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Ask Dr. DombeckAsk Dr. Dombeck:
Psychotherapy and Mental Health Questions

Single, Stressed And Guilty

Mon, Mar 31st 2003

I am 28 years old, single and without children. Being single and childless doesn't decrease my amount of stress, though. I have a full-time job and have to put in unpaid overtime because I performed poorly last year and haven't improved enough yet. I also will need to take a second job due to financial problems. In addition to my work, I volunteer at several organizations and have (somewhat) active social and family lives, and I rent an apartment that requires a certain amount of care. I also have bipolar disorder, which requires management with medication, monthly visits to my psychiatrist, and visits with my therapist every other week. My problem is guilt. If I can't see a friend because I have chores to do or need to work late, I feel guilty. If I can't work late because of a volunteer commitment, I feel guilty. If I can only contribute a certain amount of time to some activity that I am doing outside of work, I feel guilty. If I can't see my family (most of my family lives an hour away) because of other plans, I feel guilty. All those feelings are only compounded by the guilt I feel when I screw something up or disagree with someone. I've found myself becoming very resentful toward the people I care about, because I feel like I'm not supposed to disagree with, express anger or hurt toward, or say no to anyone. The side effects of my resentment include passive-aggression, gossip, sniping to or about people, crying spells, depression, and addictive behaviors, especially concerning food, money, and men. By many self-help definitions, I am codependent. I know I need to set boundaries, but I don't want to appear cold-hearted or selfish. I'm suspicious of anything 12-step-oriented or religious-oriented, and my therapist hasn't offered me any concrete strategies.

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