What The Hell Happened to Me?
September 4, 2012 9:19 PM   Subscribe

What the Hell Happened to Me?

Has anyone out there experienced this? Am I depressed? WTF is going on with me?

TL;DR doesn't exist here, right? 'Cause this is a LONG post...

Chronologically:

As a teenager, I was a really great comic book artist (and an EPIC dork); in 1993 I was accepted for enrollment in the Joe Kubert Academy at the age of 17. I never made it, however, as my mother failed to submit the financial aid paperwork in time (I suspect she was flaunting tax laws and didn't want to bring it to light.)
I was also a very heavy kid; ballooning to 330 lbs. I was never athletic, since I spent most of my time inside either drawing or playing video games.

After the school debacle passed, I began working in retail, lost over 70 lbs. and met a girl I eventually moved in with. We spent several years living together before I decided to join the Army at 22 years old, ostensibly since it seemed to be the best way for us to "get ahead in our lives." We ended up marrying once I graduated from basic training.

Starting in 1997 I spent four years in the Infantry, deploying twice to combat zones overseas, and in the process began to discover a very athletic "type-A" personality within myself...which, honestly, delighted me to no end. I became a very cocky, mouthy and egotistical guy who easily made friends, went out alot, hung out with everyone, and had everyone asking me for advice...absolutely the Big Man on Campus. I was still very intelligent, but now using it in a more insidious fashion, to meet my own ends.

I also strained my relationship with my wife since when I wasn't deployed, I was training up in anticipation of deployment. All in all, I estimate that I lost two years of relationship-building time with my wife during my time in the service.

I ended my term of service in 2001 shortly after my wife told me "I love you, but if you deploy again, I don't think I can stay with you anymore." At that time, we had a 1 year old son, and shortly thereafter we had a daughter.

From 2001 on, I landed a few good retail management jobs, and also learned how to live very frugally while enjoying the "finer things" at a discount...but my weight started creeping up. I also became very depressed. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and began seeing a VA therapist.

My wife and I divorced in 2004 and in a very bitter series of court battles she eventually gained custody of our children. I was reduced to being a "weekend Dad."
With only one income, I lost my home, my car, and moved away to live with a girl I had met in my reserve unit. Six months later, that relationship fell apart (in part since she was totally insane.)

Anyhow, I met a girl in 2005 who is now my wife; her two boys aged 17 and 15 are now my stepsons, and I love them as my own.
My "type-A" asshole side has greatly receded, but can still rear its head on occasion; in the period of time since we've been together we've both earned college degrees (with me earning an associates-level RN degree and her earning an LPN certificate; she's now back in school to get her RN...and then she'll join the Air Force); we bought a home; became certified as foster parents (with one full-time placement, several "respites" who drop in for a few hours or a weekend at a time, and an adoption already pending); dragged both of her exes into Court to secure several thousand dollars of back support from them; had my bipolar determined to be 80% service-connected and netted a substantial monthly stipend and retroactive benefits, and we just formulated a solid plan to become millionaires within the next ten years.

I see my kids every other weekend, and I plan to go back to Court next year to petition to get them full-time (since things aren't too great at Mom's house anymore, and now that they're a little older they can speak for themselves.) Other than that, I spend most of my time hanging out with either the boys, our foster son, or any number of part-time respite children, doing every cool thing you can think of. I spent more time on the beach and mini golf courses this year than I ever have, and I loved every minute of it.

Any outsider could look at what I have and say that we have a GREAT life...and we really do.

But...

I am a miserable sonofabitch.

From reading an older post here, I discovered I am a "scanner", in that I love to learn about new things and then move on...which is probably why I'm already unhappy at my telemetry Nursing job (in fact, I've been out on disability since February due to complications from panic attacks which sideswiped me out of the blue).

