It can't get any worse, can it?
September 25, 2011 3:53 PM   Subscribe

How do I plan my way out of this!?

Here's my litany: I keep whirling and whirling.

Four years ago one of my best friends stole the central idea behind something I'd worked on for years. By the time I found out there was nothing I could do. That was the end of the friendship. Two weeks later, my Ex walked out. That was the end of the relationship. Soon after, I left to do work elsewhere in the country, with every intention of returning, but certainly happy to escape. Then the Ex got ugly only days after my departure. So I stayed away, and the Ex sued for divorce the same month he got engaged, less than a year later. We've been litigating a property settlement ever since.

Months passed, and I went through several forms of discovery. Then I got laid off and was unable to pay my lawyer. The suit stalled for a year, and finally I relocated again, moving back in with family, so I could use my unemployment to pay my lawyer. The case went to trial. But the courts are backed up. I was told that the judgment would be in four months ago, at the latest. No word. Nothing's happening. The damned thing is stalled. I was hoping that some kind of settlement would help with my next step. But the fact is, that's nothing to count on, nor will one be quick in coming, necessarily, even if there were a judgment tomorrow in my favor.

My employment status is beyond stalled, and I've got no money for retraining. I worry that I'm all but unemployable. I was in an industry that got hammered by the recession. In fact, it turns out all of the industries that interest me got hammered by the recession. I've had several ideas. I've explored several avenues. Over a couple of years now, more. But everything comes to naught. I feel like Rip Van Winkle. In terms of my old profession, I no longer want to do what I was doing before, and carpal tunnel also prevents me from doing what I once did. That would be fine if my skills transferred. But so far as I can see, they don't. And in the increasingly unlikely event that they do, I'd be forced back to the city where all this happened because it's closest to where I am now--and that is the last thing I want.

My social life is stalled, too: Four years ago, I had four best friends, all of whom meant a lot to me. Since then, one married and moved, another self-isolated. I made sure not to lean on anyone too heavily when it came to my troubles, so it wasn't that, but over the past few years their respective emails and contacts became increasingly rare. I called them both on it. They both conceded my point, and said that I was right, but it clearly was not going to change anything. Because my feelings had been hurt repeatedly, I gently broke off both relationships. The third I already mentioned. So now I'm just down to one.

I've also dated in the last few years, but two of the three people I dated turned out to be ... married. So I ended both of those relationships. The third (and most recent) was not, thank God, but he just doesn't seem to cope at all well, and although I'm hardly a role model, his disastrous coping skills were downright alarming. None of that matters now that I'm several states away. But I worry about the future. I'm excruciatingly lonely.

And I'm unbelievably broke, more than you can probably imagine--and $10,000 in debt to my lawyer and credit card company (used during part of my unemployment).

I have long-controlled thyroid issues which have also acted up twice over the last year--and which appear to be the reason I've lost about 40% of my hair. Twice!

And the family members I'm staying with are aging fast. In fact, they're not the people I once knew. Each of them has been hospitalized once this year. They were once big readers, but now it's nothing but TV all the time. They also rarely see friends. This doesn't disturb me, so much as it depresses me. If anything happened to either of them, the other would be lost. And I don't know what I'd do in good conscience. I worry that I could never move.

And, honestly, I don't want my adulthood to come down to this. I'm only 45.


So why am I writing you? I guess I was hoping someone would have some instructive story, or ideas for a plan, or some reason to hope. I'm tired of taking "small" steps. I want something to happen. I'm terrified of where I'll be at 50.... I'd like to have some arena of my life under control. But the fact is I don't. I'm trapped, and as a consequence I'm depressed.

(To pre-empt any therapeutic/thyroidic advice: I'd go if I could, but there are 0 resources for the unemployed in my state. I've most definitely looked. As for the thyroid, I am being well-treated for this.)

Throwaway email address at:

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Take one thing at a time. You sound overwhelmed. So focus on finding a solution to one thing - it doesn't have to be the perfect solution. In your situation I would focus on finding work first because it helps with two things - first the financial problems (at least it will help stop them getting worse) and second the social problems, because it will get you out there meeting people again. And don't worry too much about what kind of work you find. It's not about career so much as getting active again - and it's easier to find the job you want when you have a job. Find something that you won't hate too much and that you won't feel bad about bidding farewell when you find something you really want to do.

