Is there a reason to be happy?
December 6, 2008 10:33 AM   Subscribe

I'm not happy. Can I be happy?

I'm unhappy with my life to the point that it's difficult to fulfill even modest obligations. For example, I'll set aside a free day to work on something; and when the time comes, I'll lay in bed and stare at the wall, dick around on the internet, drive around aimlessly, or otherwise shirk my responsibilities. It's not just that I'm procrastinating: I've grown to actively resent my life because it's no fun for me anymore. I feel bad about what I do, but I keep doing it.

I know I'm depressed, but what's worse is I can see logical reasons to be so. I'm in my late twenties, have a handful of dear friends, but oddball tastes that no one seems to get, and that sometimes make me feel alienated. I've never been in a relationship, and no girl -- aside from one in grade school who was tripping over herself around me, and to whom I was a sorrowful little asshole -- has ever been interested in me at all. What's worse again, is I can see logic in that as well. I'm not bad looking, a bad dresser, a bad conversationalist, or unemployed, but I am very below average height (5' 2"), a drop-out, and neither a smooth talker nor a killer disco dancer. I don't even know whether I'm interested in a relationship or not, and am afraid it'll be obvious it's all so foreign to me.

I frequently do things like radically change my appearance, or make big impulse buys, or provoke people, or do things that scare me, just to jolt myself from my general state of creeping numbness. I read constantly, I work full time, I volunteer, I go to parties, I've improved myself over the years; and yet I feel virtually nothing on a typical day.

I just want to feel something better than what I'm feeling now.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

Not to sound like a broken askmefi record, but if you haven't read David Burns' Feeling Good Handbook, it is really easy to follow and helps a person through all of the challenges you mention you're facing.

A study done with the book showed that around 70% of people who followed the book felt remarkably better than before, as opposed to about 15% without the book.
posted by bradly at 10:49 AM on December 6, 2008

I know I'm depressed

Yes, yes you are.

Depression is god's great joke on mankind. It is the only disease that makes you feel like you deserve to have it.

Well, you don't. You deserve to be comfortable and content with your life.

Therapy is the traditional starting point for this kind of thing. Many people in your position have had great success with it.
posted by tkolar at 10:55 AM on December 6, 2008 [8 favorites]

Sounds a lot like depression.

What works for me (and many many other depression sufferers):

Diet: Good, nutritious food, three times a day, every day.
Sleep: A full night's set of sleep cycles. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
Exercise: Work out at LEAST 3-4 times a week. Make yourself tired so you can get to sleep on time every week.
Stop drinking. Alcohol is a depressant, and at least for me exacerbates depression.
Surround yourself with progressive, positive people. Eliminate toxic people who make you feel like you can't accomplish your goals.

Repeat this for three weeks and see how you feel.
posted by JimmyJames at 11:00 AM on December 6, 2008 [7 favorites]

It's a good thing to remember that smart people can ALWAYS logically support the way they're feeling emotionally, pretty much. It's one of the things that can really stand in the way of feeling better.

I'm not in any way saying "oh hey it's all in your head, just decide to feel better!" But, speaking as someone who has been there, I was convinced I wasn't depressed, was just feeling lazy and tired a lot, had good reasons for not doing anything until BAM, I started exercising and getting out of bed and brushing my teeth in the morning and then it became a lot easier to see the last few months as an anomalous period where I wasn't really at my best.

If you're not really comfortable thinking that you're depressed -- because hey you're getting a lot of stuff done and seem to be able to accomplish a bunch -- you might look into more minor mood disorders like dysthymia. It's a chronic sort of oogy feeling thing but it's got less of the "stay in bed for a week" aspect and more of the "just don't feel anything at all" part to it.

The good news is, if you're not dating or looking at dating, you're free to try (if you wanted to) soe of the medications that may have sexual side effects! I don't know if you're willing to consider a step like this, but one of the interesting things about at least trying it, is the awareness that you can have emotional states that are just chemically driven and not "logical" I found that just knowing that -- for me it came from some decent periods of recreational drug use -- was helpful for managing my moods in later years.

