Please help
April 6, 2011 2:46 PM   Subscribe

Really need help - depression, unemployment, bleak future etc.

Hello, I am really in a bad place right now and could use a bit of help.

I took a risk and left a job nine months ago to fulfill a long time desire to move back to my home town. I was in a job with a bullying boss that was making me physically and mentally ill and I had to leave. I have great qualifications, experience and post graduate education and by all accounts, was in a good career. I couldn't stay in my job though so I thought that it was as good a time as any to make the big move.

Fast forward to now and I can't find work. Many interviews that have come of nothing but lots more resumes sent out where I have gotten no reply or a "I'm sorry we're not hiring right now" replies. Part of my problem is that I don't know many people in the industry here and networking is the best way to find a job but through reaching out on LinkedIn and intiating contact through people I worked with many years ago I have found a few well-connected people who have kindly introduced me to a few other people. However, nothing has much happened beyond my initial meeting with each person other than - we're not looking right now but I'll keep you in mind and I'll pass along your resume.

Every interview I've had I've had people tell me I shouldn't have any problem finding a job with my experience and qualifications and then suggest places that I should look all while NOT GIVING ME THE JOB. It's all well and good to say people want what I am selling, but then not making an offer. With all the mythical comapnies out there who want a person like me, I should have had a job long ago. I've even applied for coffee shops, grocery stores etc, but they are all online applications now and I never hear back from them. I just had a phone interview with Home Depot for a part-time $8.80 per hour cashier position and have an in person interview set up with them in two weeks time. I don't look down my nose at any work, I do believe that there is no shame in honest work, but I would be lying if I said I didn't feel demoralized.

Meanwhile, two of my three student loans have given me hardship deferments, one student loan has not, as I have used up all my hardship deferments with them. They have offered to set up an interest only payment if I can bring my account current first, and I can't even do that, so I am essentially defaulting on that student loan as I have no other choice. Also, did I mention that most jobs do credit checks now and as I work in finance, a bad credit check could adversly affect me and potentially keep me from getting back into the field I've worked in for the past ten years? This terrifies me - I love my job and not being able to work in it because of bad credit is unthinkable to me. Having to start over in a new career when I'm closer to 40 than 30? I can't even think about it.

Also, as I have run through all my savings and maxed out all my credit cards just trying to stay afloat, I have now had to go on food stamps. My uncle had to pay my rent this month. I am on a lease so I can't get out of it to move somewhere cheaper but it's also in a good, central location with access to all the bus lines. I don't have a car (was planning on getting one once I got a job), so I rely on public transport.

In addition to all this, my spouse - even though we had agreed early on in the relationship that we could move back to my hometown at any time if I wanted to - is very unhappy that I left (the plan was for me to move back first and find a job and then he would follow me), feels abandoned and keeps telling me that I gave up a good secure lifestyle to move back home and now can't find a job, am living in poverty and will have to put in another five years of hard work to even get back to where I left off, rather than pick up mid-career as I had hoped. This is my great fear (I worked so hard to get to where I was) and when he talks like this, it is so upsetting to me that I have to end the conversation.

I am not feeling suicidal, really. But I feel so incredibly depressed right now. Even if I do find a low level job and try to work my way up (which I know I could), it will take me years, decades, just to break even and by then I will be close to retirement, so my dreams of hard work leading to a good life are all for nothing. I also feel like I can't even afford to live right now. I read somewhere that it takes x amount of money just for a person to survive and I don't even have that. I have no income. Outside of food stamps, I am not eligible for government assistance. My family is not wealthy and I have pretty much tapped them out.

Here are my questions: Have you ever found yourself in such a bleak situation and found your way out? Do you know of anyone who has?

I am in my mid-30's. I know that is not old in the grand scheme of things but if, worst-case scenario, I get a very low level job and work my way up, is there any hope for me of digging my way out of my huge debt and being able to enjoy a simple lifestyle with any sort of financial security? At this age?

