"Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up."
December 29, 2012 8:02 AM   Subscribe

Need some tips and pointers, such as those based on personal stories and experiences, regarding getting out of a deep, deep hole of endless darkness and hopelessness when the universe seems to be hell bent on bringing you down to your knees...

I lost a parent a few weeks ago. I am going to lose a partner I absolutely love soon (break-up from their side, not death). My work is not going well at all and will likely affect my chances of getting a better position than I am in now, if I manage to get one in the first place. I will likely re-locate to a new area in less than a year and will lose the little comfort I find in familiarity of the current city and people. Normally I would be thrilled at such a prospect of relocation but I find myself exhausted and completely broken down lately. So, I have a few challenges lined up to deal with. My imagination at thinking negative thoughts has become remarkably creative since I lost my parent. I am very aware of the intensity of these negative thoughts and how they can exacerbate my already precarious position but I don't want to be foolishly optimistic. All I want to do is help myself get up and basically survive through the next year...heck, not just survive but thrive, if thats even possible.

Did you ever face seemingly insurmountable odds and were able to pull yourself up and out on your own? How does one do that? How to get up and start walking again when you are presented with the next challenge before you deal with the first? If you have personally gone through such a phase, what worked for you might help me get through this phase?

Thanks for reading and responding! Feel free to email if you prefer.
posted by xm to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Over the span of three years the following happened to me:
* one parent had quintuple bypass surgery while I was living abroad
* the same parent was then diagnosed with cancer and died 4 months later, while I was still living abroad
* the other parent had a heart attack followed by surgery, shortly after the funeral
* my only living relative on the continent I lived on had heart surgery which was unsuccessful - he died in hospital, and I had to take care of his estate and funeral on my own (everything from notifying friends in his address book to arranging caterers) in a country I was unfamiliar with
* I realized that my live-in relationship was abusive and I had to get out of it
* I quit my job of 4 years (which I loved), left my partner of 5+ years (who I had loved), left the country I'd lived in for 8 years (which I've grown to love), and moved back to my birth continent
* I found myself unemployed, single, mourning the loss of two close relatives, attempting to assist my living parent with health concerns and support my disabled sibling, all during the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression

I simply got on with it. I put one foot in front of the other because I _had_ to. I was needed. I got up every morning and looked for work. I forced myself to exercise, to eat healthfully, to care for _myself_ because I simply couldn't afford to be ill or out of shape. I thought of myself, for a while, as a kind of machine. What needed to be done? What could I do on my own? I did those things. What required outside assistance? I secured assistance from those external people (social services for my sibling, second opinions for my living parent). I kept moving and working and doing because not doing so was not an option. Not surviving was not an option. Dragging myself around like a broken machine was not an option. I had to thrive. I had to heal. I had to move forward. So I did.

I hope this helps. I know it sucks right now.

Four years after all this, I'm doing extraordinarily well in all aspects of my life. You can do this. Do it.
posted by pammeke at 8:35 AM on December 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

Did you ever face seemingly insurmountable odds and were able to pull yourself up and out on your own?

Yes. It sucked and I wanted to die.

How does one do that?

I know this is horribly simplistic but the answer is just by doing it. My situation is wholly different from yours (I lived for years in a black pit of despair during whence I had exactly zero good feelings about myself, horrible, heartbreaking relationships, an alcohol issue and THEN I got accidentally pregnant while insanely suicidal) but in the end, I think you'll get by doing just what I did. DOING IT.

I'd suggest therapy. Make yourself an appointment. If you have to move, line up appointments with a therapist in your new area soon and that's step one. Already, you're on the path to mental wellness and at the very least, you know that you're working toward a goal. If you can't do that, make an appointment with a doc for an antidepressant if you feel like you're depressed.

Does your current employer allow for leave due to mental health issues? Do have any sick leave or vacation sitting around? If you do, take that. During that time, take a vacation and do something that's good for your brain and your heart. If you can't afford it spend those days out with friends, at a bookstore, etc. Don't use that time to feed your apathy while sleeping the day away. Do something, ANYTHING.

Attempt to start processing the loss of your relationship. Let those feelings start moving, even if it feels horrible because you're already down. If you have to relocate in less than a year, think about where you'll go. Dive into insane amounts of research about different places that offer things you like. Perhaps instead of thinking constantly about the bad in your life you can move onto thinking about the upcoming good. Pick a new place to live and start over, start looking for jobs and apartments in that place.

Really, you just have to take little steps. Your legs might feel broken now but one day they will heal and you'll walk just fine again. The only thing that worked when I dealt with my No Good Awful Horrid Place was this: Ticking away at my unhappiness, processing it all as I went along and being careful to not let it ruin how I felt about myself, and taking one day at a time. Granted, I had a human to take care of but happiness came to me when The Past became that and I focused on The Future.

It's cliched but the only way through it is through. You'll make it so long as you make sure you keep it a priority to take care of yourself. Therapy. Get some. Step one.

