How do I develop basic adult habits at 27 after all this time living like a teenager?
October 22, 2011 3:19 PM   Subscribe

I am a 27 year old girl and I'm still living like a teenager or college student. I have no adult habits and put absolutely no effort into taking care of myself. I don't understand how I got this way or how other people my age have transformed into real adults. I don't even know what I'm asking.. I guess I need help figuring out how to develop good habits, how to take care of myself, and hear from people that have experienced this same problem.

My daily life is so unhealthy and unstable. I live with 3 other people in an incredibly cheap slumlord type of house. I have never been able to stick to any healthy habits. I eat out for every single meal. I don't brush my teeth every day and when I do get around to it, it's always an afterthought. I might shower twice a week, but its incredibly random when I do. My room is literally a landfill of clothes etc and very embarrassing. I am so lazy and without someone pushing me to do something, I could just watch tv all day. I will go on and off, weeks of drinking heavily, and not drinking at all. Usually the drinking will happen based on boredom and depression. I spend money stupidly (mostly on eating out, bars, stupid shopping, musical equipment). I haven't had a relationship in 5 years and I'm sure this lifestyle plays a big factor.
I'm stressed out non-stop 100% of the time about every single thing in my life. I have extreme insomnia because my mind races and is overwhelmed with what a mess everything in my life is. It seems like nothing is together. I can't even handle my basic daily routine. Sometimes I'll be able to be good for a week, brush my teeth every day or work out every day, but the longest that will ever last is a week or two.
I have an ok job that also pays ok, but because I'm so terrible with money (plus student loans) I can't afford to move out on my own right now. I don't have a great support system here, so I can't really rely on friends to lean on with this.
Please, if anyone has any suggestions or things that have worked for them, let me know.
posted by chickibaby to Human Relations (42 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
That's not acting like a teenager. That's acting like a person who might be seriously depressed or dealing with extreme anxiety. Have you tried therapy?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:22 PM on October 22, 2011 [67 favorites]

Agreed. This sounds like a serious mental health issue that you're self-medicating with alcohol. It's really, really common for people who suffer from depression, anxiety, and related illnesses to believe that they are just lazy or unmotivated or just need to get their acts together, when in fact, they're doing everything possible to stay afloat in the face of crippling mental health problems. Please talk to a doctor or other qualified professional.
posted by decathecting at 3:27 PM on October 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

Obviously this isn't going to solve your problems for you, you're still going to have to do the work on your own (and I think you might benefit a lot from therapy, but I'll let others with more experience speak to that), but I like this habit tracker to help me keep on task. Mine has things like "eat fruit" and "read for at least 30 minutes" and "call family"--simple things I think I should be doing more often, but for whatever reason don't. You can assign point values to different tasks, and I find that having a daily point goal encourages me to pick up a few good habits a day without feeling overwhelmed by an idea that I need to change all at once.

I agree with PhoBWan, though, that you seem to be in a situation much more severe than having teenage-seeming habits.
posted by phunniemee at 3:28 PM on October 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

IANAD, IANAP. But this sounds very familiar to me, from when I was struggling with serious depression. My room was a landfill of clothes and detritus, like 18" deep from wall to wall. I would just. . .not. . . shower or brush my teeth. I felt guilty every time I spent money, but did it anyway. I couldn't sleep, but I also couldn't get out of bed. And I really honestly felt like my only problem was that I was lazy and unfocused and good for nothing, that if I just sucked it up and tried harder I would be fine.

Guess what. I wasn't lazy and unfocused and good for nothing; I was sick, and my disease was lying to me. Good therapy and good drugs got me to the point where I could manage my life, and now it's pretty OK, though I still have my ups and downs. I would strongly, strongly, STRONGLY urge you to check out the therapy resources available to you. If nothing else, call your doctor and say "I think I might be depressed." If you don't have a PCP, memail me and I will walk you through the experience of getting in touch with someone.

