Depressed, unmotivated, disgusted with myself. Suspended for a year from college. Need some structure in my life but can't hold a job. Can you help?
November 7, 2012 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Depressed, unmotivated, disgusted with myself. Suspended for a year from college. Need some structure in my life but can't hold a job. Can you help?

Some more info: my depression and social anxiety led me to stay up until 4am and miss all my classes, which led me to being suspended from school for a year. I tried to go live with a friend but that isn't working; I feel too isolated, I spend all my time in my room. I have a very sporadic job that I like but I still can't wake up to go to it, so now my boss will either fire me or will just stop giving me hours.

I need structure that will help me go to bed on time, wake up on time, encourage me to get out of my room and exercise/eat/interact with people. I think I need that kickstart until I can do it myself. But I don't want to feel infantilized or forced or coerced. I need to feel some balance of structure and freedom. But I can't do it with actual stakes, because I'm just not ready for it to actually "count" if I fail.

My parents would happily take me in and try to do this for me, but I think we would drive each other crazy. And I don't think my friends would provide enough structure or discipline.

Any ideas? Thank you.
posted by Anonymousness to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
What are you doing to treat your depression and anxiety? If you're not doing anything, your first step is to see your GP.
posted by Specklet at 10:02 AM on November 7, 2012 [16 favorites]

Definitely see someone about the depression. And don't write off your parents. You're lucky they are willing and able to help you! It may not be an ideal situation, but I bet you could make it work. As part of your recovery you can work on not driving each other crazy. Good luck!
posted by Glinn at 10:08 AM on November 7, 2012

Hey there! I was you in 1998. Except my university let me go back after I flunked out the first semester and I proceeded to do the same thing again. Got booted out for a year. I was humiliated. I felt like everybody was disappointed in me and most of all, I was disappointed in myself. I felt like I had screwed up so badly that I would never recover. I had no job either. And I had to move back in with my folks, who were not impressed with me. I ended up moving across the country and working in a resort town for four years. Having a full-time job was a huge change for me and it taught me to work in a structured environment. By the time I went back to university at 24 to start from the beginning, I was a hundred times more organized and dedicated and I was motivated to work hard in school since I now knew I didn't want to clean toilets and wait tables for the rest of my life (nothing wrong with those vocations, but not for me for the long-term).

Almost fifteen years later, I have a great job I love that pays me well. I have a loving partner, a great apartment, take a couple of trips a year, and drive a nice car. The people I work with treat me as a capable, intelligent adult, and that is a point I couldn't imagine ever getting to after my prior academic failures. It was a rocky road to get there but I wouldn't trade those past failures for anything because they set me up for future success and led to the life I'm quite happy with today.

I was never treated for depression back then, even though back then I'd spend days on end in my squalid apartment chain smoking and watching TV. I have never been that low since. I'm not suggesting you move across the country but I wanted to share the above to let you know that your situation is temporary. You CAN learn to get up, eat properly, exercise, and interact with other people. You CAN turn this all around. It took me years to be really capable of fending for myself, but now it's all under control.

Talk to your doctor about your depression. And on preview, as Glinn says above, ask your parents for help. Why not give it a try? If that doesn't work, you have other options, always.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:18 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Step one needs to be treating your depression and getting that under control. That is the kickstart you're looking for, not arbitrary stakes. When my depression starts to take over I find everything else just falls apart. Depression under control and I am able to handle everything else in my life a lot more easily. If you aren't already, go see a doctor about that and consider therapy. The therapy could also help you with your social anxiety and how to schedule and structure your life yourself.

Depending on the nature of your relationship with your parents, they may be a really helpful and powerful resource for you. Maybe they wouldn't, maybe moving in would be a bad decision, but you may want to do a little more soul searching with that one.

I wish you the best.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:20 AM on November 7, 2012

Oh, and consider a trade instead of university. I got a degree from a university and then did a diploma program through college, and how I felt and performed in them was totally different. In university I missed a lot of classes and underperformed because I don't generally function well when I am left to my own devices. College was a lot more structured, had set regular 8am-4pm hours like a job, and it had the same sort of attendance expectations as a job would. I got on the honours role and have an awesome career now. YMMV but college could be the thing for you.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:24 AM on November 7, 2012

In response to the first comment - I do see a therapist. But I am not great about keeping my appointments with him. I know I should be more disciplined about it but I just can't do it sometimes. I think that's part of why I need a little more structure or supervision in my life (without being made to feel worthless or incompetent).
posted by Anonymousness at 10:25 AM on November 7, 2012

you're actually in a really good spot - you got suspended and not expelled, and you've got parents that sound at least partially supportive. nothing matters right now except treating your mental health issues.

