What can I find solace in?
December 30, 2009 7:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm a non-religious male currently going through a really rough patch. I have no family or friends I can depend on. Is there something to lean on for comfort during this hard time?

Since I was a kid, I've felt alone in the world. My parents had major problems of their own, so they mostly dealt with their stuff and left us kids to fend for ourselves. For this reason, my sisters and I carved out separate lives for ourselves and so don't really talk much these days.

Recenty, I've been battling major depression. I'm on meds and have been seeing a therapist, but still feel down in the dumps. The major problem I have is that I blame myself for everything that has happened to me. This stems from the fact that my mom made it a point to tell me that if I hadn't been born, she and my dad would have divorced. I've been talking this out, but during the holidays, I'm alone and left with only my thoughts.

I don't have anyone or anything to lean on at this point. My family is no use, I don't have close friends or a significant other, and am not religious. I feel adrift and helpless and don't know what or who I can look to for a little support. I've always envied folks who are religious because whenever they have tough times, they seem to be able to pray and everything is cool. I'd like to find something like that without having to become religious.

My question is, what do you turn to in times of trouble to give you comfort?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

Also...maybe you could volunteer at the library tutoring or something like that? Gets you out of the house, you interact a little, make a difference, maybe meet some cool people.
posted by ian1977 at 7:50 AM on December 30, 2009

I, too, am non-religious, have few close friends and have faced varying degrees of depression. Lately, I've been using meditation and Buddhist teachings to calm me/my thoughts.

In the past, I've sought out depression help groups that have a non-religious angle. They aren't easy to find, but can be helpful. I've also sought out other, non-depressed folks to hang out with (meetup.com is a good place to find such groups) as I find that hanging out with depressed folks can create a downward cycle for me (I get caught up with them and want to help them solve their issues while ignoring my own).
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 7:50 AM on December 30, 2009

Sometimes, if you turn outward, and help other people in need, that helps to bring one out of an inward-turning depression. I think if you join a group or volunteer somewhere that helps others (like a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, etc.) or even volunteer somewhere that's just plain fun (community theater, bowling league), that can help.

If you think it's deeper than that and you need a supported-supportive group, I'd look into group therapy. That can be very helpful if one-on-one with a therapist isn't giving you enough support to make it through this trying time.
posted by xingcat at 7:52 AM on December 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry to hear things are so rough for you and you feel so alone. I can relate though and in the past things which have helped me have included finding hobbies which I can throw myself into, some with a social element which has led to casual friendships.

Something else which may sound kind of hokey is reading literature by people you admire. It won't be for everyone by any means but when I was at my lowest I would read some Virginia Woolf (favourites would be Jacob’s Room, Mrs Dalloway, To The Lighthouse and particularly The Waves). In each book she expresses such a recognisable understanding of the things I was going through, the isolation of the individual, the power and force of the moment and also the focus and clarity of the individual’s perception, the strength of their thought and will. I’m not suggesting Woolf per se, just finding someone who you feel an empathic connection with and spending some time with their words. There is an amazing (perhaps almost religious?) strength in finding an author – a fellow human being – who speaks to you, no matter what state you may find yourself in.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.”
Charles W. Eliot
posted by tzb at 7:56 AM on December 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

Go to the gym.
posted by dfriedman at 8:01 AM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:05 AM on December 30, 2009

I'm sorry you're going through this. This sounds counterintuitive, but I would suggest throwing money at the problem. Figure out a few things you can buy TODAY that will give you lasting pleasure -- an ipod and new music? a month-long pass at a yoga studio? a bike? a plan to take yourself out to the movies every saturday night for a month? Ideally you would have more of a social network, and obviously you can't do this forever, but right now you have to work with what you've got -- so you need to focus on entertaining yourself for a while. In my life, thinking about fun or "solace" as a product I can buy has oddly made it easier and more motivating to actually get out there and do it. Once I make the initial investment, I feel like I have to see it through.

