How do I get out of this alive? Should I bother?
July 10, 2014 2:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm an isolated mess of a person and not sure how I will get out of it at this age. If you've ever been this isolated or hit rock bottom and made it out, how did you do it, particularly if it happened to you after 35?

Last month my serious relationship of 4.5 years ended. I got a therapist, joined meetup groups, went to meetups, have sat alone in bars (awkward), have reached out to the *very* few friends I have. I try to get out every day. I still take walks. I've been doing everything I'm supposed to do, but it's not working. I wake up every day and my first thought is: maybe I should just end it. My life, that is. I'm not kidding. This is the way I wake up every day now. This week it has been especially hard.

I'm in my late 30s, have a dead-end job that barely pays the bills, and I have a lot of debt. I don't feel I have anything to offer anyone sane and smart and funny. Not with my life. Not with my debt. I feel like a fake. I live in a fancy urban neighborhood surrounded by young go-getters and people my age having children and living in $600,000 + historic homes. It's beautiful and walkable and I love it, but lately it just makes me feel more alienated.

Anyway, to top it all off, I really don't fit in--that's no lie. I grew up poor and then ended up in foster care as a teenager. I was very smart and very hated by my foster mother. I quickly picked up the piano, played it in their church (I'm an agnostic more on the atheist side now, go figure), got the star roles in school plays, loved science, wanted to become a doctor after reaching Michael Crichton's Travels, I could have been a lot, but at home I was unloved and put down. In my adult life I've often found myself in similar situations, with all this potential but afraid of the world the same way I was afraid to walk through a room as a teenager because every. single. time my foster mother would find some reason to harass me and put me down. I was damaged and I have spent my life thinking I could rise above it--I really thought this, but here I am at 38 and I realize I haven't. My family? Well, my mom has a very low IQ and my brother has been in and out of prison. What we all have in common is that we're barely getting by most days, but beyond that, we've got nothing in common. Talking to my mom is like talking to a child--not exaggerating. And my brother...yeah. So I don't have family, really.

I find myself fitting in nowhere. It's been that way for a long time and it's worse now because of my age. People have generally found their place and are living it, but I fit in neither with the sort of people I grew up with nor with those who I can actually carry on a conversation with.

Earlier this year I was accepted into a couple of biology master's programs--nothing fancy, but I got in them with the intention of perhaps teaching at the community college level and doing some technical writing on the side. When the breakup happened, I withdrew from the program, appealed the tuition so I don't owe anything, got out. I lost all motivation and now I'm not even sure what I want to do. I think of what it would take for me to get from here to somewhere where I'd actually have something to offer someone compatible with me and I realize it would just take so long I'm not sure there's a point.

I am incredibly isolated. I have only one friend in town to talk to, but he has a girlfriend that naturally takes up his time and I don't want to impose too much. I see him about once a week for an hour or two. The only other person that I can talk to is a married man who wants to do more than talk to me. Yep, that's what I've got. The only person who calls me to check up on me is the married guy. And yes, I know. I know. Thing is, I had to do all the reaching out to the other friend. I have a female friend who lives about 1000 miles away but even getting a chance to talk to her can be a challenge as she has a little one now. I have an acquaintance here and there, all busy. I recently made plans to have coffee with a woman I met at a meetup. I'm trying. I guess what's lacking with a lot of the interactions I have is intimacy and depth. Those things take time. I guess that's what people have with their families when there's nothing else, but I haven't got that.

I work at home and looking for other jobs is so depressing. I don't qualify for much. It's real skills I lack. Have a more or less worthless degree (anthropology from an unremarkable school).

My ex wasn't perfect, had more debt than I do, but he's younger and has better job prospects right now. He was wonderful and yet I pushed him away. I had problems that I just couldn't seem to fix. I still do. I have so many fears and anxiety issues. I probably have PMDD--didn't even know what it was before I started looking up my symptoms. I'm currently trying supplements.

I'm out of place. I'm extremely lonely. I don't know how to do this. Most of the day I really don't have hope. I'm hanging on by a very thin thread. So if you've ever hit some sort of rock bottom like this and gotten out of it, I'd love to hear your story. Thank you.
posted by katherant to Human Relations (44 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: People have generally found their place and are living it, but I fit in neither with the sort of people I grew up with nor with those who I can actually carry on a conversation with.

I find myself thinking some of the same thoughts you have due to my social anxiety. The truth is that very few people are firing on all cylinders. People can be full of doubt and project a veneer of confidence that is impossible for someone like us who doubt ourselves more than we doubt others to detect.

We spend our lives looking at the lives of others and our supposed potential. But none of that really matters in the long run. You're not running a race, you're living a life. So just be cognizant of that the next time you look over and see someone younger than you being more successful in some aspect of their lives.

You can get through this and you are most certainly not alone. Feel free to MeMail me anytime.
posted by inturnaround at 2:15 PM on July 10, 2014 [11 favorites]

Best answer: OK, first of all, please, if you are feeling suicidal, tell your therapist this. Immediately.

