Lucy Van Pelt, where are you when I need you?
September 1, 2010 10:58 AM   Subscribe

So, I need advice with my life. Just as I'm starting to get comfortable with the idea of going to see a psychiatrist, it looks like I may be able to get a new job that is awesome on all fronts except no benefits. Inside: My problems. Are they worth seeing a psychiatrist for or will they pass? Is there some other non-therapy way to get through this stuff?

Okay, so I guess I need to start this out with a little bit about myself. I'm 24, I'm a guy, and I'm gay. I've had some serious problems with coming out - problems that have majorly derailed my life. Without going into too many details, I basically failed out of my first semester of college upon falling for one dude, and ended up moving a way from a great, supportive group of friends to a soul-crushing job in pursuit of another guy (one that has literally sent me an itemized list of things he didn't like about me - what great taste I have). Now, for the first time in 7 years I'm by myself, and I think I'm ready to move on, but I don't know what I want to move on to.

I guess at the heart of my current problem is that I don't know what I want - professionally, romantically, academically - no idea, and this has kept me stagnant for the last five or so years. Since my first semester of college I've taken a handful of classes, and halfheartedly would like to finish up my degree, however when I'm actually in school I feel no motivation to actually do the work necessary to get to the other side. (I'll be honest it's because I - great ego that I am - tend to feel that the coursework is too easy and I get bored with it) Compounding this is the fact that with the job I currently have I've been given the chance to get paid to write - which is what I was going to school for - and I've found it thoroughly unfilfilling.

On top of that, I'm still not 100% comfortable with being gay. After a lot of introspection, I've come to the conclusion that this is based on some tremendously deep seated "othering" of the gay community - something that has me constantly fighting against myself even though I've ostensibly been out for a good 5 or 6 years. I'm trying to take steps toward the community - I've been making efforts to hang with other LGBT friends more often as well as particpate in events in my very gay friendly city (New Orleans). I went to the NOAIDS task force's gay prom last weekend and have plans to attend Southern Decadence this weekend - however these feel like token gestures as I've yet to actually find myself even remotely comfortable while I'm there. Of course, this may have more to do with my general unease with my self-image (I'm short, chubby and let's just say the years of stagnation has done wonders to my outlook on life) than anything else, but still, I guess I'm just not quite sure.

SO with all that in mind, I think I've found a job that might work out for me. It involves a lot of travel - something I've never done before because I'm perpetually broke - has comparable pay and best of all has nothing to do with the reprehensible people I currently work for. The only problem is that it doesn't (currently) offer benefits. The job I have now has great benefits - especially for mental health - and I was just starting to slowly feel comfortable with going see a psychiatrist.

I haven't been yet, so I guess if I take this new job I won't know what I'm missing, but I guess the question is, are these problems big enough to keep a job I hate (for the time being) so I can get some psychiatric help - or are these the type of problems that you just work through on your own? Has anybody else gone through something like this? What helped you figure out what you want?
posted by The Captain and Ten Eels to Human Relations (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I realize this is sort of all over the place, it's a bit cloudy in my head too. If you need clarification on anything, let me know.
posted by The Captain and Ten Eels at 11:02 AM on September 1, 2010

Best answer: I don't know if a psychiatrist specifically is the best fit for you -- psychiatrists are MDs who specialize in mental health problems within the medical model -- but definitely, definitely counseling of some sort is totally worth it. I spent five years paying out of pocket weekly for my counselor, and it was money and time unbelievably well spent, even had I earned that money selling limericks at the bus station for a nickel a line. So much of life is just so much easier and more productive, not to mention happier, when you're not gaslighting yourself at every turn.
posted by KathrynT at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You do realize that a psychiatrist is an MD who treats people primarily with medication, yes? If you are among the "worried well" who simply needs help sorting out your life, a psychotherapist may be a better choice.
posted by Wordwoman at 11:15 AM on September 1, 2010

Response by poster: Ha, yes, meant psychotherapist, sorry. Feel free to mentally correct those, although you know, a lack of education on the entire subject of mental health is probably a part of the problem as well.
posted by The Captain and Ten Eels at 11:17 AM on September 1, 2010

Best answer: Your local LGBT center may offer low cost individual and/or group therapy. You can also try a local university to see if they offer counseling services (sometimes with a highly-supervised grad student) on a sliding scale.
posted by availablelight at 11:18 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's probably saying something that your current job offers great mental health benefits - yuk yuk yuk.

