I feel like I’m not good enough. How can I battle my depression
January 25, 2014 10:11 PM   Subscribe

I’m a 25 year old female and have been going through a lot of depression over the past year, mostly in the areas of finance and romance.

All of my close friends have gotten into serious relationships in the past year, including my best friend. We talked daily for six years, but now I hear from her maybe once a month, no matter how much I try reaching out to her. I’ve kind of backed off now, since she seems to be busy. It’s the same with my other friends, and one of them is a guy friend who I’ve been in love with for a little over four years. He never saw relationship potential with me, but is now in a committed relationship with a gorgeous girl, which makes me feel even worse: looking at his girlfriend, I feel like I never stood a chance.

Also, I graduated from a Master’s program in English about a month ago, and am applying for jobs: it’s a long, tiring process, and the responses I’ve gotten are polite versions of “thanks but no thanks.” So, I’m stuck at an unfulfilling part-time job at a local recreation center. I also live with my parents, which wouldn’t be a problem, but they are very critical and controlling, so it makes my situation that much harder.

So recently, with all the stress and rejection piling on, I’m just feeling like I’m not good enough, for any job or man. Which sucks, because at some level I know I’m attractive, educated, caring, funny, all that, but currently I just feel inadequate and undesirable. I don’t know how to make the feelings go away. I take yoga and zumba classes, run regularly, read self-help books, and just started on an affirmation workbook which I work in every night. I’ve tried therapy; it only makes me feel better temporarily, and mostly has been a waste of money. Anti depressants have awful side effects. I joined a meetup group for women my age in the area, which is really fun, but the depression creeps back in just hours after I come home from an event.

I’m at the end of my rope here. I’ve tried everything I can think of to feel better, but I am depressed every single day of my life. Is there anything else I can do stop feeling so sad and worthless? I don’t know where else to turn.
posted by summertimesadness1988 to Human Relations (19 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Also, I graduated from a Master’s program in English about a month ago, and am applying for jobs: it’s a long, tiring process, and the responses I’ve gotten are polite versions of “thanks but no thanks.”

I only have time for a quick response right now, but this is not you; this is the economy. I know people with far greater qualifications and lots of experience under their belts to boot, who are getting the same results.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:33 PM on January 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Hi. I'm your age and was in your situation a few months ago. I'll be your friend, if you need one!

Here's how I crawled my way out of it:

1. Got a full-time job. This is the first step. Once you have a full-time job, everything else falls into place.
2. Moved into a shared house with other 20-somethings.
3. Once I did these two things, the friends problem solved itself. My roommates, coworkers, step-brother and step-sister, and old hometown friends all combined to give me plenty of social life.
4. Now that this is all taken care of, I am tentatively dating again. I feel much better about dating once all of the other stuff- job, friends- is taken care of.

I did think of going back to a psychiatrist, and for a while was on a medication without any side effects that really helped me. I'm off it now, but it was worth it for the worst period.
posted by quincunx at 10:37 PM on January 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I am so broken record about this, but it's important to get the right KIND of therapy. The talk stuff does help some people, but CBT is about skills-building, which is to say, it keeps working even once you're not going anymore. It's not foolproof, but I am in a very similar situation re: general life suckage, and it has gone a long way towards at least keeping my head above water despite the last 18 months having been full of some extremely unfortunate stuff.

I have okay coping skills, I have my meds worked out pretty well, but I don't currently take an antidepressant because in general they're pretty bad at actually fixing things that are wrong when that's what's got you down. I mean, try everything you can try, but it's not surprising if they don't help a lot in this situation. (I have anxiety and ADD to manage.) But a lot of stuff still sucks. It's just that now I'm better able to pull myself back to being productive again when I get down. I'm better able to take the steps I need to take towards better things. I think that's really what you need--you've got a lot of the right ingredients, you just need to be able to ride out the job hunt and the relationship stuff.

