Is an internship program right for me?
July 10, 2010 6:51 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone heard of this Dynamy gap-year/anti-depression program? Is it the right option for me?

My mom's been frustrated at my lack of a work ethic. Please don't pile on me about how I'm lazy or bad. I hate myself for it, too. I got so depressed at college that I stayed in bed until my mom came to rescue me (about a week or two). At home, I couldn't concentrate at community college or motivate myself to do work, so I just found out I'm on probation and likely won't be going back in the short term.

This is distressing, as I was a great student and a relatively happy kid in high school. I scored a 2150 on the SAT, and had a GPA in the high B range in honors and AP classes.

My mom wouldn't let me quit college at any point, unless I had a solid job lead (which is impossible to get when you're depressed), so don't tell me I should have quit while I was still on good standing. I wanted to. I asked for a hiatus or a sabbatical, but my mom said that those were for good students and that I needed to stay in class to get my grades up.

Anyway, I've recovered to the point that I have the energy to sometimes do the things I want to do, like homebrewing or canning, but that I don't usually have the energy to do chores around the house in a timely manner. This has my mother irate. She wants to send me away until I get better. Apparently, money is no object, because she's been telling me that I'm going to this Dynamy program if I don't change in the short term (which I don't think I can do without a breakthrough or new medication, which would take about a month to kick in).

Anyway, what's the green's thoughts on this program and this state of affairs? Am I better off staying home and seeking local internships (like I want to do)? Should I consider another program? A paid internship program like Americorps? Any option is welcome. I'm desperate, and my mom urgently wants a change.
posted by mccarty.tim to Education (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely consider AmeriCorps. NCCC would give you a lot of the same experiences as the Dynamy thing, but they would pay you, plus give you an educational award to go back to school with.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:23 AM on July 10, 2010

I love the sound of Americorps. Do they offer therapy to help me through my issues, as my mom says that's why she wants Dynamy? Do they have leaders that would work to help me stay on task and develop a work ethic?
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:41 AM on July 10, 2010

mccarty.tim: As you may well know college years (ages 19-25) are a prime time for the onset or full manifestation of some of the more significant mental illnesses. Your brief description of your life certainly suggests you might be dealing with a major depressive disorder--excessive sleeping, dramatic change in academic performance , general lethargy,self loathing, self assessment, medication etc. It would also seem as if there is a significant imbalance in your relationship with your family/mother (rescuing you, "making" you do things, mother's directive behavior, demands, etc). I would hope that the discussion with your mother could refocus on what the two of you might do to deal more directly with the depression. My guess is this needs to be mediated by an independent professional. Your Mom surely loves you and wants what she believes is best for you but this does not in any way qualify her to be a your therapist or health professional. It is entirely possible that certainly life style choices you make may be exacerbating your depression but depression is depression and will not be cured by immersion into a new set situation--whether Americorp/Dynamy or what ever.
I would strongly encourage you to make it clear to your mother that you are depressed and more than willing to commit your self to a mutually agreeable rehabilitation plan developed by an independent experienced MH professional. If at age 21 you developed a serious neuro-muscular disease it might be sensible to develop an implement an appropriate exercise plan--but that does not mean it should be developed by your mother. I sincerely hope you actively examine your medication plan--little changes in dosage, augmenting with other drugs or changing drugs can make a world of difference. And I hope you are seeing someone knowledgeable and experienced with psycho-pharmacology. Who knows whether Dynamy or Americorp will help--it probably will not make things worse. To me it is like asking if you should eat Chinese or Italian if you have diabetes. It is simply the wrong question.
posted by rmhsinc at 8:54 AM on July 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm going to a psychiatrist and therapist to discuss these things, and having double and solo sessions to work on the relationship with my mom. Since I'm functioning, my mom, psych, and therapist insist that I no longer have major depression. My mom insists I can't be depressed, as I have energy for hobbies, which I didn't before. My psych thinks I might have some bipolar, but not with strong enough manic episodes that stabilizers are justified. I exercise with about an hour of bike riding each day. I've had my thyroid checked and get a doctor's checkup about yearly.

Anyway, my current situation isn't working for me. I can't get the energy to do what needs to be done, and my mom nags me for about an hour twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. That makes me even more miserable and exhausted. I've talked to my therapist about this.

