I don't know if I like the person I'm becoming.
May 7, 2014 7:48 PM   Subscribe

I've felt a change in my personality and how I handle things lately, and it's making me uneasy.

I've made the decision to stay where I am for another year, thanks to the helpful answers from the previous thread. However, I've been facing some weird stress-related issues and other issues in my life lately, and quite frankly, I feel like I'm losing myself.

A couple disclaimers. a) Most of your answers probably will consist of 'get therapy' - I plan to, as soon as/if I get Medic-Aid (it's been a lengthy approval process for some reason). I'm unemployed right now, and can't exactly afford to. b) This is long. Apologies in advance.

So I've been through quite a few stressors in the past few years. I've worked at a job I wasn't happy at (burnout), resigned in December 2013, been struggling to find a job since then. I even tried re-applying for that job, with no luck. I've been told numerous times I wasn't qualified for said jobs I was applying for. I feel like I've been knocking on brick walls with no desire to hire me, even though my previous job was at a prestigious retail location (hint: think of a certain fruit) and I was told by friends that'd be a resume differentiator and that it'd be a snap to find a job with that job on my resume. I hate facing this and no employment. I was battling with a huge sum of potential debt with a certain car rental company, to the tune of $30,000+ (not going into specifics), only one day last autumn to be told the case was potentially dropped without nary a word of confirmation from the car rental company (but as of today, knock on wood, I haven't heard anything from any lawyers or the company regarding the issue). I finally transferred my SSI from California to DC this spring, only to be met with a flurry of messed-up actions from SSI, varying from a mistaken letter saying I wasn't eligible for SSI (SSA phone line assured me it was actually for SSDI, due to a miscommunication and missed appointment which I was never informed about in the first place), to saying I was overpaid, etc. - and I'm not currently on SSI because I'm currently over the $2,000 income limit (that's changing soon, unless I get hired for a job I've applied to recently), and I'm nervous about going to the office and having to potentially fight for my SSI back (if no job and no SSI, I can't afford rent). I've had a couple health scares earlier this year, with the potential of UTI and some strange flashes in my eyes, both of which has seemingly disappeared…for now, anyway. (I always say 'for now' or 'if' because I don't want to jinx anything.)

At this point, I feel like I've changed lately. I don't like it. I feel increasingly bitter towards people, getting more annoyed easily by incompetence, feeling frustrated when potential employers don't even reply to my emails (or subsequent followups) of employment interest. I feel this deep internal anger inside me when something goes wrong, even something minor. I don't go berserk or crazy, but I just feel so… angry. It's hard to explain. I've had a few minor outbursts when store employees were being rude to me (but apologized after the fact); in the past, I would've just ignored it. I also literally feel myself shake and tremble every day before the mail arrives, feeling anxious and my heart beating, dreading yet another communication from SSI (like I mentioned, SSA has been hapardazously messing up with my account lately). It's truly an awful feeling. When nothing from SSA comes in the mail, I feel this relief, but also this dread that something will still happen. It's perpetual tension. I have never really experienced this before, I've always had mild social anxiety, but this is just really bugging me. I also feel more impatient, get annoyed and upset much more easily, and just generally feel like I'm becoming a mess and losing myself. I've always been a nice and patient, helpful person, but lately, I just feel… different. I also feel like I have lost trust in people in general, and often question people's intentions. I haven't hurt anyone, nor would I ever with my anger, and I haven't had any extremely nasty public meltdowns.

I would feel so much better if I had everything sorted out with SSI, reassurance/confirmation from the car rental company that the $30,000+ charge was permanently dropped, and that I have a job. For now, until I get therapy, I would like tips/advice on how to better handle that anxious feeling before getting the mail, how to better cope with people and my anger… I feel embarrassed just writing this, kind of like I'm losing my pride, but I have to. I am NOT sucidial, I don't feel depressed per se… and other than the mail situation, I'm not anxious in terms of heart-beating, shaking, etc. for the most part. I guess I just felt like I've been through so many stressors in a short few years, without a real break in between, and am always "on my toes." I know you are NOT my counselor, not my therapist, and I don't expect that. AskMe has always been good to me for advice/suggestions (and to others, too), so… thanks. It took a lot of courage to ask this.
posted by dubious_dude to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
At this point, I feel like I've changed lately. I don't like it. I feel increasingly bitter towards people, getting more annoyed easily by incompetence, feeling frustrated when potential employers don't even reply to my emails (or subsequent followups) of employment interest. I feel this deep internal anger inside me when something goes wrong, even something minor.

I felt like that when I had been unemployed for a year. I was such a different person from what I used to be, and I didn't like it at all. The good news is, it went away when my situation changed. Almost overnight, in fact. I went back to my old self. For me, it was an interesting learning situation, because I don't feel like I can say that bitter angry person wasn't me. It turned out that that is what I am like when I am miserable and stressed. I would rather not be, and since I can't rely on my life going smoothly forever after now, I have made a real effort to become a less easily stressed, less bitter person. I started keeping a gratitude journal, despite how corny it sounds. I started exercising more regularly. I started trying to meditate. The key is that I had to be in a good enough place in my life already to have the energy to work on these things. So don't beat yourself up if you can't do that sort of thing right now. Eventually things will be better, and you can make changes then to improve your resilience for next time.
posted by lollusc at 8:05 PM on May 7, 2014 [8 favorites]

It's truly an awful feeling.

