I need life advice badly......
November 1, 2011 5:35 AM   Subscribe

Need some life advice, I don't really know what I'm doing, I've failed so far miserably.

It's 5 am. Adrenaline is pumping, can't sleep.

I've got that feeling of suicide, not the real kind, just the curious, dramatic, pensive sort of self loathing and hopelessness only found at these quiet hours of the day.

The only thing I seem to have learned is that what you want the most, will elude you. Some people have found ways to turn this rule of life around, but I haven't.

I don't know where to start. I'm 22 and 3/4. Yesterday I was a kid. Today I'm the same kid.

I didn't realize it until just the other day, but I think I am manic depressive. I go through phases where it seems like I have all the money in the world, the sun is shining bright, the words I speak flow beautifully, people love me, and I love them. Then there are times where all I want to do is hole up, eat, play video games, and pass the time.

Now is a period of the latter. I find my relationship about to end within the next couple of days (whether by my doing or hers if she beats me to the chase). My best friend has moved overseas, all my friends are MIA across the country working their new jobs. I have lots of quasi-friends but I'm not sure I like them enough to stay in L.A.

I want to move home, but I feel like L.A. is such a beautiful place. I can drive with the top of jeep down. I can go to the beach. The girls are beautiful, the guys are chill.

But something is beckoning me to NYC and something is telling me to leave this place. The true love of my life lives in NYC.

I have no marketable skills besides a shitty GPA from a top 50 college. I know that I could write novels for a living, but I don't want to. I don't even read books myself really, so I don't want to waste my time in a dying art.

I like making music but more and more it is apparent to me that "bands" are not for me. They have a way of twisting, contorting what is good and turning it into something terrible.

I want to trade futures but I don't want to sit at a computer all day. That type of behavior is what causes me to be depressive.

So really I don't know what I need or what I need to do or where I need to be or what I should be doing. I know I am smart, but I have no idea why I've been so stupid my whole life.

I don't know what to do. It's getting to the point where my parents won't keep feeding me money, and I need to find a way to make it. But the things I truly enjoy are either too difficult to get a job in or they aren't really a job to begin with. I don't know, I really don't know.

Posting here is sort of a last ditch effort to figure this shit out. I really never thought I would feel like this again, but here I am. I don't know what to do.
posted by sawyerrrr to Human Relations (39 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
This probably won't come as a surprise: are you seeing a mental health professional? Because you should be.
posted by jon1270 at 5:43 AM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

There are people who are qualified to help you figure this shit out. I mean, if New York is where you want to be, go to New York, but please, for your own sake, start working on your mental health before you go anywhere. A cross-country move isn't going to suddenly make you into the person you dream of being - only you can do that, and probably only when you are actively taking care of yourself.

You write that you're a kid. To be honest, I think most of us in our twenties feel like that a lot of the time. The only way to stop feeling like you're a kid is to start acting like an adult. Seeing a mental health professional is a good first step.

Good luck.
posted by SeedStitch at 5:51 AM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I saw a health professional for a long period of time in my life. I still don't know why. I fought alot with my parents, I got in trouble with my friends. I was a bad kid in school. All of that kind of turned around, and it was just me being a kid, it had nothing to do with mental health.

They put me on drugs and made me talk to weird people. I don't see it as having had a positive effect on my life. I'm not ready to try it again.

Trust me, if I was threatening suicide or selfharm I would have sought out help by then. I'm not even close to there yet. But I just don't know. That pretty much sums it up. The things I want, I don't want to think about or pine for, because I know that they will not happen if I do that. But there are these intangible things that I am grasping for but I do not know what it is I am looking for. God? Maybe... I left God about 5 years ago. Since then I've gone from being an Atheist to being a Buddhist to being a Magickian/Spiritualist to basically "I don't give a fuck".

And there is wisdom to be found in where I am mentally. But I do wish I could jumpstart myself into a manic phase. I'm considering faking it till I make it....i.e. doing what I do when I'm manic (spend money, smoke cigarettes, meet girls, eat out every night, hit up bars, hit the beach, drive just for the hell of it, hang with friends all day etc etc). But right now it's just so easy to sit at home and play vidya games and make due.

I think it's easy to jump and say I should see a therapist. I think I know how to solve my problems though. It's just that I don't know what to do in life. I need a life coach more than a mental health therapist. The mental health part sorts itself out when my life has purpose again.
posted by sawyerrrr at 5:57 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this is beyond the scope of what strangers on the internet can help you with.

You've got an awful lot of nonspecifics here ("something" is calling you to NYC, "something" is telling you to stay in LA, sometimes you feel good, sometimes you feel bad, you like music but dislike bands, you could write novels but dislike books (huh?) One way or another you're going to need to start sorting out these vague feelings and impressions into something more concrete.

FWIW the transition point from college lifestyle to OMG I have to grow up now and get a job is a rough one for a lot of people, and it sounds like you're right in the middle of it.

One red flag stands out: "the true love of my life is in NYC." yet she's not your girlfriend, and shows up nowhere in the rest of your thoughts about your future. Sounds like an idealized and/or unavailable pedestal girl to me. Don't pin too much on that.
posted by ook at 5:57 AM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I've been best friends/summer-crushes with said girl for 12 years now. I saw her recently when I was home. I could be wrong, but I think the spark was very much still there. Either way that is either a best friend or a girlfriend waiting for me in NYC.