I am not a therapist, but a lot of the language you use "worthless degree" "not sure there's a point", etc. indicates that you are extremely depressed right now, and can't see solutions around things. You sound like you have a lot going for you, especially being accepted to graduate school. Really bad depression clouds your judgment.

Other things to consider: do you get a lot of exercise? You mention you work at home (which can be great, but might not be if you're already isolated), so maybe you can try a Couch to 5k program, and sign up for a race? Or, since you appear to be in Denver, there have to be tons of different sports you might try?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:16 PM on July 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I don't have a long story, but it does sound like you are having a hard time, and I'm so sorry. There is a Denver meetup this Sunday at the Tattered Cover. You should come.
posted by Clustercuss at 2:17 PM on July 10, 2014 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Overwhelmed. That's what's wrapping up your story. Overwhelmed. And so often overwhelmed leads to hopeless. And hopeless leads to...nothing good.

Honestly, I don't know if this will work for you but it has done wonders for me many times, something I stumbled upon accidentally.

When I am I feeling jammed up and overwhelmed by some of my own emotions I pull out a notepad and start writing (long hand). Here are a couple of keys about what I do:

* I write whatever the hell came to mind, without stopping, until there is nothing left to get out.
* Then I write about how I want to be instead, until there is nothing left to say about it.
* Then I write about accepting both how things are and also how I want them to be.
* Finally, I shred all of it. Nobody will ever see any of that, which allows me to write from the core of my being.

Good luck to you. MeMail me if you like.
posted by trinity8-director at 2:23 PM on July 10, 2014 [11 favorites]

Best answer: My grandmother was clinically depressed and suicidal at your age, and I'm 100% sure she would say the best years of her life were after 50. She had lots of fun, did a lot of things she always wanted to, and learned and grew a lot! Hang in there... And go call your therapist NOW. Send them a link to this post. Your brain is not working correctly and is lying to you.

All these things are totally fixable.

Google famous after 50 or new career after 40 - it's a Thing. (My mom went back to grad school at 50 and loved it.)

Read When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. You've been through a lot, be kind and patient with yourself. One day at a time, yo.
posted by jrobin276 at 2:24 PM on July 10, 2014 [24 favorites]

Best answer: You say you have a therapist, but have you tried medication to see if that can help? Feel free to meMail me for a dull story, if you like.
posted by dilettante at 2:25 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just another voice saying that this sounds like a major depressive episode and that treatment for that as well as your past trauma could really change your perspective radically. You don't have to live the rest of your life in this headspace and 35 isn't nearly old enough to be all washed up. Good luck!
posted by quince at 2:25 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Book suggestion: How to get out of debt, stay out of debt and live prosperously

Here is a previous comment of mine about suicidal ideation.

I am still working on rebuilding my life. I have paid off some of my debts. I still struggle with feeling suicidal and like a social outcast. Here is another comment of mine about keeping a positive attitude.

For me, feeling suicidal is frequently rooted in (or made worse by) health issues. I have worked a lot on improving my health and that has helped me become more stable. I bet your health is not the best and is contributing to your depression.
posted by Michele in California at 2:26 PM on July 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Oh honey. I'm so sorry you're battling such crippling depression. When I got to the place you're at - my own horrendous rock bottom - I told my physician that I needed meds. It took me a while to find a doctor to help manage my meds, but my god they helped within two weeks. Would you consider asking a medical professional if medications could help? I have a hunch they will.

Beyond that- I have been the long distance friend (with a brand new little one, even!) to a beloved isolated friend. I've been the local acquaintance of an isolated neighbor. I have always wanted to hear from them. And I bet your few people would feel the same. It sucks to reach out. I know. And it's not enough to fill your heart. I know. And I'm so sorry.

I'm thinking of you tonight, and hoping that your days start getting a little better. I wish I could help more.
posted by waterisfinite at 2:29 PM on July 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Think of U.S. Grant. After a promising start at West Point and later inn the Army in the Mexican War, Grant found himself kicked out of the army for being drunk at the paymaster's table. He tried farming (failed), sold firewood on the streets of St. Louis (failed), was a bill collector (failed) and then finally moved to work under his younger brother at his father's tannery shop, at the counter at age 39. A failure by all standards.

Four years later he led the largest Army up to that time in battle in the largest war the world had ever known. He won (or tied) every battle he was in, and led the country to victory. Four years after that, he was President of the United States.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:31 PM on July 10, 2014 [32 favorites]

Best answer: Sounds like everything in your life has come together in one single unsatisfactory tangle that is impossible for you to unravel. It sounds like many parts of you are really deeply unsatisfied with your current life. It sounds like there are many things at once that you are mourning.

What I do when this comes upon me is to shift my attention away from my thoughts and into the world around me. I find one single thing in that moment that I like. A stranger's smile, the color of a flower, the smell of the breeze. And then I just cultivate gratitude like crazy, like I'm trying to start a car with a dead battery.

I also think about how when I turn to face my demons, often they turn into something holy. You are totally and completely free and precious, no matter what your thoughts are telling you. You can know love by loving others. There is enough for you.

