down to my last fraying wires, practical steps needed
August 5, 2017 5:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm in a life-entire freefall state, money politics relationships depression...all contributing to a cluster of chaos. Help me with practical organizing solutions to get me through the next week and a half.

I'm in a perpetual state of disaster, and it's getting worse. I dissolved my engagement 10 days before the US election, and had been in a deep self destructive (drugs plus slacking at work) depressive state for about 4 months before that. As we know, the current US admin is hitting all of us, and I'm trying to manage that with a still sudden feeling major decrease in household funds leading to a huge increase in debt, plus another depressive episode, plus the continuation of my terrible work habits. I'm a giant ball of anxiety leaving for Spain, alone, for the first time, for a month...in 10 days. Here's where I need practical help:
I am a college instructor. I am literally 4 weeks behind on emails, grading, everything. The quarter ends in a week and I've run out of excuses and am terrified I'll lose my job. I've been on the decline since October, and am an adjunct, so this could possibly be the last straw. Shit is bad. How do I triage and finish out the quarter? I don't even know where to start, I fucked up so bad.

I really really want this trip to happen. It will be a bliss release from living in this garbage pile apartment, managing a weird fwb emotionally manipulative codependant relationship with my sorta neighbor, dealing with the decline of my interest in a real social life... I have the opportunity for a true vacation. But I haven't actually planned anything at all, no phone stuff no CC stuff no packing nothing. What do first? I'm selling my spare ticket for the money (didn't plan on going alone!) but nobody's buying and I'm super disheartened...and running out of time.

Finally, I'm stupid debt broke. This trip is gonna blow my credit cards and cash stash. I need to obviously get my head straight and do my job like a grownup to have a job to come back to plus pick up shifts in customer service when I return. How do I crawl out of this stupid debt hole I fell back into? I want to start by selling my car (get rid of payments!) but then...no car. May be too soon for credit counseling, just finished a program about a year ago.

I know I need a therapist, but I don't have time just now. Practical advice? I have that deep anxiety screamy feeling deep inside like I'm fucking up so bad I deserve to crash. Managing this with cannabis and throwing myself into relationship drama only prolongs it.
posted by zinful to Work & Money (28 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm an expert at situations like these, having been in waaaaaaaaay too many of them.

Practical advice:

1. TURN OFF THE FREAKING NEWS. It's all bad news anyway, right? That's the last thing you need in your life right now.

2. CANCEL THE TRIP. I know you've been looking forward to it. But it's "gonna blow [your] credit cards and cash stash." Which is a really bad idea. You know it's a bad idea. And people might be more likely to buy two tickets to Spain than just one.

3. QUIT DRUGS. Depending on what all you're doing and what all it's laced with, it could easily be adding to your "deep anxiety screamy feeling deep inside."

4. TALK TO YOUR DEAN. Or whoever your immediate supervisor is. This is gonna suck. But in the end, they'll appreciate your honesty. Tell him/her " I dissolved my engagement 10 days before the US election, and had been in a deep depressive state for about 4 months before that. I'm a giant ball of anxiety [and] I need practical help. I am literally 4 weeks behind on emails, grading, everything and am terrified I'll lose my job." (Every phrase copied directly from what you said above.)

ASK FOR THEIR HELP. Depression, anxiety, broken engagement, needing help, terror about losing your job, one of two things is going to happen. Either you're going to get help, or you're going to get fired. If you get help, great! You have help! A teeny tiny sunbeam to pierce the gloom! If you get fired, great! You can get out of this job where you have "terrible work habits" and find one where you're a better fit! A teeny tiny sunbeam to pierce the gloom! (Maybe both will happen.... that's a possibility. But then you have two tiny sunbeams!)

5. MOVE ELSEWHERE. You hate your apartment. You hate your "weird fwb emotionally manipulative codependant relationship with [your] sorta neighbor." I just googled for "cheap apartments [location your profile says]" and found all kinds of listings. You might even find something close enough to your job that you COULD sell your car.