If you're reading this and thinking "no, no, no, I can't possibly go to a therapist, those are for people with REAL problems, my only problem is that I suck," then consider that my depression lied to me in that exact same way for YEARS.
posted by KathrynT at 3:28 PM on October 22, 2011 [25 favorites]

Response by poster: Quickly: I would love to do therapy but my insurance is running out very soon and I can't afford it right now otherwise.
Also, I've never had this stuff together. I agree that I'm depressed, but there has never been a time in my life when I was able to take care of myself.
posted by chickibaby at 3:30 PM on October 22, 2011

I never had either. I was lucky enough to fall apart completely when I was 22; in retrospect, I first started showing symptoms when I was 18 months old. If your insurance is running out soon, then all the better reason to start now.
posted by KathrynT at 3:33 PM on October 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

nthing this is classic depression. therapy and meds would be my rec. you can get yourself stabilized and in a better situation and begin the process of learning healthier lifestyle habits. it is a PROCESS so just put your head down and commit to a long haul even if it seems daunting. I have been there and its very worth the work! good luck :)
posted by supermedusa at 3:33 PM on October 22, 2011

Call around- lots of therapists will work for cheap if you're broke. Also, it might pay for itself if it cuts down on what you spend on impulse buys and alcohol. (Man, that stuff's expensive these days!)
posted by small_ruminant at 3:33 PM on October 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Start small. Remember mark twain's advice "Do something everyday that you don't want to do." The biggest challenge in doing housework is starting it. Invite people over to give yourself a reason to clean up. Set alarms to remind you to brush your teeth.

Eating out is a big cost in your budget, but eating in isn't just as simple as not going out. You need to have a kitchen that has the tools you need to prepare the food you want. Based on how you describe your room, I'd imagine a kitchen that has few clean dishes, and either not enough or too much food in the fridge. Keep that in mind when you start to make your own food: What can I make that requires few dishes, utensils, and fridge items?

for motivation, I suggest that at the end of each week, you go to your online banking and look at all the debits you make. (if you don't already, only use your debit/credit card when you eat out. that way you can keep track of what you spend where.) Add them all up. I'm always surprised when I spend more money on food than I do on rent.

The third step to eating in is having food available to prepare. On the weekend, go to the store and get food to make into one recipe that you find online. Start with a shepherd's pie. four cans of veg, one lb of beef, and some potatoes or biscuit or corn bread, in the oven.
posted by rebent at 3:46 PM on October 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Is your insurance running out because of job issues? I'm confused by why you have an ok job but insurance running out.

I'd look into mental health resources in your state/city. If you want to post or memail your information I'm happy to help you look. I just went through this with my best friend, who is 27 and could have written this same posting.
posted by quodlibet at 3:49 PM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

In addition to the great advice about depression, I would suggest getting a thorough medical checkup with blood work done (including thyroid). You may have an underlying vitamin deficiency or illness that is causing your depression/anxiety/lack of motivation. I only recently found out (at the age of 30) that I had severely low Vitamin D levels and suffer from hypoglycemia and treating both of them has vastly helped my depression problems, lack of motivation and energy levels.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:49 PM on October 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yes, you do need therapy. Getting a therapist must be the first thing on your list.

As for the daily habits, one thing at a time. You might try giving yourself assignments one month at a time. For example, from tomorrow morning until the end of November, you could ask of yourself one thing and one thing only: to brush your teeth. First thing in the morning, and at bedtime, when you will also floss. In addition, carry some floss with you and use it after every major meal. That is all you have to do from tomorrow morning until November 30.

It helps me if I have a wall calendar and some stickers; every time I complete my task-of-the-day I put a sticker on the calendar so I can see my progress.

On December 1, you will have formed the habit of brushing your teeth so you can just carry on with that. Your task for December 1 through December 31 will be to take a shower each and every day.

