Are you My Life/ Career Coach?
March 4, 2013 2:28 PM   Subscribe

I need to change my life and career in several different ways, and I feel quasi-paralyzed because a) the changes I need to make are so large and b) special snowflake. Suggestions for approaching this rather ungainly undertaking? Also, I am 35.

Here goes:

Prior to 2011: High-functioning, productive, creative adult. Worked in a few different creative fields. Social, happy, friend-filled life. Lived in a couple different medium to large-sized cities.

2011-2012: Major mental breakdown-- big mess of underlying bipolar tendencies, med missteps, misdiagnoses, etc. Stops and starts over 2011 and 2012, including a manic episode that landed me in a psych hospital for a week, then back at my parents' home in the Midwest. Pretty gnarly for a while there.

Now: Doing "fine." Living at parents' house, working part-time in a creative field in hometown. I'm ready to move on and resume my normal adult life... except for a few key things:

1. The meds I'm on have decimated my sense of ambition and drive.

2. The meds have also decimated my emotional range and my personal intuition. In other words a major source of wisdom that I use in order to make decisions has been basically cut off at the root.
(I am working with my doctor to slowly taper down the meds, but it's going to take months if not a year to fully feel my full self again.)

3. The job/career path I've been on has always been fairly unconventional-- I've moved between different creative fields in such a way that there isn't a clear, obvious route for me to hop back on to at this point.

4. Even the *city* to move to isn't clear-- my friends and community are scattered. My hometown is tiny and has few opportunities. I've lived in three cities in the last decade. Two were great, one was not great. I have more of a social support system in one of the cities, but more professional opportunities in the other.

5. I'm just kinda daunted by re-starting a life that was thrown so wholly off track. All my stuff is in storage. I haven't seen my own dishes since 2011. I'm overwhelmed.

So there you have it. Tricky? Yes. The main things that keep tripping me up are there I can't tap into "my gut" about any decisions, because my gut is medicated away right now. But I don't want to wait till it's back to make changes (I'm living with my parents, people).

How can I make major life changes w/o using my emotions and intuition? How can I break this task into manageable steps?
What's a productive way to approach this situation? I do have faith I'll feel more like "myself" in time, but in the meantime... I'm like a rudderless boat.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The good news is, you don't have to do it all right now.

If you had just beaten cancer, and you were just getting your health and strength back, would you expect yourself to be tip-top and raring to go? Nope. Cut yourself some slack.

1 and 2. The first thing you need to do is to get your meds at a place where you can function normally. You're not there yet, so stay put until that gets sorted out.

1a-2a. If staying with your parents works for you all, then keep doing that. If not, find a little place you can rent month-to-month for the time being. A garage apartment, studio, carriage house. Nothing grand, just enough to dip your toe into the independence water. Image you'll be there for a few months. A sublet might do.

3 and 4. Don't worry so much about a clear/obvious route. Take a job that makes sense for you. Start putting out your feelers. Work your network, apply on Linkedin. You're footloose and fancy free, so just apply for anything you can do, in any place that appeals to you. Once you land a job, send for your shit. Or buy new shit. It's a new life after all!

5. Chillax, and postpone any big decision-making until you're feeling ready for it. Start scanning the job boards, start checking out Craigslist for apartments in places you think you want to move. Start making lists of the things that need doing for you to move.

The list thing is HUGE. It helps you feel in control, while you're still sort of stuck in idle.

You won't regret taking more time now, to set yourself up appropriately for the future.

Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:41 PM on March 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

People with the emotional/intuitive piece are good at snap decisions because emotion is a shorthand form of memory that condenses down a lot of information and gives you a quick yes or no reaction. You will have to substitute more research and use of a sounding board or journal or other means to go over it all and make a more "logical" decision -- I mean one based on the faculties which are working, which is more analytical and less intuitive.

Using the above technique, set some goals. Pick a few milestones instead of deadlines. In other words, instead of saying something like "I need to save enough money by June so I can move in July" try "I need X amount of money to cover moving expenses. When I have that, I am outta here." I learned that from my time-blind oldest son. It was a godsend when I was very ill and my life was a huge mess and getting anything done was a challenge and I just couldn't keep to some kind of schedule at all.

I would ditch most of the stuff in storage. After more than a year in storage, it is probably dusty, musty, icky. Especially fabric items and the like. Plan on traveling light and starting your household over. I was a military wife. I have had stuff in storage. Never. Again. Ever.

At the moment, it sounds like you have plenty of drive and ambition to move out. That counts. That's hugely ambitious for your circumstances. Pat yourself on the back, you are a go-getter. Be proud.

As for city, decide whether friends or professional opportunities matter more and seriously consider moving to either the city where you have friends or the city where you have opportunities. Familiarity is a good thing when you are impaired. If you think your friends are the kind of friends who will be there when you need serious help and not just Good Time Charlies, that might be the best thing. If you think that, really, you are essentially on your own with solving your problems, then the city with professional opportunities is more likely to support your independent success. Unless some really compelling thing of some sort suggests a third option, I would be weighing those two options.
posted by Michele in California at 2:52 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

MeFi Mail me?
posted by twiggy32 at 4:03 PM on March 4, 2013

I'm close to your age and have went through two very similar dark period in my life, one that I'm just now coming out of after a long, hard four years of "life rehab".

The meds I'm on have decimated my sense of ambition and drive.

About 10 years ago I was was in a serious, deep depression and started treatment with a psychiatrist that prescribed 500mg of Serzone. It worked at first but after five months it had totally numbed me to the point of feeling like I was constantly spaced out. No concentration, no sense of self, and no desire to do anything except eat and veg out. If you're taking a similar medication I would strongly suggest you not stop taking it cold turkey and follow what ever treatment plan your doctor has for you to ween yourself off of the medication. In my case I could handle being tranquilized by Serzone but I couldn't handle the visual hallucinations. Going cold turkey was one of the worst things I've ever done and only dragged out getting back to feeling "normal" by at least six months.

Don't give up on medication though. I stayed off of medication for three years after my experience with Serzone (which coincided with the worst three years of my adult life) but found the right medication mix (Lexapro for anxiety/depression, Concerta for ADD) and a great therapist and turned my life.

I'm just kinda daunted by re-starting a life that was thrown so wholly off track. All my stuff is in storage. I haven't seen my own dishes since 2011. I'm overwhelmed

Take a deep breath and say it with me "I can't change the past, I can only control today and tomorrow." Take things one day at a time and don't dwell on things that aren't helping you move forward. You've went through some very, very rough times and have come out on the other side looking to improve your position in life - that's a serious accomplishment. Starting over in a new city (or a city you haven't lived in recently) can be liberating, even at our age. My wife and I are getting ready to pack up our comfortable, secure (yet unfulfilling) lives in Washington DC and jump into the great wide open. I couldn't do that years ago but now I'm excited to hit reset and start something new. Life is too short to worry.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 4:39 PM on March 4, 2013

What kind of work would be easiest for you to 1) do and 2) sell, right now? Ask a friend to help you pull common themes from your work history around 1), to assist with 2).
posted by nelljie at 7:41 PM on March 5, 2013

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