I'm young-ish too and have felt perpetually lost/unsure for most of my 20's as well. With that in mind, and only because I am so good at talking myself out of things and wish I weren't, I want to encourage you to take the new job! Trying new things and opening your eyes to whole new worlds can do wonders in the self-image/esteem department and may be all the therapy you need.

Have you been offered the new job already?

To be sneaky, if you leave your current job at the beginning of a month, your health benefits could last until the end of that month. You could get a few visits in to a psychiatrist before the month was out. Just a suggestion. :)

I know health benefits are nothing to sneeze at (I can say this authoritatively, as I have been without them for about 3 years and just charged a fortune on a crop of doctor's visits) but there are plenty of individual plans out there you can buy into if you decide the new job is right for you.

Good luck!!!
posted by slyboots421 at 11:20 AM on September 1, 2010

Best answer: Nothing that you have told me about yourself suggests that you have a serious mental illness that would require psychiatric treatment, although you could benefit from some therapy as KathrynT and Wordwoman point out. I honestly believe that having a job you like, and working for people whom you like (or at least do not violently dislike) will do more for your overall happiness and state of mind than therapy will. We spend a very large chunk of our time every day (or almost every day) at work, so it is critically important for that experience to be as pleasant as possible.

There are a number of ways to approach the problem of being unhappy with your self-image. While you will never be as popular in the gay community while you are chubby as you might have been if you were slender, nonetheless, there are those who like chubby guys. And if you want to appeal to a wider range of potential boyfriends, it is not impossible to lose weight. Presumably you will always be short, but that doesn't really matter. Short people can be just as cute and lovable as tall people. Bear in mind that in sexual terms, you are still in the prime of your life, at the tender age of 24 (the prime of your life lasts roughly until 35, when the first bloom of youth has passed).

There is nothing unusual about going through a variety of experiments in order to find out who you should be with, or what you should be doing. Some people are fortunate enough to get everything right on the first try, but most of us have to try many times. Just keep trying.
posted by grizzled at 11:27 AM on September 1, 2010

Best answer: Talk to a therapist - preferably one that has experience with LGBT clients. You'll be amazed at how much relief you'll get from that. Pay for it yourself; it's worth it.
posted by Gilbert at 12:33 PM on September 1, 2010

Best answer: Some thoughts:

1) Therapy of one stripe or another (psychoanalysis, cbt, pick your flavor) will probably help, or at the very least, help you organize the questions you have in a way that can let you deal with them...

2) This needn't be an either-or choice between crap-job-and-therapy or good-job-and-no-therapy. Lots of therapists work on a sliding scale. There are group sessions you can go to. Your local LGBT center (as availablelight points out) will have resources along those lines.

3) Although it's easy to imagine that everyone else is living happy lives full of meaning and purpose and you're stumbling around blindly, I think the vast majority of people don't really know what they want. And even the lucky few who know EXACTLY what they want... some of the time they don't get it. Don't worry. You're not falling behind, you're just a human.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 12:36 PM on September 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks guys! You pretty much confirmed my suspicions that I should go ahead and pursue both therapy and a new job. I think "worried well" pretty much sums up the way I'm feeling about my life right now, and all I need is somebody to help me pick apart the knots.
posted by The Captain and Ten Eels at 1:32 PM on September 1, 2010

Yeah if I was you I would just decide I would pay out of pocket for therapy for the time being. Just decide to. If you can save $300 bucks that's enough for a few sessions where I live. In my area there are therapists that are willing to work with clients on a sliding scale, and I see no harm in approaching some therapists and asking for that.

Srlsly though, I felt SO lost through most of my 20s. Seeing a therapist really did help. The best thing is, it's not like you have to see a shrink forever even. Sometimes just a few months can get you past the stuck point and into a clearing, so the expense may not be that big of a deal.
posted by Rocket26 at 5:46 PM on September 1, 2010

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