Do I need therapy to shake off my paralyzing feeling of loneliness?
August 20, 2012 4:18 PM   Subscribe

Incredibly lonely and unmotivated. Do I need therapy?

I'm 25 and I still live at home. I'm currently working and saving up to move out somewhere. Not sure where exactly. I'm a graphic designer so I don't have any career aspirations other than to be a freelancer. The past few months have been rough for me. Almost all of my friends have moved away and I have absolutely no friends left in town. Even still, the ones I keep in contact with aren't artistic types that fully understand what it is I'm doing with my life. I feel saddened by the fact that I constantly tell people that I'm working on art whenever someone asks what I've been up to. I have nothing to show except my work. Living at home is really degrading to me. I love my family but being around them is not very inspiring. I'm very appreciative of the fact that my parents allow me to stay with me and I always help out. So don't think I'm just being spoiled and bratty.

I recently got a new job that pays pretty well but it makes saving money take forever. Trust me, I rarely ever go out (due to lack of friends) so I'm not spending much. At this pace, I'll probably have enough saved until the end of the year. The job is incredibly isolating though. I work for a small company that scans and digitizes books. I scan, so I'm basically doing that for 10 hours with very little social interaction. I have no problems with my co-workers, they seem like friendly people, but the job is so demanding that there's no time to socialize. Except through breaks and lunch. I have social anxiety too which doesn't help things. I fell out of shape because of my job and lack of exercise, so I've become less confident. I have a problem with my looks, I always feel unattractive and other issues like that. I've had a pretty lonely life in high school and college and I feel like I've lost the ability to make friends and have a social life.

Well, the reason for this post is because I've recently been having bouts of deep depression. The work week is basically just me working a 10 hour day, coming home and falling asleep. I have trouble falling asleep sometimes. And often feel like life is moving by without me and everyone i know are fulfilling their lives. My weekends are spent practically doing nothing. With no friends to spend time with, I end up spending all weekend either being around family (which is way too often enough considering that I live with them) or by myself on the internet desperately searching for any interaction with people. There's not much to do around town. I occasionally go out and try to do things by myself for fun but it's becoming harder to do that. Sometimes I don't mind being by myself but most of the time I'm desperate for any conversation. Going out in public by myself feels very alienating. I've tried doing that just this past weekend and ended up coming home depressed. I enjoyed the time I spent but the feeling of having no one to talk to and no one to explain what I did to, I felt overwhelmed with sadness. My family helps out sometimes but I share nothing in common with any of them. So it's just mostly small talk.

The environment, the depression and the lack of a social life has made me lose interest in art. I was thinking about taking art classes, but I really just want to save enough money to move out. It's becoming much harder to get through the week. I work all week.. by myself and I spend the weekends... by myself. Just today I called out of work because I was too depressed and unmotivated to get out of bed. I felt like the past weekend was wasted because I felt lonely and didn't hang with anyone.. again. All of my weekends are like that.

Do I need therapy? To be honest, talking about all of this helps out a bit. But I don't want to have to pay someone to listen to me talk unless I feel like I have a serious problem.

Thank you for reading. I would appreciate any feedback.
posted by MeaninglessMisfortune to Human Relations (20 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
You have a serious problem. Other people might have worse problems, but that doesn't make yours not serious for you.

Therapy. Exercise. Both will help with the depression.
posted by rtha at 4:24 PM on August 20, 2012

Therapy is not just for serious mental illness.

I think it's worth talking to someone. Remember that therapy also isn't just about being "listened to," it's about bouncing ideas off of someone else (who isn't biased, and isn't going to get offended) and about trying to work with a seasoned problem-solving professional at figuring out how to solve your problems.

But mostly, therapy is not just for serious mental illness. Done right, it can't hurt.
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 4:25 PM on August 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

A good therapist doesn't just sit there and listen. I mean, some do, but either they have a technique I do not comprehend, or they're shitty therapists. A good therapist will give you feedback and, depending on the type of therapy you're in, assignments. The "lay on the couch and tell me about your mother while I nod" thing is really just one method, and if you're not fond of it, you don't have to see that sort of therapist. Therapy is there to fix exactly the kind of problems you describe, and the variety of it exists because every person has their own sort of therapy to which they react. Some therapists will hold your hand and nod and tell you they feel for you when you tell them sad things, and that might work. Other therapists may tell you to get off your ass and go do shit even if you don't want to do shit, and that might work. Find what works for you.
posted by griphus at 4:26 PM on August 20, 2012

Oh and a pretty big and everpresent component of depression is feeling like your problem isn't a big enough deal to bother other people with. Going to therapy will teach you how to distinguish depression thinking from healthy thinking and, if it works, instead of "my problems aren't important enough" you will think "this is a problem that needs to be fixed." And then you will go about fixing it.
posted by griphus at 4:28 PM on August 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Man, I wish I could give you a big hug.

