How to be content again and pick myself up once more
December 10, 2013 1:51 PM   Subscribe

During my studies I've dragged myself into some sort of downward spiral: falling behind multiple times but still managing to pick myself up, only to find myself struggling even more. I've now arrived at a point where I feel completely broken and depressed. I need to find a way to start off again without feeling overwhelmed by everything else that still needs to, or can be done. I seems the only way to regain control is if I could be as carefree as I was as a freshman.

Years ago I began my technical study at a university. I moved from my parents to a student apartment/complex on campus and was curious, excited and a bit frightened at the same time. However, this was something new and fun after so many years of secondary school/high school.

The first 1.5 years basically went without any problems whatsoever. The many new impressions required quite a bit of energy, but all in all there was no reason to complain.

After that, some gradual changes can be observed in retrospect. Some friends dropped out. Two other friends started to get ahead of me as their work in pairs was always splendid. Relational issues, suicides, drunk or otherwise drugged people were popping up at the flat and/or around me.

I began to skip some lectures. Already getting frustrated about the lack of progress compared to some others, I told myself I could manage by studying extra hard by myself. Instead, I slacked more, got dragged into the problems of others as described above and was generally becoming very unhappy.

After 5 or 6 years — I don't even remember — of slowly doing everything half-heartedly, I finally managed to complete my bachelor's degree. Something that should've taken only 3 years... Because it took so amazingly long, I wasn't particularly happy upon receiving the degree, more relieved and glad that this would at least allow me to get a job if I'd drop out of the master's program.

What happened? How could it take so long? I was always motivated and smart enough before, but suddenly things started to collapse? I'm still under the impression that finishing the degree within 3 years was perfectly possible. I never received grades effortlessly, but if I studied moderately and at least a bit disciplined, good grades would follow.

I started my master's as it seemed the most logical path forward. In this country, 'signing up' for university basically implies that you'll do the master's. Furthermore, my parents thought it was the best step to take.

However, my 'state of life' continued without change. Periods of doing next to nothing: reading technical stuff online (related but not directly useful for classes), chatting away on IRC, reading the news, programming a bit, playing some piano, moping away, being angry at people and the state of the apartment... up to a point where I felt close to being depressed. But there were also periods of picking myself up, salvaging those drops of energy/motivation and finishing some classes successfully.

It could not prevent that guilt was building up and the more guilt I felt, the more difficult it became to pick up studying again, to regain control of myself and my life. However, there's no way to make up the lost time. There's no way to start with a clean sheet.

I've always had fun driving go-karts, playing tennis etc. but I didn't allow myself to have fun anymore. I'd always have the 'you didn't finish your study in time' and 'you didn't do enough today to justify having fun now' in the back of my head. And yeah, both statements are quite true as I find it so inexplicably difficult to pick up where I left off, if that's possible at all.

What's also very difficult for me is that, while studying should be my number one priority, I get some kind of stress wanting to consume everything that's made available today. I want to read every beautiful book. Read the entire newspaper. Repair my radio. Do all the electronics projects I've run across. Become better at shooting. Learn to draw better. Cycle more. Learn more about cryptography, about quantum mechanics, about... argh! I seriously have an interest in all of this but instead, I'm doing nothing of it all. Instead I wind up, and I'm not kidding, trying to catch up my RSS feeds all day long.

So there I am, struggling to finish my master's degree, managing my time completely wrong, unable to make the right choices and prioritize tasks, becoming unhappier and more guilty every day and, weirdly enough, losing the perception of time. Every day it's like a misty cloud fills my head, get out of bed on autopilot or cruise control and somehow get to the end of the day feeling more miserable. I even feel drained after something simple as grocery shopping; not sure whether that's cause or effect.

Now, don't get me wrong, I know how unfair it is to complain. But somehow that makes it even worse: if people with bad health can find the strength to make most of their lives, if people who lost a child can smile once more, if people who witnessed the atrocities and injustices committed during war can still appreciate beauty elsewhere then... wow

Anyway. I've seen a psychologist, I've attended self management courses... it never helped. There's something intrinsically still wrong with me. There have been enough chances to recover and I'm still messing up.

I guess the real questions are:

- How can I overcome this downward spiral or negative feedback loop, regain control of my life and become reasonably content again?
- How do I get rid of 'wanting to do everything' while ending up doing the most banal thing possible?
- Why do big crowds, people with problems and/or something as simple as grocery shopping quickly overwhelm or tire me?