In any case, the fact that you're not feeling good indicates that you're motivated to do this. Sounds like you get a lot done already. I'd make fixing this vexing problem -- or at least approaching it -- part of your next few months' plan. Best of luck, it really is possible to feel better.
posted by jessamyn at 11:15 AM on December 6, 2008 [5 favorites]

I'm sorry your life is going this way, buddy. As every other commenter will tell you, go talk to somebody about these feelings. The alternative is to do nothing and stay where you are. Get ready to be patient and persistent.

Aside from that, one thing to realize is that the logical statements you are making are sort of part of the package. Rather I mean that each of us only has one reality - our perception - so whatever we perceive seems like all there is to perceive. How could anything other than reality be real? But that's the issue. To take an extreme case, think of a schizophrenic person. If the word crazy can actually be applied to anyone, it's to them. But they aren't crazy to themselves. Things make perfect sense to them inside their heads. They're seeing a reality that nobody else can see. From the outside, we can easily see that what they're seeing isn't actually there.

If you're depressed, the same thing is happening to you, just on a much smaller scale. So acknowledge it. One of the real pickles about depression, and one of the most exhausting things about it, is that you can't trust your own feelings. You know that your perception is distorted, but you can't see anything other than what you can see. So what is really real, if it's not what you perceive? If you think you hate your job, for example, do you really hate it? Should you quit? Or is it the depression and should you therefore stay and work on changing other things? Will the next job be the magic pill or does your shit come with you? It sucks to not know. You can, however, use logic to determine that:

-people with depression, as widely documented, usually have distorted perception
-you have depression
-your perception is very likely distorted

Ergo, you should discount your perception that it makes logical sense that you are an undesirable person who deserves to be alone and unhappy. That wouldn't make sense to anybody else you spoke to about it. It lives only in your head. You can counteract those thoughts. The techniques, such as those in Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy, can seem cheesy and stupid, not useful for someone like you, again because you feel like what you feel is justified. But they are the kind of thing that can help you break the cycle of these thoughts. You know you don't like what you've got, so give something like that a chance to work.

There are a number of other statements in your post that are the kinds of things that can be untangled with cognitive-behavioral exercises. All or nothing statements, mind reading, fortune telling, etc. And there are other logical problems as well. Being short is not a reason to be undesirable. Short people everywhere are in relationships, married, and happy. It is true that some women don't want to date men shorter than them. It's also true that that's not an issue for others. And it's also true that we all have an ideal mate in mind, but many of our requirements fall by the wayside when we find a heart and mind we can't resist. Be that guy. Smallman syndrome is not uncommon, but your only choice is to put your best self out there and take what comes. That has such better chances of working than withholding yourself because you think you're unacceptable because you're short. Same with not being a good dancer. Same with just about any other reason you can think of for withholding yourself. Don't show the world a short dropout who can't dance. If you do, that's what they'll see. Don't suggest reasons for them to dislike you. Show them a good person who wants to be happy in life and have good relationships.

You talk about the fear of looking stupid in a relationship because you haven't had one. You can say that for the rest of your life and it will keep you alone. Imagine yourself saying that at age 80. Start now so 80 year old you isn't crippled with regret.

You are afraid of rejection, afraid that it will confirm to you that you are the unlovable person you think you are and that you will therefore wind up alone and unhappy. But withholding yourself in order to avoid rejection has the uncanny effect of making you alone and unhappy, just what you didn't want. It does allow you to preserve the idea of an illusory self that never got rejected. But that self isn't very good company on the weekends is it, as your dick away the time. Not a very good conversationalist. Not loving. Not real.