As for your specific thought patterns about blaming yourself - is your therapist working with you to change those? Those kind of thought patterns absolutely can and should be changed through therapy. I also recommend the book The Mindfulness Way Through Depression, which has exercises you can do on your own during times when you can't rely on work or your therapist, like the holidays.

Other things that undeniably help: exercise, yoga, meditation.

Look into a Shambhala Center to learn meditation. I have never been, but I understand they are a sort of non-denominational/non-theistic buddhist inspired meditation community, so you could fit in even if you are totally non-religious.

Lastly, you could try reaching out to your sisters. You might be surprised what happens if you tell them you need support right now.
posted by yarly at 8:12 AM on December 30, 2009

Amen. Er, Daniel Amen. He is a popular proponent of changing the composition of your brain ny changing your thoughts. He does have some critics, but he might be a helpful source to read that is non-religious.

Other "bootstrap" ways to lessen the grip of depression: get exercise, eat healthy food, get plenty of sleep (at night). Seek human contact.

And find a group of other people to talk to. There are depression support groups, 12 step groups. I'd say from your brief story about your mother's revelation that maybe an Al-anon or Co-dependents Anonymous group would be a good start. Heck, even a hobby or activity group can foster some connections and break the isolation

As a religious person, I can say that praying does help me some, but my prayers are usually answered by the people around me who help me, support me, root for me, cry with me, and celbrate with me. Just so happens I get that from a Church community.

When I got laid off, people forwarded my resume, babysat my kids, offered me temp work, brought us food, and just showed genuine concern. One guy came in out of the blue and gave us a large sum of money to get us through. And over the years I have done similar for many of them. Prayer might disposition a person to be more inclined to respond to that kind of Grace, but in the end it is how we love and help one another that matters.

I would argue that when you find that kind of mutual support, religious or not, you are in a church.

If you walked into my church and told me you needed someone to talk to, whether you were religious or Catholic would be the last thing I would ask. Alas, I can't say that would be true with every church. But you might want to consider the Universal Unitarianist congregation in your area. They are about the least dogmatic of any church I know -- questioning and searching is like a sacrament -- and might be a ready source of open-minded, low-pressure community.

Don't worry about being a burden or an imposition. Your need will be a blessing to somebody out there. Human beings are most perfect when they are serving one another.
posted by cross_impact at 8:13 AM on December 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm very sorry for the rough things that have come up for you, and empathize with your looking for something comforting to turn to, to help yourself heal (I'm not religious either).

I am pretty introverted by nature, and despite having friends and siblings I can count on at present, did not have much parental support growing up, so I learned to deal with things inwardly from a very early age - I did as a kid, and I still do now. When I get stressed, frustrated, angry, or otherwise feel like I don't know how to get out some mounting emotions, I find that few things feel as relieving as a long, long, long walk. The physical aspect helps release endorphins which give me that "get it off your chest" feeling, and being out and about is far better for me than sitting at home wallowing in my grief. You don't have to have a destination (but, know how to get home if you're going where you've never gone before!), but I find it very soothing to put on my shoes, coat, and maybe some earphones, and just... go. And keep going. I always feel a nice physical and emotional release during such long walks.

Best of luck and peace to you.
posted by raztaj at 8:13 AM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Exercise and whatnot, sure.
But can you reach out to your sisters? Sometimes just having separate lives means that when the times get tough, its a good time to come together (assuming there isn't actual bad blood, which it sounds like there isn't)?

Also, sometimes I think volunteering helps with this stuff. Find a soup kitchen, serve a meal, I bet you'll feel better at least for a while!

Hang in there.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:14 AM on December 30, 2009

I think it is helpful and important when you are down to have goals, even if they might seem minor to other people. Finding something to focus your energy on helps take your mind off of your troubles and gives you a sense of accomplishment and progress that can help bring you out of a funk.