This book will show you how to stop believing your own thinking.
posted by macinchik at 2:32 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Google Susannah Conway... She too has struggled with depression, lost a partner at about your age, and her website is chock full of blog posts, links, workbooks etc. about wading through this stuff. (Ask me how I know!)

She runs some low-key online classes too that tend to have very supportive communities.
posted by jrobin276 at 2:33 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Google Buckminster Fuller... He was a massive failure and suicidal, but hung in there to do some very cool stuff.
posted by jrobin276 at 2:37 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: What jumped out at me is that it sounds like you're surrounding yourself with constant reminders of what you don't have. You mention living in a beautiful, walkable expensive neighborhood full of well-off families with kids living in nice houses. You mention trying to hang out with people but having difficulty being they are in relationships and have kids. You mention your only close friend is married and seems to want to take things to an inappropriate level.

Is it possible for you to spend more time around people that are more like you -- in their 30s, childless, single? Trust me, not everyone at your age is married and has kids. Hell, many of us don't ever want those things!

Is it possible for you to move someplace a little less fancy or a little less family-focused, where you won't be constantly reminded of how you can't afford the houses and don't have the spouse and kids?

Also, do you have any hobbies that are just for you? Not hobbies that you're doing because you hope to meet someone from it, but something you do just for your own enjoyment? It reads to me like you are defining your (lack of) success in adulthood too much on your lack of a partner or your ability to attract a partner, but at the end of the day you are the one who is going to make yourself happy. Not someone else.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:38 PM on July 10, 2014 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Late Bloomers

Also, find a way to deal with your emotions, to express them. Keep a journal or a blog or take up drawing or something to try to express what you feel. That may be part of why you feel so bad while socially isolated: You may have no means to express your feelings. It is really common for people to only really express their feelings in deeply intimate relationships. People who are willing and able to do that in other settings often get a lot of push back for being socially unacceptable. Art, music and other creative expressions are kind of the exception to that. I can't cope with being alone if I have no emotional outlet. Working on creative outlets has done me a lot of good.

In the mean time, you could also consider pursuing an online romance. Plenty of people do that long distance. There are plenty of lonely people in the world who would be happy to have someone to spend time with, even just online and/or by phone.
posted by Michele in California at 2:39 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hey person with stuff in common with me.

The 'other people have it worse so stop whining' schtick is only intermittently useful when you're on the edge, but, for what this stuff is occasionally worth -- there's a cemetery at the end of my street. I went for a couple of walks through it today and a stone I'd never noticed before jumped out at me. Because, I suppose, they were my age when they died. In 1920. This blew my mind today somehow. I could be dead! Soon, even!

It amazed me to think about that person's life. She was probably born amidst horses and buggies and died amidst cars. Cars! That would have been a huge thing to live through, to see the rise of the automobile. And I am only thirty-nine, and no internet...internet.

That alone was enough to cheer me up a bit and have it seem totally worthwhile to end up one of the elderly folk in the cemetery. I mean, seriously, cars, internet? What next? It could be even more fabulous. And even if my life is messy -- who cares? I still get to benefit from internet and cars. And so do you. Stop and look around a bit, because it's easy, I know, to forget to do that. And there is cool, cool stuff near you. The internet and cars! Indoor plumbing, even.

Also, your question indicates that you are not as much of a screw-up as you think. The wretched of the earth are not posting eloquent stuff to Ask MetaFilter. Posting a question like this here is a you need to be this high to ride on this ride thing, and you are. I have heard that endlessly when down and out and it's made me more frustrated at times -- maybe if I was an incarcerated illiterate I wouldn't notice that I don't have an expensive house? -- but it's true. Your path up and out is not as long as it feels right now.
posted by kmennie at 2:50 PM on July 10, 2014 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I'd feel weird in your neighbourhood too, FWIW, despite maybe having more superficially in common with them than you think you do.

Also, I guarantee you they're not all debt free with perfect finances...
posted by jrobin276 at 3:11 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You just described my life for the past 6 years. No, seriously. The thing that I have to remind myself of is that this period of my life won't last forever. It's something I have to endure for now. But this too will pass. Yeah, I know "easier said than done". But it's true.

There are things that you can do that will make the transition easier. As much as you want to beat yourself up for all of your "failings", starting to take good care of yourself under all circumstances will serve you well as you heal. I really like macinchik's advice to take pleasure in the little things in life, which really add up to a lot at the end of the day. Maybe it would be good to check back into the grad programs again. It could give your life some direction if it's something you're really interested in.

Don't discount the possibility of hormonal influences on your mood. I know that my hormones make my brain try to kill me all the time. Without fail. Consider professional help during this time of major stressors.

Lastly, you don't have to go through this time of your life alone. There are people who care about your situation and resources are available. Reach out. Memail me if you'd like to talk. :)
posted by strelitzia at 3:15 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Came here to second the Susannah Conway recommendation. She lost someone to a heart attack but feelings of unravelling apply to the end of a long-term relationship through break-up too, that is how I am finding anyway (I am socially isolated just like you, except from social anxiety). I have yet to try the e-courses but Susannah's book "This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart" is a treasure in my library, it was one of those books where as soon as I finished it I went right back to the beginning and started reading again. On the UK Amazon site there are only 10 reviews but all 10 are five stars!