Your one chance at happiness is to engage in life by putting yourself out there. You start by loving yourself, caring for and forgiving yourself in the same way you would for a family member that was having a hard time. Your self deserves the same kind of care. Why should it be exempt? Anyone else would give it to you. You'd give it to anyone else. Give it to yourself. If you need to, pretend that your inner self is somebody else so you can get around whatever hangups might prevent you from caring for it and speaking to it in a loving and supportive way. That sounds stupid and cliche but it's the truth. It's also functional. You need the confidence to put yourself out there, and you won't have it until you believe that you are good and worthy. Start there, then engage, then ignore the impulse to crawl back into your hole. This is a question of mathematical odds. There are life paths that don't work - you're on one of them. And there are paths that have a chance. Get on one of those. No need to analyze, just choose and go.

As for feeling like an oddball that nobody gets, there's no such thing, only people who haven't found their bee people yet. Stay bee and keep looking!

Go talk to somebody and get started building the life you want. Doesn't have to be a big deal or shameful or a crisis. Look up somebody local, make an appointment, tell that person what you've told us. See what you can learn. Good luck and don't quit.
posted by kookoobirdz at 11:26 AM on December 6, 2008 [4 favorites]

Take one thing at a time.

Depression: it's treatable, manageable, and the sort of thing that once you get a handle on it, other things fall into place. Consult a professional(s).

Relationships: sounds like it ain't a priority for you right now - that's good in way. Hold off on that angle until you get the depression figured out.

Career, future, friends, et cetera: Again, getting the depression figured out will put some of these other things into context, and allow you to make beneficial changes as needed.

Impulsive buying, starting shit, scaring yourself, numbness: Could be related to the depression, could be something else. You won't know until you start hacking at it.

Good luck.
posted by wfrgms at 11:47 AM on December 6, 2008

Absolutely, while I cannot comment on a diagnosis for depression I can tell you that a few years ago my situation wasnt that different from yours.

1. Obligatory therapist mention.

2. Teach yourself calm. Your demands to have x, y, and z right now in your life may be unrealistic. The best you can do is make baby steps towards a better life and have a better 'now.' A good way to do that is to calm your mind and your emotions. Dont let the lack of a great job or a girlfriend be what is causing the depression and sadness in the first place. Look into meditation and philosophies that do not stress materialism and social advance. Im not saying you should become a monk or weird religious person, but starting to turn your focus away from goals and into better living starts by turning down the volume on what you perceive to be your needs. You can do a lot with less. You dont need the car, the girl, the job, etc to feel good. In fact most miserable people have all these things. Feeling good with what you have and who you are is a skill that pays off for a lifetime.

3. Youre not young anymore. Now you absolutely need to a good amount of sleep. You need to eat well. Cut off all caffeine after 1pm. Dont snack late (you dont want your body digesting while its trying to sleep). Put some exercise in your life.

4. A lot of women dont want to date short guys. Fine. That's a failing of women, not you. There are lots of exceptions to this rule. That just means you need to hustle a little more while dating. Keep trying. Dont have unrealistic standards.

5. How bad of a dresser can you be? Fashion for men is easy. People dont have high expectations for us. Make sure your clothers fit and they arent falling apart.

6. Develop gratitude. Think about how different you would be if you had a cancer diagnosis or were working a hard manual labor job with low pay. Your current life is much better than what a lot of people have. Without gratitude you'll always be miserable.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:53 AM on December 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Your first paragraph perfectly describes me too. Anti-depressants have done me a world of good. Talk to your doctor.
posted by at 11:55 AM on December 6, 2008

Nthing what everyone else has said, but one more thing: depression lies. You say you see the logic in your misery; reasons why life sucks. And, yeah, there are parts of life that really do suck. The problem is, when you're depressed (and I speak from experience here), that stuff becomes overly important. It sounds trite and cliched, but if you can manage the depression, you'll both feel like the lousy stuff is less important, and you'll be in a better position to do something about it if you decide it is worth doing something about.

Antidepressants are worth talking to a doctor about. They're not an instant fix, and you may decide to use them in conjunction with therapy, or you may decide to skip them altogether in favor of therapy. But it's worth considering them as a tool to get you out of this rut to a place where you can manage your depression. I started taking them a few months ago, and while I'm still depressed, I'm less depressed - and that's put me in a position to do something about the depression they haven't fixed.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 12:38 PM on December 6, 2008

A lot of women dont want to date short guys

Huh? Wha? I'm a woman (though admittedly a short one) and I'd have no problem dating a short guy. The only real reason I could think of it being a dealbreaker is if you felt you had to overcompensate for not being tall by being an asshole. I'm pretty sure all the girls I know feel the same way.

So there's one less thing to worry about, anon, assuming you're not a prick. Which it doesn't sound like you are.
posted by AV at 12:57 PM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hey Dude, I've been there. spaceman_spiff is totally right: depression lies. You probably know this yourself--I'm sure you have days when you enjoy life and feel optimistic. I call that the "break in the clouds".

I'd definitely recommend therapy, because it's very difficult to see past your own limiting beliefs without having someone to point them out. Do lean on your friends a little bit for support, but be careful not to overburden them with your problems or emotions. That's what therapy is for.

You are awesome. Seriously. You just need to recognize it.

Good luck.
posted by mpls2 at 1:10 PM on December 6, 2008

Everything in your question, except the last half of the second paragraph, fits me perfectly (well, would, if I was male). It's definitely depression. First step is get to therapy, talk to someone, whether a close friend or a professional, and get treatment. Anti-depressants are no cure-all, but they're good pick-me-ups, as spaceman_spiff said.

And more friends. I had very little friends during my first 2 1/2 years of college and was miserable, and it's not until this spring that I got more friends who kept me laughing and my brain buzzing whenever pressure and stress threatened to beat me down. Get bright friends, clowny friends, artsy friends, nerdy friends - get a mix. It's kind of entertaining to have different groups of friends with different dynamics. And I guarantee that your "oddball tastes" will fit into any of those groups. Or if not, think of it this way: Maybe your friends like you BECAUSE of your tastes.

Good luck, and hang in there!
posted by curagea at 2:14 PM on December 6, 2008

Nthing Feeling Good. It was made for you.

Then move on to Intimate Connections to learn about dealing with attraction.

But, pretty much its 50%-50% on the craptacular to the good in life. The real secret is learning to cope with the craptacular.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:21 PM on December 6, 2008

Do you have a psychologist?
posted by charlesv at 5:24 PM on December 6, 2008

Heh, you remind me so much of myself! I share a lot of those same feelings. I guess I'd say I'm generally pretty happy but not really fulfilled. But then again, of course I'm not fulfilled, I've got at least 2/3 a life to take in still!

Totally try the therapy thing. Don't pre-prescribe yourself to depression meds or diagnose yourself with a bunch of excuses, just talk to someone trained about all this and they'll surely have the experience with this kind of thing to help you head down the right path. Maybe you just need to find a certain something, or maybe it's more serious and you do need some additional outside help. Just take small steps at time, what's important is to not be static.

Also, just something I find personally interesting that came to mind, are some talks on the topic of happiness.
posted by nmaster64 at 4:01 AM on December 7, 2008

If you find CBT therapy or just exploring the principles of CBT to not fully handle the problem may I add: Medication. Medication. Medication.

It can change your life. You don't know me, but I am a person who resists taking Tylenol, so I'm not one to dial the red phone to the pharmaceutical companies without incredibly good reasons.

Life is very, very, very short. We have to enjoy it. It is very important to find out how to manage that.

Also, adding to the chorus of voices that say you don't need to be depressed--you're not just a head under a bell jar or anything like that. There are women who will be interested in you--just from your post, you're smart, articulate, introspective, well-read--there are women for whom those things will matter more than your being short. We all have something about us that we feel is defective, and yet many of us find people who get past those things and want to be with us. You can too. But your odds are way better if you're not mournful--it's a delight to be with someone who enjoys life.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:37 AM on December 7, 2008

Huh? Wha? I'm a woman (though admittedly a short one) and I'd have no problem dating a short guy.

Studies have confirmed a bias against short men. Here's one.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:50 PM on December 7, 2008

« Older Yue Minjun on etsy: too good to be true, yeah?   |   Fun Ear Training Activities? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.