Right now I have very little that I am happy with in LA besides sunshine, comfort in knowing I have people here who I COULD TALK TO, and being away from my parents.
posted by sawyerrrr at 6:01 AM on November 1, 2011

I will join the others in suggesting you seek some mental health help.

Your feelings don't sound all that different from mine at 22 3/4. Or many of my friends. Most the the loveliest, creative, awesome and wise people I know now in my age group (late 30s early 40s) had 22 3/4 s similar to yours. So...maybe that helps.

If you were say, my young smart nephew, I would advise you to get a non-thinky kind of job for awhile, and just work until it wears you out every day. Get out of your head for a bit and work with people who work hard and don't really know your whole history or particularly care. Earn money. Stay busy.

Can you lay tile? Plant gardens? Sheetrock? Wait tables?

And then whatever comes next, comes next.
posted by pantarei70 at 6:02 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

FWIW, while nobody really likes to hear that they're not a special snowflake, this sounds pretty typical of post-college fallout to me. It doesn't really sound like you've failed, more like you haven't really tried. Get a job. Any job. It will give you structure and direction and hey, income.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:07 AM on November 1, 2011 [11 favorites]

Your (first) followup is full of just as many nonspecifics as your original question. You were in therapy, but you don't know why. (Maybe a good first step would be to find out, don't you think?) You want things, but you don't want to think about them. (huh?) You don't know what you want to do, you're pining for intangible things, you don't give a fuck. And yet:

I think I know how to solve my problems though.

Oh great! Then go right ahead and do it. Except you don't know how to solve your problems, or you wouldn't have asked this question (or would have been able to formulate a question that was less vague than 'I am unhappy and don't know why.')

If a "life coach" sounds more palatable than a "therapist", get a life coach instead of a therapist. But get something.

I'm considering faking it till I make it....i.e. doing what I do when I'm manic (spend money, smoke cigarettes, meet girls, eat out every night, hit up bars, hit the beach, drive just for the hell of it, hang with friends all day etc etc).

This is not a viable life plan. This is not even a plan, it's just a description of goofing off.

If you're seriously considering this as a potential solution to your problems, or as any kind of alternative to the other form of goofing off (staying home and playing video games), that is even more evidence that you will find it very challenging to sort this out without outside help.

I've been best friends/summer-crushes with said girl for 12 years now.

You've been friends with her since you were ten years old and have never gotten beyond the 'summer crush' stage, and you think "the spark is still there"? Yes, definitely idealized pedestal girl. Not a reason for a cross country move. Sort yourself out first, get a goal and a plan. That plan may involve moving back to NYC, but it ought to be for a better reason than that.
posted by ook at 6:13 AM on November 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

I understand your negative associations, but choosing to hire a therapist as an adult is not the same as being forced as a kid to see a therapist and/or psychiatrist against your will. It's not about other people making you do stuff for their convenience or comfort; it's about you getting other people to help you achieve your own goals.

Setting that aside, it seems to me that you're having difficulty engaging in a meaningful way with the world because your attitude towards the world is founded on a bunch of simplistic fantasies implying that you could do anything if you only cared to do it, if there was some point in doing something. You don't read, but you could make a living writing novels? You could be a musician if only bands were not so morally corrupt? You could trade futures if only it didn't require you to spend time in a chair, staring at a computer? Please, get over yourself. You could make a living at none of those things. Not today, anyhow. Probably not this year or next, either. Doing those things well is hard, and they're meaningful because they're hard. They are challenging for other people, and they would be challenging for you too. The fallacy that they are easy and the sense that they are meaningless or bad go hand in hand.
posted by jon1270 at 6:15 AM on November 1, 2011 [32 favorites]

This sounds a lot like being 22 3/4. I should know because I am also 22 3/4.
posted by MangyCarface at 6:25 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

>> I didn't realize it until just the other day, but I think I am manic depressive.
If you do, then you REALLY need to see therapist.

>> I think it's easy to jump and say I should see a therapist.
and I think its easy to dismiss this. ESPECIALLY if you think you are manic depressive!

>>The mental health part sorts itself out when my life has purpose again.
OR, its the other way around.

Look, from what you have said, the therapy is STILL the best option. Do it. THEN, while going through it, don't try to judge it subjectively (put me on drugs and made me talk to weird people) but objectively (I took the drugs, told them what was going on in my life, followed their advice and now I am doing ...)

IF you are manic depressive then you are making decisions using an unhealthy mind. Better to use some other healthier mind while your mind gets better.
posted by CodeMonkey at 6:30 AM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

No matter what you do, let me tell you from experience that moving all across the place doesn't fix your personal disposition. You will spend two months sorting the new place out, and then, wham, one day there's the old "you" sitting on your favorite sofa again.

As to the various recommendations of therapy or whatnot: The fact that it's easy for internet strangers to recommend such things doesn't make them wrong per se. So look at this just for a second:

* You think you're manic depressive. That's a pretty concrete thing to ask a professional about, moreover, a truly professional professional will know what to do about that.

