Everything fell apart, again. Now what?
October 16, 2012 10:16 AM   Subscribe

I'll try to make this not too long-winded, but basically I find myself at square one for like the hundredth time in the past 6 years, and I'm just flat out of resilience. Help me form a plan for getting through the impending long dark winter.

Long story short, I'm once again completely single, without the tiniest glimmer of hope of being otherwise anytime in the near future. I just quit a permanent (but awful, health-destroying) job for a temporary (but less torturous) one, and it turns out that most of my time will actually just be spent working at home. In my tiny, awful studio apartment.

Part of the reason for taking the temporary job was so that I could move, in the spring, to a cheaper and more livable city--where I was also seeing someone. But now that relationship has imploded spectacularly, and I don't think I can move there anymore. (I wasn't moving FOR him, but the way things ended, I just feel better with the distance.)

Basically, my life looks like that of a 22 year old who is failing to launch...but I'm 30. And I can't ever seem to get a toehold on life, no matter how hard I try. I always end up once again scrambling for work, alone, broke, and needing to start allllllll over again.

But this time I just am not sure I have the strength to do it. The days just get shorter and I find myself unable to eat, sleep, function. The other day I left the office and booked a hotel room in the city just so I wouldn't have to face my empty apartment. But obviously I can't spend every day re-enacting Lost in Translation. So please, help me MeFites! How am I going to keep getting out of bed every day?
posted by like_a_friend to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Vitamin D supplements: start at 1,000 UI and work your way up until you feel even a little better. I take 5,000 UI daily and sometimes more during the deep winter. It takes a lot (50,000 UI over a period of months) to get hypervitaminosis D, so you don't need to tippy-toe around raising the dose. I am not a doctor or dietician.

Get a light box (check AskMe for recommendation threads) and shine that fucker in your face every morning.

Leave the house several times a day, every day. You do not need a reason more complicated than "it is time to take a walk around the block/down the street and back." Part of that is putting on all sorts of layers and winter stuff, and that's annoying. Well, that's part of the point: you got something done, even if that "something" is as small as putting on pants and getting some fresh air.
posted by griphus at 10:23 AM on October 16, 2012 [10 favorites]

You keep getting out of bed because you plan to do something you like.

What do you like to do? What do you look forward to the most in life? Is it travel? Is it creating something? Is it meeting new people? For me, it was taking an improv class after the death of my father. It got me out of the house and it gave me something creative to do in a supportive setting that was all about collaboration. Find out what turns you on the most and then plan to do it.

Seriously, that's it sometimes. Work can suck and your love life might be temporarily dormant, but you'll have this thing to look forward to. And the more frequent, the better.

But I suspect some of this is also depression, if you can't enjoy anything the way you used to before, then you really should seek the help of a therapist.
posted by inturnaround at 10:24 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, honey - did the breakup just happen? Like, within the last month?

I think a lot of your depression is actually being colored by that - and I know that that doesn't make it not suck, but at least it's good to acknowledge that it is a very specific and temporary KIND of suck. It's a breakup. You've done that before. You know the drill.

Again, none of this is meant to be cavalier. Instead - maybe you can remind yourself that at least PART of why you're feeling crappy is "oh, yeah, I just got dumped, that's right," and then you know that for you some occasional Ben&Jerry's therapy is called for, and that will at least take care of a PORTION of that suck, and then "okay, now that I've got THAT out of the way I can focus on 'what to do about my job' things". Which will still suck, but at least you will have some residual energy from not having to be down about the breakup as well.

The things that everyone else is saying are good, as well, so just reminding you that the newness of the breakup is still probably a filter for you and may need different kind of handling - and will also pass, just like all the others have.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:37 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Set a goal. Give it a resonable time limit, but not too long. Scramble and work your ass off every day to meet that goal by your deadline.

I did that. This past June, I was 30, unemployed, heart-broken, staying with my parents and anxious as hell. I started therapy and set a goal (to get a decent job in the city I had been living in for 3 years). Everyday, I was singularly fixed on that goal, because the deadline was the end of August. When I reached that goal, I set a new one. I think it's OK to temporarily trade lofty life goals to short term practical ones to turn yourself around.