Examples: Cleaning out a storage closet, learning how to make your own bread, beating a video game or reaching a certain level, designing your dream house, planning a dream vacation or trip, paying off a credit card, setting a fitness goal like losing a few pounds, doing something nice for a friend/neighbor/person you work with, donating some old clothes or food to charity, etc.

For me, setting little goals and reaching them, even if they aren't huge feats, helps improve my sense of self-worth while preventing me from fixating on things that can't be changed or aren't worth the energy of worrying over.
posted by Menthol at 8:21 AM on December 30, 2009

These are all good answers.

I try to do something I haven't done before. It doesn't have to be a big thing. You can go to a play at your local community theater, or try a strange restaurant, or learn something that you didn't know before.

It's also very important to get a lot of sunlight. For some reason, sunlight can really help, even if you don't actually have seasonal affective disorder.

For me, I have been an atheist since I was twelve. The way I cope with bad things is to realize that my life has no intrinsic meaning and that bad things that happen to me are completely irrelevant on a larger scale. That might sound horribly depressing, but it helps me to get outside my problems and think about something else. Life only has what meaning you assign to it, and your purpose is whatever you choose for it to be. No one can decide what your life will mean to you. That is enormously important, because just as no one can tell you what you are worth, no one can tell you that you are worthless, either. You make those decisions on your own. And it is the same for everyone - your mother has chosen to make herself miserable and is trying to make you miserable, but you can refuse to accept her meanings for your existence.

Two of the best books I have ever found for dealing with depression in an irreligious context is Marcus Aurelius' Meditations and Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf. They work for me, anyway.

Hang in there.
posted by winna at 8:24 AM on December 30, 2009

What if you got a pet? My husband used to work out of town for weeks at a time and I got a couple of guinea pigs to help deal with my loneliness. I don't think it matters what kind of animal it is (maybe not so much a fish, though). Having another living being there in your home, somehow, makes all the difference in the world.
posted by kitcat at 8:29 AM on December 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

I always turn to books when I get that way, whether it's papercandy like Agatha Christie or Tom Clancy or something with a bit of substance like Don Quixote. But I've always had a good network of family and friends as well. I get the feeling with you it's an overall lack of community that is really bothering you. The earlier suggestion of volunteering, then, would probably do a great deal more for you than anything else. You need to make connections with others, and getting involved in groups, activities, and causes is a great place to start. You could even take a night course at a community college or something similar - pick up a new skill or hone an old one while meeting others with similar interests.

And while it may seem religious people have these extra protections against life's ills, it's not universal or infallible. I've seen many religious friends lose it completely when something bad happens, because they can't accept that their deity has let their child die, for example. Everyone copes with problems differently. Find what works for you.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:45 AM on December 30, 2009

I have been reading Zen Mind Beginner's Mind for the past few weeks and can't recommend it more. It is a zen buddhist book.
posted by rebent at 9:02 AM on December 30, 2009

Music. Definitely music.
posted by chez shoes at 9:05 AM on December 30, 2009

One thing that brings me great comfort is the sanity that scientific thinking gives.

The world is full of problems. Scientific thinking aims to find solutions.

Whether its a complex problem in physics or how the brain works, even emotions, science aims to understand and find solutions to problems.

I'm not saying that science has all the answers for all problems or understands everything.

But the struggle to find answers by scientific thinking has found important solutions to problems (and probably caused a lot of problems too I know).

Science says that meditation is effective.
Science says exercise can be beneficial.
Science says ....

The comfort comes from knowing that these are properly studied and not just ideas pulled out of someone's hat.

Of course there is fuzzy stuff in science as well. I personally don't believe in taking anti-depressant drugs except for severe cases. I believe the science isn't advanced enough to provide quality drugs for the most complex thing in the universe: the human brain. I believe in other scientific approaches to resolving depression if it isn't totally out of control.

Anyways, mathematics, physics, etc are so comforting because they are clear and solid except for the leading edge stuff like quantum physics which are being explored.