* You talk about your self-loathing. Self-loathing is not a healthy condition. Self-loathing involves so much of your "self" that it seems a little optimistic to try and let that same "self" solve this problem for you. Things would get pretty circular very soon. Even this is a pretty concrete observation about yourself; get someone to listen, and to address the problem.

The fact that you're no kid anymore makes it possible for you to ask for help without having to fear to be shoved into the hands of "weird people".
posted by Namlit at 6:31 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

NYC in the winter is NOT where you want to be when you're in this kind of shape. You think you're depressed now? Just wait...
posted by hermitosis at 6:32 AM on November 1, 2011 [16 favorites]

Yes, and there's that. Listen to hermitosis. You have no idea what crappy winter weather is like before you've experienced it.
posted by Namlit at 6:34 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're on a rollercoaster. The problems you see lie, inexorably, at the bottom of the descent you're hurtling down. The way forward looks a long way up. It's not the case: it's just the pace of the train that makes it seem like it.

There are no easy solutions, but focus is important.

At the moment, you're focusing on the things you don't have but want, the things you had but can't continue to have.

Go outside. Take a deep breath.

Come back in, and write down the things you truly love. If you go ahead with suicide, you can't have those things. When you have your dark thoughts, pull your list out and remind yourself of this.

Then write down the things you truly want. Next to them, put 7 steps. If it is money, love, career fulfillment or whatever, write them down. Then plot your 7 steps. Make your goals realistic. Give yourself milestones. Don't give up on your milestones and don't let your focus drift.

Everyone has dark thoughts at some point. We all question why we are here, or whether it is worth it. People often get their answers in odd places or unexpectedly. Nobody has a perfect life, and

It is not a race. Or if it is, then it's a long one and sprinters and endurance athletes will both find something to take from it. Build your goals, know how you are going to get there and don't let yourself focus on anything else.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:35 AM on November 1, 2011

Please do get some mental health help - after you do what a grown-up would do, and have a possibly uncomfortable talk with your parents about the health professional you saw: Who, and what specialty, and why? It would not be unusual to find that there is or was, perhaps, a diagnosis for you, but for various reasons, it went by the wayside.

I see that happen every day at school; and even now, as we've been seeking help for some issues, our doctor tells us we can either work hard to pursue a diagnosis that pins our daughter as something not neurotypical, or consider her "eccentric", realize she has developed her own coping skills and help her to do more, by various therapies and techniques to deal with it as needed. Either way, same result, only one doesn't have a name. Maybe that happened with you, but you're stalling without a more structured support network.

In the meantime, I think pantarei70 has a fantastic idea - get out of your head and work hard. Or volunteer. I am thinking that structure and discipline would help, but that's because I'm long past my twenties, and back then, I had to work my butt off, and still find that it's a luxury to wallow. If you weren't wondering about possibly being manic-depressive, and having the suicide ideation, I'd say that the military was what helped my friends at this age.

A lot of this sounds so typical for almost-23 (actually, it sounds 20-something), especially from what your set-up sounds like. I am sure that someday you'll make it to "the corner of Mature and Gentrification" like some of the rest of us. I'd argue that twenty-somethings can be divided into either the apathetic sort or the disaffected sort. But it seems to even out with time, and especially after you begin focus outwards. And that means taking the effort, to do so, too. After all, "Now every cheap hood strikes a bargain with the world, Ends up making payments on a sofa or a girl..."
posted by peagood at 6:35 AM on November 1, 2011

If you want a life coach you can hire one. Be careful--pretty much anyone can use that title--but seriously, if you feel like that would help and your parents haven't cut you off yet, find a life coach you click with and start making goals. If your parents are getting tired of supporting you indefinitely, they might be more than willing to pay for your coaching.

Apart from that, if you're not willing to hash these issues out with a therapist (who could assess whether you are depressed, bipolar, or something else), I suggest you pull your focus back down to earth. You seem to expect that if you think in high-level generalities long enough, you're going to get a flash of inspiration that will show you exactly what you're meant to do, where you're meant to be, and who you're meant to be with. That flash is not coming. Part of becoming an adult is realizing just how much of our lives we create for ourselves, and how much of it is trial and error rather than destiny.

Thinking in generalities has you balancing, "I want to trade futures," with "but but I don't want to sit in front of a computer all day," which just paralyzes you. A better approach would be to say, "I want to trade futures, but I think it would be hard to sit in front of a computer all day"--and then try it. If you hate it, quit and wait tables or temp or work retail until you figure out your next move. You might find, though, that you like the job more than you dislike sitting in front of a computer. Or you might, through one job, get a peek into some other career that would suit you and your talents. Same for making music or moving or any of the other choices you frame as dilemmas. You're 22. You can try things and if they don't work out, now is the time to figure that out and try something new. The very worst thing you can do with your early post-college years is to get stuck overanalyzing all your possible options without acting on them.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:42 AM on November 1, 2011 [9 favorites]

As the saying goes, live in LA, but not so long that you become soft, and live in NYC, but not so long that you become hard.

Moving to NYC will swiftly disabuse you of the notion that you could write novels or play music for a living, and teach you that a desk job that pays well is worth the 9-5 grind. I recommend moving there if it's where your dreams take you.