I know you said you were tired of taking small steps but there's no other way out of being trapped. The more steps you take (in the same direction) the more likely it is that the fog will start to lift, and other opportunities start to crop up. Right now you can't see your way clear so you don't want to move in case it's in the wrong direction. The truth is (at least in my opinion) that the only wrong direction is standing still.
posted by yogalemon at 4:13 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think the first big step will be for you to recognize that you're part of the problem here. I say that with all the kindness I have. The manner in which you constructed this question is so convoluted and complicated that I think you're constantly overwhelming yourself and your life with drama because you keep trying to plug little holes at the expense of other things. Drop the drama. Stop seeing the people you're seeing. Let go of the desire to make everything overwrought and regain control of your own agency.

Mostly? Just keep things simple. You want something to happen? Move on with your life and start over. Just make it happen.

Also, I find it impossible to believe that there are no resources for you in your state. Ask your general practitioner for assistance. Ask a mod to add your location to your OP so others here can source some therapy offices for you. We can only do so much with the data you've given us, but I know that we can help.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 4:15 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

OK look here. I get what you are saying. You're life has turned into crap. I get that because I have been there at roughly your age. No, seriously. I. Have. Been There. Everything you said - and it's pretty bad - I can give a similar story.

Let me tell you something about someone that I ... ahem... know very well. When that person;s life went all to hell and worse, no job, no money no friends, no self-esteem. No hope. That person one day tried to end her life. That person failed even though it was an outstanding try. Seven years after that person made the attempt , her life turned around and everything suddenly changed for the better and that person's life now became better than that person could have possibly imagined.

Here is what I learned from that person's experience. You ask how you can plan your way out of this. Here's the thing: you can't. What you do is you tread water. You wait. You do what you can do. You try small ways to make your life better. You let go of all your preconceptions of what your life should be or what you should be. This is who you are today. But tomorrow will be different if you can just keep your head above water long enough.

And that;s my recommendation to you. Stop trying to fight all the crap that has happened to you. Instead embrace it. This is where you are right now and it sucks. Survive long enough and you will be somewhere else. Somewhere better. Forget the big picture. Change your life in small ways. Instead of trying to make what you used to make - take a crappy job instead - just for today. Make a new friend. Take a class down the line. Do what you can do not what you think you have to do because you will wake up one day and it will all be better.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 4:21 PM on September 25, 2011 [28 favorites]

That seems like a lot of overwhelming things. I know, in human relations questions, it's said over and over but-- have you thought about talking to a counselor? I'm sure there's resources in your area for free therapy.

I would say with the way you explained your situation that you may be making matters worse. There's many things going on in your life, yes, but how many years has it taken for these things to happen? I'm going to guess several years. Have you tried to focus on the positive things that have happened in the past few years? That may help. Thinking only about the negative will only attract more negative. When you change your attitude, your life will begin to change. As they say, "Where there's a will, there's a way". Find your will again and get back out there! 45 is not too old to start over and rediscover the joy in your life. What used to make you happy?
posted by camylanded at 4:21 PM on September 25, 2011

It's hard to answer this post because you've kind of ruled everything out, but I understand that's how you're feeling. All we know from your post is that you're all but unemployable, and that there is no employment in any industry that interests you. I actually think that you're likely to be wrong, but I don't have any details with which I could argue with you. It kind of seems like you want to burn all bridges to your past, or maybe you've tried hard not to and feel like those attempts didn't work, so okay, here you are.