I listen to lectures, etc to feel sane sometimes. The same goes for relationship stuff. Listen to people who have studied relationships and you'll get the knowledge required to understand and improve your relationships.

I believe that the suggestions given by others will all eventually be explained in detail by science. Why does music feel make you feel good/bad? How exactly does meditation work in the brain? etc. etc.

I'm not saying that you should only try something that is scientifically proven. I'm just saying that things that are scientifically proven give me great comfort.

Just my 2 cents.
posted by simpleton at 9:33 AM on December 30, 2009

Just throwing this out there: I am dubious about some support groups, especially depression support groups. A lot of times they are a way for people to dwell on the crappy things over and over. I've found that being around people who are doing well is often more help in these types of situations if you can get to the mindset where you're not bitter about them doing well, but want to use their energy and enthusiasm as motivation.

And while having faith in something bigger than yourself makes it easier to feel better about tough times, what faith is intrinsically is a foundation of thought and perspective. So if faith isn't your foundation, find something else that makes it worth the effort to feel better. I have often relied on, "I'm sick and tired of feeling like shit" as a motivation many times. So if you don't feel like you have any exterior support, you're going to have to lean on and believe in yourself. What things do you like? What has made you feel good in the past? The last time you had enthusiasm for something, what was it? Focus on those things instead of putting energy into thinking about the things you don't have and don't like. And then give yourself permission to do things however small that make you feel better.
posted by Kimberly at 9:34 AM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Nthing volunteering (also a great way to meet nice people who might become friends). And volunteering with animals, if you're not ready to have an animal live with you (or if it's not possible for you), is one way to get puppy snuggles while doing something helpful.

I'm surprised that I'm the first person to recommend Feeling Good, by David Burns, MD! It's the most useful self-help book ever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:46 AM on December 30, 2009

1. Volunteering.

2. A made-in-America Fender Telecaster.

3. Win at life.

I'm not even kidding.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 9:58 AM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nature. Interact with nature sans humans. Interacting with people is important for socializing, but it sounds like you've been getting burned. Take a break from people and their inventions and their advice. Put trust in your SELF and the power of new perspective. For example:

1. Go out into the woods and marvel at life happening.
2. Climb a mountain or hill and solve your problems with heart-pounding clarity.
3. Swim in the ocean and gain perspective on the blessing of being an observer.
posted by surfgator at 10:05 AM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Based on my personal experience, I'm going to combine Kitcat and surfgator's suggestions and recommend getting yourself a dog and going for some long walks. Dogs make great companions and even better listeners, and having pet will force you to get outside for some fresh air which might bring clarity to your situation. Good luck!
posted by Cody's Keeper at 10:10 AM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you have the means and time for a pet (they are expensive and time-consuming), I would also recommend that. When I'm feeling low, I know that I have to at least get up and take the dog out, so I can't just wallow.

Also, TV and movies.
posted by ishotjr at 10:18 AM on December 30, 2009

Umm, similar boat as you. Divorced two years ago, nursed my mom during her last remaining days (she passed away exactly 1 year ago), no family to speak of. Introverted, shy and actually despite many redeeming values, unable to work up desire to be with people, and too self-critical. Sound familiar?

Top it off, it is cold out...

Found out about Landmark Forums, went, took what I could which has absolutely helped me. (*Warning* - it has been called a cult, and I can see that some people would look at this as "the answer".) Like everything else, you take what you need, leave the rest. Don't sign up for anything else, just wait a couple months. But it did help me to place things in perspective.

N'thing the dog/cat/hamster thing. Dogs especially, teach us how to live our lives. They have a much shortened life span than we do, yet - do they care? We need to learn to live, love, and laugh in the moment - live like a dog. The best person to turn to in times of need is a dog.

Tried therapy, got no answers, just bills. Exercise is good, music can be bad if you only listen to that which "speaks to you". Playing it on the other hand, is great therapy.