I'm tryinhg to remain proactive wrt finding a job - getting my resume out, hitting up people I know for networking opportunities etc. I have a phone interview tomorrow morning and I'm attending an industry event on Friday (which, at $15, I could not afford, but i need to get out and try to meet as many people as possible), but I'm starting to feel a bit of learned helplessness - I'll do the interview and I'll put my best effort into it, but with all the other first interviews I've had that have gone no further I can't get my hopes up anymore. Have you had the same feeling and how have you dealt with it?

Also, I have read all the past threads on here about depression and I'm trying to do all the right things - get out to walk my dog every day, shower every day, try to eat healthily, try to get out with friends etc. but the blackness is still settling over on me, pretty hard. If you have any other thoughts on how to combat this, I would love to hear them.

One year ago, I was in a steady job making a good living and had a lifestyle envied by many. Today I am living in poverty, deep depression, and near-homelessness. If you know of any stories of people who have gotten through something similar, I would love to hear it. I would love to hear someone say that I did not make the biggest mistake of my life which I will never recover from.

Also, I'm sorry if I come across as whiny or complaining in this. I am trying not to, really, I just cannot see anything clearly right now, I am in a great deal of pain and while I do appreciate people being fully honest with me, please at least be kind.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (21 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I have a question for you. It sounds as though your spouse is equally without resources, equally poor. Is that right?

If not, I'm puzzled as to why you seem to be suffering through this totally on your own?
posted by tel3path at 2:58 PM on April 6, 2011 [8 favorites]

I'm so sorry to hear about this excruciating situation. Have you tried a temp agency? Can your college career office be of any help?
posted by lakeroon at 3:02 PM on April 6, 2011

The economy has been very bad. And now it's starting to recover. And your hard work looking for a job will pay off soon.
posted by orthogonality at 3:11 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is an increasingly common occurrence both on AskMe and in real life (I've been there myself, and am not totally out yet). The economy is really fucked up, and it's not your fault, but there's also nothing you can do to change it (unless your field is corporate finance, in which case it's totally your fault). Anyway, point is, you're not alone. There are many of us in the same situation, and a lot of us are getting organized to work for real systemic change.

Really, this ends two ways: either the economy picks up in a real way (not this "jobless recovery" shit we've got going on now) and you'll be hired back at a good job, and maybe you've lost a couple year's worth of pay but that isn't much in the long run; or the global economic system as we know it fully collapses, in which case the social fabric of America will dramatically change, and there's no way of predicting what that will mean.

There's no easy answer as for what to do right now. Take the Home Depot job if you can, and be aware of the chip on your shoulder and the feeling of superiority you have as someone likely to be the only graduate-educated person among your co-workers. They have a lot they can teach you. It won't be a job that defines you. Make sure you have real work, your life's work, that's independent from your job, that you can come home to. Then, when whatever change that happens happens, you'll have something to show for your time other than working a menial job.
posted by Jon_Evil at 3:20 PM on April 6, 2011 [5 favorites]

I agree that more information is needed regarding why you are in one place and spouse is in another. If Operation Return to Hometown isn't working, why can't you go back to the original location and move back in with your partner? I am confused on the logistics and details of this... but it seems that you two have managed to eliminate the benefit of the entire reason that people choose long-term companions: to manage life's ups and downs together.

Is it that you would rather be in Hometown but alone and depressed, then in Original City with your partner? Is the family/old friends circle in Hometown truly more valuable to you right now than the greater professional opportunities that Original City seems to offer?
posted by pineapple at 3:33 PM on April 6, 2011

Speaking from personal experience I think you'll feel much better once you start working at Home Depot. Yes and do sign up with a temp agency.

I'm sorry to nag here, but why do you refer to your husband as your spouse? That's a term you'd find on a legal document. You clearly aren't doing it to hide his gender since you go on to use the word 'he'.