Therapy, vit. D and B-12, also.
posted by peacrow at 10:44 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is anecdotal, of course, but I want to let you know that things can change. When I was your age I had been through a bitter divorce after years of putting my ex-husband through professional school and was pretty angry and hurt. I embarked on grad school myself, by myself, found a new love (which didn't work out, eventually), graduated, looked for a job, got a pretty good one, and found the love of my life, with whom I am still very happy. There's a lot that can happen to you that could change your mood fast. In the meantime, just try to get out and mix it up with the world a little bit, knowing that you want to be ready to recognize and accept the good things that WILL be coming your way. Stoicism, coupled with a little hope and a little resilience, will serve you well until you don't need it any more. Really. Good luck. And remember that the universe probably does not exist simply to give you grief but is, in the end, a fairly benign place, especially if you life in the West.
posted by Jenna Brown at 10:46 AM on October 16, 2012

I know it may be stating the obvious, but the symptoms you describe are classic symptoms of depression. With that in mind as a possibility, have you sought treatment for depression?
posted by Dansaman at 10:49 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is a symptom and not the problem, but can you work in a library or coffee shop instead? Maybe work somewhere different every day. Treat it like an adventure! It would give you something to look forward to and get you out of your environment.
posted by cnc at 10:56 AM on October 16, 2012

Could you maybe get a pet?
posted by mannequito at 11:13 AM on October 16, 2012

Response by poster: I don't want to haunt my own thread, but just to provide some background on specific points people have brought up (apologies for leaving some of this out in the first place; I was trying to be brief and was also upset):

• I've sought treatment for depression in the past, but part of giving up my permanent job was giving up my health insurance. It also means I won't have any income at all until January at the earliest, so for the time being, pursuing therapy/meds is pretty well out of the question.

• I'm on a very very tight, essentials-only budget until 2013, which limits my ability to work in coffee shops or any place that might charge for wifi (unfortunately, a common practice where I am). I do not have a car or a nearby library.

• I do have a pet, but to be honest as much as I love her, I'm not very helped by her presence these days. I have even considered giving her to a friend (whom she adores! and he adores her! and he would give her an amazing home--I wouldn't give her up for any lesser situation than that).

•I do have both a daylight lamp and take regular vitamin D supplements.

Thanks for all of your feedback. I still don't really know what to do with it, but thanks for hearing my screams of futility and grief and misery.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:52 AM on October 16, 2012

I've been in your situation more than once, and happen to be there right now. I understand what broke actually means and it doesn't include buying light boxes and taking classes.

Do get up and take a walk when you feel the worst. At the very least, get up and take a shower and clean the apartment. Just do something, no matter what.

Also, is it possible for you to move into a shared apartment situation? You can save money and also have someone to say hi to. It also makes you feel better when those thoughts of 'if I died tomorrow, would anyone even notice' creep in.

Also, read. Read whatever you have laying around. That way when you finish a book, you'll get to say you finished something.
posted by greta simone at 12:00 PM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

I live alone most of the time and what helps me when I'm feeling all by myself in the world is to hang out where there are people. Even if I don't speak to anyone, I still feel more part of the world afterwards. Places to find people, even if you don't have any expendable cash, are parks on a nice day (depending on the weather where you are), the library (you can hang here all day without anyone thinking anything about it and there are books and magazines and newspapers and usually even computers to amuse yourself with. There might even be free wifi), bookstores, malls (walks a few laps around the mall and then find a bench and people watch), museums on their free days, and any area in your town with a lot of pedestrian traffic and a place to perch in the sun. It seems simplistic, I know, but I always feel so much better after one of these outings.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 12:17 PM on October 16, 2012

Vitamin D and B-complex are commonly recommended supplements to help alleviate mild depression, but there are a whole variety of others out there that may help as well, based on your individual neurochemistry. Personally, I combine the D and B with the amino acids 5-HTP and L-Phenylalanine; the 5-HTP helps stabilise & slightly elevate my mood and the Phenylalanine helps with energy levels. Another friend of mine swears by a daily dose of SAMe but that never worked for me. I realize you're on a shoestring budget, but the cost of a couple bottles of supplements is definitely much less than a therapy session payment.