Part of this is the general anxiety you get when you enter the real world - I was working in comic book shops and movie theaters when I was 22, but had found a career and general life direction before I turned 23... it's just the age where folks seem to search for a comfortable groove to settle into. That can cause some anxiety and depression.

Also, forget about your experiences with child psychologists and counselors. Mental health professionals treat grownups who can just walk out the door and not come back very differently than children who's parents drag them in every week. It's a mature and equal relationship between professional and patient, or it should be... walk out the door to find someone else if it's not.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:54 AM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you really care about this person in NYC, don't land on her life with both feet and put her in a situation where she feels responsible for your mental health somehow, especially if what you're feeling even vaguely borders on suicidal. The pressure on her will be unbelievable, and may permanently damage any chance of a relationship or friendship with her in the future.

It would be extremely selfish and destructive of you to derail someone else's (presumably) functional life with all of this, and extremely foolish of you to choose someone to depend on who may be totally unqualified or ultimately unwilling to help you.
posted by hermitosis at 7:09 AM on November 1, 2011 [9 favorites]

If you are 22-and-change, I take you've recently graduated from college? What you are experiencing is very normal for people who have just graduated from college. Most new grads are cast off into the world with little or no actual training, and the kind of go "um...so now what?"

See, here's the problem, I bet: you don't know how to do things. When you're a student, stuff just sort of happens to you. Sure, some people are exceptions to this, but generally you just kind of fall in with friends that you happen to meet in classes or in your neighborhood, you meet a girl that happened to sit next to you in class, you follow a friend to a club, a relative to a part-time job, etc...you have very little agency. And so you graduate, and you just sort of assume that that's how life goes, that you are a passive person who is acted upon.

This is not true. If you remain a passive person who is acted upon, nothing will happen to you. Literally. Nothing. You will remain on the couch and your life will not change.

The solution to this, and most people figure it out eventually, is to do stuff. The advice to get a non-thinky job sounds pretty good to me. But do something. Join a band. Write for a website. Volunteer. Something. Stop coming up with reasons why you can't or think you shouldn't do things, because they are not valid. One thing that my 27-year-old self knows is that all the reasons that my 21-year-old self invented for not doing things were, well, wrong.

Finally, if you are indeed manic depressive, get professional help. This is a serious condition.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:41 AM on November 1, 2011 [16 favorites]

You're transitioning from a period in which most structure was imposed on you, to one in which you will have to create your own structure, determine what's worth struggling for and how much you're willing to sacrifice. You have extremely high views of your own abilities and yet excuses for why you don't apply yourself. I think you're waiting for some structure to be imposed on you, a challenge that will allow you to prove yourself to the world, but none is coming. You're going to have to make one up, like everyone does.

I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. The question is, how? For starters, you could work with a professional, which many people rightfully recommend. What probably won't work is what you're doing now: pondering, dwelling, hoping the answer will materialize out of your consciousness. You find your way by looking, and looking is an active process that involves exploration, sampling, trial, failure, struggle. You learn what you want and what your true capacity is by doing. As far as I'm concerned, you can't write a book until you write a book. Don't brag that you could until you have the manuscript in your hand. So write one. Or pick a couple other things and try, and fail, or succeed. You don't have to make all the decisions right now. Just put your money where your mouth is and do something. Passions and interests and callings can come from the most unexpected quarters, but they can't find you as you sit around wondering where they may be.
posted by itstheclamsname at 7:43 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

for what it's worth, if this happens often then you REALLY need to talk to someone, and even if it doesn't happen often, then you still REALLY need to talk to someone. i say this as someone that's already seeing a therapist and can finally breathe again even though i still have a lot of work left.

this is going to sound harsh, but someone has to say it and i hope you don't take offense to it, but there's the advice that i have:
-you can make things work out for you
-life is never going to be perfect in all aspects or in any aspect, really. it will just be great or amazing, but never perfect. it doesn't seem like you have the necessary tools to deal with everything which is why you should seek help from a therapist
-if you know that your relationship is going to end, then do yourself and the girl a favour and break up now so that you stop thinking about WHEN it will happen since it would have already happened
-don't base your life on other people's lives (i know, it's easier said than done), but i think it's a terrible idea to move to NYC just because there's a girl that lives there. if you like the girl then find a way to communicate with her and see what she feels before doing something drastic
-don't even think about the quasi-friends, do you like LA? do you feel happy in LA? i believe that certain cities can change our lives for the better or worse and if you think LA is doing that for you (which it doesn't seem like it is) then leave, but if you enjoy the city then stay!
-i don't think moving now is a wise choice because you don't seem like you are in a good place emotionally speaking, so moving right now would make it difficult to improve things for yourself in order to be in a better place emotionally
-i'm 21 (so close to you in age) and i can say that i have an inkling as to what i should be doing but no definite idea. for what it's worth, you are not stupid. it's just that everyone learns differently and if you have street smarts or book smarts then you are smart. who cares about a "shitty GPA from a top 50 college"
-for what it's worth, there are many people that don't know what they are doing (regardless of age) the trick is to do something and pretend that you know what you are doing (fake it till you make it)
-get a job that pays the bills rather than a career based job because a) chances are you won't have to think about it before or after work and b) you can become financially independent while trying to work on personal matters in your own life. i may be wrong, but i think it's better to pursue a career when you don't have as many personal matters going on in your life, especially when you are first starting a career
posted by sincerely-s at 7:46 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's getting to the point where my parents won't keep feeding me money, and I need to find a way to make it.