I'm due to go back to work at the end of the month, and I don't want to. I mean, why should I? I have a huge disability stipend, and money from foster care as well...honestly, if we have one more full-time foster placement (which is probably going to happen since we're one of the only homes in the county with any open beds,) that will mean another $1200 a month in our home.
But without that and as it stands right now according to the budget, we'll still end up a few hundred bucks a month short if I'm not eligible for long term disability...which I'll know more about within a week or so. Not to mention, my ex is waiting in the wings to pounce on me once I get off of disability, and has already filed a petition for a modification of child support since she got wind of my new job from the kids.

Frankly, I enjoy having my time spend as I see fit. I know that the extra money could be used to close that budget gap, buy shinier things or help with home improvements (and, of course, speed up the whole "millionaire in 10 years" thing)...but it STILL isn't enough to motivate me to get back into my old position. And shoveling cash into my ex's pocket is never a good thing...thanks to her atrocious fiscal mismanagement she has more tattoos now than my kids have decent clothes.

I enjoy Nursing as a "good enough job", and I'm searching for something more administrative as we speak, but I'm not motivated to do it for much longer. Plus, at 38, I don't want to become a serial student...but I am ALSO thinking of going back to get a Construction and Trades degree so I can build homes and fix the ones I buy for us.

Speaking of which...I have literally 6 or 7 great business ideas constantly swirling in my head that I could jump into and be very successful in, but my initial fervor for them has cooled over time...and nowadays my wife just shakes her head whenever I mention the words "daycare" or "garage". She told me pointedly: "Just do whatever you need to to make the money come in, and I'll go along with it." At this point she's a little sick of listening to my schemes, and I don't blame her.

Socially; I have NO friends, and DO NOT WANT THEM. I've discovered that the vast majority of people are superficial, self-serving douches who offer me nothing while constantly looking for an excuse to secure flattery for themselves, and I don't even bother taking the time to establish even casual relationships anymore. This is DEFINITELY NOT the solution to my problems...

So, here I am, wondering if this is all "normal." I certainly didn't envision that this is where I would be when I was growing up, but I just want to be CONTENT that I do have all of these great things. I feel like I missed something along the way...but WHAT?

As I write this today, I have plans to get back into Nursing (in some capacity), keep the extra bread rolling in while my wife finishes her degree, and then we'll buy a farm in the country and renovate it so that we have more room for foster kids (and, hopefully, my own two who will be with us for good.) I also plan to get back to my dork roots and buy a vacuform table so I can start cranking out molds of Boba Fett helmets to paint...
...But why the hell do I feel so unfulfilled?

Any insightful advice will be appreciated...there's a reason I didn't post this on Ask Yahoo. I'm looking for more of a "hey I've been in your shoes and here's what I discovered" rather than "GET THERAPY NOW DUDE" type responses. A mixture of the two is OK, though.
posted by biglew909 to Human Relations (24 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is your bipolar well managed right now? Because to be frank, you're all over the place in this thread. The "I have lots of ideas swirling but can't get down to working on any of them" is concerning.

And no, it's not normal to have zero friends, nor to think that's not a problem.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:37 PM on September 4, 2012 [39 favorites]


I have NO friends, and DO NOT WANT THEM. I've discovered that the vast majority of people are superficial, self-serving douches who offer me nothing while constantly looking for an excuse to secure flattery for themselves, and I don't even bother taking the time to establish even casual relationships anymore. This is DEFINITELY NOT the solution to my problems

This kind of stuck out for me.

While I'm introverted, I still need people from time to time, either to commiserate with or for someone to lean on. I've found that other people are generally good, they can be very generous, and I'm grateful to have them in my life.

Are they objectively superficial and self-serving? Do these people share your "dork roots"? Have you thought about looking for them?

I don't know your circumstances, and I don't know your experiences with other people, but I don't think the idea that you don't care for friends is a healthy outlook.