It is, isn't it? It's awful. So awful. But anger can be a totally appropriate reaction to stress and feeling (and being) out of control of things happening in your life. Don't be ashamed of it - it's not weakness, and it's not you being bad or wrong.

It can also be a sign of depression. With what you're going through, situational depression and anxiety in the context of your life wouldn't be a surprising thing to happen.

Are you physically able to exercise regularly? If it can be strenuous (I used to punch the fuck out of my futon couch), then great! But even if not, still good! Walking and breathing can really help. It sounds stupid, but it can. So can other things that absorb your attention, whether that's learning a new skill (many free classes online, e.g.) or diving into a new TV or book universe. I swear that getting totally absorbed in Xena:Warrior Princess helped save my sanity during the Worst Time of My Life. Not kidding.

You might look into meditation classes/sitting sessions. A brief google brings up a bunch of free options; it's been a long time since I lived in DC so I can't recommend any in particular. Finding a way and space to practice breathing and being present can be helpful. Try to eat well and keep your sleep schedule as regular as possible. Try to keep your living space at least kind of clean and orderly. There are things you can't change right now, and that's really frustrating and enraging - try to channel some of that into things you can change and control.
posted by rtha at 8:08 PM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

So sorry to threadsit, but I forgot a key point in my OP that I feel is relevant. In February, my iPhone 5 was stolen right out of my hands as I was walking home at night (stupid me of using the iPhone like that in the open in a somewhat ghetto area, guess I took my safety for granted). I was, very fortunately, able to recover it due to police helping me out and stupidity on the thief's part (emailing me pretending he found my iPhone and wanting me to pay him for it). However, since then, I've felt differently - I feel nervous whenever I use my iPhone in public, and I flinch when someone comes close to me behind my back, and even spun around anxiously a few times…I think it's PTSD I potentially am experiencing, which doesn't make things easier. Also, to clarify on a small point, I was informed by my lawyer handling the case at the time about the potential recall/dropping of the collection, but not straight from the horse's mouth. Just wanted to avoid any misunderstanding.

Upon preview, I do feel better knowing I'm not the only one who feels this way when unemployed - I was actually afraid I was going crazy!
posted by dubious_dude at 8:13 PM on May 7, 2014

In my experience, the fastest way to clear anger from your system is intense physical exercise like running or hitting/kicking a heavy bag. It does something to your brain chemistry that purges the chemicals that are making you shake, heart racing, sick to your stomach, etc. -- maybe someone with a better understanding of the science behind it can explain why it works, but you don't need to know why it works for it to work for you.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:17 PM on May 7, 2014

In my experience, the fastest way to clear anger from your system is intense physical exercise like running or hitting/kicking a heavy bag

Yeah, my unscientifically proven opinion is that it burns off your excess rage adrenaline or something. I have had pretty bad anger management issues for a long time and I usually deal with it via exercise because I don't find therapy useful. For me personally it doesn't even have to be intense HIIT/cardio/whatevs, as long as it leaves you feeling wrung out like an old washcloth afterwards. (When I am healthy) I do about 12h/week of intense yoga plus regular strength training and it definitely helps me keep the hair trigger thing under control.

If there are any AA/NA meeting rooms in your neighborhood, you can find out if they have or know of any anger management meetings nearby. It can sometimes be helpful to hear how other people are dealing with similar situations. Unfortunately stuff like that can also be pretty triggering, and you won't know how you're going to react until you try it.
posted by elizardbits at 8:30 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Know that anger and agitation are actually common symptoms of depression, which can be caused by prolonged stress. You're under a lot of stress of all kinds... this isn't necessarily a change in your core personality. You have no reason to be embarrassed. Judging yourself so harshly for your feelings does nothing to help you... have a little compassion for yourself!

Two things that may help (pending professional treatment):

Check in with yourself. This process will help you get to a more objective mental space more quickly: Take a deep breath. Remind yourself, "I am physically safe. I am not in immediate danger. This feeling will pass." If you feel angry, rate your anger on a scale of 1 to 5. If you feel anxious, rate your anxiety the same way. Notice your emotions and wait for the crisis feeling to end (it always ends!). Then take one more deep breath and go on with your day without judging yourself.

The other thing is, as Jacqueline suggested, find something to beat the ever-loving crap out of. Or sprint. Run through the park screaming and scaring grown men. (OK maybe not the last one.) The point is to get your heart rate going and put your stress hormones to a better use than emotional turmoil.
posted by zennie at 8:37 PM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Unless you're getting angry with everyone, every time, you are still, to some extent coping with anger and anxiety. You're just not doing it as consistently as you are used to.