i gotta be blunt with you - you're on the wrong track thinking that you need more structure or supervision. it doesn't work like that, that's not the answer you're looking for. you yourself just said you miss your therapist appointments - that's "structure" right there, and it's not working, by your own admission. do you see my point?

you have got to get treatment, man. your doctor, your therapist, and your parents all need to help out. and more than anything else, you need to stop worrying about anything other than getting treated.
posted by facetious at 10:30 AM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

Just to clarify, I am on medication and I have a therapist. But I miss my therapy appointments (they're in Manhattan, I'm in Brooklyn) and when my medications run out I often take a week or two before I bother refilling them. So that's the rub, I think. I have things I am supposed to do and yet I don't do them. I know it sounds easy to fix - JUST DO THEM. But I still can't.
posted by Anonymousness at 10:34 AM on November 7, 2012

dude, a little bit more bluntness - if your meds were working, you'd know it. just pick up the phone and tell your prescribing physician that they're not.

the reason you can't do things is because you're depressed. any ideas you might have about how any of this relates back to you not being motivated enough or not having the right kind of structure or having some kind of personality flaw are just the depression talking. what you're doing right now is called "self-sabotage", and it's something that people do when their thinking is affected by depression.
posted by facetious at 10:41 AM on November 7, 2012 [12 favorites]

Just to clarify, I am on medication and I have a therapist.

You need different meds and possibly a different therapist. facetious is right: if your meds were working, you'd know it.

I hope that doesn't sound too... blunt, I feel for you and I know how difficult depression is to overcome, boy do I.
posted by Specklet at 11:01 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was you in 2003. Freshman year, I flamed out terribly. After spending the fall semester depressed, sleeping all day and missing classes, and also being drunk all the time when I wasn't sleeping, they suspended me for the spring semester. Going back home wasn't so great because my parents were not thrilled about this sequence of events. It really sucked.

What worked for me back then was while I was suspended, I took a volunteer job at my old middle school, and I enrolled in a class at the local community college. The job gave me some structure - I was expected to be somewhere at the same time every day with concrete objectives. But it was less pressure than being in school, so it didn't feel so loaded. I took the class at the CC just to keep the school part of my brain engaged, but didn't stress too hard about whether I did well or not. The upshot of this was when I got in touch with my university to arrange my return, I had evidence that I was able to function in a classroom setting because of the CC class.

What was great about the volunteer gig too was it allowed me to be useful to the world in someway outside the context of a classroom. I was working with kids, and it challenged me in interesting ways, kept me active, and helped build my self-esteem. This ultimately helped me find the strength to take care of myself. (You don't necessarily have to take a job working with kids though, I know it's not everyone's cup of tea.)

But the big, big, big thing was, I got help for my depression. I understand how hard it is to keep appointments and remember to get refills when you're in the constant fog of depression + the disgust with yourself. I really do. Do you have any friends nearby would could help remind you? I had a few friends from high school still in the area who were willing to help me in this regard. Nagging from my parents made it worse (because there was always the undercurrent of disappointment from them, which fed into the depression), but there were two friends in particular who were very supportive and were willing to remind me to stay on top of these things, and even offered to drive me to appointments/keep me company while I was in the waiting room or on line at the pharmacy. I know you're in NYC and the transportation issues in light of the storm are probably complicating your route from Brooklyn to your therapist in Manhattan. Maybe you have a buddy who'll meet you for coffee and then keep you company on the subway on your way to your appointment?

Because you've been suspended rather than expelled this isn't as bad as it could be - but please use the opportunity to aggressively seek help for your depression and anxiety issues. Having a job or a volunteer gig to keep you on a consistent schedule will help because you'll already be out of the house on your way to doing other things, so stopping to pick up a prescription or heading to a therapy appointment won't be This Big Thing that you have to do, it'll just be a part of your routine.

And yes, to reiterate: your meds aren't working. When you find a cocktail that works, you'll know it - it will be like night and day. The fact that you are still struggling means that they aren't working. Sometimes it takes a while and a few attempts on a few different meds before you find what will help. Please make it your #1 priority to work on this.

Feel free to memail me if you'd like - I've been there and I'm happy to listen or provide more input if you need it.
posted by thereemix at 11:16 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think maybe it would help to volunteer somewhere: to help other people or animals, because something like the environment or whatever is too abstract and you need feedback. Right now you don't seem to have any vehicle for feeling useful and no one--except for you--is counting on you and that's not enough given your depression-induced malaise. Given the ravages of Sandy, help is needed near you, in Red Hook, Staten Island, etc. Go pitch in: you may find it energizing and you'll be no worse off for it.
posted by carmicha at 11:18 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds like this therapist and these meds aren't doing much for you. Find a therapist you really click with--and closer to home, since you already know that motivation is an issue for you.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:28 AM on November 7, 2012