I can see why he feels abandoned. You make it sound like the purpose of his calling is to point out all the ways in which you're a failure and always will be. If you think that really is his purpose then maybe you want to abandon him - I would. Or is his point that this would be solved if you'd go back to him? If so, why haven't you said anything about this option in your question? I get that you needed to get away from your boss but why was your home town the only place of refuge? You couldn't live with your husband and find work in the same town?
posted by tel3path at 3:44 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't offer solid answers to your questions about what will happen. But I sympathize deeply with your position. Some people tend to blame everything that goes wrong in their lives on outside causes and get pissed off and bitter. Some people tend to blame everything that goes wrong on themselves and get depressed. From reading this question, it sounds like you're more the second type. The truth is, neither outlook is balanced. We make choices, but a lot of situations are out of our hands.
You took a risk that I think was brave and commendable -- don't beat yourself up for it. I think you showed a lot of courage, and good priorities, in removing yourself from a toxic environment and trying to find a happier job and town... life is short, after all. Unfortunately, there's a huge adverse situation that's out of your hands, and out of all our hands, really. The economy really, really sucks right now. You're far from the only person suffering because of it.

So I would recommend a few strategies for viewing the current situation a more positive light. Realize a few things:

1. You are a brave person who knows what they value and is willing to take risks, and those traits will be your best assets in getting out of this situation.

2. You know that you're hireable, that you're a desirable employee and that you have the potential for a good job and successful career. So don't allow yourself to internalize the rejection, even though that's the easiest thing to do. It's not you. It's not you. It's the economy.

3. Your desperation right now is pushing you to connect with all kinds of people in your field. All those people who are complimenting your resume but can't hire you due to budget constraints are valuable connections. Work on those relationships now. Same with the industry event on Friday. It's hard to focus on building relationships when you NEED money now, but try to do it anyway... eventually the money will start flowing again. Then, suddenly, you'll know a lot of people who can help you and may be inclined to do so. Relationships are a big asset, sometimes the reward is just really delayed. If you'd been offered a job by the first person you met with, you never would have had time to begin building this community in your new town.

I know right now your concerns are the concrete omg how do I pay bills stuff. I wish I could offer more help on that, I've been in that position, and I know it's awful. Unfortunately I can't. But I do think that the first step is keeping the depression, self-doubt and hopelessness at bay.

Good luck.
posted by crackingdes at 3:55 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

You are in a scary situation. Many people are in comparable situations these days. All hope is not lost. What you're doing is convincing yourself that hope might be lost, but it isn't. You can't predict the future. But you can impact it and more importantly you can impact how you feel about it and about yourself. As someone else recommended on another Mefi thread this book talks exactly about how your feelings and thoughts are impacting your life right now and how to win yourself over and instead of believing there is no future to give yourself one.

Another thing, about your interview descriptions, you're probably projecting something in those interviews that isn't helping you. According to studies your best bet in an interview is to just be a as nice a guy as you can. Be someone they would like to work for. It's not about your qualifications, just what you project. Knowing that you can become more optimistic and with that more relaxed, you should be able to come to a place where you can become someone people just want to work with.
posted by blueyellow at 4:02 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

>> I'm sorry to nag here, but why do you refer to your husband as your spouse? That's a term you'd find on a legal document. You clearly aren't doing it to hide his gender since you go on to use the word 'he'.

Just a data point for tel3path: I use the word "spouse" far more often than I do "husband". On MeFi, it's not for anonymity or to keep him at arm's length, but mostly out of respect for others because it's a gender-neutral term. Then, at home and in person, it's actually a mutual term of endearment. So, you know.

posted by pineapple at 4:08 PM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

Look, you are married - for better or worse. Right now you are in the latter camp. You have owned up to your mistakes and fears with strangers. Now it is time to have the same candid and frank conversation with your spouse.

You are responsible for your actions, but you are not responsible for all the events that have left you in your current state. Should you have left your job? Yes, absolutely. When you did? None of us can answer that question without relying on the 20/20 hindsight we have now.

Things will get better, in that you will find work, if even just the Home Depot gig temporarily. The question is what can you learn between now and then. You will most assuredly not always be where you are now. Even if your credit is scarred, your husband abandons you, and your dog runs away, your experiences thusfar guarantee you have more options than just a greeter at wal-mart. It may take years, but you will recover emotionally and financially.

