I feel like my life is over and I'm only 35. I feel completely stagnant and stuck, relationshipwise and jobwise. Do I need to change things or do I need to learn how to deal? Help me figure out how to be a happier person.
Is there some Grand Unified Theory that explains all my problems? How do I fix me?
I'm a 35-year-old male who has dealt with lifelong anxiety. Two major things in my life right now have me in despair: my relationship and my job. Neither of these is awful; they are just blah
. I can't see either of them improving. I feel like I'm too young to have a midlife crisis, but I feel like I have nothing left to look forward to. My life feels over. I feel like even if I change things, I'll become anxious and unhappy about something else. There are good things about my life, but I just do not know how to be content. Maybe deep down I feel like I don't deserve it.
I have been in therapy with different therapists on and off since I was 17. I've been seeing my current therapist for nearly 9 years, and I like her, and I have insights regularly, and she claims that I've changed for the better, but I still feel unhappy. I am a compulsive self-analyzer, but I can't seem to translate insights into actual change. Isn't the goal of therapy supposed to be to get to a point where you don't need therapy anymore?
I took meds (Celexa) for about 4 1/2 years. I never really felt like it solved things. I don't think I have depression -- I can function fine, I don't confine myself to bed, there are things I enjoy, I have genuine passion for life. It's just that life weighs heavily
on me, and it always has.
I get frustrated and stressed out easily by little things in life. I have always worried about death, worried about wasting my life, worried about getting older (even when I was 21). Now I worry about middle age, old age. I'm gay, and I feel like I wasted my youth because I didn't come out of the closet until I was 24. I worry about long-term stress making me ill, which causes me more stress.
My relationship: I've posted a few AskMe's about this before (see here
-- I changed details like numbers and dates in that first post because I wanted to be extra-safe about being anonymous), and I hate the idea of being a broken record, and I can see how people who have read my previous AskMe's might shake their heads at me for not having changed anything. But the thing is, I'm just terrified.
In short: my partner and I have been together for six years, and we've been in couples therapy for the last two. We truly love and care about each other and have a cozy, very boring, oxytocin-filled relationship, but we have never had a very sexual relationship, and after discussing it repeatedly in therapy, I'm pretty much convinced we never will. He has practically zero sex drive, and I'm just not sexually attracted to him. We have fooled around together twice -- twice -- in the last four years, and never did much before that. We have an open, don't ask/don't tell arrangement, which means that all my sex is with other people, which means that I can never have sex that includes intimacy, which means a big part of my life is very unfulfilled. Whenever I do start to feel some sort of intimacy with someone, I feel really guilty about it.
I guess the difference between this AskMe and my previous ones is that while I used to think there was a possibility we could eventually have a sexually fulfilling relationship, I've since realized we never will.
He also very much likes having a routine, likes being a homebody except for going to the theater alot (we live in Manhattan) and going to our favorite restaurant. He isn't big on excitement. Me, I need to shake things up every once in a while. That might sound odd, given that I tend to be pretty anxious, but I do like to expand my comfort zone sometimes, while he doesn't.
There are some days when I obsess about breaking up with him. But when it comes down to it, I just can't seem to do it. We have talked in our couples therapy about breaking up, and I would just miss him terribly -- having him next to me at night, talking with him, being with him. Plus, since I'm a very emotional person and I get stressed out easily, I just can't see how I could handle being alone and missing him. Our relationship has major flaws, but I do feel calmer knowing he is there whenever I get totally anxious about something. I cannot imagine being stressed out and having nobody to turn to, especially because I live in Manhattan, which can be a difficult, isolating place sometimes. Would I move into some small crappy studio by myself somewhere? I don't have very many friends, so I don't have much of a support system. (My partner and I are both in a social organization, so there are friends/acquaintances there, and people do like me, but it's hard sometimes because I worry about what people think of me.)
What if I wind up being single for the rest of my life? What if nobody else comes along? What if someone else does come along but that relationship is majorly flawed as well? What if my punishment for breaking up with my partner is that I never find anyone else again? Because, odd as this sounds, I do feel like I would be punished for it. That I am not allowed to change my situation, that I should be thankful for what I have, that I want too much.
Maybe I could keep him in my life, and we could be best friends?
And... what if I end the relationship and I'm still unhappy?
Now for the job situation: this is another thing entirely. My job is not very stressful and is sometimes decent, and I'm thankful for that, especially in this economy. But it's just a boring paycheck for me and isn't at all meaningful. Worst of all, over the summer, my office moved into a sterile office park in the New Jersey suburbs. Now I go to the office two days a week, which is a 1 hour 40 minute commute each way
, and on the other three days I work from home, which feels so isolating and makes me feel like I'm not doing anything. I despair of ever getting out of this situation.
I have never known what I wanted to do with my life. I have seen career counselors, I have read career books -- at times I have been hopeful but I eventually despair. I have wanted to be a writer, a therapist, a journalist, a professor. I went to law school, but I didn't really enjoy being a lawyer. Now my job is related to the law, but it doesn't thrill me either. What I *do* like to do is read nonfiction and learn about things. I love learning and I love writing, but I don't think I have the expertise or ability to write nonfiction, and I have little interest in writing fiction. I am good at writing about myself, but who wants to read about me?
See how hard on myself I am?
I am also very fickle -- I can never be sure that what interests me now will interest me a few months from now. The only constant is history, particularly American history.
I feel hopeless at 35, and if the next 50 years are like the last 10, I don't know what I'm going to do, and I am only getting older. I am stuck, stuck, stuck, and I hate it.
I've created a MeFi account
that I can't post from yet, but you can email me there if you want.