Ennui - why?
May 2, 2012 10:35 AM   Subscribe

I feel really fed up and I don't know why or what to do about it. My current situation may be the best one for me at the moment, so why do I feel unhappy? (A lot of long snowflakiness inside.)

Mona's Law in Tales of the City said you can have a hot lover, a hot job and a hot apartment, but not all three at the same time. I don't on the surface have anything to complain about, so why do I feel so depressed?

Job - I work in an interesting field, which I can't name because there are few who do my exact job. Sometimes it's very intellectually stimulating, sometimes it's just a case of coming in and getting the work done. I've been here for four years which is the longest I've held a job - I'm not sure if this is why I'm feeling restless. I've gone off office life recently as my co-workers can be very gossipy and spend a lot of time discussing diet/exercise which does not interest me as a topic of conversation, and feels (I may be projecting) like I'm being judged by proxy. I have bipolar disorder so can feel paranoid or not part of the crowd often, and this doesn't help. I'm not sure if this is why I feel particularly...not unhappy, but a sense of ennui about work. The job pays well enough and I don't find it difficult, so there is no stress regarding money or too much to do for the moment.

Home - I was 30 this year and I live in a shared house - more specifically, as a lodger. My landlord is middle-aged, and another person lives there but I rarely see them. As a lodger, I don't have the freedom I had when I shared a place - difficult to invite people to stay, have parties etc. The rent is very cheap, the landlord is nice. But I feel like I'm too old to live in a shared place anymore, I'm tired of coming home and having to make small talk (I don't have a huge amount in common with landlord although we get on), or having to keep all my life in one room. However, based on a friend's experience, renting a place of my own would double my expenses. I'm telling myself that the sensible option is to stay put while I pay off some debt, as I do not want to see that increase in costs while carrying a credit card debt, but I feel really unhappy and I find I don't want to go home sometimes for no particular reason. A few days ago I binge-ate my way through my cupboard then made myself throw up, and I don't know why. I have days when I want to come home and just cry, and days when I want to come home and throw myself into an elaborate project to distract myself, and space/social norms won't let me do this. Generally on these days I will come home, make a quick meal, take it upstairs and eat on my bed, and then leave my laptop on while I surf or watch TV while doing other stuff (chores/craft etc.)

Lover - I have a long-term boyfriend. We've been going through a rough patch but I think it was a patch, because things have been much better recently. We've been together for four years, he lives in a different city, there has been a plan for us to live together but I have had money/hoarding issues which has made this hard. He has said he doesn't want to move in until he feels I'm able to organise myself and share my space with someone else, which I agree with - I don't want to move in with him because I want My Own Place or any other reason that means we'll be broken up within a month. But because I feel sort of stuck where I'm living (even though on paper it is the best option for me - cheap, non-annoying partying housemates (which would be the case if I moved into another shared flat), safe and lets me pay off my overdraft etc. - it gets frustrating, as does only seeing him at weekends. We are very close and we do talk about my illness etc. a lot. (I also discuss things with friends.)

I know living together is somethign he wants, but he has made clear that he doesn't want us to live together unless I get better at managing my money and possessions. It's been worse - I used to run out of wage within a week of being paid, and I used to also have to rent a storage locker; now I have savings and just my room. I can understand him having reservations. I think this is wise, and I should look at this period (he has six months at least on the lease where he lives now) as one where I can get myself ready and pay stuff off and get rid of stuff but it feels really...insurmountable. I feel like I'm going to spend the next year or so living with someone twice my age, paying off a debt that makes me twitchy to think about and not really feeling relaxed and happy where I am, even though on paper all of this seems the sensible thing to do and I'm living in a cheap, clean house with a nice landlord. I don't know where all these feelings have suddenly come from or why they won't listen when I try to be rational.