I am not convinced that having a strong religious belief works for me, as I see many religious people who are not happy - possibly not truly religious though.

Drugs, alcohol are for obvious reasons, bad.

A wise friend once told me "life is only as interesting as the number of times you say "yes"". I have a habit of saying no to people and to shutting them out of my life because I don't always feel that I am worth being around. What about you? Saying yes to more people, being there as a volunteer has also helped me put things in perspective.

One final point; Christmas and New Year's are artificial deadlines that we put on our selves and I generally get depressed at those times. Especially in light of the anniversary of my moms passing. But I have to realize that, despite this stress, it is not called for. You can control that. It's a work in progress.

Email me via MF if you wish.
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 10:48 AM on December 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

nthing people.

Most religious people don't believe in the whole theological package, and many religious people don't believe in any of the theological package. The common human need that religion really addresses is community. Being in community with other people gives you a physical place where you belong, it gives you a larger history to tie yourself to, and it gives you a bigger future to have hope in.

It seems that for people who have decided that they do not need religion, most find that they still do need community, they need people. For me, I know that family is often an unturned stone, and they can surprise you with how supportive they are. (Sounds like your mother may not fall into this category though. Maybe now is a good time to reach out to your sisters?)

Alternately, things that revolve around a common interest could help: book clubs, movie clubs, some group that is involved in a weird niche interest of yours.

Also, I think you should give Little Creatures by the Talking Heads a few spins.
posted by kensington314 at 11:19 AM on December 30, 2009

Social isolation makes everything worse. Be sure you are spending time with other people. Volunteering is good for this.
posted by RussHy at 12:49 PM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your mileage may vary, but myself and two close friends (all three of us effectively atheists) turn to Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus for a weird sort of emotional/intellectual succor during times of crisis. His progression from the recognition of the "absurd" to the quest of the absurd man seems to require somewhat of a leap of faith in itself, which is why I am especially reminded of it, given your stated envy of religion-as-life-support.
posted by Keter at 12:55 PM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Music, but not passively. Learn to play a musical instrument.
posted by koeselitz at 2:42 PM on December 30, 2009

There's the Church of Freethought (in DFW), which has regular services and describes itself as "offering atheists, agnostics, humanists, and freethinkers all the social, emotional and inspirational benefits of traditional faith-based churches, but without appealing to tradition or superstition." It's unlikely that you happen to live near that location, or the Houston one, but you could contact them to find out if there's one (or something similar) near you.

You could also check out meetup.com to see if there's a freethinker/humanist/etc group near you. It might be less organized/regular than the Church of Free Thought meetings, and not necessarily intended to provide religionfree church-esque support, but it could still be helpful and entertaining. Going to some kind of regular meeting/service that's not directly related to depression could offer support; it would allow you to meet new people, have something interesting to focus on and look forward to, and perhaps start to feel less alone.
posted by sentient at 2:49 PM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I really think that doing something community oriented like volunteering would help. Try onebrick.org or volunteermatch You might also try a Unitarian church. They have that community spirit but they accept athiests and agnostics
posted by bananafish at 3:08 PM on December 30, 2009

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.”
Charles W. Eliot

It might be just me, but I find lengthy browsing sessions in large used bookstores to be comforting, something about reviewing things that have interested me in the past.

Sorry to hear you had such an unfair childhood experience.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:27 PM on December 30, 2009

I see lot of people saying music, play an instrument.

This is the answer.. yes. Buy yourself a guitar and cross that religious thingy off your list.