Well it sounds like whether you see a therapist or not, you'll soon be working at something you have to do rather than at something you want to do. And while that's a scary prospect, it will likely end up with you finding some purpose and thinking of yourself as an adult rather than a kid.

I'd stay put for now. It's better to get cut off from family largesse in a climate like LA rather than one like NYC.
posted by headnsouth at 8:17 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Second the advice about finding some kind of sounding board. Sounds like you need a therapist.

But might I suggest that you will find "happiness" in life when you find ways to do what fulfills others and not just yourself. Entertainment, achievement, accomplishment, significance will all fail you eventually. To love and to be loved -- and I'm not talking about mere romance here -- is the truest aim of life.

Get out of yourself. The most miserable times of my life, at 22 or at any age, are when I was wrapped up in myself and what I "want." Find ways to focus on the well-being of others. Find a way to help. Find a way to use your gifts, to be yourself, in the service of someone else who needs it. Better yet in the service of someone who does not deserve it and will never repay you. Face outward in your relationships and focus on their happiness. Serve them, not because *you* need to feel better, but because *they* need to feel better.

How do you get started? I like your strategy of "fake it til you make it." Just don't focus on the dissipative self-absorbed lifestyle, smoking cigarettes and driving around and whatnot. Therein lies a very common form of prison. Get out of yourself and focus on the kind of love that flows outward to others. Therein is the truest freedom.

And, remember, you have the keys right in your hand. It gets better eventually unless you refuse to use them.
posted by cross_impact at 8:37 AM on November 1, 2011

Gosh do you sound like me when I got out of college. All my friends had plans & went away and all the connections & "roots" I had thought I'd put down while I was getting my education ran away to exciting plans & futures & I was left behind watching my stability & confidence blow away like sand through my fingers.

No dreams, no plans, no teachers or guidance counselors no mentors to guide me. Remember the book "Where the Sidewalk Ends," with the kids looking down over the precipice, like, WTF, what now? Yeah. Just lost.

My advice would be, sit down & try and come up with something you WANT to do. You've been following the map & scraping by, so clearly you weren't excited about the direction you'd been given. Once you've figured out what you want to do, go try and get a job related to that. If it's 6 things, great, play the field. If it's 0 things, dig a little deeper.

As demoralizing as it is, being off the map is a good time & place to really introspect & try and find where your passions and skills actually are.
posted by Ys at 8:38 AM on November 1, 2011

Speaking as someone who was recently 22 and 3/4 I know what you're going through. I really wish there were "children's books" about this kind of stuff that you just got handed after you finished college.

I'm going to give you the same pep talk/wake up call I gave myself:

Time to grow up, literally. It is time for you to grow up. You're engaging in a pattern of behavior and relying on a system you put together in college (parents money, far away love, no real job, distraction by super partying all the time). But it's not really useful to use that system anymore. The wrench used to work, but now what you really need is a hammer. Sure you could keep using the wrench but it's really the wrong tool.

I also had a long string of relatively unhelpful therapists. I found them unhelpful because what I really needed was time for self reflection. However, medication can be a useful tool for giving you the space to do this, and then the therapy will become more useful.

Cut yourself off from your parents. Becoming self sufficient is a great source of pride. When you are making your own money your priorities will snap into clarity because now there are things that you need to do in order to survive. This is the heavily recommended no think job.

After you get a no think job start doing what you really want to do on the side. Do it for no money, then start to work with other people, then start offering your services. Once you have experience you can ditch the no think job and get paid for what you want to do.

Here comes the kicker: Figure out what kind of adult you want to be. What sort of values are important to you? Being creative? Being honest? Being kind, protective, adventurous? Start working to make those a part of your every day actions.

I can tell you though, the distracting yourself from the feelings of listlessness with booze/cigarettes/staying up all night will not help. It only makes the 5am feeling worse when it comes.

Remember, this will take time. expect to reach some sort of calm around 25ish. Good Luck!
posted by FatRabbit at 8:43 AM on November 1, 2011 [8 favorites]

Lots of good advice here. I'd like to reiterate some of the important points.

Voluntarily going to therapy as an adult is different from being forced to go as a child. As an adult, you can say "I would like to do the work to make my life better and I am hiring this person to help give me some guidance and tools to do that work better." You can think of your therapist as a life coach with some specialized training. If you make a concerted effort to apply the tools your therapist offers you and don't see good results, you can fire them and try someone else.

Your "manic" phase activities consist of goofing off outside with your friends. Your "depressive" phase activities consist of goofing off inside by yourself. There's nothing wrong with either one, but a life that consists only of goofing off will feel pretty empty. You'll find a lot more satisfaction if you dive in to some activity that has meaning for you and offers you challenge and growth.