6. GET PSYCH HELP. Ok, you say you don't have time for a therapist. What about a chat with a trained Listener at 2 a.m. when your anxiety has you awake? Or at noon between classes? 7 Cups of Tea offers 1-on-1 chats, group chats, forums where you can post, self-help guides, and a one-step-at-a-time growth path to help you sort out what you need to do. You can also connect with a therapist there, if you wanted to, and find a time that actually works in your schedule.

7. WHAT TO DO RIGHT THIS SECOND. Close your eyes. Take in a slow deep breath while counting to four. Hold it for the same count of four. Slowly let it out for a count of four. Hold it out (for lack of any better phrase) for a count of four. Do 10 of those.

YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY GET THROUGH THIS.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 5:47 PM on August 5 [54 favorites]


How do I triage and finish out the quarter?

Make a list of all the emails you're behind on.

If there are any that don't need more than 30 seconds of you thinking about them, answer them right now. (If you, like me, get hung up on phrasing and being friendly and polite enough, give yourself permission to be brief and to-the-point as long as you are not actually rude: Dear X, so sorry for the delay, here is the thing, thank you.)

For all the other ones that you still definitely need to answer, you can say something like "Dear X, so sorry for the delay, things are very hectic for me right now as I'm finishing up the semester, but I will get back to you by DATE."

Don't try to answer everything - even if there's stuff that you want to reply to and feel that you should reply to, it may be a worthwhile trade-off - for the sake of not feeling totally overwhelmed - to let some stuff go.

Are there any assignments that you can grade as "You get an A if you finished the assignment" and not have to look at them in detail? Are there any assignments that you can grade with less detailed commenting than you otherwise might? Can you write some kind-of-generic template comments to use over and over again?
posted by Jeanne at 6:09 PM on August 5 [7 favorites]


See a doctor to get help with your depression. Once you get a diagnosis documented you can contact HR at the university and start looking at options for accommodation or leave. I agree with cancel your trip.

Maybe you have a friend you can call to help you with email? Heck get your mom to do it. Now is the time to ask friends and family for help.

Sorry you are going through this.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:37 PM on August 5


One thing to keep in mind is that your life will not end if you fail to pull it together and you lose your job. Really! A couple years back I basically flunked out of grad school under somewhat similar conditions to the ones you describe—definitely a major mental health breakdown that both resulted in and was compounded by me getting way behind on my work—but I'm in a pretty great place now, a couple of years later. I can honestly look around at my life and say "well, I'm working a bit too much but other than that things are fine, I feel pretty good, and life is mostly going according to plan."

It's a different plan than the one I was pursuing a couple of years back, but that's fine. In fact it's great, because one of the things I realized even as my old life was finally disintegrating around me was that I had been lying to myself pretty hardcore about my own desires in life, and that I'd been pouring my energy into a life-path that was super wrong for me. Having to start over and rebuild more or less from scratch has freed me to discover what it is that I really like to do, figure out what I really want out of life, and to craft my own, personal, not-according-to-anybody-else's-standards plan for success and happiness. It's a long-term thing and I'm certainly not there yet, but I'm making steady progress and I'm definitely much, much happier than I was.

I'm not saying you should give up or anything. What I'm saying is that it may help you to remember that even the worst case scenario here is not Game Over. Failure is not death, just an opportunity to start over. Sometimes that's what we really need, even if we don't know it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:47 PM on August 5 [6 favorites]


First, you say you don't have time for a professional -- that's not an answer to this situation. You don't get to tell people you don't have time for a physician when you're dealing with a bad physical injury; your mental and emotional problems are not somehow more ignoreable.

Second, your trip to Spain is a money pit. You say it will blow your credit cards and available funds at a time when your job's insecure. If your spare ticket isn't selling, asking to sell the other is a bigger problem. But I would try to get those sold to someone. I have utterly no experience with this entity, but Googling "sell last-minute plane tickets" showed sparefare.net as one of the first 10 results.

