Mental Health: What To Know if You Ask Yourself, 'What's Wrong With Me?'
Do you ever find yourself wondering, “What’s wrong with me?” Do you ever feel like something isn’t quite right, and even though you don’t really fit the description of depression, you know something has to be wrong with you?
Today we’re going to talk about a few things that might look like depression but aren’t, but we’re also going to talk about how to reframe the question of “What’s wrong with me?” Because the truth is, depression or not, who you are as a person is OK. Really, I promise.
Rejective Sensitive Dysphoria
Rejection sensitive dysphoria, also known as rejection sensitivity, is a phenomenon where someone is very strongly affected by any perceived rejection. Some professionals believe rejection sensitivity is unique to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but others say they see this same issue in people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), social anxiety, and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) as well.
So, what does rejective sensitive dysphoria look like in action? It feels like the person rejecting you hates you. It feels like who you are as a person is disgusting and hideous and wrong. It feels like you are defective and your life is pointless. All because of one single perceived rejection (that’s right, sometimes this happens when someone hasn’t even really rejected you, just when you feel like they have).
This can look a lot like depression because it creates painful negativity and self-loathing, which can also be part of depression. However, unless you are living in a toxic environment where you are always being rejected, rejection sensitive dysphoria is much less consistent than depression. You might want to die one minute (all because someone made a passing comment about how you tend to be late) and then feel fine in an hour or two when the dysphoria has dissipated.
This can make you feel “crazy,” but you’re not. There’s a name for what you’re experiencing, and there’s a whole community of other people who experience it too.
Depression in Recovery
Were you previously diagnosed with depression, but now you’re not so sure if that diagnosis is correct?
Let’s talk about why we tend to doubt our diagnoses when we’re in recovery.
Here’s the thing about recovery: it means getting better. It means reducing symptoms and identifying struggles and finding good coping mechanisms. It means your illness won’t look the same as it did before.
I’ve been in therapy for six years now, with various diagnoses, but I’ve pretty much always had a diagnosis of depression in some capacity. But now, I often struggle with that diagnosis because my depression doesn’t seem to fit the criteria.
For instance, my depressive episodes only last a few hours or days, and they typically involve intense feelings instead of a lack of feelings. This makes me feel like I must have a different diagnosis, but in reality, this is simply what my depression looks like in this stage of recovery.
Between my therapy and medications, those long, lifeless depressive episodes have shortened and become less numb. Basically, my depression looks a lot different now, but it doesn’t mean I never actually had it, it just means my recovery is working.
Trauma is not limited to combat veterans or sexual assault survivors; trauma is anything that threatens your sense of safety or identity. Little t trauma is very real, and all trauma can cause symptoms that look a lot like depression, but don’t quite fit perfectly.
People who have experienced trauma might experience the more typical form of depression, which involves apathy, numbness and hopelessness. But they might experience agitated depression instead. This type of depression involves irritation, anger, shame, restlessness and more.
People with trauma feel this way when they’re triggered and reliving the emotions they felt during past traumas, or doing everything they can to avoid those feelings their bodies are reliving.
If you think there’s a chance you might have experience with trauma, then I absolutely have to recommend the book, “The Body Keeps the Score” by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. I’m reading it right now and it feels like it’s finally giving me the answer to “what’s wrong with me” (even though that’s not really the right question, but we’ll get to that in a bit).
Do you ever zone out so hard that you experience a physical sensation of discomfort when you zone back in? Do you sometimes feel disconnected from your body? Have you ever felt like you or the world around you might not be real?
These are all examples of dissociation, which may feel like depression, but is actually its own separate experience.
Dissociation is basically when your mind disconnects from your body to some extent. It can be super mild, like when you drive home only to realize you don’t really remember the drive, to very severe, like when people lose chunks of time that they don’t remember at all due to dissociation.
Being chronically dissociated might feel like depression because you may feel numb and apathetic, but dissociation may also cause depression. Being disconnected from your body and your life can definitely make a person depressed.
How to Reframe Thoughts of “What’s Wrong With Me?”
OK, so we’ve talked about some things that could be going on if you’re pretty sure you don’t have depression but you still keep finding yourself wondering, “What’s wrong with me?”
But what if we asked a different question? What if we asked, “What happened to me?”
This is the trauma-informed approach. Instead of putting all of the responsibility for your feelings of brokenness on your own shoulders, you shift the focus to how you came to be burdened with those feelings.
It’s natural to feel like something is wrong with you when you’re constantly miserable. I get that, I do. I’m not saying nothing is wrong in that shitty “everyone feels that way sometimes” kind of way. I’m just saying that even if you do have depression, dissociation, trauma or rejection sensitive dysphoria, there’s nothing wrong with who you are as a person.
So instead of focusing your energy on trying to figure out what’s wrong with you, let’s ask what happened to you. Let’s ask where this belief that you’re wrong or broken or bad came from. Let’s get at that core wound and find the courage to really feel it. Then, and only then, can we start to heal.
Healing is hard. I know, I’ve been working on my own healing for years now and some days it still feels totally impossible. But other days, it feels like I’m building a life worth living, a life I actually enjoy. I want you to have more of those days.
If you need a little guidance when it comes to healing, you should subscribe to the Validation Station newsletter. Every day, I send out an email full of GIFs and validation. It’s basically a virtual hug.
A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted.
Photo by Ryan Jacobson on Unsplash