A particularly good book of lists for housecleaning is "How Clean Is Your House" by Kim Woodburn and Aggie Mackenzie. It is by following those lists that I finally started to feel like I was making progress around the house, rather than picking up one bit of rubble and placing it on top of another pile of rubble. If you start with the daily tasks, your task for January 1 through January 31 will be to air the beds every morning.

I realize that at first you will not feel as though you are achieving much and you are going to be worrying about all the things you are not doing. You have to realize that just because you are not cultivating all the good habits you want, that doesn't mean things are getting worse. Things really will get better for you if you do the things I suggest.

I agree that even though you do need treatment, you also need to develop good habits. And vice versa.
posted by tel3path at 3:53 PM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not to dismiss the therapy suggestions at all but, one thing that really helped me out of a similar place was FlyLady. Sometimes her program's so hokey I can't quite believe I'm going to hit "post" on this, but she'll definitely give you a direction to trudge in and it sounds like that's what you need. Start here.
posted by teremala at 4:04 PM on October 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

I agree with MaryDellamorte, and based on your details it sounds like you are in the US, which means you probably have a Planned Parenthood somewhere near you. They can take care of the physical, bloodwork, referral to affordable therapy, and antidepressants - on a sliding scale. (But if your insurance is "running out" that must mean you still have some - find a doctor and go, if you prefer. When I was young and not doing great and broke, I found PP more accessible than a doctor's office and you may as well.)

For free help with the basics of a daily routine, see FlyLady. It's cheesy, a little religious, kinda mommy-centric, and your eyes will roll. Read the site and sign up for the emails anyway. Whatever the wrapper, she has broken the problem down into the smallest most manageable steps and I and a number of people I have known (most of us anti-cheese, irreligious, not-mommies) feel like our lives were improved long-term by following along with her until we could just move on and do it on our own.

Something's definitely not right, and therapy is important, but you can read FlyLady right now and get a PP appointment on Monday and those are good big steps. Take them one at a time.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:09 PM on October 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

If you job has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), call the number and talk to them. They may be able to help you find resources that you can't find on your own (like therapists, etc) that you work with.
posted by Mad_Carew at 4:13 PM on October 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

A wise person once gave me some advice which may be misinterpreted as critical. It was "fake it 'till you make it." Instead of agonizing over whether there is something wrong with you that you can't even deal with your laundry, pretend that you're the type of person who could conceivable do so, and try to do so. This helped snap me out of that negative cycle of not doing something, and then feeling bad about myself for not doing it, and so not doing it again, etc. etc. Somehow this helped me to let go of that negative view of myself. Of course, trying to address the very real underlying issues at the same time is important.
posted by lab.beetle at 4:26 PM on October 22, 2011 [13 favorites]

I agree with therapy + psychiatric help if you have the resources.

I also got overwhelmed with life. Everything just keeps piling up! And that makes the problem worse every time you try to look at it! And that makes it harder to deal with!

I found that serial goals help for me. Tackling everything at once is just too much for me to focus on. So I work on one thing until I master it, then move to another goal. For me, quitting drinking was the first thing I had to master. And I did! And I hardly think about it any more. After that, I lost weight that I've needed to lose. And I've mastered that! Some more goals moving forward- quit smoking, manage my mail better, exercise every day. But I will only do one of these at a time and I won't beat myself up over any of the other things because it's not time to worry about those yet.

Memail me if I can help.
posted by kamikazegopher at 4:28 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree that this seems like way more than just lack of adult habits.

Can you set phone reminders to yourself to go off at certain times? Like every morning, take shower, brush teeth, and every night, brush teeth again? Do you think the prompting will help you?
posted by crankylex at 4:28 PM on October 22, 2011

I was only a little younger than you when I realized I should behave a bit more like my parents had: TV off until other stuff got done. Other stuff? Oh, yeah, I guess I should grocery shop and cook like they did. And maybe clean. And whenever I wondered what to do next I would think of something Productive. Balancing it out can come later, but learning to take care of myself like an adult took some concentrated effort - and it's always still a little bit of a struggle. What AM I going to do about dinner?