I'll ditto: If you want somebody to talk to, message me, I'd be happy to. (Job market and heartbreak are two pretty major components of my own current situation.)
posted by Sequence at 10:53 PM on January 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: All of my close friends have gotten into serious relationships in the past year, including my best friend. We talked daily for six years, but now I hear from her maybe once a month, no matter how much I try reaching out to her.

It was hard for me when all of my friends got into serious relationships. Suddenly I never saw them because they were always with their significant others. Eventually the honeymoon phase ended for most of them and they started making more time for me. I did the same thing with my last relationship, and I have the feeling that you will scale back your time with friends once you meet a great guy, at least temporarily.

I hear you say that you are taking Yoga and Zumba classes and that you recently graduated with your Masters Degree. You are also part of a meet-up group with women your own age. I find that so attractive that you are taking such good care of yourself.

The bottom-line is that you have some really good reasons to feel shitty. You're living with very judgmental parents. You desperately want a relationship and it feels so unfair that it has happened to all of your friends but not you. You want to become more independent and move out of your parents house but you can't until you find a job, and finding a job feels like a never-ending search.

You will get through all of this and become a better person for having experienced all of this shit. I know this because you are trying so many different things to improve your lot in life.

I have experienced treatment-resistant depression for a long time. It was not something I could will myself out of or exercise more to "exercise the demons" right out of me.

What helped me the most was finding a good Psychiatrist and getting a complete work-up. I had a blood test taken and I found out that I had a Vitamin D deficiency. I took a Genetic Diagnostic Test from a company named Genomind. The results showed that I had a folic acid deficiency which was responsible for decreased production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. I was prescribed a medication named Deplin that changed my life. I also found that my frontal lobes were hypodopaminergic. I was prescribed a stimulant medication to increase my dopamine levels.

I still have feelings of low self-worth. I am fighting those by taking better care of my wants and needs because at the end of the day I'm worth it. I'm also going to start seeing a CBT Therapist who can help me recognize when I'm having negative distorted thoughts about myself and teach me how to replace those distorted thoughts with more realistic positive thoughts.

I'm pulling for you! :-)
posted by speedoavenger at 11:02 PM on January 25, 2014 [12 favorites]

Best answer: and one of them is a guy friend who I’ve been in love with for a little over four years.

It sounds like a lot of your depression is wrapped up in this bit. Four years of unrequited love? That's not going to go away overnight. Speaking as someone who's been in a similar (genders reversed) situation, I can tell you that it takes a lot of time to move on, and that you can't hurry it up. Not having any contact with him will help, though.

My only advice is really to just keep busy. Don't invest all of your self-worth in your relationships. Put some into a creative hobby, or better yet internalize it. The economy will pick up, or you'll manage to find a better job, eventually. Just don't give up until that happens. Rejection hurts, but if you receive it enough, then you'll become desensitized to it, and it'll no longer bother you.

And if your friends are ignoring you, then find new ones. Life's too short to try to hang on to people who have other priorities. Just from the responses here, it seems like there are plenty of people willing to talk (you can also MeMail me if you like). Or, better yet, you could make overtures toward some of the individuals in your RL meetup group; maybe some of them will be amenable to a closer friendship?
posted by Androgenes at 11:20 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I notice that you talk a lot about how other things and people sort of define you/your happiness. You don't talk at all about yourself, except to outline what you're doing to make yourself more desirable and to outline how so many largely uncontrollable factors have impacted you. Only: none of these factors are you nor do they make you you. Friends will come and go, especially in your twenties. Would-be, could-be flames will flicker. You may have a few crappy jobs, until you find the one that clicks (and you will!). You've just gotten out of school and, given your age, you've probably known nothing except school for your entire life. That's a very difficult transition to make, especially in such a crap job market; it probably seems like all of that incredibly hard work you've done has meant nothing. (But it means a lot. The job market really is crap.)

But once all of those things have changed or moved on, what's left? You. You're left. You have to find what makes you happy, outside of your social circle and job. What inspires you? What do you like to do in your free time? Find those inspirations and dive into them. That may seem trite and total after-school-special, but when I was at my lowest point over the last year (and, trust me, it was "I wish a car would come along and t-bone me before I get to work" kind of low), writing and photography were my lifelines. They didn't depend on anything but me, and no one could take them away from me but me. I learned how to derive happiness, self-worth, and solidity from myself, not from other people (friends, spouse, or parents) or my job. At the lowest low, sometimes that's how you learn how to float back toward the top. You'll get there.