In lieu of suggesting something more profitable where you aren't starting from ground zero, I'll pass along what someone once pointed out to me, that if you go to Costco and buy those pixie sticks of sugar and light wands in bulk and go sell them at a show (and avoid getting kicked out), you can double your money or better with start-up capital of approximately $30. No, it's not really a scalable idea; no, it may not have much dignity or interest for you at 45. Maybe it's not pixie sticks, but that's my general idea for you. You're clearly an entrepreneur, and you have carpal tunnel issues (I'm assuming from desk work), so perhaps you should find something you kind of like to make and find a way to sell it, and apprentice in the industry for an hourly wage in the meantime. Suppose you like beer. Perhaps you could get a job at a brewery and really geek out on the craft. Then, ask their permission to make a few kegs of your own stuff if you pay them back for the cost of supplies, and sell a few kegs of your own brew to a local hipster place. Or, suppose you like plants. Seeds cost about $4 for 30, and seedlings sell for about $3-4 apiece, and all you have to do in the meantime is put them in dirt, in some sort of cup, and keep them watered for a few months. If you had a job at a nursery where you could bulk-buy fertilizer and learn about all of this, you could plan to have your own farmer's market stand by the spring and summer months when everyone wants to buy seedlings.

Another story that I keep in my own back pocket in case my current career goes south is of a former housemate in her 40s who suddenly realized her dreams of being part of the intelligentsia (Ph.D. etc.) were not satisfying her not even yielding her a working wage. She went to nursing school for three years, taking out massive school loans to do so, and was earning $90k / year thereafter, and -- living basically on the couch of a low-income family in the rural farmworker community where she was working at a medical clinic -- paid off her student loans in just over two years.
posted by salvia at 4:33 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

it's unfortunate that things are not working out that well in your life right now. however, the good news is that you can change many of these things!

i think your attitude towards life is hindering your ability to improve things. i can understand that you had a very difficult time once your best friend stole your central idea for something and your ex filed for divorce, but you cannot control other people or anything in your life except for yourself.

before you can actually do anything, you need to accept the things that you can't change and change the things that you can't accept, the difference between these two things is the level of control that you have.

you can't change the following things:
1) best friend stole your central idea for something
2) your ex walked out shortly after and asked for a divorce
3) stalled court case

you can change the following things:
1) employment status can be changed from unemployed to employed (continue applying for jobs so that you can become employed, earn money, and afford a lawyer)
2) health problems have a possibility of becoming better
3) don't want to move back to the city where all of this happened (i feel this way about my hometown, so my advice is do not move back and do not settle)
4) social life and dating life are stalled (work more on yourself first and then try joining clubs that interest you)

***continue taking small steps, i know that it can be frustrating especially when it feels like things are not working out in your favour, but everyone has to start somewhere. i really hope that things get better for you!
posted by sincerely-s at 4:38 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is there a community college in your area? Check out the programs they offer. Since your income is minimal you might be able to take classes for free.

Are you doing any volunteering? It will get you out of the house and you will meet new people while doing something worthwhile. Cultivate online friendships too. I've got some wonderful friends I've yet to meet in person.

Are you getting regular exercise? If you're not, start now. It will improve your attitude. There's something about feeling healthier, stronger, more flexible in your body that helps you to feel that way in your head.

Take a shit job just to stay busy. A friend of mine, a well-educated woman, is currently working at a fast-food joint and she's turned the experience into hilarious facebook posts. She gets a lot of support that way.
posted by mareli at 4:58 PM on September 25, 2011

These Birds of a Feather, unfortunately, for non-elderly, non-officially-disabled adults with no dependent children, the social safety net IS often minimal to nil. In these days of budget cuts and no funding for needed programs, childless adults are the last in line for any kind of free or low-cost help.

OP: My heart goes out to you, first of all. You have been through some very tough life events. Much as you don't want to hear it, the baby-step way is usually the way that people dig themselves out of their predicaments - AND THEY DO.

Is there any kind of free clinic in your area? Can the people with whom you live lend or give you the money to at least get your thyroid issues treated? Are there any other family that can help you? (If not, I feel for you, truly, as I have a teensy-weensy, practically non-existent blood family, so if it's not there, you're not the only one.) I have Hashimoto's and I know what it's like to not have sufficient thyroid hormone - it's well and truly soul-sucking (chemo was easier for me than not being on thyroid meds, seriously!).

Seconding community college. They often have career centers with someone who might at least guide you through an aptitude test or give you a lead to how you CAN transfer your skills - and I am betting you have more transferable skills and more options there than you think right now.