I would also second the idea of journaling, things like can be nice because no one ever sees your password-protected thoughts, unlike paper journals lying around, and you can totally be yourself. A book even called a journal "the 99 cent therapist" meaning for the price of a cheap jotter you could get many of the same benefits as pouring your heart out to a therapist. Just putting problems down on paper helps formulate them better and sometimes answers can be seen.

One of the great things about Metafilter is we can turn to it when troubled and as though by magic strangers will have kind words for us, I hope you are encouraged by the good responses to your question and wish you all the best in turning your situation around.
posted by AuroraSky at 3:30 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: One of the things that struck me most about your question was this: "Most of the day I really don't have hope. I'm hanging on by a very thin thread."

In those spots of my life when I've felt truly swamped and stuck with the shit in my life the one way through it for me was to narrow my focus and simply concentrate on making it through until tomorrow.

I made an agreement with myself take everything hour by hour, day by day, eat crap, sit under a blanket, spend hours on the internet whatever made me feel better in that moment and made an agreement with myself that however I felt I'd see how I felt about it tomorrow.

It might seem counterproductive but sitting with myself, feeling my feelings and going with the flow rather than battling against myself and the world was the best thing for me in giving me a lot of time to rest, recuperate and ultimately take control of the problems I had.

Rome wasn't built in a day and while it was miserable to go so slowly, dealing with these things gradually and methodically put me in control of them, rather them in control of me.

Another thing I learnt was that asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness. Its a long road, for sure but you're not the only one to travel it, so my other advice is not to be scared to reach out to people and things that can help; doctors, therapists, support groups, old friends, books, medicines and lots of other things - and especially the Ask Archives! all helped me along the way, so don't be afraid to reach out if you feel you need to.

Know that I, so many of your friends on Mefi, and in the world have been where you are and come out the end, and that we all wish you well and safe and happy. Take care of yourself!
posted by Middlemarch at 3:35 PM on July 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: nthing medication. It could help a lot. Feel free to memail me about that.

I don't know what kind of therapy you do, but Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is designed specifically for handling these "I can't manage *right* *now*" periods. Consider asking your therapist.

You're worried about debt. I don't know what kind health insurance you have from your job, but if it's at all reasonable (or if it's not reasonable, get an Obamacare plan, and then do this...) consider just turning up at your emergency room. Tell them you're suicidal most days.

You'll spend a few days in a hospital where the only thing anyone is worrying about is stabilizing *you*. You'll get 1 on 1 doctor time, nurse time, social worker time. All the day-to-day bullshit is outside the hospital. It's just you and a bunch of people who want to help you. It's a great way to screw your head back on, relax, and look at everything from a completely different angle.

That option is always on the table.
posted by colin_l at 3:36 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am not your therapist, but...

boy, you really have gone through a lot. First, give yourself a LOT of credit for maintaining a relationship for four and a half years! As much as you had problems and the relationship ultimately ended, this is a major accomplishment and is a predictor that you are going to have other relationships!

A month is Nothing after breaking up with somebody for that long a period of time. Of course you're depressed. You're in mourning.

The most important thing to realize is that it doesn't matter that you don't have many friends or resources now. There are many resources for you, and just these posts demonstrate that there are things to do to meet more people. You may not be in an emotional place right now to go to things and be happy and attract the people you want to attract, so the important thing in this VERY early time after a break-up is to (1) just go, get what you get out of each situation, go home, and be proud that you went, and (2) value your time alone rather than think you have "nothing' and are some sort of loser. It's fine to just plop on your couch and watch TV. You need time to pass so that you can start to feel better.

I agree with those who are posting that you might want to ask your therapist about the possibility of an antidepressant medication while you're in this state.

If you possibly can, try not to overthink issues such as money, jobs, status, etc. It's just not the time to make any other real changes in your life. The fact that you dropped out of the graduate program tells you that. You're not ready. It's okay.

I'm a therapist and I can tell you that there's plenty of misery behind a lot of those $600,000 doors where the seemingly perfect couples live. People put on a good show a lot of the time.

You sound like a nice decent person who's had a very hard life and has worked hard to make the best of what you've been given. I give you a lot of credit for being where you are now -- supporting yourself, even if it's barely, getting 'out there', spending years working on a relationship, and going to therapy.

Try as hard as you can to use the resources that you have -- meetup and MetaFilter events and any other events where you can be just a tiny bit social, but try not to compare yourself to everybody.

You're a young person with tons of opportunities to come in your future. You just have to hang on and find little things that give you pleasure (a movie, a magazine, a meal) and try not to judge yourself and your life all the time. It is what it is. Better things are going to come!
posted by DMelanogaster at 3:40 PM on July 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Motto's I sometimes find soothing
"Loneliness is a longing for kind, not company"
"Jealousy is all the fun you think they had"
And I've forgotten the third.

Yep been to hell. Still here. Sometimes this shit beats you.. but remember sometimes you do and will beat it.

