How to I go back to being my cheerful self?
March 13, 2017 9:24 PM   Subscribe

I've been a lot grumpier lately and I don't like it...

I've found that recently (particularly in the last year/year and a half, I guess) I've been more angry and cynical, and it's really starting to wear on me. I noticed it yesterday, when I realized that I was feeling a bit grumpy about meeting up with friends, even though it was for plans that were really fun and that I've been looking forward to. It struck me then that I just seem to be existing in an overall more negative state these days--I constantly have a feeling of tightness in my head that I usually associate with being on edge/anxiety, and I find myself more impatient and grumbly in my interaction with people. I curse more freely than I used to and I'm more pessimistic. Even when I meet with friends for fun social outings now I feel like I can't summon up the energy to be really cheerful/excited about things. The dour side is always looming, and nobody likes a downer.

This is particularly bad at work, which is currently very frustrating. All of our crew agrees on that, but I've always been pretty bad at hiding my emotions on my face and it's only gotten worse. We have hours long meetings that go nowhere (not terribly unusual in my industry) and a lot of it is BS. Most of the team feels that way, but they certainly mask it better. I know it's unprofessional and unsustainable--I have been pulled aside and gently talked to about it. Honestly at times I'm surprised I'm still around. But I feel like it's a symptom of being more negative overall, and also having a reckless feeling of not giving a fig what happens/I-don't-care-ism.

The crazy thing is in the past I've generally been regarded as a super sweet, bubbly personality (not tooting my horn, people have told me this and in particular old workmates), someone really positive and uplifting. These past few days weeks I've woken up and wondered how I got from there to here. I can't really imagine being that version of myself, now.

I'm sure people will wonder whether I've experienced any big changes in the past year and a half. Certainly I feel more pessimistic given the election and subsequent happenings. The major thing is my dad passing away a little over a year go, in a sudden and shocking way. While I'm sure that has a part in this and I know grief takes time, it feels a little...shameful? tying it to that event in my life? Like it's an excuse? People lose parents all the time and they aren't all going around acting asshole-ish. Part of me is afraid that I'm just aging into a grumpy old asshole. And I'm not even that old! But at thirty, definitely too old to behave so childishly.

Despite knowing I probably should, I haven't done therapy yet. I think I'll start looking into it, esp since work situation is not going well. But what else an I do to try and get back to a better attitude? How can I stop being so negative? I know I have to cut it out, but it feels like it's consumed my life. I feel like I've had a full personality change in the past couple years. I miss my chipper old self.
posted by sprezzy to Human Relations (10 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
It sounds like you may have symptoms of depression that are interfering with your work and social functioning. A therapist or other mental-health professional is the right next step for further evaluation and treatment.
posted by lazuli at 9:39 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]


The major thing is my dad passing away a little over a year go, in a sudden and shocking way. While I'm sure that has a part in this and I know grief takes time, it feels a little...shameful? tying it to that event in my life? Like it's an excuse? People lose parents all the time and they aren't all going around acting asshole-ish.

No, but we totally do! Grief takes as long as it will take and sometimes it's mostly gone for most of the time except when it still pops up in unexpected (to you, to others) ways. It's a sore spot that kind of gets smaller over the years (in my experience) but still hurts like fuck when it gets poked. It's not weak and it's not shameful to flinch when that spot gets hit. I'd say I it was probably a good three years after my parents died (within a year of each other) before I stopped being "irrationally" annoyed by pretty much everything.

If you can't afford (time or money) individual therapy right now, look around for free/cheap grief support groups (if you're not religious, memail me, because I recommend online support in that area). It's not at all weird or unusual to be...angry that a parent died on you, even when your rational brain knows they didn't do it on purpose. You still deserve support.

Other things: if you're reading/watching news things on a daily basis, stop it. Seriously. Unhook from checking NYT/WaPo/HuffPo/Vox/etc every day. Pay more attention to your friends' posts on facebooketc. that are of their kids or cats, and only click through mefi posts on arty/funny subjects. Give yourself some breathing room. Grieving is hard work.
posted by rtha at 9:56 PM on March 13 [11 favorites]


Well, I'm with you on feeling like I miss a younger, more cheerful self that disappeared at a certain time in my life. A good part of my way forward was to practice things along the lines of this list, which has worked for me better than other "habits of happy people" summaries. When I went through rough times at work a few years ago, I suppressed literal nightmares to nonetheless react in ways a colleague complimented as "always professional, all the time"--which wasn't entirely true from my POV, but it was true enough to yield concrete benefits, some small sense of pride, and (eventually ...) a better situation. Finally, when I go home, I try to bliss out on projects that are totally my own and totally removed from work. So, like, I don't have the formula for carefree effervescence or whatever, but a mix of escapism, equanimity, kindness, and low-key contentment on my part works pretty well as the basis for fostering cheerfulness in others and then for borrowing it, rolling with it, etc.
posted by Wobbuffet at 10:40 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


I allow myself to meditate imperfectly (no need for sessions where you have to eliminate all thoughts, having floating thoughts and letting them go is part of the practice), and then allow myself to rest on the negative feelings within me, and dive deep into them and allow for their release. Then continue :) This is also a regular part of my therapy as well.
posted by yueliang at 11:13 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


While I'm sure that has a part in this and I know grief takes time, it feels a little...shameful? tying it to that event in my life?

