20 years old, long medical history, and want to gain control of my life
Hi everybody this is my first post so I apologize if it is going to seem to long. I just need to get a few things off my chest and feel this forum would be the best place to start. So Im 20 years old and have had a long history of heart disease including numerous operations over the course of my life. As I live I face the common obstacles associated with congenital heart disease but I feel that I am not living my life and I desperately need some help. It is not only this but other factors that contribute to me not being able to live the life I want to live.
So I am the son of European immigrants who grew up overseas but met here. As we know most Europeans bring with them certain values and strict virtues that they want to impart on their kids. For example, as a child I always was taught to have good grades and work hard. However, everything a normal kid did I was not able to because of my illness. Being sick constantly and in and out of hospitals took a toll on me and on my parents. They devoted themselves to me because they had to. I tried to live as normally as I could, but I found myself not involved with other kids. For example, while other kids were outside the entire day I went out only for a couple hours and retreated inside to play, watch TV or play video games. This only increased the older I got. During this time I would take a lot of flak from my parents for not doing what other kids did. However, looking back now I understand where they were coming from.
I would like to jump to middle school and high school for a bit because I feel it is important. During 8th grade we bought a house in another town and I decided that it would be better for me to attend the local middle school in the new town as it would be better for me socially later on. However, during this time I was somewhat socially isolated as well. Let me just clarify that I would not consider myself an introvert. This 8th grade year was pretty fun and I genuinely liked the kids in my grade. We had a spin off of American Idol and I took part in that which gave me some popularity and recognition. It was fun for me too. However, as much as my parents pushed me to study, I didn't yet grasp the importance of grades and didn't do as well as I should have. I guess I just simply did not want to. Again, I want to clarify I wasn't a bad student. I got As and B's. I also got a C that year because I wasn't used to the Honors Level course coming from a Catholic School with a pretty shoddy curriculum. But knowing European parents, they expect a degree of perfection. If you get a B, they ask "why isn't this an A?" Im not saying a B is a perfect grade because I now know at that moment I didn't push myself hard enough. At that moment it just did not occur to me.
My first year of high school was filled with exploration and learning. I was genuinely happy. I was getting very good grades, made friends, went out, and enjoyed it. I enjoyed the public school feel coming from a catholic school before my move. However, after freshman year, I resorted back to isolation. I spent way too much time on the computer, and with harder classes my grades slumped. I was a very inconsistent student. Where I succeeded in taking honors and AP classes, I slacked off in others I did not like, specifically math. I never really knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to act, as it has always been a dream of mine. I would watch Disney movies as a young kid an sing all day. Back then I was outgoing and talkative, qualities I sadly lost the older I got. But I knew that with my condition that would be an impossible dream. So my junior and senior years came by and went without me going to prom. I was never able to ask a girl out because I had it in my head that some of the really good looking girls from the field hockey team would go with me, even if I did not take the initiative to ask. So my senior year, I took two AP classes, graduated with a 3.4 GPA and applied to Hofstra University.
The college search was a specifically painful time of high school. I was not sure what I wanted to do and really was not interested. I think that I did not want to face that reality. I went with my parents to various schools such as Lehigh University, Stevens Institute of Technology (which holds an important part in my story) that with my bad grades and bad SAT's (which I was not particularly interested in either) I would not get in. After I got the denial letter's from those schools, it was World War 3 in my house where I was called a "bum" and basically "worthless". It is important to understand that European parents are very competitive. They always want to prove to others that their kids were the best, which is why I was always pushed. Just to sidetrack, I attended a Polish school where the parent teacher meetings were predicated on what college each of the parents son or daughter was going to attend. I also played piano from 5-17 and while I liked music and liked to play, I feel that I was pushed into doing it for God knows what reasons. I enjoyed it, just didn't like practicing. I always hated this. I hated this talk of who was better. But if there was someone better then me, I despised it. I just did not want to work to get better. Back to the college search, I finally got accepted into Rutgers University and Hofstra University on Long Island. I decided to go to Hofstra because it was a private, smaller school. My parents were not necessarily thrilled because they knew I could have done better. I knew I could have done better. It just so happened during that summer I was going in for a pulmonary valve replacement, a surgery that would stop the remaining leakage in my heart. My parents were prepping me for this and I was getting ready mentally as well. Everything went according to plan and I spent the summer recovering. They always helped me and bent over backwards to make sure I was ok.