I've found myself looking back to five years ago - I lived with some friends, I used to blog, my life was more chaotic and I was really bad with money - with fondness, because there was something that's missing now and I'm not sure what it is. It seemed OK to house-share at 28 but not at 30 - and I'm not sure how much of this is 'growing older;' bullshit. None of my friends are looking to move right now; my friends are either living n their owned place, alone in expensive studios or already in a sharing arrangement. What worriesd me is that with BPD I have a tendency to panic and my thoughts to spiral and believe everything is The Worst Thing Ever. I feel like that at the moment - like all I do is go to work, come home from work, then repeat the next day. I am in therapy, I am taking medication, and I am doing things like exercising and calming hobbies, but the meds make me so tired and sluggish all the time, and it's very difficult to feel as bright and engaged as I used to be before I was properly diagnosed and given the medication. Although I was actually miserable a lot then, and made some very stupid choices, I feel like creatively I did a lot more, and I felt I was living inside myself rather than observing from a distance, feeling like I was a little man inside my head controlling my body at a remove.

In the past, I've taken these feelings as a sign that I should make Radical Changes - moving across the country, splitting up with someone, spending tons of cash. I don't know whether this is my brain telling me to do somethign similar, or whether those decisions were bourne out of being unable to see a long-term plan. Now I'm in a long-term employment situation and have a long-term boyfriend, I can't just up and go and live in Japan for a year (a friend of mine, when considering going to Bangladesh, said 'but everything would just be the same when I get back') or move to Amsterdam. For a start, I can't do it with outstanding debts rather than savings. But I feel like I'll be in this position - paying things off, no energy to do anythign creative, living in a 2m x 3m room - forever. Why am I feeling so miserable when I know long-term this isn't going to be the case? What's missing? Do I need something other than work?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if by "BPD" you mean bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, since people use that acronym for both, but either of those could account for your depression right there, because depression is a symptom of both issues. Sounds like you might need a medication adjustment.

Agree with liketitanic that if your issue is borderline personality disorder, dialectical behavior therapy could be immensely helpful. I have friends who say that it literally saved their lives.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:42 AM on May 2, 2012

Your boyfriend sounds a bit controlling- everything you own fits in one room and he thinks it's too much, WTF? Your living situation also sounds confining. It does not sound like you are free to have friends over, decorate or any of those things that make a place feel like home. My advice would be to find a house share with people your own age. When you pack to move get rid of a lot of stuff, give it away to friends, to charity, throw it out. Shared housing is perfectly ok at any age, but it's best when everyone is an equal tenant or equal owner. Renting a room in someone's personal house is not often very comfortable.
posted by mareli at 11:00 AM on May 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

You're miserable because you're in a shitty living situation and under a pile of debt. What's there to miss? Keep your nose on the grindstone til that debt's paid off, and point your resentment towards your previous self, as their spending habits are responsible for what's going down at the moment. Shit sucks and you know it'll get better, so really, allow yourself to feel miserable but get the work done and eventually you'll be at that brighter spot in the future
posted by MangyCarface at 11:08 AM on May 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

You need a vacation. Go somewhere. Somewhere as unlike home as possible. It can be someplace cheap, you can do couchsurfing or cheap hostels or whatever, but get out of your routine for as many vacation days as your employer will give you. Yes, this won't help your debt situation, but sometimes it's time to get out of the routine. Your friend might say 'but everything would just be the same when I get back' but it won't be - well, the situation may be the same but you'd be different. You're describing your life and saying "really, this doesn't sound that bad, why am I so frustrated with it?" One approach is to try to change your situation (new apartment, new job, new hobby, new friends, or new relationship) but another would be to try to change your perspective. Maybe some travel would help.
posted by aimedwander at 11:09 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't really have the answers to your questions--or mine either, 'cause I've got the ennui too-- but this stood out to me:

"But I feel like I'll be in this position - paying things off, no energy to do anythign creative, living in a 2m x 3m room - forever. Why am I feeling so miserable when I know long-term this isn't going to be the case?"

Because as far as you can see, this IS going to be the case. None of the stuff you mention here has an expiration date. You can't move out as long as you've got credit card debt (you don't mention how long it's going to take to pay that off). Your boyfriend won't let you move in until you hit his standards and uh...when's that going to be again? Is there some kind of concrete standards of his that you have to meet before he allows you to move in? At what point do you "pass", anyway? Has that been determined? At what point are you deemed worthy to move in? It sounds like you've already made improvements, so why are those Not Good Enough Yet?