So, I'm thinking I need to get out of the house. It's hard to get my mom to pay for an apartment, as she's worried I lack the skills to keep it clean, get and keep a job/internship on my own, and so on. Americorp or Dynamy sounds like a good way to get experience.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:06 AM on July 10, 2010

You should really focus on getting help before you try to go away to do one of these programs. Americorps and similar programs can be quite demanding. You're in a full-time job, essentially. I used to volunteer at a place staffed by some Americorps people. They worked, really, really hard, and a lot was expected of them. For example, in this case, children counted on them to be there every day and put in a lot of time planning programs. If you can't get out of bed to do things now, you don't want to put yourself in a situation where the consequences could be even worse if you are unable to do your duties. This is not to say a change of pace couldn't help, but don't expect this to make you better if you are doing poorly right now. I would press upon your mother that you need actual psychological treatment and if money is no object for your family, get into a really good treatment program. Your therapist could then help you determine if you are ready for participation in a program like Americorps or Dynamy.
posted by ishotjr at 9:10 AM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, I see that you are getting help, so disregard that part. But I will reiterate that if you are unable to have the energy to do things around the house now, please don't assume you will have the energy to work and do all the activities those programs involve. (I speak from experience, not with those programs specifically, but with the false assumption that a change of pace will be fine, instead of just a new thing to not be able to do fully).
posted by ishotjr at 9:11 AM on July 10, 2010

I really really think you and/or your Mom are looking for a simple and "life changing" experience. I completely agree you need to get out of the house. No wonder you feel like crap--you are not doing what you know needs to be done and your mother is behaving poorly and in a totally unproductive manner. BTW, I am not sure where your Pdoc and therapist get the idea that because you are functioning and doing what you do you are not depressed..I ran a large emergency mental health center and I can assure you there are many many high functioning folks who are depressed. suicidal, etc. There are marathoners, professionals, athletes active executives and working homemakers and conscientious tradesmen who are depressed and severely suicidal while doing what needs to be done. Now it is possible you are not depressed and either lack the skills of daily living or are simply lazy. I would posit that in either of those cases you absolutely should move out of the house and support your self. If you are depressed,in significant remission and it is complicated by behavioral deficiencies you should still move out of the house and support your self. What ever, get out of the house support yourself ( in an SRO if necessary with a minimum wage job) and decide what you need to do. I wish you the best.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:48 AM on July 10, 2010

Depression sucks, and this is a normal problem that'll hit with early adulthood. Around the same age I was a complete mess, drove my mother crazy and then gradually straightened my life out.

My depression/anxiety is best with external structure like a job, and I've tried citalopram to good effect. I would not, however, send you off to a far away internship, in fact if I were you I wouldn't start with an unpaid internship, but a very basic part time job. The self esteem boost from even a meager amount of positive cash flow helps counter act the feelings of low self worth, without the pressure of being responsible for other people's needs.

You don't seem to be getting much out of your mothers attempts to cure you. It's very frustrating to have a loved one with depression, but nagging and so forth aren't very helpful. I also think that you've got a lot going on- if you're seeing a therapist about your relationship with your mother because it's that bad AND she's your primary caretaker there's a conflict of interests going on. Getting better from depression is a painful trek, full of back sliding and self blame, and trying to get better on someone else's schedule is a nightmare.
posted by Phalene at 10:41 AM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wrote this while I was angry at my mom and frusturated. Good suggestion on Americorps. I talked with my mom, and she said that I might want to consider first taking the Dynamy program, which would be more ammenable to my problems with motivation and Aspergers, and then, if I still don't feel like college, go to Americorps to do some good and get a college scholarship.

Americorps sounds like a great experience, but I might not be ready for it at this moment. But I would really like to try it. I want to live some life outside of college, which has been a miserable time for me thus far, and then go back to school and get a degree.

I'm seeing my therapist primarily for my depression and motivation, but my relationship with my mom is an issue because it is so strained. She doesn't like nagging me, and I don't like being nagged, and we're not seeing much progress on my ability to do household chores and be a productive person.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:05 PM on July 10, 2010

I wanted to chime in because I had a very similar experience around your age in moving back home and dealing with depression. You sound really insightful about yourself and your abilities and the fact that you're turning a corner on your depression is really great.