In the fall I left for Hofstra to study Information Technology. On the studet drop off day said our goodbyes and we got teary eyed just like any family would. I'll be honest I would miss them. I was always close to my family because of how much they helped me and it would be hard, especially after my operation. While I knew they knew I could have gone to a better school, I think they were proud of me. I wasn't sure. But soon this experience would hit me like a tractor trailer. I was eager to start fresh, fix what I messed up in high school and grow up. I wanted to do well in school, meet new people, and be the person I always wanted to be. I knew that I could be better and push myself to unlock my full potential. But things did not work out the best way. To start things off, my roommate was addicted, simple addicted, to his computer. I was still recovering from my surgery and the first two months were not the easiest. Especially being over 60 miles away from home. In addition, my scenario with my roommate added extra tension. My roommate was addicted, simply addicted, to the computer. He spent nights playing with his friends from home and yelling over a microphone as I tried to study or sleep. I was going crazy and begin to think that being in this school, being far from home and having to put up with an anti-social roommate is punishment for my behavior in high school. So I decided that I still had a shot to change my situation. I began to think that in order to improve my life, I had to start caring about school and what I wanted to do with my life. I knew that attending a Liberal Arts based school in another state wasn't the school for me. I mean either way, this school did pick me. I began to think about transferring to Stevens Institute of Technology for the fall 2011 semester. It would be a better education and I thought would prepare me better for my major. But I somehow put it into my mind, that in order to meet the demanding academic goals of this school, I needed to devote myself entirely to this cause. This meant that I would have to isolate myself and work until I got to where I wanted to go. I spent the first two semesters working, studying, going to the gym, and not going out. I would relax my Friday nights watching Polish Soap Operas that I used to watch with my parents with a glass of Trader Joe's wine provided by my dad ( the polish are liberal with the alcohol). However, I did not speak to anybody. Whenever my mom or dad called, the topic would be school or Stevens and nothing else. My parents were proud that I committed to this and while they knew that what I was doing was not healthy, they did not say anything. They wanted me to go Stevens because they knew that I was always capable. It wasn't until now that I knew what I wanted. To be honest, I was never as driven before as I was to get into Stevens. It was a good feeling, I went to class and was laser focused giving 110 percent of myself into every assignment.But I isolated myself because I think I was scared. I was afraid to meet new people and grow. Everything from talking to faculty members, calling departments, and working was difficult because I was simple afraid of people. I do not know where this fear came from but I can only assume it was from the closeness I had to my parents and the fact that I never did anything that made me Independence.During this time I told myself that I did not need friends because I would be leaving for something better. I thought I was better and smarter than the people at Stevens. I simple worked to the bone everyday. I resorted to podcasts in order to hear someone speak to me because the loneliness got to me. I also missed my parents. So eventually my first year of college ended. I finished with a cumulative 3.6 GPA and waited for a response from Stevens. That summer, I somehow got it into my head that after all my hard work, I deserved a vacation and wanted to rest. I spent my summer doing nothing. However, I did not feel productive and wanted to get a job. The problem was that I could not motivate myself to go out and apply because I was afraid of either talking to these people or getting rejected. Yet inside, I felt useless. My parents once again reinforced this saying that I should be working and that everyone my age works. I knew this was true but could not motivate myself to go out and apply. I told them that I was scared. Inside, I tried to cover this with the dumb thought that once I get into Stevens, it would give me the confidence knowing that I accomplished something successful in my life. I thought all my pain and doubts would go away. As the end of the summer drew to a close, I received a notification that my application to Stevens has been deferred and that it would be reviewed for the Spring 2012 semester. I was getting ready for this response as I was told that I would hear back from the school a month earlier. So there I was, back to square one with a year of my college life wasted chasing this dream. While other kids were having fun, I wasn't because I wanted more.