You can start on this - look around for good role models, and follow their example. Once the basic stuff gets to be habit, you can start setting goals like debt reduction.
posted by ldthomps at 4:33 PM on October 22, 2011

Agreed with all of the therapy suggestions. That is number one here. Lyn Never's suggestion to head to PP is great.

Otherwise, you need to find reasons to build adult habits. Who do you see on a normal basis? What is your job like? Don't you think your friends and coworkers notice your lack of hygiene? If I stopped showering or brushing my teeth, my husband would certainly be the first to notice, but after that it'd be my coworkers. I would surely be an unpleasant person to work with. If you can't do it for yourself right now, do it for the people around you. You'll eventually find that you are the most important reason for taking care of yourself, but as lab.beetle says, fake it 'til you make it.

And believe me, one day you will look around and find yourself shocked at how much of an adult you are. It certainly does take work at first, but in time it will be (mostly) effortless.

I still struggle with the chores necessary to take care of a two bedroom house, but when my friends come over they are amazed at how well-kept it is. *shrug*
posted by two lights above the sea at 4:50 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing the possible depression. If you truly can't get help for that, which I doubt, there are some things you can do to help. First, make it a point to go out of the house, other than just to fetch food, every day. I find that it helps me make sure to deal with the hygiene hassle. (I go into the office once every month or two, so work doesn't help, there)

As for the messy house, that, IMO, is the last thing one needs to work on unless being around your house is bringing you down. I used to live in a total sty, to the point of having to remove literally tons (multiples of 2,000 pounds) of garbage from a 500 square foot house when me and my roommates moved. When I look around and see stuff piled in every corner it doesn't bother me. I'm just happy to have made it to the point the stuff is piled in the corner and not strewn about.

Also, convenience really helps. I'm still a lazy (and probably depressed) fuck who finds it hard to clean up after himself, but having clothes hampers in strategic places made a big difference. Yeah, they fill up before I do the laundry, but at least most of the mess is contained.

For me, it's those little victories that help. Maybe you'll also feel that way.

Also, the advice to not beat yourself up over what you're doing now is sound. You're not "doing it wrong." You're just doing it differently. That's OK, but since it bothers you, you need to change your habits, preferably with the help of a psychiatrist and therapist. There's nothing wrong with that, either. Most of us have been there at one time or another.
posted by wierdo at 5:05 PM on October 22, 2011

Most of us have been there at one time or another.

Yup, member of the club here.

I would encourage you to keep a "ta-da" list, which should include such seemingly mundane things as "wiped up spill on floor" or "took out trash." This really helped me a lot during a time when those accomplishments were about all there were. Little victories, as wierdo said.
posted by jgirl at 5:38 PM on October 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Agreeing with all about the doctor recommendations. While I haven't been in the same boat, a friend of mine, after spending years and years completely unable to control his life, finally bit the bullet and got meds from a doctor. Just talking to a therapist didn't really help him, although he did enjoy talking to the therapist; it was the medicine that helped him take control. He was amazed at how, within just a couple days of starting the meds, the paralyzing anxiety disappeared. Instead of spending hours agonizing over everything wrong with his life, hating himself, and self-medicating with alcohol, he started to make actual moves to fix his problems and better his life. He has come a very long way in only about a month.