Thanks everyone. Everyone agrees that the meds aren't working. But it seems to daunting to constantly fiddle with them, since they supposedly take a while to start working. Won't it take forever to keep trying new medications and then giving them enough time to work or not work?
posted by Anonymousness at 11:40 AM on November 7, 2012

I know that I, personally, have trouble sleeping and get depressed when I eat poorly and never exercise. I get low blood-sugar fits where I start to lose concentration and patience and don't want to do anything, even eat. It helps to recognize this and force myself to eat/drink something when it happens. If that sounds like you, I recommend seeing a nutritionist and coming up with some easy to prepare dishes to keep you healthy. In general you want to moderate foods with lots of sugar and starch, eat slightly smaller meals and snack in between, and eat lots of fruits and vegetables.

Regarding exercise, it helps to find stuff you really enjoy doing, so you don't do it for the workout. Personally I like biking and playing dance central.
posted by cman at 11:49 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Won't it take forever to keep trying new medications and then giving them enough time to work or not work?

better to spend time getting your medication right than to settle for the status quo, which is not working for you and making you miserable. commit to getting yourself well.
posted by lia at 11:56 AM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Just hang in there. It does take a while for the meds to get sorted out and one thing I think I read here once was that you need to look at your depression as parasitic. It doesn't want you to get rid of it, it will get in your way and let you get redirected when you are doing well.
I think it helps to pick someone you trust and really try and follow their advice for a set amount of time and see if things get better.
I would consider Wwoofing as an option, it gives you a place to live and most important, a purpose. It also puts you in a place where hunkering down online 18 hours a day isn't an option. It doesn't cost anything and if it isn't right for you then you can just leave. I suggest this as a place holder while you work out your meds and pursue some kind of therapy/help, not as a replacement.
posted by InkaLomax at 11:57 AM on November 7, 2012

Thanks everyone. Everyone agrees that the meds aren't working. But it seems to daunting to constantly fiddle with them, since they supposedly take a while to start working. Won't it take forever to keep trying new medications and then giving them enough time to work or not work?

Sometimes, but what's the alternative? You've got a year off, start with getting your meds sorted out.

I too had hideous depression when I was a Freshman. To compound it I scheduled my classes for 8:30 AM or earlier. One thing that might have saved me was to start my day at noon! In college, you can do that. Too bad I didn't figure it out until I lost my scholarship and my GPA went down to 2.0. (D for Done!)

I never had problems waking up and getting to my jobs. Because I really like money. I didn't have problems waking up and getting to classes I liked. I could not be arsed to get up to go to boring, stupid classes. Oh, and somehow, the intensely interesteding subject of Anthropology (at ARIZONA STATE!) I had to repeat it 3 times!

Everyone is different.

Just a thought, have you had a sleep study. A CPAP changed Husbunny's life. His depression, which was chronic and severe is a LOT better now and the new drug he takes Prestiq, helps him be cheerful, productive and organized.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:36 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am not you.

However, I have a similar problem that I wrestle with regularly.
In terms of your medication - set up a pill box that has your daily pills in it. Note when you do this on a reminder system (eg google calendar) when you must next get your prescription filled. Put the reminder in on several days, so even if you have a bad day and ignore it, you'll get it the next day and the next.

In terms of discipline and structure - unfuck your habitat has good ideas but for a depressed person, it can be too much. So, write a to do list with just 3 things on it. Make your bed, do the dishes, go for a walk (or something similar). Try your absolute hardest to get these three things done daily. Remind yourself that you will feel better if you do these things because you will have achieved something.

Try to eschew the internet/computer games/TV. These sap the life from you.

When you fail to make a goal, it does not help to beat yourself up. You think it does, because if you beat hard enough, you'll do something so as you don't beat yourself up again, but it doesn't work that way, because you'll just find something else to feel bad about. Pretend that you are your own doctor/best friend/live in therapist - and be kind but firm. You are not a bad person. You have many good qualities. Sometimes you behave in a way that's not condusive to your health, but this doesn't make you bad. You are a good person.

If I work out how to get myself to something else, I'll come back in and share.
posted by b33j at 1:37 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you find distractability is preventing you from completing a task, work with it, not against it. Go to make your bed, pull the bottom sheet up, go to the kitchen, fill the sink with water, go to the bathroom and clean your teeth. Back to the bedroom, pull the quilt up, back to the kitchen, wash three dishes, put them in the strainer, into living room and put away your shoes. It may not be as efficient as other techniques, but its better than nothing.
posted by b33j at 2:58 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

The books Feeling Good and Thoughts & Feelings (both based on CBT) may help give you that kickstart. I usually recommend Feeling Good, but Thoughts & Feelings might be a little more immediately useful for you.
posted by callmejay at 1:58 PM on November 8, 2012

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