When I went through a crisis like this I thought a lot of the Taoist story of the old man in the river who plunges throgh rapids and over the falls. Upon rescue he his rescuers tell him he could have been killed and that he should have fought to get out. The old man responds that he survived precisely because he did not struggle. You will ride through this.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:27 PM on April 6, 2011

Deep breath... First if you were in a good place financially a year ago then you could not have wrecked your entire financial future in one year.

I graduated from law school in May and I didn't find a job until January, so that was 7 or 8 months of unemployment and I had nothing to live on other than a weekend hosting gig, some temp work, and some money left over from student loans so I think I've been there. I went on literally hundreds of interviews before I found a job and it was demoralizing and defeating. So I know how you feel.

My thoughts:

1. You seem like you are doing mostly the right things, but have you considered volunteering your skills somewhere? For example, I'm an attorney and there is always a lot of pro bono work out there for me. I have a friend who is an accountant and he volunteers his time preparing tax returns for low income people. It won't pay, but it will (a) give you a sense of accomplishment; (b) possibly help make you connections; (c) give you something to put on your resume; (d) be an avenue to keep your skills current. I think doing something positive and productive with your time would really boost your self confidence.

2. Figure out a way to be in the same place as your spouse. Compromise if necessary. My husband and I feel that it's important to our marriage that we always live together. When I decided to get married, I vowed that he would be the most important thing in my life. More important than my job or my income. So for me that's part of being married. We have to be together. And he's an important part of my mental health. I need him for support.

3. Try other types of not job related networking just to get out of the house. Try general volunteering or a running club or a knitting club etc. Getting out the house and being social will help with the depression but it will also get you meeting people and those people may be helpful in your job search. You never know.
posted by bananafish at 4:53 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

It sounds like this dogged insistence to move back to your home town has pretty much cost you everything. You've left your spouse, you're unemployed, depressed and almost homeless. Yet you're still there. Why? It's obviously not working. I think you need to admit that it's not working and change it. Move locations where you can find a job, or move back to where your spouse is and share the costs/stress together - isn't that marriage is supposed to be, supporting each other?

Sometimes you need to say that you tried something, it didn't pan out and then move on to find another solution instead of staying in a situation where it just isn't happening for you. I'm not saying you'll never find a job where you are - it just doesn't sound like you'll find one in the immediate time frame you need to and if that's the case you may be better off back with your husband where (hopefully) at least one of you has a job so you don't go under until you can find one too. At this point you need to think entirely practically instead of how you wish the situation could be.
posted by Jubey at 5:03 PM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

Where are you located? You can meet other MeFites through meetups on the MetaTalk page. I moved recently and have done this. I've made some friends and potential work connections.

I'm in a similar position to you, but it seems like personal income fluctuates a lot these days. I've had my $8/hour jobs and my $16/hour jobs. Of course things can get better! You are probably not doomed to work your way up from minimum wage any more than I am.

Try getting an appointment with your state's employment agency. MeFiMail me if you'd like some help finding resources. Or you can set up a gmail account and have the mods post it in this thread.
posted by xenophile at 5:03 PM on April 6, 2011

One year ago, I was in a steady job making a good living and had a lifestyle envied by many. Today I am living in poverty, deep depression, and near-homelessness.

These two sentences seem kind of contradictory. "Lifestyle envied by many" reads as a euphemism for "spent lots of money in noticeable ways" (e.g. dinners out, expensive clothes, vacations, big apartment, etc) although maybe I'm misreading you. Obviously what's past is past. I only bring this up to say that good money management can give you a cushion for times like these.

It seems to me like you have two major emotional wants here: you want to live in your hometown, and you want to do challenging work. If you had to choose between Home Depot in your hometown or a job like your old one in your old city, which would you pick? If I were you I'd figure out what was most important to me, and make the other sacrifices to get it.

