How can I find balance in my life with newfound social success?
June 30, 2010 12:50 PM   Subscribe

I need some help finding balance. I've gone through a number of changes in my life lately, and it's been amazing. But the changes have caused my work life to suffer, and I've just taken on a new job, so this is not a good time. Anxiety, exercise, confidence, and a loss of balance all come into play here... I need some help putting it all together.

This will be a bit scatter shot, so bear with me a bit.

I dealt with anxiety for a very long time, never quite realizing it until reading a lot about it here on AskMefi. I went to my doctor, talked about it, and in May of this year I started on Cipralex.
To say it's made a huge difference in my life is a huge understatement. It's helped me manage my anxiety to an incredible degree, and helped my self confidence enormously. How I project myself to people has changed a lot, and my confidence in social situations has been fantastic.

A bit before I started on the anxiety meds, I started working out with a personal trainer. I have made some changes to my diet, and cut out smoking pot. I've lost about 20 lbs since then, but still have a ways to go. I have been off training at the gym for about a month now (I went on vacation for a week, then had two weeks of company training, so my schedule was crazy).

These two changes have made my social life much more interesting - girls are interested in me, I'm having a lot of fun going out, and things I would dread before have become reasons to get excited. I never know what's going to happen. It's... amazing, exciting, occasionally frustrating in a good way, and just generally I feel like a real man for the first time in my life.

But this has seriously thrown off my work. I just recently got a huge promotion, to a job that gives me a lot of independence and in many ways has me running my own business (I manage a portfolio of clients).
The demands of me for this new job are significant, I have a lot of courses that I need to complete on my own, and still have to keep bringing in money.
And I'm not. I'm going out all the time, I've come to work hungover too many times and it makes my whole day hell. My productivity sucks right now.

But when I get home at the end of the day, and my phone rings and someone wants to do something, I WANT TO DO IT. It's fun, it's hard to say no, especially because in so many ways this is all new and exciting for me.

How do you get the balance back? I feel like I should be taking advantage of my new confidence and success with girls, but if my work life falls apart, god knows where I'll be.

If it helps, I'm 27, male, and have probably only dated like 3 or 4 times in my life before this, and never had any real relationships because of the anxiety and confidence issues.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Congratulations on taking control of your emotions and social life and turning things around. That's truly wonderful.

Your excitement reminded me of when I first got to college. Far away from parents and rules, and every evening just full of people to hang out with and things to do. Missing the morning classes, getting to the library still hung over - good times. After all the repression of my high school and home, I just couldn't find any good reason not to indulge myself (I was discovering who I was, after all!). It's an awesome, heady feeling.

Except you're not in college anymore. I'm going to assume that slacking off and getting fired or demoted are things that you do not even want to consider, let alone rationalize. But that's kind of what you're doing. You yourself have laid out the connections between your socializing and work problems. So just realize, and accept, that "I WANT TO DO IT" is not a good enough reason to get into a situation which will have bad consequences the next day. Your company doesn't care about your personal history. You know that, right?

You have reasons, of course - everything you said in the post indicates how much you want this. All I'm saying is that they aren't legitimate reasons to damage your career. They aren't grown-up reasons. You're on a trip right now, and you need to stop being on this trip and look at this realistically to figure out how you can make both parts of your life work. Look at it this way: this is just the beginning. You're only 27; you have the rest of your life to do whatever you want. Pace yourself.

In that sense maybe this is a delayed growing up. Since you never faced these particular challenges before (due to other challenges), you're having a hard time finding a fulfilling balance. Saying no to people is also part of that challenge, and in my opinion it's a hard one. But you took charge of your earlier challenges and came out on top - you made yourself happier. You can do it again. And it's as worthwhile this time as it was then.

Look back on the short but significant history of your socializing. Make a rule about how many days a week you can go out. Make a rule about how much you can drink on a weeknight. Your new friends will understand; they're adults too. If you fuck up, don't beat yourself up. Learn from it, and get right back to following your own sensible adult rules.