A depression self help support group could feel an honest place to be in the company of others.

I'm sorry you're in pain.
posted by tanktop at 3:59 PM on July 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm so sorry you feel so bad. This is overwhelming depression, and the feeling that nothing can be put right, that the terrible feelings are the inevitable result of who you are and are inescapable - that's depression too, not reality.

If you are suicidal, please, please tell someone - your therapist, your GP, the emergency room. Don't downplay it to them. Consider trying medication if you're not already. Your situation can and will change for the better, but you're gonna need a little help. Great job asking for it here, but if you're suicidal you must step that up and ask for it in person too. This here community doesn't want to lose you.

Also. When you wrote about how bad you felt, you almost hid away this sentence:

I think of what it would take for me to get from here to somewhere where I'd actually have something to offer someone compatible with me and I realize it would just take so long I'm not sure there's a point.

Firstly, this shows to me how much you're still reeling from the break-up, specifically - the fact that you kind of equate "getting better" with "having something to offer a partner". Secondly, forget about getting to a point where you can offer something to other people, first of all think about getting to a point where you can enjoy just being yourself. That's enough of a task right now.

FWIW, I'm 39, single, no kids, never had anywhere near a four-year-long relationship, and have an anthropology degree (I hear ya on that one!). I've also been depressed before, and now I'm not. And I've lived in places which made me feel like I was failing compared to everyone else. I moved to somewhere with a much less aspirational ethos and Lordy it's so much more peaceful on the soul.

Good luck to you, you deserve it.
posted by penguin pie at 3:59 PM on July 10, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: The one good thing about hitting rock bottom is that once you get there, there is nowhere to go but up - and you never have to go back. I hit rock bottom when I was only 19, and there wasn't anyone there but me - my friends were off at college, my parents were divorcing and preoccupied with their own drama, my brothers had moved away, my HS sweetheart and I were done. I looked around and said, there's nobody here but me, and no one else can or will help me get out of this pit of despair, so let's just see if I'm enough (you bastards!). My observation is this: you just have to keep plugging away. You will have your days of despair over setbacks and seemingly getting nowhere, but that's OK. You will try again tomorrow. And tomorrow. And the next day.

I've had difficult times since then (two divorces, two siblings and a parent died, long-term unemployment, a mother with severe dementia) but I think after that first time we learn not to let ourselves get quite that far in a hole before we start rescuing ourselves. You have started rescuing yourself, it's just happening at a rate so slow you can't see it. You reached out for help. That is a huge step.

I live in Denver too. I could possibly live in the same neighborhood as you. I work at home too, in a dead-end job that pays the bills. I am very isolated, too. I have no family other than my extremely demented mother in a senior facility (the source of my current difficulties, which are massive - but I am plugging away). The only differences are that I am more than 20 years older than you, and while my current difficulties are huge and frustrating and terrifying, I am not despondent, or at least not most of the time. I know I will get through this, and I'm pretty sure you will get through your present difficulties too. Believe it or not, you are young and still have the best of your life ahead of you (I know, I know, but I thought my life was over at 19 and at 32 and at 49, too - and it wasn't). And you sound like someone this sane and smart and funny person would like to know.

I have a little old house in Baker neighborhood with a huge back yard garden and a pond. It is serene and relaxing. I'd like to invite you to come over and have a glass of wine with me. I will tell you about reaching my rock bottom, if you like, and how I climbed up out of it. You are not alone. As all the replies here demonstrate, there are people you have never met who care about you. I am absolutely serious - Memail me for the address. You can come right now if you like.
posted by caryatid at 4:12 PM on July 10, 2014 [72 favorites]

Best answer: I may not be a great person to answer this question because Reasons related to what-sounds-like-a-similar-situation about a year ago that did not end well. However.

Your comments about the few friends you have struck me as pretty self-depreciating and self-defeating. You said "... I don't want to impose too much...[he] wants to do more than talk to me...". The thing is, you can't really know that your friends don't want to see you, or have better things to do, or couldn't or wouldn't be there for you if you need them, and if you tell them that you need them. I know you think that this is wrong, and that you do 'know' that they wouldn't want to bother with intimate or deep interactions with you-- but that's almost certainly not true. Reach out to your friends. It's okay to do that! It's not your job to preemptively shield your friends from the impact of having a friendship with you, and when you do that you're really limiting your own access to the kind of emotional connections you want and need. Unless your friends have told you straight out that they don't want to spend emotional resources on you, they're still your friends and you can ask them to support you. Tell them you need help, and love, and support. Ask them to call you once a week-- hell, once a day, if you need that. Ask them to reach out to you to make plans. I swear to you, if you make it clear to your friends that you need them to call once a day to stave off potentially-suicidal loneliness, they will call.

I know you think that this might work for other people, but it's not okay for you to have wants and needs, or to ask people you know to help meet those needs. But trust me, please, please-- people love you. Your friends care about you. They will help you if you ask. It is terrible to be lonely, it hurts to feel like you don't have a place-- but there are people in your life that care about you. There are people who would miss you if you weren't here. Trust me. There are people who you've touched who you may not even know. You are worth more than you think.