Can you hook up with a temp agency or two? That's easier said than done these days, because the agencies where I am are turning people away, BUT chances are you have office skills and computer skills that agencies can use, and not all agencies will be full up (ones like Adecco, Manpower, etc. rarely turn people away). Even if it's a crappy job stuffing envelopes for a day, that crappy job will put $60 in your pocket that you need.

Good luck to you Anon, I am pulling for you. You are NOT too old to rebirth yourself and live a good life.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:13 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Tell me if this rings a bell for you...

My gut reaction to your question is that you grew up and grew out of a lot of stuff (relationships/dynamics) that you are no longer suited for. Instead of taking the hints and changing before it all got too untenable, your once comfortable mileu dumped you. Hard. You've probably grown up and become a better person. When that happens, your relationships with folks and dynamics that don't grow in your same trajectory naturally fail. This is actually a positive thing.

I have no direct advice, just a little wisdom on recent events. Close out your connections to these failed situations and people, and you will likely move forward, almost miraculously so.

It happened to me once.
posted by jbenben at 5:38 PM on September 25, 2011 [7 favorites]

I just remembered that legal clinics and legal aid societies sometimes help with divorce issues. I'd see if you could get them to take over the legal work to eliminate those bills if you haven't already.

Follow up with a mod with your current location? And maybe with your defunct industry and job (if you haven't asked metafilter about what else it might transfer to).
posted by salvia at 5:58 PM on September 25, 2011

And sorry to keep posting. But I should've said that my friend paid rent for that couch she lived on while working all the time as a new nurse. Otherwise she sounds like a real jerk for making $90k and mooching off a very low-income household. It was something that they initiated when they heard she was looking for a place to live. I just wanted to be clear that I'm not saying "oh hai! you could get ahead by taking advantage of people worse off than you!"
posted by salvia at 8:35 PM on September 25, 2011

Social life building: Go to meetups about topics that interest you. Go a lot. Meet people. Build new relationships with new friends.

Economic life building: If your industry is gutted, give yourself permission to get a jobby-job (this includes retail) in the meantime. The regular cash flow and daily responsibility makes a person feel less in limbo, and can also provide impetus for new relationships and debt pay-off.

Romantic life building: You'll meet people at meetups but an online profile might still be useful.

Personal life building: Pick one or more of the following and go hog wild.

1) Read 35 books in a year.
2) Learn a new language (tapes, practice groups, online tutorials)
3) Learn to play a new instrument.
4) Take up a new physical activity (morning walks? evening walks?)
5) Consider what it means to you to take care of yourself (baths? stretching? make-up? meditation? new hair cut? favorite music listening?)
6) Get a penpal and correspond regularly.

Family relationship maintenance: Get you and your parentals out of the house twice a month. Movies, dinner, visits to state parks, small town walking, driving around and looking at houses, museums, SOMETHING. Low-key diversion makes for story-telling makes for relationship building = good memories.

You can do this! Your life is soooo not over. I've had to restart many times already, deep in debt too (and I'm not even 30 yet). Restarting can be done, little bits at a time. It'll probably take two years to get fully back on your feet (and I have a theory that it takes 7 years of dedicated work on something to see great success), but these things are possible. Onward and upward--
posted by whimsicalnymph at 9:57 AM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Let me tell you something about someone that I ... ahem... know very well. When that person;s life went all to hell and worse, no job, no money no friends, no self-esteem. No hope. That person one day tried to end her life. That person failed even though it was an outstanding try. Seven years after that person made the attempt , her life turned around and everything suddenly changed for the better and that person's life now became better than that person could have possibly imagined.

I also :::cough::: know a person such as described above very, very well, right down to the attempt on her life seven years ago. Plus she has thyroid disease.

Her life has also turned around, she has no debt, she completed a master's, her thyroid works with help from Levoxyl and Cytomel, she loves her still relatively new job and her professional organizations, and her life is also better than she could have dreamed it could be.

It was not easy or pretty, for her or her family or remaining friends. But she has done well.

I salute everything poet_lariat said.
posted by jgirl at 12:37 PM on September 26, 2011

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