Here's a short list of ideas to get you started: volunteer at a homeless shelter, perform in community theatre, learn to build robots, practice judo, study mathematics for the sheer beauty of it, start a small business, get involved in a political campaign, learn to fix cars, run a marathon, learn to program in c++, record an album, study carpentry and then help out at Habitat for Humanity, etc, etc, etc. I could rattle off hundreds of possibilities, but you won't know which path works for you unless you actually give them an honest try.

Which leads me to ...
"I know that I could write novels for a living, but I don't want to. I don't even read books myself really"
No. No you couldn't. There are only a small number of people making a living at writing novels and I can guarantee that all of them are readers. Having a passion for reading is just one of the requirements for developing the skill to become a competent novelist. The fact that you think you could be a professional novelist when you don't even like to read shows that you have never seriously investigated that path, let alone actually tried it. As others have pointed out, you're fantasizing about possibilities from a high-level view without ever getting down in the weeds and doing things to find out what those experiences are really like.

I'd strongly recommend getting out and actually trying some different stuff- professional and otherwise. Some things you'll find out that you hate. Others you may love. Maybe you'll discover satisfaction in working with your hands, or creating something new, or helping people, or making money. The point is that you won't know until you've actually given yourself the experiences.
posted by tdismukes at 8:45 AM on November 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

This: doing what I do when I'm manic (spend money, smoke cigarettes, meet girls, eat out every night, hit up bars, hit the beach, drive just for the hell of it, hang with friends all day etc etc).

and this:

It's getting to the point where my parents won't keep feeding me money, and I need to find a way to make it.

do not sound fulfilling in any sort of long term way.

I agree with tdismukes, push some limits outside of yourself, something that breaks you out of your shell of just looking inward. Volunteer, climb a mountain, build a house for someone in need, etc.

Self absorption can lead to suffering as you lose perspective of your place in the world. Even just living can become a big weight. Getting outside of yourself really does change that. You will find that those things that are so loudly empty within yourself, taking up so much of your energy and thoughts will just disappear. The lovely part of that is that all the decisions that are so huge and difficult will become easy and obvious.
posted by Vaike at 8:54 AM on November 1, 2011

Yeah, I kinda want to add something about that "I know I could write novels" bit...

You almost certainly cannot write novels. This is not an insult: most people can't. This includes most people who are avid readers and good writers. I'm a pretty avid reader, and I write for a living, and I'm pretty sure I couldn't write a whole novel. Let alone get one published, let alone make an actual living off it. Writing novels is extraordinarily hard.

This is not to say that you shouldn't pursue writing as a vocation, if you're interested in it. But start small, forget about the novels, and realize that pretty much anything you write, no matter how awesome, is going to involve a fair amount of tedium. The thing I wrote that I am probably most proud of - and it was a medium-length magazine article - involved a hell of a lot of rubbing my eyes while staring at a laptop screen.

I don't mean to sound discouraging, but part of being a grown-up is letting go of the vague dreams (which, in my experience, often stop you from doing things) and getting down into the gritty details of reality. It's really not as bad as it sounds, once you do it.
posted by breakin' the law at 9:09 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Disclaimer: Very harsh assessment and advice ahead:

Reading your post, I would have to say: I have already decided that I do not like you very much at all, at least not the way you were last night at 5 AM. Why not? You're more than three years older than me, and yet, I feel like I'm talking to a spoiled brat.

You claim to be incredibly talented and smart, but you don't have a single accomplishment to your name because you just give up on things before you even start. You run away from everything the moment the going goes tough, and then complain that "the things you want elude you". Beyond that, you seem to show very little appreciation for all of the stuff that's going well in your life - "shitty GPA from a top 50 college". And yet, you emphasize the first part, not the second.

It's because you expect everything in your life to spring up from nowhere without you putting in any work or effort to make it happen. In fact, by your claim that you could easily write a novel, I would even suspect you don't even understand what it means to actually invest time and hard work into something to make it happen. Interpretation of your claim that you could make a living off writing novels: "I easily could sit down and magically generate 100,000 coherent words of interesting structure and flow, but I'm too philosophically against it to do so!" Uhh? And yet, you wonder why you aren't making anything of your life?

All I'm hearing is empty bragging. You're constantly reinforcing - probably not as much to us, but to yourself - how special and talented and smart you are, without generating any tangible achievements to your name. You rationalize all your failures away by saying that you're not suited for labour, by saying that you're philosophically opposed to it, by saying that there's special forces of fate that make certain people apt to succeed that have not yet touched upon you. That's why you're feeling so crappy. That sort of thinking can only hold up for so long before it falls down on you.

That is not the way the world works. Show us that you're as amazing that you claim, because - quite frankly - everyone claims to be, and we're getting quite tired of hearing it. Ever notice how the people who actually are amazing never need to say it?

Let's address your misconceptions one by one.

You claim to have no marketable skills.

Who does, coming fresh out of post-secondary education, unless you were in some sort of highly specialized degree? And even then, you don't quite have it made at all. I'm in a computer science degree, which is supposed to be a great deal more practical than a sociology degree; and even then, what am I supposed to say to an employer? "Oh! You should hire me because I have a view of programming that is 10 years obsolete!"

Why do you think you got your degree in the first place? Your degree - in conjunction with your personality - is meant to be your way to convince an employer that they should take a risk in you. That's how you get your marketable skills.