Third, you state that you just did credit counseling a year ago, yet you now have an increase in debt and decrease in household funds, and are about ready to "blow [your] credit cards and cash stash" on a trip to Spain. This shows to me that you've got some sort of factor in your life that is causing your money problems to cycle over and over again. This needs addressing. By a therapist.

Fourth, how to address you being four weeks behind on e-mail and grading. I would separate out how much of that e-mail is bulk group e-mail that can be ignored and how much of that is specific to you. Then, determine how much of what is specific to you needs an answer -- working past to future, but noting when past stuff has already been taken care of because of your non-response.

Fifth, do not spend. Do not spend to relax yourself. Do not spend because you deserve it. Do not spend as a pacifier for anxious feelings. Do. Not. Spend. Your watchword, until your job is secure, is frugality. See your G.P. and get a prescription for something to address your anxiety. If medical marijuana is an option, go for that even if you're currently using pot, as, as other people have pointed out, what you're currently taking may be laced with other items.
posted by WCityMike at 6:53 PM on August 5 [9 favorites]


It sounds like you can not afford this trip. Get some help, get some emails out to manage the damage, recharge replan then go to Spain.
posted by vrakatar at 6:55 PM on August 5


Oh, and The Almighty Mommy Goddess has some great advice here that I want to reinforce.

Put a moratorium on even talking to people about the news or being in the same room as a TV that's tuned to the news. I did that for about three months after the election and it was absolutely the right move.

Cancel your trip—I know you were looking forward to it but you can't afford it right now in terms of time or money, and you know it, so it's just going to be a source of anxiety at this point.

Quit the drugs—I was in a pretty bad drug spiral near the end of my breakdown (trying to keep an even keel through constant use of adderall, alcohol, and cannabis) and stopping that shit was integral to getting my life back on track.

Get help from your institution. I was ultimately trying to do something my soul did not want me to do, but I wasn't doing myself any favors by not getting help, either. It's in your university's best interest that you succeed and do not crumble.

Move. It's amazing how salutary a new setting can be. Your current setup sounds awful, so take your problems with your living situation as lessons learned and resolve to avoid them the next time around. Starting over in a new place can give you a whole new outlook. I speak from personal experience here.

Get psych help. Even if it's just a really good friend you can confide in, you need to have someone you can share your problems with. Getting them out of your head and into the world can make them seem much more solvable. Your mind is probably spinning and spinning in tight little circles right now; talking things over with someone might give you a whole new perspective.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:58 PM on August 5


This is most definitely the time for "if you turned in the assignment, you get an A" I can't imagine that any student would complain about that policy, but if you think you have someone in the class who *would*, maybe have a word with him/her individually and give more personal feedback or do whatever it would take to make that person not complain. I'm no fan of grade inflation, but this serves a higher purpose and one time won't be the downfall of society.
posted by mccxxiii at 7:03 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


^ I agree with many of the comments above.

The only place I'd differ is that I would not start by throwing this mess of stuff on an authority figure, not if you can clear your mind and get it done. Asking for specific help would make sense, but if you can do even some sorting to make a more specific request, do that.

I'd use tonight for clearing away distractions and getting organized, then tomorrow and the days thereafter for working and keeping up with self-care.

So:
0. Immediately cease news and drugs.
1. Breathe for a few minutes.
2. Add your own ticket to the for-sale post.
3. Email Mr. / Ms. FWB: "Hi Pat, I just wanted to let you know that I have to take a break from our thing for awhile. I'm way behind in work, and as much as I've enjoyed it, I have to go into work zone for the foreseeable future. Have a good couple months, and I'll catch up with you later."
4. Do some exercise that makes you sweat. Don't overthink this; just get yourself out the door with running shoes on, or do some plank position, crunches, jumping jacks, and pushups in your room. Warm up for a few, then try to get your heart rate up for at least 20 minutes. Cool down for 10 more.
5. Take a shower.
6. Do your dishes.
[If you're tired, go to bed here and do the next two steps tomorrow morning. If not, get them done tonight.]
7. Organize your desk for the morning. E.g., sort out what grading needs done first and put everything you need for it front and center. Anything that's stressing you out related to preparing to work ("oh god, did I lose Joe's essay?"), try to take care of that.
8. Give yourself half an hour to tackle as many emails as possible.
9. Go to bed feeling good about yourself.

