What can make this situation better? Details inside.
June 23, 2011 7:17 AM   Subscribe

What can make this situation better?

It seems I'm in a rut and have been for the past year or so.

After graduating college, I moved to the city for an internship, the internship was great - finished my degree and still living in the area. I've gotten a part-time job, but just doesn't seem to be anything I'm heart set on. I was always questioning my major throughout college and just feel like giving up on trying to find what that job is in my field. Job hunting has come to a standstill since I don't know where to look or find I'm not qualified for any positions. Basically I feel that my major was too broad and which it was something more specific such as a teacher, engineer, etc. (I majored in Leisure studies)

Ideally I'd love to work more with people. I enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, (used to be a runner), etc. I have been thinking more and more about going back to school for physical therapy. I think the daunting factor is going back to school, taking pre-reqs in science and math which I am not very strong in and then continuing on for a Doctors in PT. Part of me is also thinking that because I live in an affluent area I am comparing myself too much to the people around me and not looking at myself and what makes me happy. I would love to work at a camp with kids, maybe even a camp where kids need recreational activities to help them overcome obstacles in their lives - drug use, depression, etc - but don't know how this could be a career path - I can't be a camp counselor for my life.

I also have a sister with a disability which I feel in the later years of my life she will become my responsibility and I would have to support her in someway financially. I want to make enough of a living to support both her and myself even if I don't even end up marrying or having a SO.

Lately, I've just been feeling worthless, unproductive, like I haven't achieved anything. It's difficult to see many of my friends moving on with their lives either career wise, with a SO, traveling..while here I am still single, feeling lost, confused, not happy, almost miserable going through some type of post-college blues.

I've been thinking of traveling to teach english abroad, but for some reason nothing seems to be working out. My plan was to be doing something different by September and the clock is still ticking and I'm still going no where. Maybe I have too high expectations for what I want to do? I would love to go to china, but can't seem to find a program that I can just be a teachers assistant which helps me to avoid having previous experience or TESOL.

What is wrong with me? Am I showing signs of depression? I think it's just a funk until I make my next move, but it's really pulling me down an getting to be overwhelming. I feel like I just can never figure things out or just sit down to actually research any of these things that I want to do. I've become incredibly lazy, all I do is work and when I come back from work I'm too exhausted to even look for jobs that I don't even know what type of job to look for because I'm so unsure on what I'm interested in. Another detail is that I haven't been eating very well- lots of carbs and sugar and usually I can kick this habit but lately it has been difficult.

I've tried therapy, but felt like I wasn't really connecting with any of my therapists. One I ended on bad terms by ignoring her and not returning phone calls. The other just never got back to me thus concluded my search for reaching out to therapists.

I guess I'm reaching out to MeFi's to gain some perspective on the situation.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say it sounds like depression, yes.

Phrased more carefully: What you describe here is something I think I know pretty well, and it has served me well to treat it as depression.

I'm not a doctor though :)

Did you know that atypical depression has "significant increase in appetite" listed as a diagnostic criteria? And is quite common.

I recommend exercise - I sometimes FORCE myself to do ANY kind of exercise! And I'll be so much less insane afterwards. If you do one desperate thing, make it scrambling out the door in running shoes.

The medicine bupropion aka Wellbutrin also worked really well for me; It didn't go well with my psoriasis though :(
posted by krilli at 7:33 AM on June 23, 2011

Anonymous, you are so not alone. I think that the period righ after college is sometimes one of the toughest for anyone. You've had a plan mapped out for you up to this point, with clear goals and clear structure and now you're suddenly an adult who is trying to figure out the "rest of your life." It can be so overwhelming.

What I want you to know is that you do not have to have all of this figured out right now, or even in the next 5 or 10 years. You are still growing and still figuring out what is meaningful in your life. To try to plan your perfect career, exotic experiences, how you will support yourself and your sister, whether you will or won't be in a long-term relationship...wow. It's too much to take on all at once. Start looking for the smaller pieces.

What can you do TODAY to make yourself feel better/healthier/happier? It can be as small a thing as taking a long hot bath, going for a hike, listening to music you really like, cooking yourself a healthy meal. Whatever that thing is, do it and make a habit of doing at least one of those things every single day.

What is the next most important thing on your list? Choose one goal. Is is getting a teaching position abroad? Is it moving somewhere else? Whatever that is, that is going to be your only other focus for a while. Now think of the steps you have to accomplish to get that done? Take a test? Interview people who have done it? Whatever it is just make a list of all that has to happen. Now start to put that in order. What do you have to do this week to get it done? What about within the next month, etc. etc. Just start moving down that list.