You deserve-- and can have!-- emotionally intimate relationships with friends and other loved ones. It might take a while, and you will have to work at it and ask your friends and partners for the love and support you need, but you can have it. There may very well be people in your life right now who can give you what you're looking for. Just reach out and ask. Don't assume they don't have time. Don't assume they don't care. Ask. Let your friends love you. They do, and they will.
posted by Kpele at 4:19 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Also: I said above that the community doesn't want to lose you. That's so true that there's actually a page on the MeFi Wiki built especially for you and for others who are in the same pain as you: There Is Help.

Please take this as both a practical suggestion for resources that may help, and as proof that even people who have never met you care very much for your mental health and your continued being-hereness. The folk that wrote it didn't quite know where you were when they wrote it, so they couldn't address it to you personally, but they meant it for you, with love - I'm just completing the job by posting it for you here.

You're not alone.
posted by penguin pie at 4:22 PM on July 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Check your memail.
posted by desjardins at 4:52 PM on July 10, 2014

Best answer: When I had hit rock bottom I read the book Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed and it changed my life. I will send you a copy if you MeMail me your address.

Some days I still have to take it hour by hour. When things are good it's day by day. Sometimes it's just about getting through the next five minutes.

I do not have much to add, or much to say, but I am thinking of you tonight as well. I hope that you take a warm bath and read a good book and have a dinner that tastes good and maybe watch a bit of television that makes you laugh tonight.

Also, keeping a list of things that I did and things that made me feel good is something that helps me get through the day. When I reflect I can say "that hard-boiled egg I made was absolutely perfect, and I played with a dog, and I was gobsmacked at the plot twist in the book I am reading, and I showered" and if I write those things down it helps me to see the joy and accomplishments (even if they seem minor they are not!) in each day, little bits of joy that would otherwise be swallowed by my great depression when I am at the bottom of the depression well.

Best of luck to you as you sort this out, putting one foot in front of the other. This too shall pass.
posted by sockermom at 6:32 PM on July 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Oh and you should totally read the essay in my mefi post from last week, and the comments in that thread.
posted by desjardins at 6:44 PM on July 10, 2014

Best answer: I know where you're coming from and I'm sorry that you have to go through this. Some thoughts...

A neighbor of mine just died of alcoholism. He was a couple of years younger than me. His motorbike is still sitting out in the driveway. I never saw him on it, not even once. He couldn't live his life. Unlike my poor neighbor, I have a chance to live mine, even if it's not the life I thought I would have when I was younger or even what a lot of people would deem "successful" or "fulfilling."

If I could have favorited sockermom's journaling suggestion several times, I would have done so. I've been doing that lately and it helps immensely. I have a journaling application that allows me to tag entries, and one of my tags is "Things to Cheer About." Some examples of those things? I had a great time (by myself) at a concert. I chimed in as a singer at a bluegrass jam, even though I didn't sound very good sometimes. I saw a cool bird. I spent some decent time with my mom, who has dementia. I didn't flip out at a stressful work situation.

Now, my mind has always told me that these little things are all crap. Believe it or not, I'm really starting to be able to ignore that voice. Each one of us has a very different path in our life on earth; just like everyone else, I have my space to fill as I see fit and to the best of MY ability.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 7:16 PM on July 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: At 41 years old, I moved across the country after a divorce. I landed with no job, in a tiny town where I had one (very busy) friend. There were times, if I was sick and couldn't get to the gym, where I would literally not see another human for five days at a time.

That kind of isolation can really mess with your sense of self. And I don't think it has to be literal isolation like that; even feeling as alone as you warps your perspective.

After I pulled out of it, there was one positive thing I could see. I am very grateful for everything that makes me feel connected now. It became a micro economy of love, where tiny things were worth so much more. I learned to let an interaction with the cashier at the grocery store make me feel real and human. Casual aquaintances from the dog park became incredibly dear to me. I didn't like, lay all my heavy stuff on them. I just learned to treasure everyday, mundane human interactions.

I brought that with me back into life when I found a job and moved to a city. I appreciate people like I never did before I went through that period.

I remember feeling the particular hopelessness you describe, of being older and alone. How scary it is because what if this is all there is? It wasn't the end of my story and I hope and suspect it won't be the end of yours. You have more to offer than you can see.

I'd been a metafilter lurker for like 10 years, and I joined during that time and was constantly reading Ask questions on here because I like an internet where people are smart and caring.

I think you should do two things:

Watch the movie The Station Agent.

Go to that metafilter meetup on Saturday.

I am thinking about you and rooting for you and so are a lot of other people.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 7:39 PM on July 10, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I've been going through a rough time myself, and due to extenuating circumstances, I've recently found myself driving through one of the most expensive ZIP codes in my area multiple times each week. I've found myself hating the people who can afford to live thereā€”for one thing, they're often terrible drivers with giant SUVs. But beyond that, I find myself hating the fact that they spend their money on all of this opulence, when even a fraction of that would completely change my life. One thing that has helped is remembering that the couples who have money to throw at $600,000 homes aren't likely to be people who share my values in any way. So that, however small consolation it might be, is something to keep in mind.