Also, there's the web. Graphic design, web design, etc. many things you can do all in the comfort of home that could lead to potential real world opportunities.
posted by Like its 1997 at 3:41 PM on December 30, 2009

I have no real answer besides books & music. Your problem is my problem. I feel alienated and depressed as well. The moments I don't feel like this is when I am surrounded by people I like and vice versa. That is the only thing that helps in the end. But they are just so hard to find. Feel free to drop me a line.
posted by jfricke at 4:12 PM on December 30, 2009

I also envy people who can believe in God, because it means they think some"one" is always watching them, and cares about them, and even loves them. But I am also tempermentally/intellectually unable to believe in God. What I can recommend instead, is to search your memory for someone-- not even necessarily someone real--who actually did care about you and show you approval. And let that person be the companion of your thoughts. That uncle or neighbour or teacher or friend or whoever has as much right to "speak" to you as your mother does, and you have no reason to "listen" to your mother anymore. If there is no one you can remember, do you have any role models? Someone who also went through a long, hopeless time, even a genuine ordeal? That has been helpful to me.

If you can get a dog, do so. You will not only have companionship, you will be needed. That is what works about volunteering too--realizing that you are needed. Then that feeling of utter desolation disappears.
posted by uans at 4:54 PM on December 30, 2009

Hello anonymous--I can relate! I have no family at all (everyone has died!) I have had depression for many years. I still have a fair amount of challenges, but about 5 years ago I began studying art. It had been an interest of mine since I was a child, but I did not feel qualified to think about becoming a painter. I discovered a website, Wet Canvas and I found out there are zillions of people who like to draw and paint. I began visiting all the forums that interested me and started participating "with" some other painters by uploading my work and discussing it with them. Ultimately I met new "real" people locally who were also exchanging ideas on Wet Canvas.

I feel very engaged now..with learning all that I can to become a fine artist. It is a huge undertaking...but it has been so worth it! I do not "suffer" like I did. I have things to do every day. It surprises me how much my life has improved since I began painting. Prior to learning to paint I did things that were expected of me and I think much of my sadness was about how I did not experience any real personal "mastery". My Mother is long gone (and she wouldn't have cared about this anyway)--but I get encouragement from my other artist friends. This is all a pretty wordy way of saying that you would be wise to find something that you can feel very passionate about and do that! When you are deeply into what you like --like minded people will gravitate toward you. If you make certain that you care what and how THEY are doing you'll have too many friends...you'll have to beat people off with a stick.
posted by naplesyellow at 5:29 PM on December 30, 2009

The work of American Zen teacher Cheri Huber has been incredibly helpful for me. The two books I'd recommend to you are The Depression Book: Depression as an Opportunity for Spiritual Growth and (Regardless of What You Were Taught to Believe) There Is Nothing Wrong With You: Going Beyond Self-Hate. The awareness practice techniques she teaches have helped me learn to live with the depression I've struggled with for more than 30 years, and to go from being suicidal a couple of years back to being overall content and actually downright happy much of the time these days. (I am Johnny One-Note when it comes to recommending her books. I accept this.)

If what she says in these books clicks for you, there's a lot more support available, from her other books to the weekly call-in podcast she does to the in-person retreats and email classes offered by Living Compassion.

my mom made it a point to tell me that if I hadn't been born, she and my dad would have divorced

You probably know this already, but I just want to say it explicitly: THIS IS NOT TRUE. Just look at me or any other child of divorced parents. (I once asked my mother if there had been any kind of we had a baby to save our marriage thing going on when I was born. "Not explicitly," she said, thoughtfully, "...but I think we thought it couldn't hurt.")

Your parents made their own choices about their marriage which were not your responsibility or fault.

It's good you're talking with your therapist about it. If one of my parents had said that to me, I think I would have had a strong Oh HELL no, don't you go trying to push that responsibility onto me! reaction.
posted by Lexica at 8:12 PM on December 30, 2009