With regards to your big 3, the job sounds like it's doing the best of the lot, and might be hard to replace anyway. Gossipy coworkers are everywhere, so that's probably going to be the same if you change jobs. I'd probably not worry about this one unless you actually are allowed to move in with your boyfriend elsewhere.

The housing situation: yeah, I think you're probably right that this situation needs to stay the same for now even though you're not thrilled with it. Unless you come across something better, it's probably at "as good as it gets" for now. If it helps, can you do some estimating math to see how many years you'd have to stay there until you're paid off?

The boyfriend: as you can tell, I kind of think there's something off there. Maybe it's your "rough patch," I don't know. But it would probably help you if there was SOMETHING concrete here that you could work towards, and working towards moving in with your boyfriend (or at least moving to his town even if you don't move in?) would help most of this stuff. I think you need to have a serious talk with him about what hoops you need to jump through in order to prove yourself (since it sounds like that's what he wants--it seems a bit extreme to me, but since I come from a shopping/hoarding family I can kinda understand his reluctance). It is also entirely possible that on some level he's really not comfortable with shacking up with you, and he doesn't want to admit it. I think you need to find that out for sure on your end before you do anything. It may make it easier for him to deal with you when you aren't living in his space all the time, and I'd want to know that before I tried to deepen that relationship.

If what it boils down to are that nothing in your Big Three can change for at least a year, or years, maybe the best you can do is look for something else in your life that you can come up with to do that's different. I dunno about vacations since they're expensive and then you still come back to "same old shit" and I always feel like once I come back to the same old shit, it feels like I never left-- but YMMV there. Maybe take up a new hobby that gets you out of the house?
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:19 AM on May 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

point your resentment towards your previous self

Don't point resentment toward your previous self. That is beyond shitty advice. You fucked up, just like every other human being in the world. It is to be hoped that you learned from your mistakes. DON'T RESENT YOURSELF FOR HAVING MADE MISTAKES. That is just a spiral to depression and self-loathing, which is the last thing you need.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:24 AM on May 2, 2012 [12 favorites]

Also, cut yourself some slack right now. You seem to be underplaying all the challenges you face. For instance, you say "there is no stress regarding money" but clearly there is stress regarding money, as you are living in pretty Spartan conditions in order to pay off debt. That's stressful. Good for you for being focused on getting your financial affairs in order, but acknowledging that this is a challenge might help you keep things in perspective.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:26 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sounds like living with the boyfriend and his concern about your potential hoarding is your main source of stress and stuck-ness. I don't know that it is possible for him to judge your current living situation and tell if you are definitely not going to hoard again. I am messier when I live on my own and considerably neater when I share my living space. What I would do is talk to him about your hoarding tendencies and become comfortable communicating about that, so he knows how to approach you if he feels anxious about your stuff, and you are prepared with an action plan to make the situation comfortable. Have a plan in place, and see if that makes him more comfortable.

There is no way to guarantee a perfect cohabitation experience. Maybe your boyfriend is just not ready to share his space and work out mundane conflict, which says a lot. After four years, are you happy with the current level of commitment? Seems like this guy wants you to conform to fit into a premade space in his life. God forbid you should inconvenience him by having problems.

I agree with the vacation idea - get out in a fresh environment and do some hard thinking about your situation. Sounds like your current living arrangements are no longer good for you, and you need to at least have a goal in place to change that.

Things I have learned about cohabitation:

1. Do not do it just for financial reasons.
2. Talk about chores, housework and expectations first.
3. It's not that hard to live with most people, but it is hard to live with them and keep the relationship from downgrading to roommate status. The sooner you learn to talk to each other about stuff like fears about hoarding, the easier it will be to talk about other things, like why the frequency of sex has diminished and how you'd wish he'd stop leaving his shoes in the middle of the entry.
posted by griselda at 11:29 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you need a better living situation. No matter what shitty thing has gone on in my life, having a place to call home where I could feel safe, comfortable and happy made all the difference in the world in getting through each day.