I accomplished three years in the AmeriCorps VISTA program and half of that time was as a VISTA Leader. All three AmeriCorps programs are very different (NCCC, AmeriCorps State and National and VISTA) but they all have in common the fact that they work closely with vulnerable communities that are in need. As such, AmeriCorps is actually more stressful and more of a commitment than many normal jobs. The most successful AmeriCorps members are the ones who are there because of their passion for service and their passion for doing hard things that have never been done before for a community.

AmeriCorps was life changing for me and set me on to an amazing career in public service. However, if I had tried to join before I gained control over my depression step-by-step -- on my own and in therapy -- I would probably have failed. In fact, as a Leader I saw many members burn out because the work was harder than they expected. I also was able to build safety nets for many AmeriCorps members and community members who might otherwise have burned out, because I had learned how to be a safety net for myself.

I think your wariness about jumping right into big fixes is very wise and researching your options is a very smart thing. Self-efficacy is the idea that people gain confidence, not from climbing huge mountains, but by building up small wins. As you try on small wins, they add up and you can take on bigger goals, try more risk and achieve more significant *mastery experiences*. You train for a marathon by starting with achievable runs. If you tried to run the marathon right off the bat, you would get discouraged and probably never try again. If you only ran a single mile every day, you'd never build up tolerance. But if you slowly add to your distance everyday, you can build up to some great things. Some days you might be over eager and try too hard, so you tune it back a little the next day until you have the difficulty set just right. It's the same for mastering the piano, mastering a new video game or mastering juggling. Baby steps work!

The cool thing is that you're creating mastery experiences right now, apparently instinctually, by picking up your old hobbies and bike riding. Awesome! Bike riding was a big part of my recovery from depression as well. There are a few ways that you can build on the wins that you've already created for yourself. You could take a non-credit course in one of the areas that you're really interested in, or you could start volunteering one day a week at a non-profit that strikes your fancy. I was a volunteer manager right after AmeriCorps and consistent volunteers were more valuable than gold, no matter what their skill level. The good thing about these plans is that if it turns out that it wasn't good fit, you haven't already invested a year's commitment, you could just look for another volunteer assignment somewhere else for a while.

Also, if you do decide to do AmeriCorps later on, any experience volunteering with local non-profits will look awesome on your application and will help you have more realistic expectations about what communities and non-profits need. Feel free to send me a MeMail if you have any questions!
posted by Skwirl at 4:51 PM on July 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I just wanted to come back and say a little about my AmeriCorps experience, because it was pretty different from what other folks have said, which I think has to do with differences in programs in particular between VISTA and other parts of AmeriCorps. I did what was then called "State/Local Direct" which I guess is now AmeriCorps State and National and we also worked on many occasions with a nearby NCCC crew. I was in one of the state Conservation Corps. It was a highly structured environment, and obviously we were not working with vulnerable populations, but mostly planting trees and surveying and, when not in training about either science or management practices, generally doing hard physical labor. We worked long hours and during the day were with the crew the whole time and had little contact with anybody else outside of state employees who supervised us. Two of my crewmembers were 18 year olds recently released from juvenile detention boot camp. Several people on my crew, and in the other crews for our Corps, were using it as a second chance after failing out of college. We didn't live together, but we had very limited sick/vacation days and generally were kept on a short leash. I was a recent college graduate and used to my independence and kind of resented some of the structure, but I learned a ton about science, got really good at planting trees, and also how to use a chainsaw, rescue someone fallen through ice, and how to drive a 15 passenger van really well.

NCCC will give you a place to live and a uniform and drive you around in a big white van and generally tell you what to do and then watch you do it. Outside of the military, you can't find a more structured environment (without paying a lot of money for it, I guess). You will do a lot of good, but in general will not have huge amounts of responsibility laid upon you or have a lot of long term interactions with other people, although there will be days of working with people, unlike my conservation corps experience. NCCC is by definition people 18-24, and many of them will be in similar circumstances to yours. There is no therapy as part of the program, but you do get health insurance as a corpsmember and they have an obligation to help you use it to get help you need.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:22 AM on July 11, 2010

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