(P.S.: spend as much time out of your parents' house as possible, until you can find an alternate living situation. Hang out on campus, if your campus is cool with that. Go to the library. If you have a laptop/similar mobile device, you can job search from nearly anywhere.)
posted by coast99 at 11:24 PM on January 25, 2014 [9 favorites]

This helped me and changed everything, positively. Not plugging religion, this actually worked for me.
posted by ladoo at 11:33 PM on January 25, 2014

Best answer: This question felt familiar to me because I definitely lived it myself, and therapy didn't seem like it did jack for me either at the time.

Yet, I am going to make suggestions that probably could come from therapy or a self-help book, although it actually took my writing this response to realize it:

One thing that might help you is to re-frame your experiences. This guy dating someone else is not a rejection of you; having a hard time finding a job is not reflection of your worthiness as an employee; and sorry, your best friend sounds like a jerk but that's nothing to do with you.

Another thing is to re-set your goal posts. You have a job that isn't fulfilling; is there any way that you can make it more so? Some way that you can tie your academic work into it? You live with your parents; it sucks, but you're saving money right? You're single and your friends are coupled up? You joined a meetup group with women who may know someone who may know somebody...

Yes, it's kinda cheesy but just give it a whirl.
posted by sm1tten at 1:07 AM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not much to add except to say I found my 20's very hard socially.. all those delicious, reliable female friendships that I felt sure would be a constant in my life began to float away. It is 10 years on or so and to be honest I do still miss that level of support and closeness, there's something about people who know your history. It also really p**'s me off when friends are sidelined for romance. I learned not to do that (as hard as it was at times.. romantic highs are seductive) because I hated it so much.

In my mid 20's I was on course that needed my total focus, I couldn't form new connections at that time. Ok you're not resource rich right now but sounds you have time on your side and abundant emotional resources. You are doing all the right stuff and a lot of the hard stuff sounds like external stressors. Having a few hours out of the dark mood.. I know it's not 'enough' (God I know that!!) but it's totally worth doing and well done for listening to the bit of you that's fighting your corner.
posted by tanktop at 2:22 AM on January 26, 2014

You sound more angsty than depressed, and feeling that way at your age is totally normal. It sucks but it's normal. You're not a kid anymore but your adult life hasn't yet taken-off, so a bit of angst is appropriate.

My advice would be to focus all of your efforts on finding a full-time job in your chosen field. Unfortunately, your degree qualifies you for very few positions (there aren't many poem repair shops around), so patience will be at a premium. If you start to feel discouraged, just keep in mind why you chose that path in the first place. Once obtained, full employment will provide you with the means to free yourself from your angst-ridden world and move fully into the robust adulthood that your friends and peers have achieved.

You might consider a full-time position outside of your field temporarily if only to get you out of your parent's home. You wouldn't be the first English major to ever work behind the counter at Macys.

In any event, remember that there's nothing wrong with you at all. You've simply chosen a career path that's a bit more difficult to begin than most. But don't worry too much. It'll start.
posted by Jamesonian at 3:05 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had a pretty tough time in my 20s, and a lot of what you're saying sounds very familiar to me.

This is what I would say to myself when I was going through it:

1. Quit defining yourself by other peoples' lives/actions. That's not you and has no impact on your life. That's a one-way ticket to endless neurosis.

2. Find something you enjoy and throw yourself into it. Seriously, nothing is worse than being bummed out and then having a ton of free time to sit around and think about how bummed out you are. Fill that time with something, anything. Start going to local theater shows, join a local crafting group, volunteer somewhere doing anything. You don't have to particularly like any of these things, the point is to get you out of the house and occupy your time and brain. And you never know who you'll meet or what connections or opportunities can arise from the oddest places.