I also can't give you a primer on how to make friends. I guess all I can tell you is to give other people the benefit of the doubt, be more empathetic, and let things go. Be kind as much as you can, and others will return that kindness.
posted by hellojed at 9:42 PM on September 4, 2012


So, you mention you were diagnosed with bipolar back in 2001. Are you still being treated for that? Do you have a good handle on your own patterns of mania/depression, your signs that one of those cycles might be starting, and your own set of tactics for managing it? I ask because some of the things you're describing as troubling you right now -- as well as the way your question is written -- seem to suggest that the bipolar might be contributing to your emotional state and general dissatisfaction/restlessness. If that seems like a possibility to you, I'd suggest consulting with your therapist or psychiatrist to try to eliminate this as a possible cause of the issues you're facing right now. I'd suggest doing that first, because if the bipolar is at play, it's going to be pretty near impossible to fix anything else without dealing with the bipolar first.
posted by ourobouros at 9:43 PM on September 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


You're contradicting yourself all over the place. On one hand you don't want to go back to work, and you want long term disability. Then you say you have many business schemes and you're searching for an administrative job "as we speak". If you're so capable of doing all this work, then how could you appropriately qualify for LTD?

At first I was thinking that you were just hoping to get some easy govt money and as a taxpayer, I was going to be annoyed that an intelligent and apparently able bodied gentleman was out on long term disability for "anxiety". Then I got the sense that maybe there is much more to this story than what you are telling us here... which really makes me more inclined to say "get therapy now" than anything else - are you really suffering from crippling mental health problems prompting the need for long term disability and you're not getting therapy already?
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:02 PM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have to say, I'm also wondering about your bipolar disorder management. There are a few things in this post to suggest it's not entirely in check. If you are not in treatment right now, find some immediately and if you are, seek a second opinion and also show this post to any current providers. Keep in mind it seems like many times we focus on the "ups" of bipolar without as much consideration given to the down and mixed states, but they are just as powerful. To be honest, IANAD or bipolar, but I have been manic (long story), and I see signs of mania rather than depression in this particular post.

Beyond seeking better/more/any treatment, I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of people prefer having time to themselves, being their own boss, and living, essentially, a life of leisure, even if it includes daily responsibilities. Very few, however, can actually make that a reality. It is fine to have aspirations and dreams beyond your day job and current situation, but there is value in earning a paycheck and with four children, a spouse, and yourself in the mix, disability income will not cover you in the case of emergency or unexpected hardship. Working while you are physically and mentally capable of doing so, will address not only your present needs but also help you prepare for the future, whether that's retirement or unanticipated expenses. It will also provide some much needed structure that was probably provided by your military service.

I know this isn't the answer you want, but this post indicates you are not getting the treatment you truly need. Whether that is the absence or inadequacy of care remains to be seen, but, as others have said, you really can't make sense of this until that is squared away. Best of luck to you. It sounds like you have a lot going for you and, with a few adjustments, you could probably be content in a way that you've never imagined.
posted by katemcd at 10:06 PM on September 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


Contentment cannot coexist with resentment, or contempt.

It cannot coexist with continual plans to make huge changes predicated on a lack of contentment.

It cannot coexist with perpetual plans to get ahead, to take from others, to find some magic bullet.

And I agree, strongly, that the blatant contradictions in your post are incredibly indicative of something being wrong, or off kilter.
posted by geek anachronism at 10:06 PM on September 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


I will humbly suggest that you don't sound like you're in a great place to be fostering kids at the moment. Remember the old adage that you need to strap that oxygen mask on yourself first? You said yourself you're miserable - take care of that, then you'll be in good shape to take care of others later.

You didn't want to hear 'get therapy now' - but consider the possibility that it's the biopolar talking.

I wish you good health and good luck.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:10 PM on September 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


To be honest, the biggest thing that screamed from your post to me was that you sound extremely self-absorbed. I mean, it sounds like you spend a lot of time with your kids and I bet you're a great dad, but everything else is about 1. how awesome you are (even when you're talking about what a douche you used to be, you sound kinda proud) 2. how awful everyone else is and 3. how this person or that person is trying to screw you over.