You might need to start the morning by doing more of #7 and more sprints like #8. Try to get yourself top a place where you are organized, you've lookes in all the scary corners, and know where you stand. Sort out your inbox. Dig out the password for the grading system. Make a list of ungraded assignments. Figure out what deadlines you've missed. The idea is to stop having that screamy feeling, that feeling that a monster is hiding in the room somewhere, by looking under all the beds and in all the closets.

Then, for the next few days, consider yourself like a athlete-in-training, or a monk, or a scholar, or some other person who goes into solitude to do important work. Alternate between work, cleaning your place up, and exercise. If there's anything else stressing you out, like whether bills were paid, add that to the mix. Anything that is stressing you is taking up your mental processor space and making it harder for you to work and to feel at peace when it's time to relax.

If your brain chatter is making it impossible to work, spend five minutes physically writing out the chatter, then return to trying to work.

Don't leave out the exercise. Managing anxiety is partially about not avoiding pain -- about thinking "oh no, did I mess ABC up?" and then having the fortitude to actually determine whether or not you messed ABC up. Exercise is inherently kinda painful. It reminds your body that you can do hard things.

Also, don't leave out cleaning. It seems like a pointless use of time, but you need to take work breaks. Take a 15 minute break: call your parents (assuming you get along with them) while using a wet rag to wipe down your kitchen floor. Then do a couple pushups (put down your knees like I do if it helps) and get back to work.

When you start getting restless, find someone healthy to get some socialization with. E.g., drop a line to a nice platonic friend who might want to be a regular workout buddy. Alternatively, find places with lots of people, e.g., take some work to a coffee shop or go to a gym.

You can dig yourself out of this. Doing so will really help your self-image. Many, many of us have gotten ourselves into panic situations like this, and you too can get yourself out.

Then, once you've spent a bit of time facing the work-related panic, add "get a therapist" to your list of work goals. And if you find it impossible to do work like described above, jump straight to finding the therapist as your top priority.

You can do this. Good luck.
posted by salvia at 7:18 PM on August 5 [17 favorites]


I have that deep anxiety screamy feeling deep inside like I'm fucking up so bad I deserve to crash.

Also, it is not about "you deserve to crash." I mean, maybe I'm wrong; it's your head; but I used to end up where you are a bunch in my 20s. I think that screamy feeling is the part of you (Part A) that wants you to do your work. Then you don't, because you (Part B) are too afraid of how bad things already are. So that voice gets louder in hopes of persuading you to do that. It's perverse, because that voice wants you to do your work and take care of your life, but its intensity and frustration freaks out (if not verbally abuses) another part of you (Part B), which then reacts by avoiding work and life duties, taking drugs, etc.

These two parts need to come to a detente wherein Part B or a mediator is like "okay, Part A, we are doing all the stuff. I know, I know, you're super panicked that we can't get it done in time, but I think we can. We're doing it now. And screaming at us doesn't help. So what should we do first? And what's worrying you the most?"

If Part A is saying "you deserve to crash," tell it you don't. You deserve to stabilize your situation and build a life that you enjoy.
posted by salvia at 7:34 PM on August 5 [8 favorites]


Use.a.timer. The one on your phone or the one on your oven. Set it for 15 minutes and start on your work. Just 15 minutes, you can do 15 minutes! When it goes off, stop work and set it again for 15 minutes and take a walk. Or a hot shower. Then do another 15 minutes of work. Keep going for a couple of hours. Tomorrow, make your work sessions 20 minutes. You can do anything for 20 minutes, right? Keep your down time sessions at 15 minutes. Add five minutes to your work sessions every day. I promise you can work yourself out of your work backlog.
posted by raisingsand at 7:44 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


Scream into a pillow. If your school or private gym has a punching bag or trampoline you can throw a ball at, those are great ways to vent some stress. You may feel silly at first, but if you really get into it it can work wonders.