There is no shame, and it absolutely takes time, but...

Despite knowing I probably should, I haven't done therapy yet.
Grief counseling could revoiutionise your world.
posted by RainyJay at 12:33 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


The major thing is my dad passing away a little over a year go, in a sudden and shocking way. While I'm sure that has a part in this and I know grief takes time, it feels a little...shameful? tying it to that event in my life? Like it's an excuse? People lose parents all the time and they aren't all going around acting asshole-ish.

You've heard this before, but seriously, everyone grieves differently, and there is no right way to grieve. There is nothing shameful about feeling less happy when your world is different, and different in a bad way. Since my own dad died, 9 months ago, I have also been aware of being more moody and difficult with close friends and family, I get tired out by social obligations and interactions more easily, and things that would not annoy me at all before really get my goat now.

I think it's OK to accept that this is where you are for the time being and not force yourself into a persona which, for very good reasons, doesn't fit at the moment. It probably will come back, but for now, perhaps focus on ways to manage the current you.

Address your physical needs: get enough sleep and exercise. Do you get madder when you're hungry? Eat something before a boring long meeting! Come up with strategies to mitigate the effects of your grumpiness: tell your friends you're feeling a bit 'off' so not to take it personally if you're not your usual self for the next social get together. Mostly, be kind to yourself; if you can avoid something which you know is simply going to annoy you, just avoid it!
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:51 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Certainly I feel more pessimistic given the election and subsequent happenings.

You're not alone and Trump-induced anxiety is a thing. In the future, this historical period will be known as when the majority of Americans had a nationally-collective form of anxiety. Anxiety LOVES to feed off uncertainty and the unknown, and these are uncertain times for sure.

Learn about self-care like it's your job and develop your own plan. I'm a fan of the guided meditations by The Honest Guys.

If you're having a hard time coming up with a self-care plan talk to a therapist, ideally one who utilizes CBT and will help you create your own toolbox of strategies.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:24 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


I was pretty cranky after my parents died for quite a while. It's an experience that can really affect you very deeply, much more so than you consciously realise - you think you're back to normal at the surface level, but the deep levels take a lot longer to absorb it than you think and I think "surface" you can get impatient with "grieving you" for not getting back to normal more quickly. In my case I needed a lot of time on my own, not doing much, to grieve properly. I also highly recommend some therapy if you have the time and money available.
Most likely you will get back to being (mostly) like your earlier self - I did - but in the meantime just try to be patient with yourself and take the time to grieve in whatever way seems best.
posted by crocomancer at 5:21 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


Everyone I know who's lost a parent has, several years/decades later, said it was easily 18 months before the initial fog kinda cleared, and that was the point where the lingering traumas of their death and the aftermath started bubbling up. What you're feeling isn't at all unusual or off the timeline.

There's no shame in this, except that shame is often a symptom of depression and post-traumatic stress. The best way to improve that situation is to get some support, maybe even medication for a while, because you don't live in a world where you have to suffer without help. It is okay to take advantage of whatever resources are available to you.

I just recently read a description of a traumatic event (school shooting, specifically, but this is apparently a common grief model) as an earthquake, where the people who were shot and survived were the epicenter, the people who saw it were distanced slightly from the center, the people in another wing of the school further out, the parents of unharmed children, the townspeople, the residents of the state etc, those people are further and further removed from the epicenter, and the further away you are the shorter your turnaround time between the event and the "moving on" period.

You're the epicenter here, but since this doesn't happen to you very often you're thinking about the process as if you were on an outer ring. If your coworker's mom died, that would resonate with you for a few days or weeks. If it was a friend, a few months. Your partner, months to a year. But your brain just loses the thread sooner the more tenuous your connection is. This happened directly to you, and most people say decades later that you never 'get over' it, that it's a life event that changes you as surely as having a child or losing a limb never goes away. It's okay for that to be confusing and uncertain and hard. But it's also okay to find healthy ways to mitigate that where you can. Nothing's going to make it not-at-all hard, but assistance is good.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:48 AM on March 14 [5 favorites]


Plus one to all the suggestions for counseling and/or therapy. One other thought: does your schedule allow for a getaway of even one or two days to be obligation free? Often, this can provide a mental rest that, combined with other therapeutic measures, can be soul-liberating.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:03 AM on March 14


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