I know you said you're paying off debt and feel like it's not right to spend more on rent, but maybe there's a way to find a middle ground. It sounds like you feel so guilty about your past spending behavior and current debt that you're punishing yourself by staying in the cheapest situation you can find. You don't have to spend EVERY SINGLE penny you make on paying off that debt. I promise you, it's okay to spend a little more on a place that makes you feel more comfortable-- of course, as long as you are still able to make your minimum payments on your debt.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:31 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sometimes it's very intellectually stimulating, sometimes it's just a case of coming in and getting the work done.

All jobs are like this at some time. Sounds like you're in a field where you could really excel and eventually be paid quite a bit. Right now your paycheck is a good one, and you need to focus on paying off your debt.

Your coworkers are just coworkers, interact with them as such during the day (be pleasant, but business-like) and forget them the rest of the time. Your job right now is... just a job. You have lots of other time to find your passion and enjoy life.

Your home situation sounds like it's making you seriously unhappy. Binge eating is a huge red flag. You need OUT, before you wind up in a much worse situation than if you were paying double the rent. If you're down to just a roomful of stuff, you don't need a huge place to live. Why not find an inky-dinky apartment just for you? It doesn't have to be in a popular part of town--sounds like you're the sort that might enjoy an eclectic neighborhood. Apartment hunting is great therapy, would give you something to do in the evenings, get you out of your current stressful conditions for a break, and gives you something to look forward to in finding the "perfect" place. You don't know what is out there until you look. People who do keep an eye out, even if it's for months, are the ones who wind up finding the great deals.

I'll bet you can find a place on the cheap that might not be luxurious, but would satisfy you greatly in terms of having your own private space and being able to be creative in furnishing and fixing it up on the cheap. If it slows down paying off your credit card debt, so be it. If you're happy where you're at, it might be worth looking at other ways to cut expenses. At least you won't not be harming yourself by binge eating or going into a depression, and will be content to go to work in the meantime knowing there's 2/3 of your day spent in a place you enjoy, doing what you like. Also, it's extremely hard to live with someone happily till you've lived on your own. You really owe it to yourself to learn to live with yourself a while. Remember, living with your boyfriend is NOT having My Own Place.

You say your lover is twice your age? He's coming from a whole different place than you are, financially, emotionally, in terms of life experience and what he wants out of life! I certainly wouldn't say DTMF (or even call him a MF), but I think you need to keep a bit of distance while you get into a different place of your own, both literally and figuratively. First, get your own apartment in your own city so you can keep working your job, then get your debts paid off. Keep making friends and doing things you enjoy on your own, as well as spending time with your SO, but don't make his life your life.

You say you're looking back at where you were five years ago, I say look forward to where you'll be in five years. Sounds to me you look back in fondness, because in some ways you had more control over your own life. You need to take back a bit of control and make some plans. You're thinking about Radical Changes, which isn't all bad. DON'T spend tons of cash, DON'T (right now) move across the country. I'd even put splitting up with "someone" off for a while. (More Later.) But getting your own place would be a pretty Radical Change that would make you happy and still let you move forward with getting into a better place to make positive changes in your life.

After your debts are paid, you might still want to go live in Japan or Amsterdam! Yes, your friend is right about everything would just be the same when you get back, but YOU are different, simply by virtue of the fact that you've been somewhere else and will have changed your perspective. Every American should live, on the economy, overseas. There are amazing things to be learned about the world (and yourself.)

Here's the More Later: I find it interesting that two of your choices, moving and breaking up, involve leaving your lover. The third choice, spending money, is avoiding the issue, but puts you further away from where he thinks you should be in terms of allowing you to move in with him. IMHO, this seems to be an indicator that you need to back off a little bit, put aside the idea of living with him for right now, do more thinking about what YOU want from life and from relationships, and generally make plans for what you want, whether or not that includes him.

I don't know if I'd spend the money on a vacation--rather save it up for rent--but the idea of getting away for a weekend by yourself, with no phone or computer, sounds like a good one. Can you get out of the city and go somewhere you can hike or just vegetate in the country? Depending on your personality, you might want to take a pad and paper and list goals or do pros and cons while thinking about your situation, or you might just want to be in the moment and let things percolate.