I've discovered that the vast majority of people are superficial, self-serving douches who offer me nothing while constantly looking for an excuse to secure flattery for themselves

If this is how you see humanity, then no wonder you're miserable. Who wouldn't be? But this is ... well, not really objectively true. I'm guessing it's a symptom of some sort of mental illness, possibly the bipolar disorder. But of course I'm not a therapist, so I'm not going to diagnose you.

I think you need to find something larger than yourself that you believe in and that will make you want to work and fight and dream. Maybe it's something like volunteering somewhere, or a business that you actually do think will make your community better, or even just thinking about the legacy and example you're setting for your kids.

And sorry, but: therapy.
posted by lunasol at 10:13 PM on September 4, 2012 [22 favorites]


Do not foster kids. You are back and forth even in this AskMe.

Go to therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, probably.

Socially; I have NO friends, and DO NOT WANT THEM. I've discovered that the vast majority of people are superficial, self-serving douches who offer me nothing while constantly looking for an excuse to secure flattery for themselves, and I don't even bother taking the time to establish even casual relationships anymore. This is DEFINITELY NOT the solution to my problems...

When you realize how horrible this is, you might be on the road to recovery.

You clearly think you're just smarter and better than most people while holding them in contempt. That's poison. You should stop engaging in those destructive thoughts. Again, cognitive behavioral therapy.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:56 PM on September 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Hey, I've been in your shoes and here's what I've discovered - when you're stressed or depressed it puts a thick layer of grey over everything and it makes it really hard to see. A lot of the time you wind up grasping at things, not really sure what they are or whether they're any good for you, and sometimes they can wind up making things more complicated than they need to be.

If you're doing everything you can to feel better yourself and you still feel lost in that grey, that's when you enlist some outside help in the form of therapy and/or medication.

I would concentrate on one or two core things at the moment - and, personally, that would involve therapy.
posted by heyjude at 11:18 PM on September 4, 2012


Geting back into Nursing will not work out for you because deployments fucked you up. You seem to know this. Just stop with the trauma-based sources of income.

Being a foster parent seems another trauma-based source of income. WTF.

Go opposite, or continue feeling unhappy.

----
I won't list my considerable creds here, especially where it concerns family and military, and mental health issues - but you are all kinds of looking at this wrong.
----

Keep doing what you are doing and expect same. Heal the emotional damage from deployment, drop your millionaire plan, scale back on your care of others until you've cared for yourself... and this might still turn out OK.

Otherwise, I fear you will break some little hearts along the way and end up divorced again.

---

Stop playing the "Hero."

There is no such thing.

Just the Healthy and the Unhealthy.

Choose a side. Proceed accordingly.
posted by jbenben at 12:08 AM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


Speaking of which...I have literally 6 or 7 great business ideas constantly swirling in my head that I could jump into and be very successful in, but my initial fervor for them has cooled over time...and nowadays my wife just shakes her head whenever I mention the words "daycare" or "garage". She told me pointedly: "Just do whatever you need to to make the money come in, and I'll go along with it." At this point she's a little sick of listening to my schemes, and I don't blame her.

This conversation is going to sound really familiar to anyone who's been involved with someone who's going through a manic phase. Money-making schemes or money-spending binges are such bright, flashy warning signs to the bipolar folks in my life that they could be turned into t-shirts that say, "I decided to go off my meds."
posted by xingcat at 4:42 AM on September 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


Nthing that this post sounds really manic.
posted by amro at 4:47 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Since you asked for "I've been in your shoes" type of responses: You started out your post talking about stuff that happened with your mother. Did you grow up in an abusive or alcoholic (or both) home? My siblings and I are all adults, and we are all still talking about problems we've had in work and relationships because of what we grew up with. Your mother failed you in one of your first significant attempts to get financial aid and you suspect she was shady with finances-- or you know for some other reason-- is that the tip of some kind of iceberg? Where was your father? I know, with mental health issues, it sounds like some kind of cliche that the real problem has to lie somewhere in your childhood but does it, with you? Did your childhood leave you with a sense that it's you against the world and that you are going to have to screw with people in order to get through life? Again, I ask because I've been there. I grew up with a bunch of alcoholics and manipulators and didn't know there was any other way to be and it's horribly lonely and exhausting.