There's really no other way, I think you know that. And it seems hard right now, but it will get easier - you know that too.
posted by mondaygreens at 1:15 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Easy. Just make a few rules and stick to them. No more than three drinks on a weeknight. Alternate an alcoholic drink with a pint of water. Be home at 11:30 pm for a 12:30 am bedtime (or whatever will give you the amount of sleep you need based on when you need to wake up). Work while at work. From 6-11:30 pm, have (relatively sober) fun! Fridays and Saturday nights, do whatever!
posted by salvia at 1:16 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's worth noting that 20% of people that smoke pot get panic attacks. Many of the clients I see with anxiety issues also smoke pot believing it helps them remain calm. Unfortunatly, it's doing the opposite. I only mention this because it's likely your marijuana withdrawl has contributed to your stable mood.
FWIW- It's usually not a good idea to take an SSRI (Cipralex) without utilizing a counselor/therapist. They can also really help you with relationships and balancing your life.
posted by WhiteWhale at 1:24 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yes, I was wondering, along with WhiteWhale, if you are in any type of counseling? The medication, in my experience is only a part of the answer, and a good therapist can probably help with this. Also, my doctor advised me not to drink when I took SSRIs.
posted by heatherly at 1:36 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure about Cipralex in particular, but I know some anti-anxiety medications can mess with your impulse control. If you're honestly having trouble with saying no to going out, or cutting yourself off at a reasonable hour, or things like that, it might be worth bringing it up with your doctor. If it's just that you're having a lot of fun and you don't want to cut back, you've got to set up some rules for yourself, like salvia said.

You need to recognize that just because your feelings of anxiety are gone, it doesn't mean you can behave like there aren't consequences to your actions. I know that sounds awful, but it's not meant as a judgment at all. It's tough to adjust from "omg, if I go out I'll make a fool of myself and if I drink I'll be hungover and I'll be terrible at my job and I'll get fired and my whole life will spiral out of control" to "If I stay out drinking late tonight, I'm going to feel like crap and not do well at my job tomorrow. That won't be the best thing for me to do." You're kinda on the rebound from anxiety, and that's completely normal, but you've got to figure out some coping skills to make sure you don't go too far with it.

Set a schedule for yourself and stick to it. You can say "no" to hanging out every once in a while and no one is going to fault you for it. Saying "Sorry, I've got a lot of work to do tonight, but how about later this week?" (be specific if you can) is a simple way to say you can't go now, but you definitely are interested in general.

Such common advice, but I'd definitely look into therapy, if you can afford it. You might be freed from the worst of the anxiety because of your prescription, but years of dealing with it has probably lead to building up some patterns of behavior or thought that aren't the healthiest.
posted by SugarAndSass at 1:40 PM on June 30, 2010

I can't answer the bigger questions, but I can offer a little support. I'm also 27, and full-time employed at a real job. I've got to be awake at 5:45 AM to get to my desk by 8.

But the world doesn't end when I occasionally (once every couple months at MOST, if not less) say "Fuck it, I know I've got work tomorrow but I'm going to hang out with this guy and drink a little and mess around until 3 AM, and it will suck tomorrow - I'll yawn all day and my brain will feel fuzzy - but then I'll go home and crash and wake up the next morning fresh as a daisy, per usual."

My job doesn't sound quite as high-pressure as yours: I need to think and be responsible, but no clients, per se.
posted by little_c at 2:10 PM on June 30, 2010

Jeez I just re-read your question. I misunderstood the first time. Please disregard my answer. Sorry!
posted by little_c at 2:11 PM on June 30, 2010

--Pick two or three nights a week and simply say no, period, no matter what on those nights, maybe even schedule something sober and not too social for those nights but still pleasurable (TV show you love to watch? video games? favorite take-out? something like that)

--Reschedule for other nights/weekends instead of just saying "no"

--See if you can shift your work hours to accommodate a bit of a later start

--Try to start partying earlier, happy hours are better than concerts that start at 9pm

--If you tend to end up at ladies' places, bring a bag with a change of clothes and necessities, showing up to work stinky is not kosher

--Learn how to drink more moderately (this mostly just takes time and practice, it'll help keep the weight off too), meaning, say no occasionally

I spent a lot of time in NYC with this problem because there's ALWAYS something to do I sympathize.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:11 PM on June 30, 2010

One thought: Still go out, but lose the booze on weeknights and just make a reasonable curfew for yourself (I will leave by 10:30 or 11 etc.) That way you still get to go out and mack on the ladies, but you don't show up looking like something the cat dragged in the next day at work.
posted by bananafish at 2:14 PM on June 30, 2010

Everybody understands "I'm socked in with work."
posted by rhizome at 8:11 PM on June 30, 2010

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