A daily bit of exercise in the morning -- just 20 minutes, aim to elevate your heart rate to the upper edge of your target heart rate -- clears the fogginess out of my head and helps me focus on work to be done and tasks to accomplish. And trust me, I HATE HATE HATE exercise, but the positive difference in my mood and energy level is so dramatic when I exercise in the morning that I suck it up and do it. Exercise is free: start with a brisk walk and work your way up to jogging/running. Wintry outside? Hike the stairs in your building, walk circuits in a local mall.
posted by Ardea alba at 12:38 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Therapy and meds are not necessarily out of the question ... Low-money situations are so stressful that it's sadly ironic that a lack of funds also makes it harder to get mental health care. But not impossible -- there is a nonprofit called Needymeds whose mission is to direct people to low- or no-cost sources of medication and health care.

The site has a searchable database of free/low-cost/sliding-scale clinics nationwide, and many of these clinics offer mental health services. (The database includes info on each clinic's hours, location, cost, and services.)

Been there. Good luck.
posted by virago at 12:42 PM on October 16, 2012

To answer your question literally: when summer starts ending I tell myself that winter is coming and it is going to suck. Six or seven months of absolute crap. YMMV, but somehow facing it head on with lowered expectations has always helped me.

If you can't leave your apartment, see if there's anything cheap you can do to make it slightly nicer. Sometimes keeping my place really clean helps. Or making coffee or anything that smells nice (I think someone posted here once about boiling a cinnamon stick, or something like that). Some super cheap plants (maybe a cutting off someone else's).

There are a lot of ways online (some even legal!) to get free music, watch free movies, read free books, etc. Make the most of it. For now, try to take in whatever media is most likely to cheer you up or make you laugh. I'm serious: if there are tried-and-true favorites that always leave you smiling, this is the time for them. Does looking at bunny pictures do it for you? Make yourself look at bunny pictures every breakfast.

Are you attached to where you live? If not, think about moving to a different cheaper, more livable city in the spring. If yes, then you can start looking for a new job, with the goal of finding one by spring. I agree with peacrow about having an end date to the crappiness. And goals in general are good. Pick a goal or two that are doable and free. Being able to do 100 pushups, or becoming a finer human being or something. Whatever is definitely achievable and will leave you slightly better off in the spring.

The hotel room idea actually sounds very nice, if financially impractical. But the idea of treating yourself when you need it is a good one. See if you can set aside one day a week to do no work and just do nice things for yourself. If you have good friends in the area, ask them if you can stay over at their place over a weekend, just for a change of scene. Watch movies, go for walks, buy something cheap but delicious. That is something to look forward to.

Reading your question again, it seems that the only thing that's really changed is that you've broken up with that guy. If you hadn't, you'd still be living in that apartment with the temporary job, still need to find a new job in the new city.

The failing to launch thing I can identify with. But at the same time, it could be worse. You've got work, an apartment, and at least one friend, probably more. You've learned something about relationships, though it might take a while to figure out what. You probably know more about what you are and what works for you now than you did a year ago or eight years ago. You've accumulated a lot of knowledge and experiences over the past eight years. You're not really starting from the beginning again at all.
posted by mail at 12:50 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Got $500 and some airline miles? Pack a bag and go traveling somewhere cheap, warm and sunny for 4 weeks. Thailand springs to mind. Eat, drink, sunbathe, make new friends, have a fling. Hell, go ziplining. Life is TOO SHORT to spend working a crappy job alone in a studio all winter when you don't want to. You have no responsibilies or ties and you need cheering up and a new take on life. Do it, seriously, you'll be a thousand times happier in 6 weeks and everything will seem easier to deal with.
posted by fshgrl at 12:52 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


SweetTeaAndABiscuit: I live alone most of the time and what helps me when I'm feeling all by myself in the world is to hang out where there are people. Even if I don't speak to anyone, I still feel more part of the world afterwards.