I think of what it would take for me to get from here to somewhere where I'd actually have something to offer someone compatible with me and I realize it would just take so long I'm not sure there's a point.

You can change your life pretty dramatically in a surprisingly short period of time. I worked with someone who was about your age when, in the span of a month, he quit smoking, left his job without having another lined up, got mono, and lost his apartment in a fire. In the next three months, he got a new job, a new apartment, and a new girlfriend. Within four years, he was married, and within a year after that, he was back in school.

I worked with another guy who struck out on his own, ended up working for a total fraud, and just as his bosses sued each other, his house burned down. He moved to New York, and within a few years, he had a great new job at a national magazine.

Long story short, there is hope, and things can turn around even faster than you might think. Keep that in mind.
posted by limeonaire at 8:31 PM on July 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Oh hon, you are definitely not alone. I'm 41, and spent the latter half of my 30s stepping in and out of various states of loneliness and despair. It's so much harder to find people you connect with at this age. Harder, but not impossible. Mostly, it just takes a long time, which can be frustrating. But it does happen. While you wait to find those people, try to focus on glimmers of brightness in the everyday, as other posters have mentioned above. It's totally corny and cliche, but it really does help you get through another day. Another day closer to the day you find your new friend, or boyfriend, or job opportunity.

In the past year and a half, I started a couple of new friendships that I'm excited about, and fell in love with someone I met online. The friends I found by saying "yes, I'd like to go to that thing" to acquaintances who took a chance on asking me. The boyfriend, well, that was OKCupid. But I went on a LOT of dud first dates before I met him, which taught me a lot about who and what I wanted.

It all just takes work, and time, so go easy on yourself. There is nothing wrong with you.
posted by chowflap at 9:36 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 'm in my late 30s, have a dead-end job that barely pays the bills, and I have a lot of debt. I don't feel I have anything to offer anyone sane and smart and funny. Not with my life. Not with my debt.

Bankruptcy, bankruptcy, bankruptcy. It's a hell of a lot easier than you think and will immediately improve your life. It's not any kind of moral failure, either. Just get it over with. It's like ripping off a band-aid. You can't discharge college debt that way, but you can tie that to income so it's not extraordinarily onerous.

It's one of the few hard decisions I've made in my life that I have zero regrets about.
posted by empath at 10:09 PM on July 10, 2014

Best answer: Just today I was thinking about the two times in my life when I was legitimately suicidally depressed, and although I remember those episodes with nauseating clarity, it also blows my mind that I could be the same person as the girl who felt that way. Because although my life is not perfect (and I relate to the loneliness and isolation in your post in a big way), I am now so far away from that horrible spot.

I guess I just wanted to say that life can surprise the shit out of you, and as someone above said, it can turn on a dime. Change can happen really fast, especially if you start actively working for it. It is SO hard to do that when you're not at your best. But please try.

I really hope you see some positive change in your life soon. It is definitely possible, you are not hopeless or doomed, I promise. Memail me anytime, even if you just want to talk about cake. :)
posted by jessicapierce at 10:36 PM on July 10, 2014

Best answer: i am 34 and my 11 year relationship just ended. it has been six weeks since i moved in with my parents in the middle of nowhere. i am completely isolated and have no irl friends within 2.5 hours of here, but most of them are 15 hours away. so i kind of get where you're coming from.

BUT. it has only been a month since your relationship ended. you have got to give yourself some time to grieve. you suffered a loss which may or may not have been expected. you can't seriously expect yourself to be back on the horse this soon. maybe you need to give yourself time to wallow, or at least PERMISSON to wallow. no one would blame you.

and you have to tell your therapist that you're having suicidal thoughts. even if you'd "never do it" you're still thinking about it and someone besides internet strangers needs to know about it. they won't put you in a psych ward unless you are an immediate threat to yourself.

and do consider meds if you're not already on them. they can help you get over the hump--lots of people take them for that reason.

I think of what it would take for me to get from here to somewhere where I'd actually have something to offer someone compatible with me and I realize it would just take so long I'm not sure there's a point. -- i feel the same way right now. that's the break up talking, i promise.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:58 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Hello, everyone.

How do I even begin? I've responded to several memails at this point . There are 38 answers to my question, many with invitations to memail--and watch out, I fully intend to.

I am so profoundly, deeply grateful. I have no words--not adequate ones, anyway.

Truth be told, AskMeFi, I haven't a clue as to whether or not your answers saved my life. I fully admit that I'm pretty effing resilient, but let me tell you something: at one point this afternoon--hours after that first awful thought of the day that I've been having every single day--I was actually bargaining with myself. It wasn't the first time, either. I was saying to myself, "Okay, Self, look, just make it through one year--okay, fine, six months--and if it's not better, then you can kill yourself, dumbass." That was me this afternoon. This isn't something I've experienced before, and I've been pretty damned depressed before--or so I thought. So what I'm telling all of you is that you have made an ineffable, profound difference in my life. You changed the course of my life today. Maybe you didn't realize you had that power. Maybe you're going through a funk yourself. Maybe we get to help each other, ultimately. That would be so amazing and beautiful--I welcome that.