(I'm the queen of a pep talk, by the way. If you ever feel you need it, feel free to memail me. I'm pretty sure there's scientific evidence out there somewhere that says venting and pep talks increase good moods by like, 214%. FOR REAL.)
posted by youandiandaflame at 1:17 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might find some interesting reading material in a question I asked awhile back: How do humans find the strength to endure?
posted by desjardins at 3:38 PM on December 29, 2012

You hit the "on my own" note pretty hard. Please be aware that it's okay to ask for help. Encouraged, even. You don't have to do it all on your own. There are all manner of friends and professionals who are willing and able to help you. It doesn't make you less of a person to lean on someone when things get tough.

Self-reliance means knowing when it is time to reach out for help.

In particular you mention "thinking negative thoughts." There is the external world grinding you down with its endless buckets of shit. But then there's the stuff inside you, where it's you grinding yourself down as well. To put it another way, why make it easy for them?

Antidepressants exist and a lot of people take them and they literally save lives. That is what they are for. It's not a crutch or a sign of personal weakness. It's medicine.

People make it through all kinds of terrible stuff. The true answer - which may sound flippant but believe me I mean it sincerely - is, "One minute at a time, one hour at a time, one step at a time."
posted by ErikaB at 9:39 PM on December 29, 2012

i am terribly sorry for what you're going through. It sound insurmountable and i'm sure it truly feels like it... but i assure you it is not. here are some suggestions:
live day by day, hour by hour, or minute by minute whatever you can do.

know there is no pressure to get anything right

i've made a list of things i love: sweats, tea, tropical island, hot shower, glossy magazines,
rhianna etc. i consult this in my darkest days to remind me that i do love things, i can have those things, & get what i can from the list. you might not be able to do this now, but when a glimpse of light shines through...maybe you can make this list for the harder days. even just makeing the list is a decent exercise in getting present..\

talk to some one: a therapist, a friend, a stranger on a bench, a dog, a child

talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend/child in your situation. be good to you.
posted by PeaPod at 9:53 PM on December 29, 2012

Grief is a horrible, horrible thing and the loss of a parent can be devastating to your psyche. If you are feeling unable to right yourself against the storm, I would highly recommend bereavement counselling. Just a little help and compassion goes a long way.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:41 AM on December 30, 2012

I highly recommend the book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron. It deals directly with Major Life Events like you're experiencing.
posted by desjardins at 10:44 AM on December 30, 2012

Thank you all for responding, both here and via email.

I cried while reading some of your responses and it was helpful (and hopeful!) to just know that I can get through this, especially since I officially got dumped last night.
I am touched by your sharing personal stories and thoughts and for that I am very grateful. Thank you :)
posted by xm at 2:23 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Though this is sort of an older thread, I feel compelled to reply.

This past summer I had a very, very rough time. I have pretty bad anxiety and at the time had never received any kind of counseling and had little to no coping skills. In the period of a few months, I dealt with:

• Being harassed by an upstairs neighbor and therefore moving out of a much-loved apartment I had called home for five years;
• Finding out that my new apartment was really, truly awful and living there made me absolutely miserable;
• Discovering the friend bad-mouthing me behind my back and saying how annoying it was when I vented about my problems to her;
• My eating disorder flaring up, returning to fasting & purging behaviors;
• Returning to cutting myself;
• Coming to terms with being abused as a child;
• A suicide attempt;
• Panic attacks;
• Moving to a third apartment;
• Going to a walk-in mental health clinic, totally alone, for the first time ever;
• Going to the mental hospital ER, totally alone, having my belongings taken from me there, and then being sent back out in tears;
• Seeking psychotherapy and going through four different therapists;
• Seeking psychiatry and trying out medications;
• Suffering side effects of those medications;
• Dealing with the very sudden loss of my boyfriend's father and trying to help him through that unimaginable loss.

How did I do it? To echo responses above, you just do it because you have to. There is no other option. Time passes, and you just go through the robotic motions. I often repeated in my head, "This, too, shall pass" and just did my best to put one foot in front of the other and push forward.

I researched ways to better handle the insane anxiety I was experiencing and the depression. I found things that made me happy and made it a point to engage in those activities, whether I felt up to doing them or not. Swimming really puts me in a peaceful place, so I started swimming 3-4 days a week. I thought of things in terms of familiar blocks of time, like pay periods, and would think, "It's terrible now, but just two pay periods from today it will be history." I stopped being scared of reaching out for help to other people, stopped fearing the stigma surrounding mental health issues and just... moved... forward.
posted by woolly at 5:39 PM on January 5, 2013

@woolly- Thank you for writing, despite this being an older thread. Glad you supported your b/f through his loss- its nice to be affirmed once again that that's the norm, and not my experience.

I will be checking this thread for quite a while so anyone who wishes to respond here or via email- know that I will read it.

Thank you all for helping me through this... :)
posted by xm at 7:16 PM on January 7, 2013

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