3. Join a dating site (I like OkCupid). Just see what's going on out there. I've met a few cool friends on there with whom there were never any romantic connections. You'll have some horrible dates which make for future hilarious stories. If you don't see anyone worthwhile in your area, just stick it out; people come and go every day. Don't make yourself nuts checking in every 3 hours.

Mid-20s are hard. People move away, people start families, it seems like everyone else has a good job or makes more money than you, it can feel like life is leaving you behind. This is character-building. Things will get better and start to fall into place, you just need to find a way to ride out the rough patches in a way that works for you. For me, it was finding things to focus on so that I wouldn't waste my time dwelling.

Good luck!
posted by JimBJ9 at 3:07 AM on January 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you can swing it, change your whole world view for awhile. Weeks or months in another city or another country can do wonders. Peace Corps or any of a hundred similar programs are worth checking out. In 10 years, 20 years you won't regret having spent a year or two doing something awesome somewhere far away for a bit.

If you can't stay busy enough to keep your mind out of the junk then volunteer your ass off. Weekends and nights. Forget Zumba, do Habitat for Humanity. You'll meet un-self-centered people and you'll get exercise and be doing something constructive.

As others said, a big part of your situation is the economy but sounds like a big part is just the 20's. It can be a tough time. Things will definitely fall into place. You need to keep crazy busy so you don't have the time to ruminate.
posted by pallen123 at 5:16 AM on January 26, 2014

Is there anything else I can do stop feeling so sad and worthless?

I do want to address this, and I don't mean to discourage you, but the answer might be "nothing". I DON'T mean to say that you will never feel better. You will! There will be wonderful days ahead. But if there is a biological component to your depression you might not ever "stop". Just yesterday I spent a wonderful day with my significant other, then sat down on the couch in his house and cried while he held me. The only explanation I could give was, ". . . I'm just feeling weird."

That's ok, because my advice to you is accept this about yourself. You sound like me, in that you don't seem to really like or accept yourself. This CAN be changed. Different kinds of therapy can help - have you tried ACT? I hear great things about it. CBT also helped me.

I'll also throw in a plug for mindfulness meditation. It makes me feel so much better about myself when I sit down and do it regularly.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:59 AM on January 26, 2014

Best answer: I would reinforce all the "get (more, better?) therapy now" responses because it's true, people are wired (or molded) differently and unfortunately I do think these mindsets can be pretty insidious and "stick around" despite how much "biking, volunteering or 'getting out there'" that you do. It's not just a "you're in your 20's thing". I waited (extensively traveled, worked, exercised etc) to get out of my 20's and guess what? You're still the same person, just with the beginnings of wrinkles!

Ideally you will move out of your parents' home, find a job (probably in the reverse order) and find a therapist who works a bit better for you. It's tough. Ideally you will also find a hobby or two that you can feel passionate or at least strongly positive about, bonus if it's based in a physical activity, ideally one with a social component as well.
posted by bquarters at 10:56 AM on January 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Anti depressants have awful side effects.

Are you saying this from experience? For example your doctor prescribed various antidepressants, you tried them all, and they all had awful side effects? Because if you're clinically, medically depressed, which strangers on the internet can't diagnose, then the right medication can certainly help.

And not to discourage therapy, but I had decades of depression and went through more than 5 talk therapists until I finally went to a psychiatrist, who in the first session said, "You should have been put on medication 40 years ago" and proceeded to do just that. The first med didn't do anything; the second did, after, yes, some initial side effects, which all went away after two weeks.

The medication helped give me the energy and confidence to make huge changes in my life. In my case, at least, it was like me trying to talk away my hypothyroidism (which was part of the problem) instead of just taking the dang thyroid medication.
posted by ceiba at 11:04 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a lot in common with you at your age. However, I know that I am not you and that people are different and MMV and IANAD and all the usual disclaimers.