KathrynT makes a very good point that this is a condition that fights to preserve itself. You will come up with every excuse in the book as to why you can't do therapy, why you can't stop doing all those other things that make you hate yourself, etc. But if you can just manage to pick up the phone and drag yourself over to a doctor's office, you will finally have a real chance to stop feeling like this.
posted by wondermouse at 6:14 PM on October 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

There are lots of good comments in the above. I think that possibly the easiest way to see success immediately might be by cooking at least one meal at home a week. Buy some jars of tomato sauce, pasta, frozen turkey meatballs, and some veg for the sauce (onions, zucchinis). Cook it up on Sunday and put your leftovers in a bowl in the fridge. Blam, dinner for 3 nights, some savings, and slightly healthier food than you would have had otherwise.
posted by samthemander at 7:12 PM on October 22, 2011

A lot of this rings bells to me and in my case it turned out to be undiagnosed ADHD that was underlying things, not depression, though I could at times get depressed. Be sure you check things out with a qualified psychiatrist so you have someone who can tell the difference and prescribe correctly if need be. If there are strong elements of this which go back for as long as you remember, then do check that out.
posted by Flitcraft at 7:29 PM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Dear chickibaby,

Thank you for being so honest here. It was a courageous move worthy of supreme (self) respect.

It would be good if you update this thread. I might help you get on a regular cycle of whatever. There are so many good ideas above! So much regular "whatever" for you to try.

Don't let the insurance thing hold you back. Just start making calls Monday morning. Go online tomorrow (Sunday) and make a list of people/clinics to call. Go get an evaluation. Get some concrete help.

Meds aren't all that, but don't rule anything out just yet. YOU are in control of your self-care. You can't give your power away to professionals, exactly, but you can't get the right help until you open yourself up to ANY and ALL help.


You've taken the biggest step by writing this all out and identifying the habits and conditions you wish to change. The road seems long, yet take one little step each day, you'll be surprised with the incredible amount of progress you've made in just one short year. One year goes fast. It goes faster every year you are alive.

May as well start NOW.

I wish you the best on your first step, and all journey long. Enjoy your improvement.


posted by jbenben at 7:47 PM on October 22, 2011 [9 favorites]

Seconding ADD if you've always been like this. I've always felt a little rebellious and even resentful at how often people suggest 'depression' when I know I'm not that depressed. It's like living in a world where you're literally an impossible freak unless you have that whole 'can barely move or care about anything' feeling that depression brings as an excuse. I don't know, I realize that's unreasonable, but it's how it felt sometimes. I wasn't depressed, I was just really that bad at doing basic organizey stuff. Yes, that bad. Yes, I was mostly a mood-range-normal (if low spirited-- because of my messed-up life) person. Yes. I don't know, the fact that it just didn't even compute for many 'normal' people made it worse.

Anyway, ADD changed all that for me; realizing the laziness, ineptness, inability to motivate yourself, inability to keep to a schedule-- all that had a reason-- all that helped so much. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning, not the end. Drugs don't 'fix' it. Only this long, endless trudge of rewiring your whole set of neural responses to stimuli (basically) helps. Eventually. Or so I hear.

So yes, look for organizing help for adult ADD, see if it helps. There's lots of books in the library, websites, etc. Even if you don't have ADD, it should still (probably) contain useful information.

Being like this your whole life means that you have a really hard uphill battle just, rewiring yourself. One thing that helps me is having reasons to do things, motivations around things-- like, I clean because someone's coming over, so invite people. I wake up because I have somewhere to be where I want to be at, so find a place you want to go at 9am. I bathe because I have fun baths (with salts! and cute shampoo!), or because I want to dress in nice(r) clothes, or because I can't change my underwear without washing, and eventually underwear has to be changed 'cause it's just really uncomfortable. So one thing sort of 'forces' you to do another. Set up deadlines-- personally, I'm late even with deadlines, but I do a lot more than I would otherwise. Set high expectations, so even if you fail, you'd do more than you would otherwise. It may seem counterproductive-- and counter-indicated if you have depression-- but with ADD, the tiny-little-steps thing puts most of us to sleep. So.