Here's where a therapist is potentially helpful. They can coach you through this process. Help you see those smaller steps when they might be mixed up with all the other big overwhelming stuff. They can also offer you support in making sure you are meeting those goals. Would connecting with a therapist be easier if you felt like you had specific things to accomplish in the therapy? If so, then go for it. Be up front with them and say that's what you want to work on. You ask if you are depressed, and it's hard to say for certain, but you are definitely at risk at this particular point, with all your stress to be feeling overwhelmed and maybe a bit depressed. A therapist would certainly help sort that out and could help you develop skills to manage that as well. A Cognitive Behavioral approach might be particularly helpful.

Finally, you are clearly a very caring sister and it's wonderful that you plan to be there for her in the future. Right now, you can ask for help to be sure that you'll be able to accomplish that. Talk with your parents and her care team and an attorney. They can help you all draft a good financial plan and a care plan that will take that into account. You do not have to take all that on all by yourself, and it's actually better to have a good estate plan to ensure that she will be well cared for.

Take good care of yourself. Things will get better. You sound like a smart, adventurous and caring person.
posted by goggie at 7:39 AM on June 23, 2011

It may be depression, but it may also be nothing more than a rut. I've been in these also, and the best way I've found out of a rut is to get busy doing _some_thing (which is good for depression also).

Maybe, if you focus on something other than that which you are trying to attain, you'll come across some insight as to what it is exactly that you want to do, and how to get there. Or you may even find that what you thought you wanted is not really that important to you after all.

Quit the carbs! They're addictive and slow you down in more ways than you realize. It's not clear to me if you're living with your sister or not, but if you are living by yourself, throw out all the chips, bread, frozen french fries etc.. You can't eat carbs if they are not within easy reach. No I don't want this to turn into a diet debate, but if you think you want to quit eating them then stop buying and stocking them.

I don't have specific suggestions, but perhaps start running again, painting your flat, fixing up an old bike. What about local park/recreation organizations - do they need coaches, assistants for sports? If you want to volunteer, great, do that. Key is getting the focus off of "being in a rut" and how to get out of it.
posted by dukes909 at 8:10 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some research in organizational sociology has shown that those people who are the most dissatisfied with their jobs are younger folks, especially recent college graduates. This wasn't attributed to them being impudent or whiney, but to the fact that at that age, you have a lot of expectations about what job you may want to get, but have not yet cultivated those skills you need to get them (i.e. you have not done enough networking and forming social connections that allow you to find work via informal means).

On a personal note: I totally felt like this after I had graduated from college. I had a cool, quirky interdisciplinary degree that I did not know what to do with. I had to start supporting myself. I realized that working full-time can be a tiring drag. I was an administrative assistant who was being treated badly by a bunch of guys who thought they could treat me badly because I was just a secretary. I had a lot of ideas and plans of what to do with myself of my life, but no clue how to execute them.

Now that I am a few years older, things are a lot better and I even look reasonably accomplished on paper. This is a function of the fact that as you get older, you have time to do things and accumulate experience and both start and finish plans (and know how to spiff up the old resume in order to look good, or how friends and acquaintances can be awesome resources that can help put you in contact with those things you want to do).

But what I do wish is that I had gone in to see a therapist during those lost years, because I think I would have started developing some planning and focus earlier, rather than later, and would have at least shortened the duration some of the post-college angst. A lot of the ennui may have been normal and environmental, but I also lacked some of the practical/motivational skills that I needed to help change that environment.

So...don't feel alone, know that some of this is just the awkwardness of transitioning out of college, but also maybe reconsider your anti-therapy stance.
posted by vivid postcard at 11:11 AM on June 23, 2011

Why not work in a international camp? My son worked in one in Russia, and had a great time. You could do this for a bit, and pick up some work/travel experience. And of course, you could be a life-time camp counselor. Or work with tours, Elderhostels, etc.
Protein's a mood elevator. As is exercise. I don't think you sound genuinely depressed as in clinical depression, but I think you are a bit at 6s and 7s, don't quite know what you want to do, and are a bit daunted at too many choices. So start doing something, anything, and go from there.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:36 AM on June 23, 2011

I've been feeling the same way, and I just saw my psychologist. She says its my depression coming back, and besides meds prescribes exercise.

I suggest trying more therapists. And exercise, I guess.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:21 PM on June 23, 2011

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