Yeah, you're depressed. The good news is: this is temporary. (I promise. I promise really hard.) Therapy will help, and you should definitely do it. rtha is right: the way you're feeling is serious for you.
posted by Specklet at 4:29 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's very possible that you suffer from dysthymia, which is a chronic depressive state that, whilst not being as "serious" (for lack of a better word) as major or manic depression, can leave the sufferer in a persistent state of emptiness. I've struggled with this and take Zoloft to treat it, which makes a world of difference (without it, I tend to feel incredibly disconnected and listless). Medication may or may not be the answer for you, as everyone is different, but I think it's important that you seek help to find out what different treatment options are available. And remember, it's okay to shop around for therapists until you find somebody you click with. Don't ever think you're stuck with a bad match.
posted by baronessa at 4:39 PM on August 20, 2012

"I constantly tell people that I'm working on art whenever someone asks what I've been up to. I have nothing to show except my work"

"I love my family" "I'm very appreciative of the fact that my parents allow me to stay"

"I recently got a new job that pays pretty well" "At this pace, I'll probably have enough saved until the end of the year."

You've described someone who is doing very well, but you can't see the positive in any of it. You do indeed sound depressed and in need of medical help, however:

What do you think moving out will do for you - bring you into contact with more people? Right now you do have your family around you.

The idea that you can't take art classes because it would even further delay the future in which you will do the one thing that will enable the possibility of happiness - moving out - is probably contributing to your depression. You're miserable because you're isolated and uninspired. Art classes would bring you into contact with people and inspire you right where you are now, but it would be a distraction from moving out, to live... Where? How? Away from your family? You don't make clear how moving out, in and of itself, is going to improve your situation. I am not saying it won't, it could be the right thing to do, but you haven't actually *said* anything that reassures me that you won't just be coming home alone to an army boot full of cold porridge every night, you know?

I think you might need art classes as urgently as you need medical treatment, and (though it's not what you have in mind) probably more urgently than you need to save save save in order to move out.

P.s. it's good that you're not socialising with your coworkers, for that way lies disaster. I do think the 10-hour days are doing your well being no good. Is there any possible way of changing to an 8-hour daily schedule at this job?
posted by tel3path at 4:44 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your question is whether you should get therapy and the answer to that is yes.

Here's the thing (and I really hope this makes you feel better in the sense that you're having a really universal experience) being in your twenties just suuuuuuuuuuucks. It really does. My husband and I were just talking about horrible it was. It's a combination of things, I think: (a) the workplace doesn't come with ready made friends; (b) it's a time of growth and self-discover (good, but) so relationships don't last and friends move away as they start your own lives; (c) you don't belong at home anymore but you haven't really established yourself.

Here are some things that worked for me, my husband, and friends when in a similar circumstance: (a) finding a good therapist :) (b) volunteering (made some awesome friends there) (free!) (c) joining a running club (also mostly free and you get in better shape!) (c) meetups that interest you (some free, some not) (d) joining a civic organization like the jaycees (I made a couple of good friends this way. Also mostly free)

I remember crying at my desk when I was about your age because I felt like I had no friends and I had to go home to an empty efficiency apt and a cat and I was totally, flat broke. But I joined the Jaycees (couple good friends there and kept busy and out of the house so I was less depressed); joined a volunteer group (met my husband there and he then introduce me to a whole new world of friends); (c) my career progressed and so will yours and thus I became less broke as time went on.

Good luck. It gets better.
posted by bananafish at 4:50 PM on August 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

You sound really depressed to me. One of the tricky things about depression is the way your brain gets you used to helplessness and hopelessness being the status quo.

If starting to see a therapist feels like too much to take on right now, can I recommend Feeling Good, by David Burns, MD, and the workbook of exercises based on the book? Also regular physical exercise.

Agree, too, that investing in continuing art education will help give you a sense of purpose. And you might meet new friends!
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:54 PM on August 20, 2012

Is it possible to take in-person classes towards a career of some sort? It's very motivating to spend a few hours a week surrounded by people who are enthusiastically heading for some goal or another.

Yes, you sound depressed, but if I were in your shoes, a passionate and motivated social life would be the answer, more than therapy, even if it's not a friends sort of social life.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:56 PM on August 20, 2012

After slogging through various years of depression, some harder than others, the little kernel of wisdom I've learned for getting out of the hole is:

Make your long term well-being your first priority, and take action.

Maybe this starts with something small like getting yourself out for an hour and actively searching for better inspiration than can be found at home.

Maybe you set a big goal, like finding a better job (to fund moving out). Break down the steps to that goal. Start doing them.

Maybe you decide to seek therapy. Break down what you need to do to get that help.

Do not let anything sabotage your first priority. If you know X person/group will bring you down for days, don't guilt yourself into being around that person/group. If Y is uninspiring, get yourself away from Y and seek inspiration. If staying up late eating crap and playing games is only temporarily satisfying but makes you sleep crummy and feel lazy, do not stay up late eating crap and playing games. Why? Because you are worth it. The long term you, in five or ten or twenty years, who is happy and has a fulfilling life and is doing those things you dream about. Do it for that person.

