abuse had turned me agoraphobic. The nightmares and flashbacks didn't contribute to a sense of well-being either and I was so bad off, I couldn't even check the mail. I was like a ghost. Terrified of men, I would quite literally scream if one touched me.
The counseling helped, but the program ran out in 8 months and without being able to drive (or get out period other than hyperventilating all the way to counseling twice a week), I had no money to do anything for myself. I made do and lived a very limited existence. People wanted to see me, they had to come to my house. I tried a few programs and each one helped a little bit. The counseling helped me with my frigidity and I was able to have limited relationships with men, but they never lasted long, (who wants to date a chick who can't leave the house?). My self-esteem was in the ditches, I hated myself so bad, and I had no idea what to do about it.
I fell in love, I mean head over heels in love with my best friend after about three years of being housebound. He told me he didn't feel the same and I was crushed, I almost attempted suicide that night. I felt so unwanted, so unloved, I had no idea how to deal with rejection.
In January of 2010 I converted to Christianity and my life finally began to turn around. Having a higher power to believe in really seemed to help. My best friend finally realized he loved me in an almost fairy-tale-esque way. I found a CBT program that worked really well. I'm now engaged to be married in August, I can leave my house (still don't drive though), and I am getting child support to help me out.
I wish I could tell you what I did to turn it all around, but I think it was a mixture of things that seemed to all flow together at once.
I really would like to ask you though, Dr. Alex, do you think anxiety and low self esteem go hand in hand? I mean, are they often found together and which do you think precedes the other? I still struggle with my self-esteem a lot, though it's tons better than it was and I think it's slowly building. Do you think that the progress I'm making with my anxiety will be beneficial to my self-esteem?

More Posts