I also live alone, and I absolutely endorse this approach. It gives me something to focus on and helps get me out of my obsessive/depressive thought spiral of "My life sucks/my life has always sucked/my life will always suck."
posted by virago at 12:53 PM on October 16, 2012

Response by poster: You have no responsibilies or ties

Just for the record, this is patently untrue. I have an obligation to my job and my pet, and rent to pay on an apartment for which I have a binding lease.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:25 PM on October 16, 2012

Yeah, I initially frowned at fshgirl's advice too (not everyone HAS air miles and $500 handy).

But there IS something to be said for a weekend or two out of town somewhere. Even when I was at my most destitute I still was able to scrape up $100 for a really super-cheap weekend in Philadelphia once, right after a breakup, and man did that help.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:33 PM on October 16, 2012

And - who's to say you can't still make plans to move to that cheaper and more liveable city anyway, even if you did break up? Move there as a single person and enjoy the cheaper living standards.

That can be a good over-the-winter project - prepare for that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:34 PM on October 16, 2012

This may sound useless but there is actual scientific research that says that this will reduce depression and increase happiness:

1. find a binder or notebook
2. in the evening write down 3 things that happened that day that you appreciated or that made you happy. Anything counts - little or big. The sunshine felt good on my face. I liked the pickles that came with the sandwich at lunch. A friend called. The heat in the apartment was working. in the beginning it will be hard to think of anything. After a while, you will start noticing things during the day that you can put on the list and it will get easier.
3. repeat for at least 30 days (at first the effects are subtle - one research project found less depression at 30 days and increased happiness at 60 days)
posted by metahawk at 2:07 PM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Check out SuperBetter!
posted by bookdragoness at 7:52 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you have a bath? If so, take a bubble bath to escape your worries! Buy some cheap tea lights, light them up, and read in the bath. I'm underemployed/jobless, and I buy the cheapest store brand foam bath whenever they're half off, which is the price of a cup of coffee but for almost a litre of foam bath. It's a nice escape and it's cheaper than a hotel!

And maybe you should consider giving away your pet. If you're stressed enough about your personal self-care, and you have a friend that's willing to take your pet, how about give your friend the pet? I dunno, being a broke pet owner sucks, because what I've seen, it usually means the pet gets fed while the owner starves...
posted by Hawk V at 2:03 AM on October 17, 2012

Yeah, and you need to go out to see people, even if there is no purpose to it. My mood dramatically changed once I left the house everyday. If there aren't libraries nearby, don't know if it's your thing, but I find that skulking around thrift stores also provides a nice escape. You're not pressured to buy things, and it's a store full of artifacts of how other people lived.
posted by Hawk V at 2:05 AM on October 17, 2012

I find it helpful to grocery shop a little every day, instead of doing the big roll through once a week. It makes me shower, gets me out of the house, and the cashiers all know me and speak. Just buy enough for two meals, and don't buy anything but essentials. It's worth the extra expense for smaller quantities just to get out of the apartment and accomplish something, preferably early in the day.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:03 AM on October 17, 2012

I can relate very much to what you're saying. I'm a bit older and I still feel stuck there.

I don't think I can recommend this to another person but if I were you, I would try to find decent self medication. You can get Sam-E without a prescription here, even though it's an Rx antidepressant in parts of Europe. I understand that other antidepressants can be bought online without a prescription.

Look into what low cost or free health benefits are available where you live. Many cities have free clinics.

There's more free wifi out there than you might think. Check out public libraries, museum lobbies (before you pay) and even Loosecubes if you're in a city that participates.

From my experience, try to commit to something like Flylady for keeping your space as nice as possible, to one social thing per week (even if it's just a walk with a friend) and getting out of the house every day.

Hang in there.
posted by Salamandrous at 10:57 AM on October 17, 2012

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