Anyway, I'm sorry you're going through such a rough patch. Good luck!
posted by shaun uh at 6:33 PM on April 6, 2011

It sounds like you should go back and live with your husband. Why would you stay and suffer alone when you have a husband? It seems like job prospects in your field in your original city were better and you had a better network to work.

Moving back to your hometown was a mistake in this economy if you hadn't lined anything up before you left your old job. If you had looked before you left, you might have realized it was going to be harder than you thought. Now, you've let your bullying boss force you into near poverty. (And I do realize the difficulty of job hunting at a distance and the horrible boss situation.)

I don't understand why you would take the Home Depot job instead of breaking your lease and moving back with your husband to get a job and on your feet again. The HD job will only marginally improve your financial situation. The student loans, credit card debt and living expenses can't be fully covered for $8/hr. Try the move again when you've got sufficient resources set aside.

If you decide to keep at it in your hometown, you need to get more help with your job search. As mentioned already, visit your state's unemployment office. They really do tend to have more resources than people realize. Also, check with your library and Goodwill Industries. And ask for feedback when you interview and don't get selected. Ask nicely if they have any suggestions on how you can improve interviewing skills. And if they do give feedback, just listen and thank them for their advice. Don't try to explain why you said or did something during the interview.
posted by shoesietart at 6:40 PM on April 6, 2011

Mod note: From the OP:
To provide some context, I was never happy in the city I was in, I moved there to be with my husband and stayed for longer than I intended because of the bad economy. It is thousands of miles away from my home town. I did look for work there when I knew I couldn't stay in my job but couldn't find any. I had lots of friends in the industry in my home town telling me I'd have no problem finding work here (I did do my research before I left).

My husband and I have had an up and down marriage though we love each other very much and we would both like to make things work. But I did come to the conclusion a few years back that I was staying in a city I was unhappy in with a husband that I was fighting with a lot and I didn't want that to end up being my life story. This coupled with a job that was pushing me close to the point of a breakdown meant I had come to the point where a decision had to be made. I could go more into the details of our marriage but I won't because that's a whole different problem and right now I am just trying to figure out how to live day to day and have any sort of hope for my future.

I have always been the bigger earner in our marriage. He is still working but doesn't have a lot left over every month, especially as I am not there to help him out anymore.

In any case, I know there are issues around my marriage, but I didn't really want to get into it here. We both want to make it work but there is just nothing we can do wrt making this happen until I am able to get a job and have at least a little stability in my life. Then I will be ready to tackle the longer term question of what is going to happen with us. I appreciate all input but I'd prefer if this didn't turn into a discussion focused primarily on my marriage.

Thank you ALL so much for your very thoughtful answers so far, especially to crackingdes and Nanukthedog - both of your responses made me cry. I just want to know that there is still hope for me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:44 PM on April 6, 2011

I understand you were never happy in the previous city, but you're not happy now. In fact, the situation seems much much worse. You've justified why you left - a miserable job and marriage, though apparently an enviable lifestyle?? But where you've gone isn't better. An $8 hour job isn't going to get you out of your debt situation, but it could make it worse.

You said you've been the main income earner and supported your husband. He's making enough himself to get by, maybe this is his chance to support you, it could bring you closer together if you moved back there. I know you hated it there but you hate it where you are now, with multiple added issues on top. It's not that I'm not understanding your back story, it's just that it doesn't change your current situation. You need financial support. You need better job prospects. Your hometown isn't offering that at the moment, the reasons you moved back there don't exist, there are no jobs and it's not making you happy. The old city may do, we know you found work there before and we know your husband is there.

I don't want to appear unkind but you seem to want people to tell you all you have to do is go to a networking group or a meetup or this or that and it will all be fine, you'll meet someone who'll hand you an amazing job! And everything will work out. But none of us can guarantee that, we can only judge it on the situation you're in now. If you had 6 months of savings, I would say absolutely, all great ideas. And they are but how much longer can you afford to do this, you can't even cover rent now? If I were you, I'd give yourself until the end of the month, network hard, hand out all your details then if nothing happens by then, move back in with your husband.

