Dear Dr. Yael,
I am a twenty-four-year old young man who has just recently started the parsha of shidduchim. I personally did not want to start dating but my parents feel that I am not getting any younger and they want to see me married.
The reason that I didn’t want to start dating is because I feel very confused. Sometimes I feel very happy and then I feel like I can conquer the whole world! Then there are other times that I feel so depressed and dejected I don’t feel my life is worth living. I never actually had thoughts of suicide but there were times that the world looked so bleak that I did not even feel like getting out of bed. These thoughts really scare me because on the surface I have nothing to be upset about.
In terms of qualities, I have everything going for me. I’m very bright, I have a great career, I come from an upstanding and wealthy family, am considered very good-looking and am a good learner. I get redt around 10 shidduchim a week because I’m considered “an amazing catch.”
How can this be when my thoughts are so confused? Although I do very much want to get married (both for spiritual and physical reasons) I feel guilty dating. Why should any girl deserve to end up with a guy who can’t even think straight? I have many fake friends but my thoughts and mood swings prevent me from maintaining a close relationship with any of them out of fear that they will find out that I have these psychotic thoughts.
My parents have no idea that I feel this way. They cannot understand why I don’t want to date and I will never tell them because they aren’t the type of people who will ever understand. Everything by them has to be perfect – I always had to act like the perfect son and if they found out that I am not I don’t think that they will be able to deal with it. I am terrified of ever sharing these thoughts with a girl but I feel that it would not be fair for me to get married and hide this part of me, since it is an integral part of my personality.
Basically, I want to know what your professional opinion is upon this matter. Do you think that I should just date and get married and then tell whomever I marry these thoughts that I am having or do you feel that I shouldn’t date yet and I should wait until I mature? I am hoping that this problem will go away with time and that I will then be able to date with peace of mind. So far, this has not happened (I’ve had these thoughts since I was 19) but maybe if I just hold out for a bit longer they will go away. What do you think I should do?
Confused and Depressed
I normally refrain from giving a psychological assessment in my column, as it is difficult to diagnose someone I never met. That being said, I will give you my professional opinion.
Firstly, this is not a problem that will go away with time. Your predicament does not strike me as a maturity issue, thus it is doubtful that your thoughts will disappear just by chance. I highly recommend that you seek professional help for your dilemma. I don’t think it is fair to yourself, or to the girl that you will be dating, to go out with these thoughts on your mind. Dating is hard enough without having to deal with other external problems. I strongly feel that a person has to make an effort to present him or herself in the best positive light and if there is something that is preventing you from doing so, it should be rectified. These feelings might also keep you from ever being able formulate a bond between yourself and a potential mate. Thus, dealing with these issues now can save you from a tremendous amount of grief in the future. A knowledgeable psychologist will hopefully be able to help you diagnose and overcome this problem.
From your letter it appears that you are suffering from serious mood swings. This is not uncommon and many people experience a certain amount of mood swings over the course of their lives. Different hormonal effects, stress and other environmental pressures can all cause mood swings. If they only happen once in a while and are not extremely severe, it is not generally a cause for concern. However, your mood swings seem to be much more common and severe. Due to the fact that they also interfere with your everyday life activities, this should be a cause for concern.
Let me try to explain to you what a therapist will try to achieve in therapy. Often once a person is aware of what is causing him or her to have mood swings, it is easier to handle them. Strategies for controlling the mood and the person’s thought processes will enable him or her to gain more control. Sometimes there is a chemical imbalance in a person’s brain that can be rectified with the proper medication. Sometimes there are deeper underlying issues relating to a person’s upbringing. Negative parenting, hurtful teachers, and/or social problems can all be contributing factors that might cause a person problems in adulthood. These are all issues that can be dealt with in therapy.
In your letter you mentioned that your parents require perfection from you. I will not make a blanket statement that this is the cause of your mood swings; however, I cannot see how this can have a positive effect on any child’s upbringing. A parent must teach his or her child that it is okay to make mistakes and that they should be seen as learning experiences.
Again, I stress that it would be unfair for you to marry without first seeking professional help regarding this situation. Your problems will not simply go away with time. You could end up in a disastrous marriage if you don’t receive the appropriate psychological treatment. Hatzlocha!