And also, I agree with everyone who says to get therapy because the bipolar is a whole thing on its own.
posted by BibiRose at 4:52 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thirding that this sounds manic. I understand how productive and full of ideas this makes you but what goes up must come down.Call your pdoc and have him or her check your meds and see if they need tweaked.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:53 AM on September 5, 2012


Any insightful advice will be appreciated...there's a reason I didn't post this on Ask Yahoo. I'm looking for more of a "hey I've been in your shoes and here's what I discovered" rather than "GET THERAPY NOW DUDE" type responses. A mixture of the two is OK, though.

The insightful response is "Get therapy now." You're manic. You're incredibly manic. Just reading your question made me a little manic, and I'm not particularly inclined toward mania. All that unfocused energy and the crazy number of half hearted plans? That's mania. I usually find internet diagnoses to be a bad idea, but I can practically feel your racing thoughts through the monitor. Of course, because you're bipolar, you're also miserable and depressed.

The answer to this is therapy. It'll calm down the crazy planning and help you be fulfilled with the plans you do have. It'll help with the depression and lack of contentment. You'll feel better. You'll be happier. It is 100% the first part of an answer to your problem, and you can't find part two until you do it.

Also, stop talking about, thinking about, or using foster kids as an income source. Seriously.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:09 AM on September 5, 2012 [19 favorites]


I'm not a doctor or anything, but this post read as very manic to me. Managing your medical condition with your doctor is the first step you need to take.

Some of this, honestly, is not as unique as you might think. Everyone prefers to spend their time as they see fit. But part of being a grown up is doing things you don't feel like doing in service of the bigger picture. And, work is often part of giving life a meaningful structure in a way that improves emotional well-being.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:23 AM on September 5, 2012


Hopping on the "sounds like you need to get your bipolar under control" train. Look, I have bipolar. I've had it for a long time. Decades. They diagnosed me when it was still called manic-depression. Way back before it was hip. I went untreated for years because I knew I could beat it without meds and without therapy. I'm stronger than that, right? I'm not some weak-minded individual, subject to mood swings! Hell no! Fuck that shit! Meds are just something concocted by pharmacy companies to keep us all in line. They'll screw with my mind and change me in ways I don't want to be changed. I'll overcome this my way. I'm not gonna be some med-zombie! That was my thinking for a good fifteen years.

Riiiiggghhhttt. Doesn't work that way. Lost my first two husbands. Couldn't keep a job for more than six months. Found myself in TONS of debt. My body's shot, health-wise. And I nearly lost any kind of relationship with my kids (now grown, but the shit they had to put up with while I was manic I don't even want to think about). I sure handled my bipolar really well all by my onesie. Finding the right meds made all the difference in the world. Trust me. It's life changing.

Calm your thoughts for a minute and call a psychiatrist. Talk to them. They'll tell you what the hell happened to you way better than we can. They can assess you better than a bunch of strangers who are only looking at words on a screen and not your body language or your speech patterns. If you want your kids back, getting under a pdoc's care will help in so many ways. Do it now.
posted by patheral at 6:51 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I truly appreciate all of these responses, thanks.

To expand on my original post: I'm in CBT with my therapist right now regarding the anxiety issues. I have been in care consistently since 2001.

Regarding foster care: as a family we have been really successful in helping our full time placement during the last year (and, objectively, this is confirmed by his myriad treatment providers who say "they're better than we've ever seen them, etc.); I simply cannot just send them packing when their adoption is imminent. HOWEVER, I do see the inherent risk in taking on more kids just for money's sake, and I will devote some time to the reality that 1. I'm probably spreading myself too thin in that regard; and 2. that by extension this will eventually cause more stress which will cause me to become less effective as a person in general, let alone a foster parent.