It can be tough to build this momentum at first - your biggest enemy will be your own depressed self - but the more decisions you make in favor of your long term happiness, the better you feel and the more hope you start to have.
posted by griselda at 4:58 PM on August 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

N'thing therapy, volunteering and exercise. And especially n'thing: twenties are HARD, but it gets better!

Also: therapy is good mental hygiene. Even if you didn't describe depressive symptoms, it's never a bad idea to have a confidential, educated, objective third-party sounding board. Especially when times are challenging and you don't want to burden family or friends.
posted by keasby at 5:12 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

You deserve to be happy. You deserve to have a life that is meaningful however you define it. You could wait until you think it is worse or serious - but why wait? You can do something now. Therapy may give you a little hope which can go a long way.
posted by quodlibet at 5:32 PM on August 20, 2012

If you do choose therapy, make a list of what you want to accomplish (i.e., change jobs, make new friends, get your own place, join a gym, deal with your social anxiety & depression, etc.). Because in my experience, therapists give you things to do. And a good therapist will hold you accountable for, you know, actually doing them. So in that respect, having a good therapist is great, because if you can't make yourself do what you need to do to feel okay (whatever it turns out to be: meds, exercise, journalling, joining an artists' group), you know you have to see this person once a week and give your little progress report.

Frankly, I'd be depressed too if I had your jobs and all my friends moved away. To me (a former theater student, writer, and dabbler in the arts, both graphic and otherwise), there is nothing more soul crushing than working at a mindless job with zero to little social contact. Living with my parents is also at the top of the list. Even if they are nice parents, when I lived at home, I couldn't wait to get out on my own!

I guess my question is: were you depressed before you had this 10-hour-a-day job? Were you depressed before you friends moved away? Or do you think it's just your situation?

If you decide not to seek therapy, pick up a copy of The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression. It's pretty cheap, used. I have a copy and go back to it from time to time.

Also, art is work! Most people admire those who are artists, and many of them secretly wish they were too. Take the classes: it's the antidote to slogging away for the Man, and you just might meet some fellow artists and make new friends. Good luck!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:42 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was thinking about taking art classes, but I really just want to save enough money to move out.

Nope - use your money on art classes.

Before jumping out of the plane, ensure you have a parachute attached.

Art is a well known alternative to talk therapy - if you don't want to talk, you can go do some art.

This will help how you feel right now. Then, once that gets better, look at the long term of moving out of home.

But right now, you're too stressed to do big things - do the little things that will help you feel better first.
posted by heyjude at 5:52 PM on August 20, 2012

I wouldn't say you sound depressed, so much as desperately in need of stimulation (more-or-less "bored", and a bit sad that your old friends have moved on with their lives). If you don't have new inputs for the ol' neural net every now and then, it will just keep spiraling around in the same thought holding-patterns.

The social anxiety angle certainly doesn't help, though, and you probably need to work on that as your #1 self-improvement project. FWIW, hobby/interest groups can help with both of those; By giving you a focal point for your group activities other than the socialization itself, it takes a lot of the stress out of meeting people, and you get to do something that you enjoy in the process. That said, don't expect to make a new best friend your first time out - It takes time.
posted by pla at 6:38 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like your job is sucking the life out of you. Ten hours of day practically in isolation would drive anyone mad. Can you work fewer hours or get a different job that is more social? It's not worth it to continue on this way for a bit more money; you need to be happy right now. The best predictor of future happiness is current happiness, so work on being happy right now rather than thinking all of this pain your in will earn you a happy life later doesn't really work that way. If you really can't face leaving this job, you may want to ask yourself why you want to do something so dehumanizing when you could be doing something much more nurturing, like working at Starbucks or somewhere you can relate to people and interact. Just know this: it's not you, it's your situation and it will change, so you may as well change it now.
posted by waving at 7:01 PM on August 20, 2012

Ooh, it's another chance to mention my absolute favorite podcast ever: The Mental Illness Happy Hour. If you listen to a couple of episodes it will definitely help you to realize you are not alone. I so relate to what you are describing. Bananafish is right - being in your 20's absolutely sucks. And it sucks worse in a bad economy. Hang in there - it can get better and it will.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:08 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whatever else you do, try this: default to action. Always opt for movement and action. Make that the mantra. If someone you don't much like invites you to do something that doesn't sound like much it. If you consider running an errand, but think "ah, what's the use", or worry that something upsetting may happen, or figure you can it.

Also: daily exercise.

Also: shoulders back, chest broad. Yes, it's super counterintuitive that cause/effect could be switchable - i.e. that "acting" a given way, even via how you hold your body - can make a profound difference. But it really can. So try acting happy, engaged, and energetic. At very least don't slump or let your chest sink. That will amplify the depression.

None of the above are mere perky platitudes. I lost decades to depression. And while this stuff alone may not fix everything, it will help a great deal, in collaboration with whatever steps you take.

Good luck. Seriously.
posted by Quisp Lover at 8:57 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes, this kind of thing is exactly what therapy is for.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:37 AM on August 21, 2012

« Older Lone Wolf, the early years   |   Looking for World Wars as movies link Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.