One trick that I learned from therapy was to be mindful of and 'bookmark' the times when I felt angry/anxious/panicky but expressed it in a way that I wanted to, rather than focussing on the times when I lost it and became a big weepy mess. I was amazed at how powerful this technique was - not just in the moment where anxiety and anger and panic turn up, but in teaching me to better process feelings afterwards. I'm still no zen monk but I'm a lot less anxious (and mentally healthy) than I was this time a year ago.
posted by girlgenius at 8:58 PM on May 7, 2014

It sounds like you're basically okay, just under a ton of situational stress. You'll get your original self back when things eventually ease up. This happened to me once during a long-term stressful situation. It really did feel like I'd become a new person. I tried to view it as a good (though temporary) thing, like I was an undercover warrior on a difficult mission seeing the world through new, more focused eyes.

What's helping you hang in there until you hear back from SSI and the car rental place? For me it was movies, audiobooks (with embattled protagonists like detectives or soldiers on the front line), and songs that get what you're going through ("gotta make it through the week with limited funds"). You can't deal with store clerks? Keep your earphones in 90% of the time. I worried the "wallowing" would make it worse, but befriending myself like this and knowing I wasn't the only one who felt that way made me feel comforted.

Don't worry. You'll get through this. If you can find something that lifts the tension for a few minutes (I couldn't), embrace that. This question is similar. (I liked Cold Lurkey's comment.)
posted by slidell at 9:16 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

You have major anger inside of you and you need to know that is okay to have that. Anger is just that, a feeling that comes over you based on your situation. Recognize it for what it is and teach yourself to recognize it coming (in many cases we dont even remember how the anger hit us and when we calm down we realize what happened). You need to get out of that stage and learn to see it before it hits you. It is doable. Then channel that anger the way you see fit. But right now your anger controls you, even fleetingly, and you need to change that around to observe it for what it is instead of getting washed in it. It takes practice but you can do it. Then it has less potential to harm you or others.

I will also suggest this, it changed my life.
posted by jbean at 9:41 PM on May 7, 2014

When I've been broke, there's been no forgetting it. It's like being hungry all the time. No matter what else is going on around you, there's a constant low drone in the back of your mind, which is the sound of it churning through different ways of trying to solve the problem, often aimlessly, in circles. Every waking minute of the day and sometimes in dreams. You resent the sight of people with no seeming worries. You start to see ugliness everywhere and to imagine that everyone's got an angle. That's not pathological, that's being broke. The most effective way for that to stop is for the money problem to be resolved.

For now, what you can do is try to plan and limit active problem-solving time, so that can be a place for the worry to go. Make up a list of what needs to be done for each issue. There are things you can do for some of them, right? Like calling to ensure your paperwork is in order, or applying to one job a day. It sounds like you really need to know what the deal is with that debt. Who can you talk to to work that out?

Get oxygen into your body as often as you can - your brain needs it to think, your body needs it to relax. If you find yourself breathing tight and shallow, take deep breaths.

Do what you can and then commit to diverting yourself. You have to try to let some joy into your life. Start the day with one pleasure, like a hot breakfast. Maybe, for a little while, spend more time with people who understand your situation, who you know care about you. Remember that other people, the ones who annoy you, don't know your situation, they're just trying to get by in their way and have different kinds of problems. Try to notice ordinary decency, like people holding doors for each other, that kind of thing. If there's a free or cheap event you're interested in, make an effort to go. (Not to things you don't care about just because they're on and free, that's depressing. But things you could enjoy, go and see.) Listen to music. You've got to feed your heart and brain, at least a little, too.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:32 PM on May 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also, when you're dealing with people you need information from, with regard to the administration issues you're involved in - be pleasant and agreeable. Even if you're angry and right - if you disagree with some point of fact, or even if you think they're lazy or slow or obfuscating, don't let your irritation show, because they're less likely to be helpful. In those situations, you get more flies with honey, always.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:42 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hmm, some really good suggestions so far. Keeping a journal of positive things that happen and noticing things that are contributing to positivity can be a big help, so I'll try and get started on that.

Does anyone have any good suggestions on how to defer my anxiety from becoming unbearably bad before the mail comes around, other than exercise and hitting abusable objects?
posted by dubious_dude at 1:01 AM on May 8, 2014

You're in DC, right? Go visit all those wonderful free museums and soak up art and ingenuity. Go for a long walk in a beautiful park or neighborhood every day. Art, nature, and exercise may help you feel better.
posted by mareli at 2:24 AM on May 8, 2014

You know what might help, volunteering somewhere. I'm sure there are a bazillion options in D.C. If you do a regular gig, it gets you out of the house and engaging with the world, doing something useful and helpful for other people. Also, you can put the experience on your resume.

I like volunteering in hospitals. Candy Striper or whatever the adult version of that is. (I LOVED being a candy striper when I was in high school.)

Sit at the desk, point people to the elevators, help out with wheelchairs. Whatever it is. You never know, you'll be clued into jobs at the hospital, and maybe you'll get on with them in a full time position.

Or whatever volunteer opportunity you might find fun.

Sitting at home, dreading the mail is just a recipe for stress and unhappiness.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:58 AM on May 8, 2014

Seconding Ruthless Bunny. Schedule your volunteer work so that the mail will drop while you're out being generous and useful.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:02 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

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