I am fractured, and unhappy...and I think this does rest in my past. I hope to find a provider who can look back with me and work through the trauma that ultimately rests within my childhood.

It was GREAT to talk about all of this and receive some thoughtful responses...thanks again, sincerely, for all of your help here.
posted by biglew909 at 6:58 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


nthing that you're having manic thoughts.

Also, Telemetry is HORRIBLE. It's one of the most stressful nursing jobs there are. Try to get an administrative nursing job for now. Husbunny did Asthma Care for an insurance company and care plans in a nursing home. Another thing that he enjoyed was working in a care facility for residents with memory issues. The residents didn't have major physical problems so he was able to do more connecting with them as people.

The whole friends thing is really gross dude, for sure mention that to your therapist, because if you view your fellow humans in that light, no wonder you're unhappy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:27 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think I can relate to you. I have bipolar II. I don't agree that you are manic right now - no, it sounds like you're on the functionally depressed side.

Rather, I think that your approach to life is a manic one: always after something new, something exciting, something that generates new ideas and ambitions...You are living your life chasing the manic highs. Novelty has always been one thing that pushes me into hypomania, so I get this. I'm not going to judge that; it's not necessarily a bad thing. But that's the main source of your dissatisfaction: having experienced the incredible thrills of mania, that's all you want and you're trying to get back there. You want this most of all when you're feeling anxious and depressed (now). It's just a fact of being bipolar. Be careful, because as you know, if you succeed in pushing yourself into full-blown mania, you'll be in medical trouble and could screw up a lot in your personal life.

I suspect that some of your issues with other people are defensive mechanisms rooted partly in depression (I hate myself and am not lovable) and partly in cynicism coming from observations you've made that a lot of people will love you and clamor to be with you when you're manic and disappear when you're depressed. Truly, all people are not awful, and you know this.

I'm sorry, I don't have a solution for you, just (my own, possibly incorrect) armchair observations. You know yourself what the medical solutions are. It sounds like you also need a spiritual solution. Keep at it. Keep at your therapy. Good luck.
posted by kitcat at 10:18 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


HOWEVER, I do see the inherent risk in taking on more kids just for money's sake,

This is great, and I would recommend that even if you are not thrilled about your kids' living situation or your child support agreement with their mom right now, it's probably best to leave your custody arrangement the way it is too. The fallout from custody battles is toxic for kids, even when they're not officially dragged into it but so much moreso when they are, so unless there's some real abuse going on, the goal there is to make them feel loved and supported and guided by you, their dad, with every phone call and visit and outing and homework session they spend with you.

It sounds like you really love your kids, your stepkids, your foster kid and the respite kids who stay with you. In my book that's worth way more than a million bucks.
posted by headnsouth at 10:32 AM on September 5, 2012


Just chiming in that "manic" may not be the right term for you right now, but it sure sounds like a mixed state, and that might be something to talk about with your psychiatrist, therapist, support group, whoever you talk to about this stuff. My partner gets all involved in multiple half-baked home repair schemes rather than money-making schemes, but otherwise, parts of this sound very much like what he would write up in a mixed state.

Some of your ideas and plans may be legitimately awesome plans - if you can get the mood sorted out, and get the rest of your life in a stable groove, you'll be better able to sort out which of the maelstrom of plans might be a good thing to move on and which are less realistic.
posted by Stacey at 5:19 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]



I have NO friends, and DO NOT WANT THEM. I've discovered that the vast majority of people are superficial, self-serving douches who offer me nothing while constantly looking for an excuse to secure flattery for themselves, and I don't even bother taking the time to establish even casual relationships anymore.


With this attitude toward people you are taking in foster kids?

I sure as hell wouldn't want you around any of the kids I know, let alone a foster child with potential emotional troubles.

Kids are people, too. What happens when your bipolar flairs so bad you decide the kids are superficial, self-serving douches?
posted by BlueHorse at 10:35 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


« Older JavaScript/jQuery Selectors   |   Lodging near UW in Seattle Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.