Keep in touch with the people you've met in your industry in hometown - you've now done the legwork, so if something comes up you can go back and interview. In the meantime, you can try and find work in your old city. That way you're working both cities at once without going deeper into debt.
posted by Jubey at 7:17 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was unemployed for almost two years, and pushed beyond the breaking point...until today, when I landed a job. I start tomorrow. I hope that it pans out, and allows me to get back to some sort of normalcy. Here's my advice. Yesterday, when applying for jobs, I thought 'what the hell!', and tweaked my cover letter that I had been sending out for job after job, month after month, making me feel lucky if I even got a rejection letter in the mail (Yay! They at least noticed my app), to something much strongly worded, yet still honest.

The first line did read something like 'I would like to be considered for...' to 'I want to be hired today for....'

Be unpleasantly determined, forcefully & completely overconfident.
(I thought I was verging on dickish)

The man that hired me said it was because of my strong, yet well expressed language, showing my determination.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 8:56 PM on April 6, 2011 [10 favorites]

My situation wasn't as bleak as yours -- no student loans, no food stamps -- but I was down to my last month's rent with no car and no job. I moved to New York to solve the car problem, and a woman suggested I try temping. I listened, and my second day was a temp-to-perm assignment that wasn't advertised that way. I had the skillset my boss was looking for, so after six months or so, he let my supervisor go and put me in charge of the department, hiring me full-time. Amazing firm, amazing compensation ... it's been almost eight years now, and I haven't once thought about going anywhere else. (Obviously, I married that woman.)

I put all this out there because you -- naturally, being depressed -- seem convinced of some pretty negative outcomes, like never catching up financially. I wanted to offer another data point. I am not tall, or especially charismatic (although I am, of course, impossibly handsome), I had no experience in the industry, I didn't have an in at the firm ... I was lucky, sure, but I wouldn't say lottery lucky. I had the right skillset for the opportunity, and I made a connection with the boss in the time I was temping, and I don't know that I had any more going for me than that, other than a smart girlfriend who knew how exponentially I'd be increasing my exposure by meeting with some temp agency recruiters. So I would argue that it would be helpful to remind yourself that it's natural to be down about everything right now, but objectively, great things happen to people all the time, and as you're working at it, there's every chance the next person will be you.

Another time, just before graduating college, I had little enough money that they turned my power off. More luck for me: I have some kind of outlook that makes me appreciate those times, even as they're happening. I take them as karma, a challenge that soon will be compensated for with good fortune, and think about how that good fortune will last for so long, it'll be hard not to take it for granted and forget about the difficult present conditions. What's happening to you is happening to you, but how you see it is, to some degree, a choice.
posted by troywestfield at 6:12 AM on April 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Keep cheerfully networking-- "Saw this article about the wine country, I remembered that you wanted to vacation there, blah blah, I'm still in the market for a job, so please let me know if you hear anything!"

When you are in a job interview, "close" for the job. After you describe your skill set, ask, "Do you think that this skill set matches what you're looking for?" After you describe your work ethic, ask "would that be a good fit for your organization?" Later, blatantly ask for the job, explaining what you offer to them. "With my skill set, I could hit the ground running, no learning curve. The company has a serious, formal atmosphere, and my work ethic fits right in. I would like this job very much. Do you consider me a strong candidate? If you have identified any shortcomings in my portfolio, can I convice you that I can overcome that challenge?" &Etc
posted by ohshenandoah at 4:20 PM on April 7, 2011

It sounds overwhelming for you right now. And major financial problems will shake the strongest relationship. I know you don't want to talk about your marriage but the stress and lack of stability and commitment you are feeling from your personal life may be affecting how you perform in interviews. I think you and your husband need to start acting like a team, combine your resources into just one household and start pulling on the same end of the rope. Either return to him or he needs to find a job in your hometown. Have you looked into returning to school? It would give you the loan deferments and explain the gap in your employment. Good luck, you are doing so many things right in a shitty situation and horrible economy.
posted by saucysault at 4:41 PM on April 7, 2011

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