Take a night to sit down and cry. You have enough going on to more than justify it.

The world will muddle through this. Reading about it isn't helping, so quit. Weed is probably not as beneficial as a walk or good hot shower would be. Does your gym have a hot tub?


Ditch the FWB mess ASAP. probably need to go no-contact there.


Doing things in 15 minute increments actually helps a lot too.


Take the time to eat well, exercise, and get a good night's sleep.


It will be ok. You can do this. Get through the semester. Then MAKE time to go to a therapist.
posted by Jacen at 8:01 PM on August 5


One thing to keep in mind is that your life will not end if you fail to pull it together and you lose your job.

I cannot favorite this hard enough. I've done the crash-and-burn routine a time or two and have been terrified each time of losing my job, only to find that getting out of a toxic job or a bad fit is be a far more effective cure for anxiety and depression than medication, at least when the job is a direct cause of the anxiety and depression. This is not to say that you deserve to crash and burn, or that you cannot get yourself through this, but if you are wasting energy on fear of losing your job, or if you are trying to motivate yourself by telling yourself that you're going to lose your job, you're better suited saying "I may lose my job and if I do I will be okay. But for now I'm going to do my best to sort this out."

When I'm overwhelmed I find it helpful to ask myself what absolutely has to happen today. I make a list. And sometimes I revise that list as the day goes on, but it helps me keep focused on my priorities.

I think the recommendations to cancel the trip are correct. When you get through the semester you can come up with a cheaper alternative plan to refresh yourself, and later go to Spain when you're in a better place financially.

And yes - give yourself a permanent vacation from the difficult neighbor by moving.

This thread does explain some baffling A's I received in college
posted by bunderful at 8:12 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


This is most definitely the time for "if you turned in the assignment, you get an A" I can't imagine that any student would complain about that policy,

oh christ, the ones who did or think they did actual A-quality work will raise holy hell if word gets around the class about this. they will be somewhat justified and they will feel infinitely justified. this is a nightmare if you get caught, unless the grading is really 100 percent subjective and the syllabus does not contradict that. I am not devil's advocating, I have seen this happen.

that said, it is better than having a breakdown and submitting no grades at all. zinful, you can only do what you can do, and if fair grading is literally impossible in the time you have, I am not telling you to do what cannot be done. you can prioritize speed over care in whatever you have to get through without outright making up grades. If it's a stack of papers, you can tell an A from a C from an F paper by spot checking any three random paragraphs. I mean...you can. You can't give any feedback, but fuck that at this point.

First look at any emails from the department chair or the administration. answer them if they are personal and scary. then, look at student emails to find out if anybody is mad about anything. if that goes unanswered for too long it will make its way to the dept chair. Then, go somewhere quiet -- out of your apartment if there's a calming place you can find -- and grade like you're in hell and they let you out when you're done. use what drugs and coffee and alcohol you have to, to get through it, and then as soon as you're done with the grading, address the substance use and mental health stuff with professionals. but do the grading first.

this goes from personal crisis to critical career crisis only if you can't make yourself open up the worst emails and answer them. but you can do that.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:38 PM on August 5 [6 favorites]


In my experience it's incredibly common to get grades late with little feedback from adjunct professors. If they got fired for that then at least half the adjuncts I or my family have studied with would have lost their jobs a long time ago. I think you need to spot check the assignments, give a grade quickly and a sentence or two of pretty generic feedback and then move on to emails. The beautiful thing about the emails is that no one is going to know it isn't just their email you didn't answer. So answer any scary ones, any from authority figures and any where the sender has sent a reminder email. Then for the rest wait until you get chased (if you do) and then just say, oh sorry, I didn't see your email, I get so many it must have just got buried in the pile!

Agreed with the no drugs and no news advice. I also think you need to cancel the trip and do everything you can to sell the tickets. I disagree with the advice to go to an authority figure as these people almost certainly want you to make their lives easier and not more difficult. If you get fired things could get much worse very quickly.