That fall semester I did the same thing I did the year before and it flew by. Homesick, I found a job at the Business School and worked and came home on the weekends. Any money I made went straight to gas and I embarked on the two hour ride home every Friday for the semester because I missed my house. Coming back to school on those Sunday nights was even worse because of the traffic and I usually got to school around 9. During this semester, I kind of lost myself. I was driving there and back and only studying and I felt as if I was in a trance. Still I managed to get good grades, hoping to get into Stevens. Then as I was studying for my last final, I received a phone call from the Stevens admissions office that I was accepted. My first reaction was anger, as that gave me approximately two weeks to gather my things from Hofstra and move into Stevens. During that winter break, I had to find out my financial aid and decide if this was the right move for me. While Hofstra was not my dream school, I grew attached to it and was comfortable with it. If I moved to Stevens I would be starting from scratch. This choice was unbearable for me and during this time I developed an atrial flutter. I was hospitalized and had to have my heart shocked back into rhythm. My doctor's said it was fairly common among people with heart disease. Personally, I think it was the insurmountable stress.
During this time, my mind was simply flatlining, I did not know what to do and what to think. The time came after my parents encouraged me to go Stevens, that it would be easier for me and that I would like it, I packed my things, withdrew and transferred to Stevens. My first week there was a blur. I met my roommate, a quiet and good kid, who I am liiving with again in September. I attended classes, came home to my room and cried asking myself what I done. I called my parents and best friend saying I wasn't sure if I made the right decision. My parents kept reassuring me, but they were running out of energy. They were ready to pack my things up and take me back to Hofstra in order to stop hearing my complaining. I felt alone and uncertain. One of my good friends from high school told me that this a new experience and it is what you always wanted. I think he was an influencing factor in helping me decide to stay at Stevens. I decided to stay. I was registered for a Calculus course that I have to take but decided to switch my classes around so that I would take that Spring 2013. That seemed to alleviate a bit of my stress. On campus, I heard of a Polish American Club, something that would be close to me. There I met two of the clubs organizers, girls who convinced me that it was worth it to stay. I think they helped solidify my decision.
After a couple weeks, the school grew on me. I feel happy that I made that decision, went out more and felt better overall. I know people from my high school that go there and have been slightly more comfortable then ever before. Still though, I have a problem going out and meeting new people. If there was a party on campus, I would call my friend from home and he would eagerly drive out so that I would have someone to talk to. While he is spontaneous like that he doesn't mind, but I do not want to rely on my friends from home all the time. I want to be independent and have my own life.I just don't know how to meet new people. I ate lunch alone and don't want to do it anymore. Im 20 and still have some trouble talking to girls.
Now it is the summer and once again I do not have a job. I took a summer class in June to get an extra required course out of the way and worked for three weeks at this shoe place that was closing down. I contacted a friend in high school and he got me a job there before I was replaced. Seeing my friends have internships tears at me inside and makes me feel useless. At this point, I am trying to occupy my mind but keep comparing myself to my other friends. I now know what I am capable of but feel that I am not meeting my potential. I want to have a good car and a good job and be able to later help my parents out but I am afraid that my fear or laziness will get the better of me. My parents are saying that this is not normal and once again scolding me. They said that I have done nothing to make them proud. I can sense that my mom holds this against me. I know that I did not prepare but I simple cannot mobilize myself to think for myself. I am afraid of independence, of the responsibilities that I am going to have to deal with. I am also afraid of being single my entire life. But these thoughts are ruining the best years of my life. I just want to enjoy my life and regain control. My friends went to a party and it is 12:00 AM as I write this on a Friday night. I do not want to be controlled by my emotions.
So in conclusion, can somebody offer me any advice that would help me gain control of my life? I want to be myself, not rely on others and enjoy my years while I have them. I want to regain that confidence and outgoing attitude I had in my early younger years. I want my parents to be proud of me and understand that I can be a good person. Thank you for reading and any tips would be greatly appreciated.
Re: 20 years old, long medical history, and want to gain control of my life
Well, you could go to a psychologist, or you could work through it on your own. I'm more the proponent of working through it on your own.
In my view, psychologists will treat people who have been through difficult experiences by urging them to work back through the experience and put it behind them. But they ignore the basic issue of being human and so often the person takes years to work on one major situation and is never really freed of the pain which accompanied it, nor the patterns they struggle with throughout life, which spring from it.
I have a silly but hugely useful and very simple technique I learned a while ago, called recapitulation. The recapitulation is a more natural means of dealing with things; you focus on a memory, and take back your energy, letting it become just a memory, with no life, no power to invoke a response from the present.