Big steps, little doses. You can't help the little doses-- you can only do so much, go so fast-- but you have to have Big Motivation to do Great Things to force yourself to do it at all. Allow some things to fall by the wayside. If you're accomplishing the basics-- decide what those basics are-- forget about the rest for now. This is hard, but useful. You can't do everything, so forget about that. You can do some things, some of the time. Once you're good at any one thing (no time-limit), take it for granted and add to your plate then. Once I got good at showing up for class, I added other goals and harder classes, for instance. Anyway, you'll probably never be an 'adult' the way other people understand it, but, y'know, that's ok-- it'd probably bore you to death anyway. On the bright side, if you have ADD, you can do it if/once you really really want to (though not all at once).
posted by reenka at 7:47 PM on October 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

One of the things that I've found is that you can look at your life and find everything wrong with it and it's so overwhelming that you can't even begin to decide where to start, and you want to fix everything all at once, but it's too much change.

What I did was based on the idea of Jerry Seinfeld's Red Xs. I used Joe's Goals, which tracks daily habits online. I started small, and I started with adding one healthy, positive part of my day, rather than focusing on depriving myself of something.

I gave myself the goal of drinking 3 large glasses of water every day. Proper hydration would make me healthier, better able to exercise, less likely to consume masses of caffeine in the form of Diet Coke, but I didn't think about all those other consequences -- for example, there was no rule that said I couldn't drink Diet Coke, just a rule that said I would drink water. If I still wanted the Diet Coke in addition to the water, that was fine.

I did that for a week. And it was easy. All I had to do was drink 3 glasses of water a day. I mean, a monkey could manage that! Normally, I might forget, but I had Joe's Goals to help me be mindful, and when I needed extra reminders, I set up automated emails to remind me 3 times a day to drink a glass of water.

So, one week in, with a success under my belt, I added a second thing. I think it was brushing my teeth twice a day every day, but I forget. Again, a small, positive change. Easy, peasy. Joe's Goals to keep me mindful, automated email to actually remind me.

The third week, was something else. And the fourth week another thing.

By the time I'd been at this for a few months, I had a couple dozen new, healthy habits. Some of them were fun, like making it a priority to knit at least 100 stitches a day. Some of them were less fun, like making it a priority to go to the gym 3 days per week. Some of them were tiny and some were bigger. But they weren't overwhelming, because I'd built them up over time.

I've lapsed some, and I'm trying to get back on track for this system, but I've never lapsed as far as I was before I started it. It improved my life, even after I stopped doing it, and that's a measure of something that works.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:42 PM on October 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

A lot can come down to company. You sound a lot like me when I lived with people who had a shitty lifestyle that I naturally fell into - I really didn't have the personal strength to get out of those habits and improve myself until I got out of that situation.

Not to dismiss therapy/depression etc, but your surroundings have a much more profound effect on your life than you probably think.
posted by OrangeDrink at 9:53 PM on October 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

You don't sound depressed or in need of therapy to me. And I don't think making lists or much of the other stuff will help you, even though it is good advice; simply that you won't do it - if you would, you'd not be in this situation now. By all means get a medical check up to be sure. But you sound like a normal person who's got into a bad life-style habit. I suggest that you change your life, as totally as possible. Go and live in Nicaragua (super cheap, visa easy) and find out what happens. Go and live in an Ashram in Bihar, India (again super cheap/visa easy if you're american). Move to a small village in Alaska without a job and find out what happens. Whatever you do, don't find a nice situation to move into with job/housing/etc. Jump off the edge of life and find out what happens to you. Doing this will totally change your life, and will change you a lot, and believe it or not, you will be safe - everyone who jumps always flies; all it takes is guts. Or do it even if you feel you haven't got the guts. Just jump.
“Come to the edge.” he said.
“We can't. We're afraid.”
“Come to the edge.”
“We can't. We will fall!”
“Come to the edge.”
And they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.
posted by nickji at 11:46 PM on October 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

I can relate. In terms of your physical environment, I'd tackle the basics. Grab a few boxes or garbage bags and contain the stuff in your room. You can sort it if you want, but that's optional. The idea is to make your surroundings a little less overwhelming right now. Clear a path to your bed, your closet, your window. Put the bags/boxes in a corner. Then, when you're up to it, clean them out one by one and put the stuff away. You can do one a day, one a weekend -- whatever works. But in the meantime, you won't be tripping over your stuff and distracted by visual clutter. Keep one box/bag open so that you can add things as you go about your day.