During the time you were going to be in Spain set aside some time for relaxing and doing healthy stuff like running, yoga, etc. Also set aside some time for job searching and apartment hunting. But make sure you don't just do the hard frustrating stuff - parcel up your time so you're looking after your mental health as well. Good luck. Oh, and dump and avoid the weird fwb neighbor!!!
posted by hazyjane at 10:30 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


You will feel a whole lot better if you cancel the trip and get on top of your work. If you lived near me I'd volunteer to come over and sit with you for a few hours, go through those emails and slap some As and Bs on those papers. I just find it a LOT easier to get through stuff with someone actually sitting there helping me think and not letting me give up. Can you enlist anyone nearby? Or maybe take some of that Spain money and hire a someone from TaskRabbit for a hundred bucks. You can totally get out from under this!
posted by bleep at 10:48 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Salvia's advice is really good! A few things I want to add:

1. Like hazyjane, I also disagree with the advice to go to your dean or another authority figure at the school. You're an adjunct; I've been an adjunct, and they do not want to deal with this sort of thing from their adjuncts. QFT:

these people almost certainly want you to make their lives easier and not more difficult

2. However! Also as a former adjunct, and as a really conscientious one, I give you permission to power through that grading and those papers. Slap some grades on things and move on. I bet if you think back you can remember having at least one professor who did something similar at some point (I can think of at least two myself) when they were clearly in some sort of life crisis. And I know at least one person who got tenure despite having more than one semester like this. YOU CAN DO THIS.

3. Everyone above is right that you should cancel the trip to Spain. It is the sensible and grown up thing to do, and it sounds like it could be financially disastrous. Buuuut....I am going to offer a little bit of a dissenting voice. Every once in a while, you need to do the completely irresponsible thing as a total reset when everything has gone to shit. I say this as someone who has, and paid the price, and I'd do the same thing again if I had the choice.

The clincher for me is: is the trip already essentially paid for? That is, have you booked and paid for your accommodations and are they nonrefundable? If not, then I would say don't go and plan a smaller, less ambitious getaway closer to home in the month that you were going to be away. However, if those are already booked and you can't get your money back on them...well, Spain is a relatively inexpensive place by European standards, especially if your accommodations come with cooking facilities. I do think you need to figure out whether the idea of the trip is stressing you out more than taking the trip will. (Sometimes I get very focused on something fun I plan to do which is also expensive/inconvenient and it takes me a while to realize I need to cancel it because the stress it is causing me outweighs the fun.)

You should probably cancel it, but if it is the only thing that is keeping you going, and you think it can restore you, and you are going to buckle down and attack that debt responsibly when you get back, and you know in your heart of hearts that the idea of not going is more stressful than going, then...maybe go?

Anyway, whatever happens, you've got this, and you do NOT deserve to crash. Best of luck to you.
posted by tiger tiger at 1:01 AM on August 6 [5 favorites]


It's hard to resell tickets because since 9/11 the US doesn't let you fly if your name's not on the ticket, and for the same reason airlines generally don't allow people to change the flyer's name.

But even if your tickets are nonrefundable, they're generally changeable. I'd call the airline and see if you can change both tickets to a flight on a much later date. There will be a change fee, and it won't be small, but it will still likely be better than eating the cost of one ticket.

I don't think you can handle taking this vacation now - what you're looking forward to - "a total vacation" - sounds more like running away from problems than running toward something fun. It won't solve any of the issues you're describing, and will compound others - especially if you're still using drugs.

The good news is, you can generally change tickets up to 24 hours before your flight. So you could try to buckle down and write a checklist of all the things you need to do in order to leave: which emails need to be answered, which bills paid, which papers graded, etc. It's probably fewer actual specific actions than you think, but because you're seeing it as a huge mass of stuff to be done, it looks overwhelming in total. Then divide that list by two days fewer than you have left, and start doing the things, one by one. If you can plan to keep to that schedule, by the end of 3 days you should know if you can get it all done or not - if you're on track, great, if you're already behind and still procrastinating, then take it as a sign that you're not ready to travel and change your flights to next year.
posted by Mchelly at 5:30 AM on August 6 [3 favorites]


There's some good suggestions above about getting through your emails and the grading. Pick the methods that feel right for you, and do them.