Oh boy, I can TOTALLY relate. I figured one very important piece of information out when I was barely 7yo....I discovered we are really on our own in this world, and the only person you can lean on and trust 100% is: yourself. So often, you see people desperately trying to connect with others, looking to others to help solve problems and ease discomfort and pain. I too am a non-religious person, and not to incite a ruckus here, but I have always believed that those looking to God or others for to solve their problems are only finding comfort in a false platitude, and consider them somewhat weak in spirit, that they would have to look outside of themselves to find peace. Peace lies within, you just have to poke around in there and find out what exactly it is that will bring you comfort during the "dark thoughts". Try connecting with online friends, or read a good book, take up oil paining, or another artistic avenue. Even if you don't think you're a VanGogh in the works, art is still a useful tool for connecting with yourself and finding peace within. If you've been this strong all alone, and really you HAVE been, based on what you wrote here, then you will be fine. It is those who are constantly looking to others for support that will never reach true inner peace, and you are almost there! Keep digging! You WILL come up with something!
posted by DogTired at 10:57 AM on December 31, 2009

Give to others. Volunteer. After a few hours reading to the blind, delivering meals to home-bound seniors, or helping prevent the spread of HIV by distributing condoms, your life will look a lot better.
posted by hworth at 1:03 PM on December 31, 2009

This is a great question. I think it will help many people. I believe in God, so I am somewhat different, but there have absolutely been times when I felt "adrift" like you.

I think there are some great responses on this thread. Music, volunteering, the Free Thought church, etc. And I think as someone stated, ultimately what would really ease your pain is companionship, community, being able to relate to others, etc. But that may not be an option either right now.

My advice is to look up Metaphysics. It's not "religion" per se, but it helps to understand spirituality (which I believe all humans have--even atheists though they may not recognize it) and the human condition. I would start with a simple yet profound little book by Florence Schovel Shinn, "The Game of Life and How to Play It." It has some Biblical references, but ultimately it's about how to get your mind and your life to intersect in a way that is most beneficial to you. I hope you get to check it out.

Good luck and Happy New Year.
posted by GeniPalm at 9:19 AM on January 2, 2010

Read Schopenhauer's essays. You will be smiling your ass off very soon. It is so dark it makes light.

Whitman is very uplifting.

Kerouac's recordings.

Eknath Easwaren's books.


Try and get into Wallace Stevens. He is very life affirming once you get it.

Nietzsche will embolden you.

Do something with your hands, like model building.

Get a dog or cat.
posted by supremefiction at 6:49 PM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

One more--research your family tree. You will find you have a lot in common with those who came before you, and they fought hard to get you here. You will feel fortunate by comparison.
posted by supremefiction at 6:54 PM on January 4, 2010

I can relate to what you are going through as I tend to be pretty introverted and do not have a large social network, yet, as all people, I do desire friendship and intimacy in my life. I am not religious, either, although I find it hard to imagine how being religious would be of help.

You've gotten excellent responses already, so I can only list activities that have helped me most in the past.

Like others have said, you need human contact. I've never volunteered anywhere, but joining a club can also put you in an environment where there is plenty of human interaction. A martial arts club or dancing, perhaps? I am not sure about non-physical activities, so if you can't do exercise, you'll have to find something else.

Perhaps, many may disagree with this, but concentrating on work has given me great satisfaction in the past, and may be a good thing to concentrate on for you as well. I am in research, and I love what I do, but I think whatever you do, you can always decide to concentrate on it for awhile, set some goals and try to accomplish them. In the least, it will give you confidence, and make you feel more confident. Taking a course to expand your skills, or to simply learn about something you have always wanted to know about, is somewhat related.

I like the pet idea that others have proposed, and a good book is always comforting as well. I would recommend humor, as it can oftentimes inspire you to look at your situation from a different angle and take yourself less seriously (in a good way). I recommend Douglas Adams' and Terry Pratchett's books.

Finally, get some exercise - jog, bike, etc. Or take a long walk in the park. The latter is also a great way to spend some time with your thoughts and let your mind roam.

Good luck, and don't stop trying. If your therapist or medication isn't working out, you can always ask to be put on a different medication or see a different therapist. If something doesn't work, change it!
posted by albatross84 at 8:47 PM on January 23, 2010

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