Probably this falls into the tl;dr catagory, but I wish you well. Could you please come back eventually and let us know what you decide? I know I'm not the only one in the community that wonders how things go with AskMe folks.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:03 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Shoot, forgot.

Regarding your bipolar and your meds. You say they make you feel tired and sluggish, yet still in a downward spiral. Maybe you need to look at different meds or doses? Took me a while to get everything clicking, but changing and adjusting meds made all the difference in my outlook. Your debt suggests to me Bipolar I, and many people with that type say they feel they've lost a bit of creativity on the meds, but you shouldn't feel ennui, tiredness, or sluggish.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:11 PM on May 2, 2012

you have a lot going on, but a little advice:

i think you could move in with your boy friend when his lease is up, if you both really want to.

i don't know what criteria he would use to know if you're financially stable or ready or whatever to move in, but i think if you're paying off debt and you only have 1 room full of stuff it sounds like you're a good way there. certainly more responsible than a lot of people.

i think this would give you something to work towards, and it sounds like something you actually want to do.
posted by cupcake1337 at 12:29 PM on May 2, 2012

I agree with those who say you can/should cut yourself some slack...

You've made the choice to save & get out of debt and that's GREAT. Maybe a wall chart to help you visualize your progress on the debt reduction? Then it's not "I still have half a gagillion doubloons to pay back" it's "I already paid back "X doubloons!"

I suggest finding an exercise activity that could get you out of the house & allow you some opportunities for creativity. Maybe a community dance troop? Maybe a performance group? Maybe rambling walks with a camera?

I know it can seem horribly unappealing to walk after work or dinner (I love my couch, especially when the depressive lethargy is present) ... But the benefits of moving your body and getting those endorphins are immense.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 1:39 PM on May 2, 2012

The behavior you're telling us about (the binge eating, the hoarding if that's really what you think is going on, feeling outside of yourself) really needs to be discussed with a good mental health professional. This may be an indication that your medication needs to be adjusted.

Feeling really creative and alive is a common hypomanic/manic thing that many people miss when it's gone--that might be part of it. Or you could be depressed.

Good luck with everything.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:58 PM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe this is horrible advice, but try it on for size. Really, two things:

- spend more time outside, in calming yet stimulating (low/no-cost) environments, such as parks or botanical gardens. Do something outside, whether dancing to music, writing a journal, meditating, painting watercolors-- what have you. Have a picnic date every two weeks, with a friend or even with yourself. Promise you'll have tons of fun on that given Sunday with a maximum spent of, say, $15. Look at that number as a fun challenge to live up to rather than a limit. Cook yourself some yummy food for that picnic and get slightly tipsy. Stay somewhere where you can look up at the stars at midnight. Ask friends if they have open rooftops and spend a night learning the stories of constellations as you look up at the sky. Really spoil yourself and then journal, or talk about it, or just focus on enjoying yourself.

- if you want to do an extreme thing, try this: go minimalist. Really purge your stuff, but with a purpose: look up Apartment Therapy and other blogs with a minimalist aesthetic and really try to redecorate your room, with the limitations of your living space as a fun challenge. I think redecorating has a great therapeutic effect and also makes you feel more in-control of your life. Really try to work on creating your mood through color, object placement, organization and lighting. Try to create a calm, quiet, yet energizing space rather than a 'room'. I think that space itself can become comfortable in an addicting way, rather than relying on 'stuff' to provide that comfort, it just has to be arranged right. If you place an armchair of the right shape and color by a window, with one bookcase or table nearby, it can have the same soothing effect of many familiar objects. Adding mirrors (up where they reflect sunlight) and plants in your space tends to help with atmosphere. Think about textures (draped fabric) and colors especially, as well as scents (that is, buy a few candles with really great scents). The whole point is to be really present where you are. I think you become more the more you're aware of your surroundings and the more limited and observable every aspect of them becomes. The more you pare down and streamline, the more you'll find the space surrounding you lightly rather than pressing down. Anyway, just something to try.
posted by reenka at 3:30 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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