I agree with salvia regarding exercise. Do this first. Go run, or ride a bike. Something outdoors, that will get your heart rate up and make you sweat. There are physical reasons this will make you feel better - endorphins, etc. - but also, you will feel better because you have Done Something. You have accomplished at least one thing today - yay, you!

Now, the trip - I think you do need a vacation, as well as something to look forward to, but you don't need more financial problems. If you can, sell both tickets. Then take some of that money and go on a road trip. Try for at least four days, but whatever you can manage. It almost doesn't matter where you go, it will help clear your head. I had one of my best head-clearing experiences when I had to change my planned route due to a natural disaster, and ended up spending the night in a crappy motel in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Got up super early the next day, and as I was looking for an egg mcmuffin before I got on the road, I noticed a historical civil war battleground park. This is NOT my kind of thing, but I pulled over and checked it out. I was the only one there that early, and walking around on the very ground where all these people had died fighting for a larger cause put a lot of things into perspective for me.

But it could easily have been something else entirely that did the trick. Just get on the road with no real plan, maybe just a vague destination in mind, and stop at whatever interests you along the way.

Bring music - listen to an entire album by someone with some depth. (For me, it was Bob Dylan's Love and Theft, but ymmv.) Just get out there, alone, and see what happens. Climb a mountain or a hill with a view, either on foot or in your car. Get out and sit on the ground and check out the view.

Open your sunroof. Sing along with whatever cheesy music is your guilty pleasure. (Bon Jovi or Journey are good for this - everyone knows the words, and you can belt them out at the top of your lungs.) Check out some little podunk town that catches your eye. Have breakfast at some local diner. Pull over on the highway and read historical markers. Avoid large national chains wherever possible, although Walmart can be useful for restrooms and turkey jerky.

If I were living at the location listed in your profile, I'd head towards Jackson, WY, as my vague end goal, because that would give you a complete change of scenery. But it doesn't really matter where you go. This will all be a nice break from your normal day-to-day, and there's a really good chance you'll have an epiphany out there.

And yeah, follow the script salvia posted for getting rid of the FWB. You don't need other people's complications in your life right now.

And remember, this too shall pass. Two years from now, this will all be just a blip in your personal history. You WILL get through this, and the sooner you take action, the sooner it will be over.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:59 AM on August 6 [5 favorites]


Agree with all of the above plus by 'drugs' this means especially CAFFEINE in any form.
Walk outside, lie on the ground. Hug a tree.
Consider flower essences.
posted by Mesaverdian at 12:32 PM on August 6


some quick ways to reduce anxiety:
- stare at this gif and breathe in sync with it
- get the Breathe app for your smartphone (similar idea, you get to pick the length of the in-breath and out-breath and colors and shapes etc)
- get the 30 Days of Fitness app and start your morning (or when you come home) with a wee bit of exercise. it ramps up so the first 10 days are pretty minimal and not at all intimidating

Also, ask for help from friends or fellow adjuncts/instructors. Set a date to meet up at the library or a coffee shop for 1 hour. I find that when I am avoiding things, having company often helps me tackle it. Or ask for help in grading and split the pile (and offer to return the favor once you are out of your panic hole!)
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:16 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Damn, dude. The truthful answer is it's time for a caffeine binge. You need to be in a public place. LEAVE YOUR HOUSE. Do the papers outside of your house NOW. JUST DO IT. If you were a fox in a trap, you could chew your arm off. If you were on an island, you could drink your own pee. There is nothing so humiliating about this situation that you can't just do it. And guess what, if you get an email that says YOU'RE FIRED, at this point it will just have to be another curious incident in your life. So what.

I would not talk to your department about mental health problems. Do not ever. EVER. Ever, ever, ever.. Don't leave academia on a whim, in a situation like this. Everyone will think you are fine, as long as you don't give them a reason to think otherwise.