Even more information

The student flat I've been living in has been both a curse and a blessing. All in all I've lived and live with a nice bunch of people. There are some terribly lazy and messy people, but the others are real friends. All in all, I think living among these people made me more mature and made me accept people better. However, I've also failed tests because they were drinking beer and keeping me awake the night before. Furthermore, the neighbors were often loud and shitty, peeing down on my open window, trying to brake the window pane when they were drunk etc.

What annoys me is that some of the the laziest people are now graduating faster than me. I'm admittedly jealous, but also frustrated. Somehow I also expected them to acknowledge and care about my problems, but I also realize this is an unfair thing to ask for.

I've also arrived at a point where I can't clean up other people's stuff or ask them how they are doing anymore. I don't get anything in return and just living with them requires too much energy. I feel drained and empty after all these years and the smallest discussions make me explode and run off.

I usually sleep well but haven't had dreams for years. I also feel like there's nothing I'm really euphoric about anymore. People around me are, thankfully, really enthusiastic about their subjects and/or research. For me, it feels like a drag to finish it all.

My parents have always been very supportive and I can't really thank them enough. However, they want a solution as much as I do of course.

P.S. I realize this is a wall of text, but it's a final attempt to find a solution and write down my thoughts. Grammar and/or spelling corrections are welcome.
posted by csdfa to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
1. Have you recently visited your doctor and had a full workup? If not, do that. Explain your feelings of misery and exhaustion and living in a fog, and discomfort with crowds.

2. Do you really want the master's degree? I ask because you don't seem very excited about it, and I wonder if maybe it seemed like a good idea a while back but now you are just treading water because you don't know what else to do. Feeling that you are in the wrong place doing the wrong thing can have an impact on your mood.

3. How long did you see a therapist? Maybe try again, and look for someone who is a better fit for you.
posted by bunderful at 2:54 PM on December 10, 2013


What's also very difficult for me is that, while studying should be my number one priority, I get some kind of stress wanting to consume everything that's made available today. I want to read every beautiful book. Read the entire newspaper. Repair my radio. Do all the electronics projects I've run across. Become better at shooting. Learn to draw better. Cycle more. Learn more about cryptography, about quantum mechanics, about... argh! I seriously have an interest in all of this but instead, I'm doing nothing of it all. Instead I wind up, and I'm not kidding, trying to catch up my RSS feeds all day long.


Have you considered that you are a so called "scanner" or "Renaissance Soul"?

http://getmotivation.com/articlelib/articles/barbara_sher_scanner.html
http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2010/01/are-you-a-renaissance-soul/

The book about Renaissance Souls can really get you focused, if you find out you are one of us.
posted by TrinsicWS at 3:03 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's something intrinsically still wrong with me.

You're fine the way you are, even if you read every RSS feed on the internet and never graduate.

The absolute best thing you can do for yourself is to quit beating yourself up so much. Treat yourself well. This may include preparing yourself a really wonderful meal, allowing yourself to do something fun (or something you used to enjoy), finding a better living situation, taking a leave from your degree program, talking to a different counselor, and/or talking to a doctor / psychiatrist. Your parents want to help you, think of concrete ways they can do that.

Everyone is lazy and disappoints themselves. However, you're stuck with you, so you still need to take good care of yourself because, as you've discovered, no one else can do it for you.
posted by momus_window at 3:20 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


In response to bunderful:

1. I haven't but I will make an appointment.

2. I've been contemplating this. There have been really nice subjects along the way. Some subjects have a negative association for me because I failed them by not studying properly. However, the subject matter itself is still interesting.

I'm not so sure about writing the final thesis. I don't really like research as much as others and a large part of the academic 'world' seems to move only very slowly. I'm also under the impression that a lot of research is just done 'to publish something' instead of really trying to add something of real value. Maybe it's also a fear of knowing that it's really difficult to conduct solid research that will be life changing one way or the other.

3. I started seeing a therapist around the same time of year, but it's either one or two years ago.

I will check out the book TrinsicWS mentioned. Thanks for the pointer to two terms I hadn't heard of before.

Currently pondering about what momus_window said. Taking a leave from my degree program isn't really possible financially. I also find it difficult to give up now, because I'm more than halfway done. I know I would feel both relieved and defeated at the same time though.

The need to treat myself better both mentally and physically is almost a given I guess. I'm not trying to find a different living situation yet because I'm not sure how much it will help (but no-one can tell of course), because it would probably be for a relatively short amount of time and because it will probably be more expensive.

All in all, enough to think about. Thanks for all the responses, it's really, really appreciated.
posted by csdfa at 4:03 PM on December 10, 2013


You should seriously look into moving into a one bedroom apartment. If you can afford the extra one or two hundred dollars a month in cost, by all means, go for it. You might just be drained from all of these interruptions!
posted by oceanjesse at 8:38 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


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