I've lived with several people before, and the kitchen was a place where I wanted to spend the minimum possible time. Here's how to eat on the cheap with the bare minimum effort:

At the grocery store, buy:

- Quinoa (in bulk if possible)
- Lentils (in bulk if possible)
- Canned garbanzo beans
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- A couple of tomatoes
- Also, pick up a multivitamin with plenty of vitamin B.

Now, stick the quinoa or lentils in a pot with about twice as much water. Boil/simmer until soft and drain any extra water (or, if you're like me, just stir it until it evaporates). Stir in some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and salt to taste. Pour onto a plate.

Now drain a can of garbanzos and stick 'em in the same pot you've been using, adding some olive oil. Heat them up, salt them, maybe add a splash of balsamic. Stir them around until they're heated up. Pour over the quinoa/lentils.

Slice up a tomato, pour some olive oil on it, and salt to taste. Stick these on the side of the plate.

Boom -- a reasonably balanced meal that only used one pot and one perishable item. Play with the spices and condiments if you want. Now take that multivitamin and drink a glass of water.

I've been in your shoes. Heck, I still am to some extent. The idea, I think, is to meet your absolute basic needs and go up from there. You can get more sophisticated/complex later.

Best of luck to you. Memail me if you need encouragement and/or support.
posted by delight at 2:58 AM on October 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

Hey, you know me in real life! Call me. I have a good job and can easily help you afford therapy. I can also help you find low-cost or sliding-scale resources in your area. I agree with everyone who has said that this is not about character flaws, it's a bigger problem that you deserve help for. I needed therapy and medication to get to a point where I felt I was taking good care of myself. If you're not comfortable calling me, give whatever therapist you go to my phone number and I'll work out payment with them directly.
posted by prefpara at 7:01 AM on October 23, 2011 [25 favorites]

This sounds very much like me when I was 27 (and 28, and 29 ...), right down to the landfill bedroom and the difficulty sustaining a relationship. What changed for me was getting diagnosed with ADHD. Partly it was the meds that helped. But partly it was just such an enormous relief to know that there was a biological reason I was this way.

I would really suggest getting tested for ADHD before your insurance runs out. I know how hard it can be to do things like make and keep doctor's appointments, but just make that your goal for the week. Meds don't solve all your problems, but if you do have ADHD, they give you the ability to solve them for yourself.
posted by the essence of class and fanciness at 7:05 AM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Therapy is great, but if cost is prohibitive there, you can get medicated for depression pretty easily and much cheaper (my prescription for SSRIs is ~$35/month without prescription coverage and I just needed one doctor visit to get it prescribed, few questions asked -- SSRIs are pretty easy to get because there's not much potential for abuse). Meds can be good at sort of lightening the thick fog of difficulty that covers everything when you're depressed, and so might make it easier for you to get started implementing some of the good suggestions other people have about building positive habits.
posted by anotherthink at 8:37 AM on October 23, 2011

To supplement therapy, consider joining a support group of some kind. You don't want to be climbing this mountain by yourself, you know? If you're religious, call some local churches to see if there are weekly meetings for what you're dealing with, or even just a social or prayer group to get involved with. I got involved in one such community and the friends I made were an integral part of my own healing journey. Good luck!
posted by sunnychef88 at 9:12 AM on October 23, 2011

I wanted to come in and be an additional voice in favor of therapy and meds. I have depression (technically bipolar disorder) and ADHD. What matters is asking for help, not the specific diagnosis. You can get help on a sliding scale. You might also be eligible for help from, e.g., your state's bureau of vocational rehabilitation. I know it's hard, but try not to focus on the "I can't because" - ask people for suggestions and follow through on them even when they seem like they can't possibly work.