If you are an adjunct, nobody gives a rat's ass about your evaluations. Your students' satisfaction in a course taught by adjuncts is currently lingering just above your department head's plans for the next fourth of July and below their neighborhood's noise level on their priority list. Your rep and relationship to your boss is so much more important. MAINTAIN FACE.

Go to Spain if you need to. Do it. But get medical, psychological help. You're a mess.

And cut the relationship. This will mean enjoying some adventure time abroad, and establishing actual healthy relationships with other people when you get back. You would be surprised how many of your issues are directly related to your batshit relationships right now.

You're going to be ok. Grade those papers. DO IT NOW. You can probably find someone to pay if you can't.

edit: sorry, I skipped the part where you're out of money. Ok, no Spain! That's not going to be a fun experience for you. Time to treat yo'self to some therapy, friend.
posted by benadryl at 3:59 PM on August 6 [5 favorites]


Sorry for the double post, but doing weed is not a good thing. It is probably

making you paranoid and upset. It is not helping.

Put it away. Flush it down the toilet if you need to. It is not a good thing for you. You're going to flush it. Do it now, ask questions later.
posted by benadryl at 4:11 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


What benadryl said. Especially about maintaining face if possible. You can pull it off.

I mean, I'm assuming you wrote this at the breaking point that every procrastinator reaches, the one where the switch flips from "whatever, I'll do it tomorrow" to "oh my god, I'm screwed, I'll never finish." Somehow that adrenaline is a necessary part of the motivation. I mean, yeah, you might have to work long hours to pull it off. But if your chief motivation was to avoid long hours, then you wouldn't have been procrastinating. (I don't say that in an accusatory "you made your bed" way. I say it as someone who now dislikes working long hours and suddenly became an ex-procrastinator.) So I believe you can pull this off.
posted by salvia at 5:36 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]


I agree with the advice above to

+ cut the drugs out now now now
+ sit down with the emails (set a timer, keep your replies brief, archive them as soon as you've answered them, and move on)
+ phone it in with the grading (I know a handful of adjuncts IRL and I went to college and work at a top tier university -- and I kinda doubt your students will care quite as much as you think they will)
+ pay a fee to push this Spain trip back like 6 months

And lastly, I think you should remove your real name from your profile 'cause it took me two seconds to find out where you teach. And, seriously, you never know who is reading Ask.Me -- I don't wanna make you paranoid but this website has a LOT of readers and lurkers and someone you teach or work with might see this post. No need to put yourself at risk for exposure like that.

Good luck! Hang in there and take things one step at a time.
posted by pinetree at 7:41 PM on August 6 [4 favorites]


thank you all so so so much. it was so hard to write this post and i braced myself for hard truths, but you all seriously rule and I'm ... trying. I'm starting on doing the things (and whoa, hope my chair isn't a mefite) and sitting down hard on whether an international trip is just an excuse I'm making to leave my apartment and the fwb you all very astutely noticed probably is complicating things more than that arrangement really should imply.

only self defense I have to offer is that it was very expensive to go from dual income with the partner I asked a question about last summer to broke as a ...college instructor. no excuses though.

most best answers marked because they made me cry a little. you all have the best answer though. literally everyone has been an inspiration <3 i love you guys, and this community so much, and hopefully this utter procrastinator's panic dump and your loving correction will help out someone else one day.

ok procrastination gratitude over. if i can write this, i can read emails.
posted by zinful at 10:44 PM on August 6 [7 favorites]


you have to mark the assignments, your students deserve that, whereas the emails are a huge bunch of time-sink whatever. If people are desperate they will phone or come round. Four weeks = it's over, where emails are concerned. (Unless four weeks makes no difference whatsoever, in which case it doesn't matter.) Mark the assignments, even if it's A for everyone, skim them and give them back. You owe them that.

You can get away cheaper than Spain: you must have parks, swimming baths, woodlands nearer and cheaper to get to..
posted by maiamaia at 5:04 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Hoping it's been going well!
posted by salvia at 4:22 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


« Older Homebodies, what do you have at home that help you...   |   Delicious, creamy, fluffy ...stuff? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments