How do I manage my depression without insurance?
March 11, 2009 1:53 PM   Subscribe

I need some help managing anger, depression, and sadness. More specifically, I need to figure out some way for my boyfriend to control his urges to beat the crap out of random people and for me to control my deep depression.

The back story is that we are both recent law school graduates. My boyfriend has been totally unable to find a job since ending a temporary job in November. I was laid off in December and my severance ran out in February. We are both saddled with a huge amount of debt and I've been supporting him for several months now.
We spend our days sending out resume after resume, writing cover letters, and looking for jobs. We are now contemplating moving out of the New York area and into my boyfriend's parents' house in Virginia.
All of this is a fairly normal story, I'm sure, and one that lots of people are going through at the moment. The problem is that my boyfriend is angry -- really angry. Angry enough that he tells me he's afraid to leave the house because he doesn't want to get into a fight and really hurt someone. He is also now beginning to have serious stomach problems as a result of worry.
I am barely functioning. I know that it will probably be a really long time before I get a job (as a newbie lawyer with no experience) and moving into the parents' house feels like terrible defeat. I cry a lot and feel listless and upset. I try to exercise but can barely muster the energy. I avoid friends because interaction with other people is becoming difficult and also because I am ashamed of my situation. I realize this is irrational. I talk to friends and family sometimes, but feel that I am burdening them with my problems when so many of them have their own troubles.
We have no health insurance so counseling is not an option. We are in the NYC area, but I haven't found many resources for people in our situation. I'm not looking for job resources, but for a way to save our mental health while we get through this tough time. I am afraid that if things continue the way they are, my boyfriend will end up in jail for beating someone up.
Any suggestions or strategies are more than welcome. Thanks, and please excuse the very long post.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Center for Educational and Psychological Services at Columbia for therapy. Sliding scale (if you have no income, you pay nothing) and they're excellent.
posted by decathecting at 2:01 PM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Has he actually beat up anyone?
posted by sweetkid at 2:01 PM on March 11, 2009

You both really, really need help because you are on a downward spiral. Please get counseling, even if it is embarrassing to have to ask for free/low cost services.

In the meanwhile, make an effort to something every day that gives you pleasure - take a walk, draw, read a book. If there nothing that you think you would enjoy, do something that you used to enjoy. Exercise is good for both you but your boyfriend needs to make sure he is getting enough physical release - it will help with anger to expend the energy physcially rather than just holding in, trying not to hit anyone.

Second, as a new lawyer, can you volunteer to do pro bono work a few hours a week. it will (a) get you out of the house (b) use your skills and (c) give you a chance to worry about other people's problems for a while - all very healthy.
posted by metahawk at 2:10 PM on March 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

Seconding the volunteer angle ... even if it's not directly legal work ... and making an effort to do something, anything pleasurable each day. Take a walk together, particularly when he's feeling angry. Have a cup of tea. Go to the library and rent classic movies. When I'm having a "meltdown moment," I actually say to the Universe, "I just need one good thing today." I did that yesterday and one of my closest friends from London, who I seldom get a chance to talk to, called me in the middle of my workday for a really pleasant 15 minute chat.

Finally, and I hope this doesn't come off sounding harsh because I know you're both in bad spirits, but really, ya'll need some perspective. The job market is tough and you guys are in dire straits ... but you're young, you have an education. Things will turn around in the next year or so.

You do not mention having children or a mortgage or an ailing elderly parent. You can't afford to live the New York area but you have the option of moving in with your boyfriend's parents. Your choices don't consist of moving your family of four into a motel with pimps and drug addicts or pitching a tent in an empty lot somewhere.

So I guess I'm saying, even if the situation the two of you are in is bad ... and it is ... it could be worse. Sometimes, remembering that I had both breakfast and lunch today is all it takes to lift me out of my funk. More often than that, it takes a little more but in the times in which we live at this very moment, I'm saying a lot more "thank you" and whole lot less "damn."
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 2:28 PM on March 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

Check your MeFi mail.

Also, props to whoever anomyized that.
posted by valkyryn at 2:28 PM on March 11, 2009

Also wanted to add this: Sometimes, if your body needs a cry, just go ahead and give in to it. It's carthatic. Sometimes I think a lot clearer after a little sobfest (and as someone who has struggled with depression for basically my entire life. I have lots and lots of sobfests.)
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 2:29 PM on March 11, 2009

Have you passed the NY bar? If so, pro bono work with an organization is a great idea - gets you into contact with social networks, other lawyers, the workforce, out of the house. Or low/free therapy would be a great release, even a session or two -- or group therapy, which is often run for free. I think there are some threads on AskMe detailing these resources in New York City. Finally, I would encourage you to get in touch with one of your friends. Yes, they have their own problems. But sometimes everyone is putting on such a brave face for each other that nobody shares their true situation -- wouldn't you rather really connect with someone else going through a hard time than just ignoring each other? And maybe even plan free pick-me-ups together? Walks, drawing, photographs outside, reading together somewhere, etc?

On a side note - How did you send an anonymous person MeMail?
posted by barnone at 2:46 PM on March 11, 2009

Searching for a job is a real downer, even when you're already employed. Can you get a temporary or part-time job so you can keep your apartment in New York? I think doing something with your free time (even if it's not ideal) would be better than spending your days getting nowhere with applications and becoming depressed about it.
posted by cranberrymonger at 2:48 PM on March 11, 2009

barnone--the question was not anonymous initially. The poster made the request on people's advice in this thread.
posted by sweetkid at 2:50 PM on March 11, 2009

If you are unemployed and have no income, you probably qualify for Medicaid in New York State. The easiest way to apply is at one of the private provider vans that you find around Chinatown and other neighborhoods. That said, I hear for mental health coverage it's best to go with straight up Medicaid rather than a private provider. Public hospitals such as Bellevue and clinics like Planned Parenthood have offices where a patient advocate can give your more information and help you enroll. Enrollment normally takes 4-6 weeks. I have heard that it may be possible to ask for immediate assistance or for your application but I am not sure how - the people at the hospital or PP may be able to help you with that.

FEGS is also a great behavioral health resource in NYC. They accept medicaid and offer low or no-cost treatment.
posted by abirae at 3:05 PM on March 11, 2009

Do you know about the COBRA subsidy under the stimulus plan? I know you're low on money but this subsidy will make COBRA more affordable and can be claimed retroactively back to September. Insurance is important not only for the therapy, but also if you or your boyfriend do have any medical issues --or if he DOES get in a fight --- your financial concerns will be greatly amplified. It is SO IMPORTANT to keep coverage/get low cost coverage.
posted by sweetkid at 3:13 PM on March 11, 2009

this lawyer suggests applying to the federal government for a law job.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:35 PM on March 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

You said that you feel like talking to your family and friends burdens them. If you want someone to talk to about everything that's going on, try calling 211 (I volunteer for the local call center). The people there are trained to listen, and that's what they're there for. They can be a great, confidential place to get things off your chest. I did a quick search, and both NYC and VA are served by 211. You can reach them by dialing 2-1-1 from a local number, or you can look up their local number at They can also recommend resources, such as low cost counselling.
posted by bluloo at 3:39 PM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Apply for a job at the FBI. Seriously, they're apparently hiring 2,000 new special agents and staff over the next year, and your JD will give you a leg up.
posted by downing street memo at 3:49 PM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your boyfriend might be able to get help with anger management via classes or group therapy. Your local police station could tell you whether this is offered for free in your area.

You can control your depression by eating right and working out. I used to be very depressed, but since I started working out (8 or so years ago), I've been 100% cured -- no medication and no therapy.

Oh, and more importantly, dump your bf. This is a stressful time in your life, and his childishness is making it a thousand times worse for you. You two can get back together when he decides to display the self-control most 8-year-olds have mastered.
posted by coolguymichael at 4:03 PM on March 11, 2009

Exercise, for both of you. It is a stress reliever and will help work out the angry feelings as well. Walking, or bike riding, or a spin class if you can afford it. But just do it.

Also, prayer. Really.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:50 PM on March 11, 2009

Oh, and more importantly, dump your bf. This is a stressful time in your life, and his childishness is making it a thousand times worse for you. You two can get back together when he decides to display the self-control most 8-year-olds have mastered.

Seconded. This is just absurd, and not at all a normal result not finding a job:

Angry enough that he tells me he's afraid to leave the house because he doesn't want to get into a fight and really hurt someone.

He's either a drama queen or a nut, but whatever the case, he can't be good for you.
posted by jayder at 5:38 PM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Apply for a job at the FBI.

Maybe Anonymous should, but I doubt the boyfriend is a good fit. Last thing a law enforcement agency needs is some hothead who becomes a belligerent fool when things get stressful.
posted by jayder at 5:39 PM on March 11, 2009

We spend our days sending out resume after resume, writing cover letters, and looking for jobs.

All day, every day? That's enough to drive a person crazy. The day I got laid off, I read this blog post, and boy am I glad I did. Try to structure your day so that job hunting is just a small part of it; a job that you start and stop after a certain amount of time. Once that's done for the day, you can focus on projects that will bring you some satisfaction.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:23 PM on March 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

Hmm, I'm not sure that I have any good advice, but I am sorry about your situation.

I know it's hard to do when you're downward spiraling, but any volunteer work where you work with those who are having really tough times. Working at a hospital was always my favorite) has a way of putting one's own problems in perspective. There's just something about meeting people who are struggling with life and death issues makes almost any other problem seem a bit more livable in comparison. (And please know that I am not suggesting that you aren't struggling or that you aren't justified in feeling angry, etc.) Good luck to you.
posted by mintchip at 6:24 PM on March 11, 2009

P.S. I was also going to add, would it bring you any comfort to be bringing in a bit of money in the meantime? I know it's not easy to make extra cash right now, but any chance you could edit student's law school applications, do document review, pet sitting, catering, babysitting, tutoring, etc? Anything on a flexible schedule (to allow you to continue your job search) while bringing a bit of extra dough in?
posted by mintchip at 6:27 PM on March 11, 2009

I'm not going to tell you you should break up with your boyfriend, but if you could find a room of your own that's cheaper, or anything else to avoid moving to VA without a job. I might be projecting since I live in NYC and my parents are in VA, but as much as I love them the last thing I'd want is to give up NYC and move back. If your support structure is here as much as mine is, try to stick it out.
posted by sweetkid at 6:46 PM on March 11, 2009

The FBI isn't a real option. They don't employ many lawyers. The Department of Justice prosecutes cases, and as the FBI doesn't really write regulations, any legal needs they have will largely be supplied by the Office of General Counsel.

To be honest, for all the hype about how the Obama administration is expanding the government, that hasn't yet translated into actual hiring. The budget for 2009 was only passed this week, and next year's budget is still in the works, so the agencies won't really have a better idea of their needs and resources for another few months. Even then, there are enough laid-off lawyers just like the OP to make those jobs way more competitive than they would have been 18 months ago.

I'd recommend keeping your eyes open but not getting your hopes up.
posted by valkyryn at 7:42 PM on March 11, 2009

Can you teach Kaplan LSAT classes?
posted by salvia at 8:20 PM on March 11, 2009

anonymous: The back story is that we are both recent law school graduates.

To me, this is at the heart of it.

You do need to see a psychotherapist together - maybe borrowing the cash to do that from family members is the solution - in order to work on (a) your depression and his anger. But you can begin now by starting to thing as coldly and realistically as possible about the roots of the way you're both feeling. Law school is an extremely high-pressure situation - I've never done it, but I've known folks who did, and it took drive and determination. To have that drive and determination give way to joblessness is painful; it makes you feel as though it was all for nothing, or as though you did something wrong.

You need to repeat this to yourself and your boyfriend, and he needs to remember it, too: moving back in with his parents is not a terrible defeat. You know that many people are in the same situation - well, internalize that information; you've done all you can, and so has he. In law school, you both spent years pushing as hard as you possibly could, avoiding failure and pushing to succeed, knowing that the effort you put into it would come back to you as good grades and a law degree. Now, the opposite seems to be the case: you work hard only to lose your opportunities, and you have to reconcile yourself to something that might feel like failure.

Again: it's not failure. It's not defeat. It's a step on the way to your lives, and every time it depresses you, remember that this is the case. Great men and women have had to live with their parents - I'm serious here - and you'll make it through and attain what you want. You are not moving into a trailer and taking up a methamphetamine habit; you'll both be fine. Most of all, remember this: you don't need to worry about success, or about how this looks to people, or about whether you're a failure right now.

Shame is an addiction and an indulgence. It's a cycle you get trapped in. You have to break that cycle. Make up your mind to be fierce and to be self-aware. You are not your job; you are not what you do. This trouble will take determination, but the right way to go about it is to realize reluctantly that you are worth it and then go about doing what needs to be done.
posted by koeselitz at 8:24 PM on March 11, 2009

This whole 'dump your boyfriend' thing is, I believe, a bit far out. Yah, he's out of bounds, and he needs help, but anger and/or depression presents in different ways in different people and it's presenting in him in such a way that he's frightened he'll hurt someone, thus himself also. He doesn't want to. He's telling his partner that he is afraid -- you'd rather he kept it in?

That said, this is a great time for both of the involved parties to deal with the inevitable -- life can be a real bitch sometimes. This one is hard, it's a real kick in the guts, but another real hard kick in the guts would have come along sooner or later and given them this opportunity to deal with their methods of coping, or lack thereof.

So, counsel -- you bet. Get some help here, some air, an outside perspective on your situation. It'll take the weight off of both parties; they think (you two think) that you're in this alone, it's you two against the world. Nope. It's two people in a remarkably stressful situation.

But as pointed out upthread, you do have options, and not terribly bad ones, compared to other peoples situation(s). This is the worst job market in many years. Period. It maybe won't get better for a number of years, for reasons far beyond your control. Meanwhile, you've got loving family offering you shelter, food, all the necessities of life. Sweet. Learning how to tame your ego, which is telling you that this is 'wrong, bad, shameful, weak, blah blah blah blah', now this is work that will provide payoff over the rest of your life. Call it what you want -- ego, self, Satan, if you're a baptist -- doesn't seem to matter what it's called, but once you've learned how to call this thing as it is and disable it though in the face of difficult and disappointing circumstance, you will be free in a very important way and this skill will hold the rest of your life.

By the time you negotiate all of this you'll know if your partnership is strong or not, whether this is a life-time plan or two people who fell together in law school and wrapped arms around one another while waiting for the world to unfold. The world IS unfolding, just not how you (or many of us) could possibly have predicted. In time, and not too much time, you'll know if you have a solid relationship; a cracked china cup can be used a long while, in fact you don't often know that it's broken, but drop it into boiling water and you'll find out FAST, as it will shatter. You two are in hot water. Is there a crack in your cup?

Last. The volunteer thing, ANYTHING to get you off this constant "We must now find work" treadmill, I'm all for it. And maybe any job will give you something to do, a few nickels to rub together in your pockets also. Movies from the library are free, so are books, apples are not too expensive, encouraging one another is free but priceless, it's value inestimable. I'm sorry you're in this hole, though glad you're sharp enough to have succeeded in law school and also to have asked this question in this forum -- you have intelligence and social smarts to boot.

Embrace this time -- you may as well -- and learn from it of your strengths, and/or form them.

If I could help you I would, so would most any of us here. But you've family willing to do that -- how lucky you are, how fortunate.

I wish you the very best of luck and love.

posted by dancestoblue at 4:32 AM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

The FBI isn't a real option. They don't employ many lawyers. The Department of Justice prosecutes cases, and as the FBI doesn't really write regulations, any legal needs they have will largely be supplied by the Office of General Counsel.

There are plenty of law school graduates working in non-practicing capacities in the FBI.
posted by downing street memo at 7:42 AM on March 12, 2009

There are plenty of law school graduates working in non-practicing capacities in the FBI.

Yup. And lots of other well paying (granted, not Big Law Firm Partner Track salaries) government jobs that request a JD or other graduate level degree for people who can write and analyze.
posted by pointystick at 10:38 AM on March 12, 2009

Why not move to the parents' house, if they're willing. It's OK. Lots of people do that. I moved back home for a while after grad school, since I had no job and was overwhelmed and depressed and had a lot of debt. Times are tough. It'll give you some time to regroup, and a change of scene. Also if you do move in with them, it'll mean you (and he) will just have to accept that you tried your best but the opportunities aren't there right now and you need some help from family, while is totally fine. The mind does strange things when you get stuck in a rut and don't have a lot of structure or support around you. Also, not sure what part of Virginia, but if it's DC metro area, the job market is not bad here especially compared to the rest of the country.
posted by citron at 6:58 PM on March 13, 2009

There's TONS of stuff you can do to work on your legal skills right now. For example, representing immigrants in detention. Memail me if you want some inspiration. I don't mean to sound flip, but being liberated from a big law firm could be a blessing in disguise for you.
posted by footnote at 7:28 PM on March 14, 2009

You already have a lot of good suggestions, but as someone who has gone through a similar experience to you, I'll throw in my 2 cents.

After I got my MS in biophysics I had a hell of a time finding a job. For more than half a year I sent out my information all over the place and got no replies. I went into a deep, deep depression. Here's what helped me:

- 10 minutes of morning meditation. Not in the traditional meditation sense, per se, but I spent 10 minutes alone each morning envisioning my day if I were to approach from a hopeful/happy perspective, and then if I were to approach it from a depressed perspective. For instance: today, I will send out my job apps, take a walk, clean up my apartment, and maintain my optimism. This will allow me to not give in to depression, to fall asleep with less weight on my shoulders, and to enjoy life despite it not being ideal right now. Then envision how your day will be if you approach everything pessimistically: you'll have a sobfest, the grind of job apps will wear you down, you might fight with your boyfriend, you'll miss how beautiful a sunset is, etc.

- yoga. Seriously, it clears the mind. Also, it's something you start out bad at and can better at as time progresses, so you can set goals and measure your successes. offers a free hour long session of yoga each day. This also gives you daily exercise.

- Fish oil pills. There is plenty of scientific research out there to back up that taking omega supplements can improve depression. I suggest pubmedding/googling it.

- Keep your apartment neat and clean.

- Pick up hobbies wear you can measure your increase in success over time, such as cooking (also helps lower your bills), growing orchids (doesn't have to be an expensive hobby), etc. Then when you get really good at these things you can be proud of yourself for your accomplishments, even if they aren't job-related.

- Finally, for a while I took a job working part time at Whole Foods. At the time I saw this as a huge blow, but in reality it got me out of the house and making some money, even if it was very little money. And it helped change my attitude about the job application process, which I believe reflected in my interviews. It's always important to do SOMETHING, even if it isn't ideal at the time, and even if it is way below you in your opinion.
posted by sickinthehead at 9:14 AM on March 15, 2009

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