One of the reasons I didn't get great results from talk therapy at your age is that I wasn't able to properly open up to my therapists. No matter how I tried, I would end up finding myself wanting to please them the same way I wanted to please all the authority figures in my life. Looking back, I minimized problems when I talked to them, held back about their suggestions that didn't work, overreported the success of their suggestions that did, was way too polite during sessions, and downplayed the description of symptoms I thought would disgust them. I was sure they would be like my family, who would give me hour-long harangues every time I dared to say anything negative,telling me how tired they were of my "constant bitching and complaining," and that if I didn't "sweeten up," nobody was ever going to care about anything I said or did.

So, while I did have some success with later therapists who tried to teach me to turn off those messages with mindfulness, they were too ingrained, and I couldn't really start to tackle my depression in a real way without aggressively knocking out that anxiety first. For me, medication was the key to that. Xanax changed my life and was the doorway to recovery.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:54 AM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have been in your shoes as well and I will be your friend if you need one. I'm open for me-mail as well as others have stated. For me, it's knowing that it is a process. You didn't wake up depressed one day and are carrying that monkey on your back, it's something that has been brewing until it became full-blown depression. So you're going to have to actively be working on diminishing the effects of depression and living your life in a way that does not *revolve* around depression. If that makes any sense to you. Also, it is great and really helpful when you're in a good relationship for some of these issues to fade into the background for a time, but it doesn't fix them. It's better to not be in a relationship and figure these things out for yourself and lo and behold, you might just end up being even *more* awesome that someone takes notice and there you've found the person of your dreams. It usually happens when you least expect it, but are ready for it in your life.

However, I have this as my screensaver to remind me sometimes that Life is Good. Follow these and you can't go wrong. I believe you're doing a great job already, it just takes time. Celebrate your accomplishments and each thing you do that brings you closer to happiness. And when you experience small happiness, appreciate it and hold on to that sucker until the next time you get more happy. I can't give credit to who originally created this list as my SO found it and showed it to me at a low point, hopefully it will help someone else too.

7 Cardinal Rules for Life:

1. Make peace with your past
so it won't disturb your present.

2. What other people think of you
is none of your business.

3. Time heals almost everything.
Give it time.

4. No one is in charge
of your happiness. Except you.

5. Don't compare your life to others
and don't judge them, you have no idea what their journey is all about.

6. Stop thinking too much.
It's alright not to know the answers.
They will come to you when you least expect it.

7. Smile.
You don't own all the problems in the world.
posted by lunastellasol at 2:43 PM on January 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

I think chapters three and four ("Understanding your moods" and "Start by building self-esteem") of the David Burns CBT book are a really good, practical intro to reframing negative thoughts. It's just a couple of simple exercises, and you don't need to read any more of the book to get started. (I'd recommend skipping the first chapter at least, as it's just the obligatory "this really works!" background stuff, and if you've read a lot of these type of books it's a bit ho-hum.)
posted by danteGideon at 2:45 AM on January 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't know if this is even helpful but it took me a long time to realise that it's okay and good to like myself and think sort of highly of myself. For a long time I conflated low-self esteem with modesty and everytime I thought 'oh hey I look nice' there would be this voice in my head whch would just smack me back 'down to earth'... But I think I only realised lately that it's a GOOD thing to say 'hey good job!' and 'hey I look pretty here' and 'that was a good comeback. nice one' and to forgive myself. Bizarrely for the longest time I felt as though I wasn't allowed to do that, or that being positive about myself meant being arrogant or in denial when in truth everyone who has done anything amazing has had to like and trust themselves enough to go out of their comfort zone. It doesn't mean you have to give up being self-deprecating, or to stop learning from your mistakes. But all of your role models actually have healthy self-esteem i.e. don't feel ashamed or guilty about thinking well of themselves. So this is odd, but above all give yourself permission to forgive your own mistakes and remind yourself that thinking highly of yourself and being kind to yourself is both healthy and good for everyone else- because it means you have more energy and dynamism and that stuff is contagious.

So I agree with the stay busy! But also wanted to add that you need to remind yourself that thinking well of yourself is good and allowed and awesome and doesn't make you bigheaded or arrogant or anything like that.
posted by dinosaurprincess at 3:26 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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