Advice for a recent college graduate dealing with depression
November 5, 2011 3:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm a recent college graduate and long time depression sufferer. Now I've suddenly been cast out into the "real world" with no directed day-to-day course of action and I'm feeling lost and needing help. Currently near by the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm needing to settle down soon to make some money and also receive the mental health care that I believe I need. The problem is that I'm totally broke. Any practical advice on breaking a stubborn depression when you're not made of money would be sincerely appreciated.

Last week I turned 25, which brings me to within one year of exactly half my lifetime lived with depression. Half happy, and now half sad. Over the years I've tried to be proactive with overcoming this affliction. At first my attempts were more radical, as my depression was then at its most severe, but as the years have gone by and its intensity has waned, so too have my efforts. Anymore I persist in an ongoing state of dissatisfied complacency. I know that I'm not the kind of person that I want to be, or where I want to be at in life, but I prefer to focus on daily distractions to maintain this status quo rather than immerse myself in the underlying causative factors of my depression, insurmountable from my perspective and therefore drowning in nature. I'm aware that distraction is a terrible coping mechanism, but its the only way that I've found to get by. The alternative, to tackle my depression head-on, seems far too incompatible with my life. I lack the time, resources, and (ultimately) perseverance for such an approach.

Ideally, I would take a vacation from my life and enroll in a “turn your life around and become the happy person you've always wanted to be” boot camp, deal with all my issues and then return on the other side of all that to resume my life as a brand new person, complete with new healthy outlook and renewed energy to effect the radical changes required to pull a life 180°. Unfortunately, here's the reality: I'm a poor recent college graduate with no job, no real direction, and no place that I feel comfortable calling home. Right now I'm traveling around the west coast (near San Francisco) and working on organic farms, in hopes of figuring something (anything) out and perhaps more importantly, because I don't really know what else to do. My money stockpile is dwindling and I'll soon have to find myself a source of income.

So this is where I'm at.

I don't know who to ask for advice on the matter and I don't know how to go about dealing with this on my own. I think I need to see a therapist or life coach, but I don't have the money. I've even considered taking out a loan to pay for one, but disappointing experiences with therapy in the past leaves me quite reluctant to take this kind of step. I also lack the proper social support group to help me through all of this (but which I desperately crave).

I love San Francisco and can see myself being happy there assuming that I can afford to live while reserving some energy for dealing with my personal problems. This feels somewhat unrealistic though, based on what I know about real estate prices and job availability in the city. It seems like the only way to live in the city for someone like me is to work ridiculous hours and have far too many roommates, which I think would be too much of an energy drain for me right now. However, I'm also under the impression that there's likely decent quality mental health services available for poor people like me there.

Lastly, I'll just say that I exercise regularly and eat healthily. I'm not simply in a funk that needs shaking. What I need is to relearn how to live my life; how to undo my self-sabotaging ways and develop healthy coping mechanisms. And I need a way to do it practically and effectively that's at least somewhat within my meager means.

I know this is somewhat of a vague question and certainly specific details are lacking that might assist in understanding my particular situation. So if there's anything that I can clarify to receive more directed advice, I'd not only be happy to provide it, I'd also be most appreciative of being reached out to.

Thank you, community.
posted by robobrent to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well, even though this site seems to mainly talk about suicide, this is undoubtedly a good place to start looking for help. There are several e-mail and phone services on the side bar which don't require money in order to assist you.

Good on you for seeking out help.
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:12 PM on November 5, 2011

You're gonna have serious trouble if you have absolutely no money. I would strongly advise you to find work before your money runs out. Like, immediately. If you have emotional problems or mental health issues, you are in a vulnerable position, and if you are poor, you are in a *very* vulnerable position.

Two things you can do are:

1. Contact the counseling services office and/or Dean's Office of the school you just graduated from. They are part of the system and will likely be able to give you some assistance.

2. Universities and schools that train mental health practitioners frequently offer sliding-scale fee arrangements for mental health services. You could call four or five teaching hospitals or schools specializing in psychology/psychiatry, and you'll likely find at least one that offers cheap rates.

Man, I cannot stress to you strongly enough that you do not want to be a poor person with emotional problems or mental health issues. It's nothing to fuck around with - being a college student with problems is *completely different* than being an adult with problems.
posted by facetious at 4:45 PM on November 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

I believe the Pacific Center in Berkeley offers sliding scale counseling. (Sliding scale isn't mentioned on the website, though, but phoning them has got to be worth a shot. It says on their website that their clients aren't exclusively queer, if you're not.)

I'm a lousy cheerleader, but I think if you can find a job, you can make this work. (Though I glanced at Craigslist to check the availability of rooms for rent and had sticker shock. I'd forgotten that a room in the Bay Area often costs more than my apartment here does.)
posted by hoyland at 5:39 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speaking as someone who managed to find some direction and self motivation starting from a similair place. It sounds like you know what you need to do to make a success out of your life but you keep getting in you own way. Whether you call that depression, borderline personality disorder, attention deficit disorder (and maybe rightly so-I am not saying your problems aren't real, or difficult or make your life harder) it is all problems YOU have to ultimately deal with. Hear is what worked (and still works when I find myself falling down again) for me. YMMV. Identify exactly what you want-house in the burbs with wife and kids? or a life of service and contemplation or whatever-then set out the steps to get there from were you are. It is going to be different steps for everyone and only you can chart your path. You are going to make mistakes, learn from them, get up and do it again, but better, or at least a different mistake. Don't listen to the inner voice that tells you that you are a failure and a loser and don't deserve love or success. This is hard, really, really hard and I still fight it a lot, but know I have its measure and know how to beat it. By identifying the problem, then taking steps to solve that problem, and keeping at it till either I beat the problem or the problem changes, than it is a new battle.

I have also found the best cure for depression and the strongest foe of that inner voice of defeat is a hard job well done. That job could be a hard problem at work, or a garden well weeded or a broken car well mended or a room that needs painting or a well built piece of furniture-don't matter, all that matters is that you do the best job you can and take pride in it. Manual labor does wonders for my mood in a way exercise doesn't-because I accomplished something. That is my best cure for depression. That being said some medication helped a lot in giving me mental space to learn new-non self defeating habits.

Good luck, I bet you might find more support from those around you then you think. The best ally of that inner voice of defeat is solitude and idleness. Don't give it allies.

(I realize it sounds like a horrible mishmash of self help platitudes but it has worked for me)
posted by bartonlong at 6:43 PM on November 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

For (free) support, look to NAMI and DBSA (here's a list of groups in the greater SF area.) For free stuff in San Francisco in general, check out the Free Print Shop, most notably the Free Mental Health Chart (PDF). Also look at the free resource guide (PDF) from the Mental Health Association of San Fransisco. You can also join online support groups at DBSA, or participate in the forums there (I find both helpful.)

On Monday I basically end my two month vacation from real life to turn things completely around and try to recover from debilitating depression and a variety of terrible habits (in case you didn't know that's actually really possible.) I spent most of my 20s in a directionless miserable fog - I wish I had gone through this program a long, long time ago.

If you think you can use books to train yourself on your own (I'm rubbish at that, but it works for some people) try to find something based on CBT to start - that's the most like what you're asking for (specific strategies for changing the way you think and deal with life.)

Personally, and I must stress that word quite a bit, I was unable to conquer the kind of issues you are describing with hard work and good intentions. I need medication and therapy. Do not feel bad if it turns out you need that too.
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 7:03 PM on November 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

« Older (Giant Mess of) Christmas cookie baking best...   |   Children Stuff for Adults Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.