Every interaction you have had with other people in your life has tied up personal energy. Each memory you have requires energy to keep it alive and maintain the emotions you have about it. This drains you, makes you miserable, and creates behavior in the present predicated on the past.
You will be surprised, after doing the recapitulation process consistently for several months, at how much energy it was taking on a daily basis to keep things from the past alive in the present. Think about the fears holding you back and the storyline that is constantly going through your head.
The physical process is simple and is as follows:
You can make a list (of people, experiences, life events) and follow it, not a bad idea actually, or pick a time period of your life that you are going to recap. The technique is very simple. Begin by arranging some time that you won't likely be disturbed. You will need a space that compresses your energy, a closet would do, or even putting a heavy blanket around you will work as well. Quiet your mind and relax, setting the intent to retrieve your energy trapped in your past. Bring up a specific memory or event. Get it pictured right in front of your face in as much detail as possible. (Colors, sounds, smells, people involved, etc.) Turn your head to the left and exhale, then slowly turn your head from left to right drawing in the energy of the scene in front of you with your breath (inhale). When your head is completely to the right again turn slowly back to the left exhaling the foreign energy (that which is not yours) that exists from the scene. Keep sweeping the scene until you feel 'done' with it. Go on to the next event on your list, or that comes to mind, and keep doing this until you have worked through each one. Be aware of what you are doing and stay focused. I would suggest fifteen to twenty minutes a day just to start out, give it two weeks, then take stock of where you are.
When you are finished the first time you may feel a little lightheaded, that's normal, it means something is changing. If the memories you are working with are especially painful or traumatic it may take a number of recapitulations to completely suck the energy back out of them. You will know it is working when you recall one of the memories and find that the emotions it was evoking in you have lessened, or even completely disappeared. Sometimes you may look at them and feel like they aren't even your memories, they seem as though they happened to someone else.
This is a start. There are other techniques that can be added to this, but this is the core of recalling personal energy to yourself from the past, whether it's the recent past or something much older.
It may seem silly at first, but if you keep it up it will make a major change in you, give you more clarity and change the perspective from which you make decisions now in your life.
This process ends in nothing less than a transformation of the individual practicing it, so don't take it lightly. If you like your life just the way it is, don't start the recap. If you like something the way it is in your life, recap around it, don't recap it directly.
Other typical approaches of coping with these kinds of things you are dealing with go nowhere, people use the techniques, but no change or progress is made. I think that is attributable to a single reason. No one ever talks about the patterns created through connections, or how the ghosts of those connections remain in your energy like the grooves on a record and they will try to re-exert themselves again if you don't erase them. As you recap you will find that to be the case over and over again - circumstances will seem to conspire to get you back into a pattern, which you have recently been recapping. The difference comes in recognition and the ability to be detached from the pattern enough not to repeat it. But the ways in which this occurs, the re-exertion can at the least, be entertaining.
Last edited by Administrator; 08-21-2012 at 09:58 PM.
Re: 20 years old, long medical history, and want to gain control of my life
Son, you are putting to much mental pressure on yourself. (1) you don't owe your family anything for being there during your illness or in times of excellent health (2) you have been through and are doing more with your life than most 20 year old kids (3) you are a kid(4) I am sure your family want what is best for you (5) take any job, retail, why because it will give you a chance to interact with other people, get you out of the house. Trust me you will find people of all age struggling daily with the same issues as you. This world is very complex and sometime scary. Reading your post, show me a considerate, smart, focus kid, who is perhaps a bit too concern with disappointing his parents. (6) FIND WHAT IT IS THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY AND BRING YOU PEACE, HOWEVER TRIVIAL AND GO FOR IT. Do not be shy about seeking mental counseling. Therapy is great for getting an objective opinion.
Last edited by ms_mod; 07-23-2012 at 09:43 AM.
Reason: Removed long quote. Ms_Mod
Re: 20 years old, long medical history, and want to gain control of my life
Take care to do the recapitulation if it appeals to you. If you benefit from the process after a couple weeks to a month, then obviously keep up the process work. It's important to take things one step at a time.
Last edited by Administrator; 08-21-2012 at 10:13 PM.