And don't feel bad if FlyLady is way too overwhelming for you. I have to be in a really good place (for me) to pull that system off.

(I was showing symptoms of both depression and ADHD in elementary school. "I've never had it together" doesn't mean you don't have a systemic medical issue.)
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 10:27 AM on October 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hi Chiki - I'm a real-life friend of prefpara's, so full disclosure, we may know each other too. I would say this above all: be very kind to yourself. Taking care of yourself as an adult is not easy, and some of us were never taught to do it, or just as often, never had anyone take good enough care of us to learn. If we never learned, is it any wonder that we find it difficult to just figure it out?

Sometimes it seems so overwhelming to think of everything we'd need to do to take care of ourselves that it just feels defeating. It's always a good idea to break things down and form small goals to make into habits - for the next three weeks, I'm going to concentrate on just brushing my teeth twice a day. And when I do, I'm going to be proud of myself, because I'm teaching myself. And when I don't, I'm going to be kind to myself becauseI haven't been taught these good habits and so I have to do the work all on my own.

If you want to talk about tools, I would want to talk with you.
posted by namesarehard at 11:18 AM on October 23, 2011

No one has mentioned this, but to attack the eating out problem, can you go buy a load of frozen food? It's probably not great for you, but it's cheaper than eating out (which isn't great for you either). I go through phases where I have a lot of trouble making lunch to take with me, but if I've spent $2-$3 on some frozen food, I can win at not eating out (which would cost more), even if I've failed to make lunch. (The trick is getting to the store, which I suspect I'm not going to manage today. Though writing this comment has maybe motivated me. You could ask a housemate to get you to come along on their shopping trip.)

Years ago, my mother used a golf counter to give herself a point for everything she did each day. The object being to collect points, not necessarily what those points are. So what if you don't shower if you cooked for the week? I don't know how easy golf counters are to come by, but a row counter for knitting would work as well and is probably cheaper. I feel kind of silly given how many times my mother has tried to sell me on the golf counter thing. I've never done it (I do give myself pretend points sometimes) and yet here I am telling you about it.

But yeah, like everyone else has said, this sounds partly/mostly like a mental health issue.
posted by hoyland at 11:34 AM on October 23, 2011

Agreeing with the comments above re: therapy but a quick win might be to spend a day sorting your space out. Your living environment can have a huge impact on your state of mind and I totally understand how a messed-up room can seem overwhelming - can anyone help you have a go at clearing through it for a day, or just an afternoon? Weirdly enough there are people out there who love this kind of project (for example, me! If I was nearby I'd totally volunteer to come round and help you sort it) Sometimes this stuff is best tackled with a stranger so you don't feel self-conscious - there might be de-cluttering service in your town - try craigslist.
posted by freya_lamb at 12:35 PM on October 23, 2011

Mod note: folks, there is a wide gap between being unconditionally supportive and feeling someoen needs tough love. Be constructive, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:35 PM on October 23, 2011

If you have good teeth, just brush 'em once a day. You can always move up to twice a day eventually.

Second, seems to me that most toothpaste tastes and even feels very intense. I can't imagine dealing with most toothpastes right before bed, when you're tired or at least want to be tired. Brushing might seem a lot more welcome with a more gentle tasting toothpaste. If that's the case, I like Sensodyne, original flavor.
posted by serena15221 at 12:49 PM on October 24, 2011

I'm ten years older than you and except for a couple minor differences, I feel and act this way all the time. I'm going to start work on fixing it. I'm taking the advice you're being given, starting with therapy. This week. Please consider memailing me if you'd like a buddy; maybe we can help each other along.
posted by kostia at 11:22 PM on October 24, 2011

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