Let me tell you a story. I know a girl who got a sociology degree and was laughed at by her whole family and by her peers for getting something completely unmarketable. Now, at the tender age of 26, she's already making triple figures in marketing, something the people who got a business degree haven't been able to do. How did she do it? She began working for a small company as a secretary (we laughed at her for that too), and then began to subtly sneak into marketing opportunities because it was a small company and the hierarchy wasn't as rigid. She left, started her own company off the experience - and just three years into the making, she ended getting so much experience and expertise that she got hired by a big organization, first as a consultant, then as a permanent employee. And they were willing to dole out big bucks for her.

Ironically, the people I know who graduated at the same time as her with, y'know, actual marketing degrees, are still struggling and look up to her for advice. Those were the same people who looked down at her for having a degree that was by all views useless.

Her advice for someone like you would be - get to work. There's no difference between her and you other than her motivation, willingness to learn - and most of all, willingness to accept defeat, not think herself out of things, and just get up and continue. What? Do you think she magically had it made? Far from it. In the opening stages of her career - she spent more than a hundred hours a week working. Not working in the conventional sense - but working in terms of finding out every single opportunity and honing in on it and making it work. And because she did that for just four years of her life, now she's got the rest of her life made.

You're criticizing yourself for not having any marketable skills, but have you even gone ahead and found the opportunities to develop these said skills? I doubt it.

"I know that I could write novels for a living, but I don't want to. I don't even read books myself really, so I don't want to waste my time in a dying art. I like making music but more and more it is apparent to me that "bands" are not for me. They have a way of twisting, contorting what is good and turning it into something terrible. I want to trade futures but I don't want to sit at a computer all day. That type of behavior is what causes me to be depressive."

Nice pattern that you've got going on there. "I've got a special talent, a special dream! But, there's an aspect of the life I don't like, so therefore, I'm shutting the doors completely."

Not everything in your "dream" career will be all perfect and tailored to you. You're being completely unreasonable here. You discard goals just because you have a preconception - and nothing more than that - of how you suppose the career line will go, and then say it's not for you. Furthermore, you're making the assumption that your goal is going to go just one way and you have no control over it. As far as I know, not every form of writing is a dying art, and there are plenty of bands that remain nice and clean and true to their original motivation.

Guess what? When people tell you to "do something that you love", the other implication that they're making is that you have to do the work as well. To get to the juicier parts of your career, you've got to do the footwork.

I'm going into research, and I could easily talk myself out of it the same way that you're talking yourself out of things. "I don't want to spend 20 hours in front of a computer hammering out data. I'm probably going to be placed into something boring with really low prestige." But the stuff I like? I want to be able to formulate creative strategies for research. I want to discover stuff that no one has ever even touched upon before. I want to stand in front of people at conferences and present my shocking new discoveries. That's going to be like, 1% of my career - the other 99% will be the boring stuff. But that 1% is enough to keep me going past the 99%, y'know?

THAT'S what they mean by doing something you love. Realize that NO job on earth will ever be 100% of what you love, ever. You're holding out for an imaginary standard based on a misinterpretation of what people have been telling you.

Instead, find the 1% that you're willing to endure the 99% for.

But something is beckoning me to NYC and something is telling me to leave this place. The true love of my life lives in NYC.

Sure. But understand that moving cities won't hold back your frustration for lacking ambition and success in life for very long at all. Fresh starts only work if you understand what you've been doing wrong, and if you're willing to use the fresh start to actually change.

And something tells me that this so-called "love of your life" isn't going to be as perfect as you hold her to be. Sure, maybe I could be wrong. But looking at your track record, you seem to have a horrible habit of radically polarizing things.

In other words, my advice for you is: stop being so naive and actually suck things up and do the work. You're looking for an easy way out; you see everyone else succeeding, and you automatically assume that there has to be some sort of magical route that they go about to get what they want in life, some sort of route that you just haven't been able to find. Not in the least. Everyone who's there already takes the hard route that actually takes effort, and it's high time that you start plodding upon that path too instead of rummaging in the bushes for a shortcut that doesn't exist.
posted by Conspire at 9:10 AM on November 1, 2011 [28 favorites]

As regards the mental health business, let me tell you that I am 30 years old right now and in a world of shit not to dissimilar to yours because I did not try to understand my mental illness until far too recently.

You have a serious disease. It won't kill you outright, but it can suffocate your ability to grow as a person, make you weak physically and mentally, it can lose you friends, make it impossible to meet new ones, it will shrink your existence to a tiny pinhole of suffering if you let it.

Don't just take my word for it, don't just take a doctor's word for it, just read a book about it. Tomorrow. In every bookstore there is a psychology section, in which there will be at least a few books on manic depression/bipolar disorder. Send me your receipt, I'll reimburse you.

I don't know you, but I know without a shadow of a doubt you don't want to drag this shit out until you are 30.

You seem smart. Take a few hours, read the book. Learn that manic depressiveness is a trait that was passed down from your hominid ancestors. It conferred upon them survival ability (some kind of behavioral strategies for remaining with the group, when exile meant death), but you don't live in circumstances like your ancestors. You don't have to spend all winter roaming snow-blasted tundra searching for frozen carrion to feed your family. Your survival and the survival of those around you does not tread the razor's edge like your (tens of thousands of years past) ancestors had to do. The psychological adaptation that they needed for survival now is anachronistic and serves only to torment you.

You were born with this, and some, if not much or most, of the blame for your unsatisfactory situation right now lies on the head of this disease. You are not a failure---the only thing you have failed at is the recognition of your malady, and the only way to recognize it is to learn about it. Just by reading this comment, you will have learned more about your disease at a younger age than me (and surely many, many others.)

Get the book and read it, or just learn about it however you want. But learn about it. That is the key first step. The sooner you do that, the sooner you can start steering your life in the direction you want it to go, and not be tossed about on the waves of one motherfucker of a disease any longer.

Do not confuse symptoms of your disease with intrinsic character flaws. When you are suffering from depression/anxiety/bipolarism you are fighting with one arm tied behind your back.
posted by TheRedArmy at 9:11 AM on November 1, 2011

The last couple of answers make it clear that some people are offering advice from the standpoint that you are suffering from clinical depression or bipolar tendencies while others are offering it from the standpoint that you are a young person suffering from the angst of lacking any direction in life. Judging from your question, I think it's quite likely that both are applicable. I'd strongly recommend that you try working on both aspects of your situation in parallel.
posted by tdismukes at 10:15 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hypothetical self esteem doesn't work. I tried it for a long time. I tried believing I had value because of the things I could do or would have done if not for, and I felt mostly like shit. I only started to feel good about myself and comfortable in my life when I started doing things that had value instead of assuring myself and others that I could do them if I so chose.

The next thing you do doesn't have to be the thing you do forever. You can be a temp for a year or two while you figure things out. It doesn't mean temping is your fate. Take some of the pressure off of yourself. You don't have to decide right now what your career will be or what your identity is. You do have to pay rent. Solve the near term problem. The long term problems work out on their own.

If suicide is in your thoughts, even if it doesn't feel like an imminent emergency, you should seek the help of a mental health professional. You can find someone you trust and a process you understand. It doesn't have to play out for you the same way it did when you were a child.
posted by prefpara at 10:48 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

You have a serious disease.

Bear in mind that the guy is self-diagnosing based on symptoms that could be characteristic of bipolar disorder, but could equally plausibly be symptoms of being 22 years old, directionless, and kind of self-entitled.

We don't know which. Neither does he. Hence the advice to seek professional help rather than Internet Stranger Diagnosis.
posted by ook at 10:55 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I didn't realize it until just the other day, but I think I am manic depressive. I go through phases where it seems like I have all the money in the world, the sun is shining bright, the words I speak flow beautifully, people love me, and I love them. Then there are times where all I want to do is hole up, eat, play video games, and pass the time.

Please believe this 52-year-old when he tells you that at the very tender age of 22 this is not a sign of manic depression. It's a sign of being a pretty standard 22-year-old.
posted by Decani at 12:02 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

I was almost exactly 22 3/4 when I packed up and moved to Montana. I had no job, no place to live, didn't know anyone there and had actually never even been there. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It taught me a lot about myself. You do not have to figure it all out now. Just go, do, be. Presumably you don't have kids or other attachments? Then just go somewhere. You'll be okay. Caveat: I hear NYC is kinda expensive.
posted by desjardins at 1:01 PM on November 1, 2011

Mentioning suicide means that you think about it. It's not trivial; it's a danger sign. I like to recommend this article about How Not to Commit Suicide. It's not clear from your writing what's really going on, and what actual help you want. But there's a strong tone of anxiety and a sense that you are lost.

I think you'd be happier and healthier if you got a job and supported yourself, and didn't take money from your family. I think you need a really good therapist, maybe a PhD Psychologist, who can help you get some clarity, and maybe a psychiatrist who can help you get an accurate diagnosis and some proper medication if needed.

Most of all, you need a goal. Set one. Make it not too easy, and not too self-indulgent, and give yourself something to move towards.
posted by theora55 at 4:57 PM on November 1, 2011

I wanted to come back and address a couple of things very briefly. One, don't pathologize yourself. Unstable emotional territory is pretty common at your time of life for some groups of people. That does not mean you have a mental health disorder, although I am a big fan of therapy and boy can it ever help.

Two, don't get hung up on the suicide thing. See my previous comment. For a very large percentage of the population, thoughts or words about suicide always ring a very loud alarm bell. For others, it's more like a present but hardly notable background ticking - always there but not something that need cause alarm.

Obviously, if you feel you are in actual danger of killing yourself or are ideating on suicide, we have a problem. But if it's just something you ponder passingly, it doesn't mean necessarily mean there's any intent or risk and you shouldn't pathologize that, either.

I just want you to know that while all of this feels very fraught at the moment, it needn't be. See if you can dial it down. And if you can't, get some help.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:27 PM on November 1, 2011

Hi, this article from today addresses how therapy is different in your adult years than when you were a kid, and how the patient is an active participant in therapy. Hope you find it useful.
posted by foxjacket at 10:53 AM on November 2, 2011

« Older Looking for info on wax seals/stamps   |   Help make my bed more like a couch, please! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.