There is no way I can tell you all how grateful I am that you took the time to reach out to me in this thread. When I tell you that you have changed my life, I am not kidding. I hope to meet every one of you who has reached out to me and give you a big hug. I hope I do you proud, because you have probably saved a life today.

With profound gratitude, thank you all so very much. You have no idea.

Thank you, with love...
posted by katherant at 12:14 AM on July 11, 2014 [42 favorites]

Best answer: Very touching response from Carytad.. and others. Hope you go for the glass of wine :) Sometimes someone just being genuinely kind and reaching out to you - is worth it's weight in gold!!

In my darkest hr I was turned away from a retreat for the suicidal and thought "well it can't get much worse than this?" Can you imagine?!

Somewhere along the way, when I was shit scared that no one was actually what they seem, or genuinely caring/accepting of someone's pained side, I made a very special friend.

She was older, motherly and said "come to my house and stay at the heart of my family". She barely knew me.. but I went. She showed me that everything I could see wasn't all there was. We are still very close and I will never, ever forget she came along when she did.

As my wise step mother always says "things change all the time". They kind of do too.

Nthing - so freshly broken up.. can you actually hack many new groups right now? How about soothing music? (Joni Mitchell is made for these times if you like folk) films that make you cry or laugh for catharthis? This stuff helps me see my struggle in a bit of a broader context of human struggle, rather than my supposed 'failing'. A yoga class?

By the way I just found out about a retreat - cheap, lovely, ran by Christian counsellors but for everyone (I'm not religious) - so these kind of places do exist if you can find one for down time.
posted by tanktop at 12:52 AM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: That was along relationship, and breaking up is really, really hard. Give yourself time to grieve. Try really hard to get outside every day, get some exercise and sunshine.

Give yourself credit - accepted into a couple of biology master's programs and
I'm pretty effing resilient are both pretty great, but you downplay them. You've survived a very difficult family, gotten educated, been loving and lovable. Assess your finances, maybe get a part-time job in retail or a coffee shop to get out of the house and to manage debt.

Stay alive. You hurt like hell, but it lessens. Read How not to commit suicide. Go to meetups, spend time with caryatid, engage in some activities, just to be around people. For me, watching my old favorite shows on Netflix assuages loneliness and helps me get my brain to shut up with the self-criticism. I'll be in Colo. Springs soon, visiting Denver occasionally, would love to go for a walk or coffee. I'm intimate with depression, and have always gotten better, at least so far. Meds help a lot.
posted by theora55 at 9:45 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I too am intimately familiar with depression, not fitting in, suicidal thoughts--and I'm 35, same as you.

Print out your question and show it to your therapist at your next session. Can your therapist prescribe? If not, go to your PCP (after discussing with your therapist) and talk about antidepressant options. Wellbutrin has changed my life.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:15 PM on July 11, 2014

Best answer: I also work at home, and it is the best for the kind of work that I do. Only after years of that, I started to feel very isolated.
Now I am looking for ways to do some of my work not at home. I tried to do writing in different libraries, coffee shops. Also, I found meetups for people who want to have some writing done.
It might help to feel little bit less lonely, maybe?
posted by Oli D. at 3:43 PM on July 11, 2014

Best answer: I've felt that I don't fit in anywhere either, for pretty much the same reasons as you, and I'm also your age and have a history of depression. I was raised broke, bookish and liberal in a small conservative town. Culturally, I'd fit in much better in a big city. But I've never had the money to do what city residents do and have the experiences they've had. So I don't think like most small town folk and I can't act like most city folk. You are actually the first person I've encountered online who has written about feeling the same way. So I guess that proves that neither one of us is really as alone as we feel in this regard. Thanks for that. There must be others as well. Being poor is certainly not all that unusual, and there have to be others that haven't been able to hang with the people they fit in with.

Oh, and getting star roles in school plays shows that you have it in you to be brave and outgoing. People admire those qualities, and they may come in handy in getting out of your current situation.
posted by the big lizard at 11:53 AM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I struggled with depression and isolation issues most of my life. I too was raised by a critical(plus one codependent) parent. In a downward depression/isolation spiral last winter I found ACA (or ACoA..same thing) Adult children of alcoholics/dysfunctional families and ordered the handbook and 12 step workbook. THe ACA world service is online. There are certain traits common, of course in varying degrees, to all adult children of dysfunction. When I read the list of traits (called the Laundry List) I knew I had finally found the tools to finally understand how and why I was the way I was/am. Many foster children are adult children are not only the children of alcoholics. ACA shows that we were born whole and can be whole again. We learn to reparent ourselves, love ourselves, do what it takes to be our true selves. Also cognitive behavior therapy CBT helped me immensely. There are online ACA meetings and support message boards, also may be meetings in your area...there are none in mine, but ACA is helping me learn to live in joy and be kind to myself.

I wish you freedom from your pain and a happy life...because we all deserve to be happy.
posted by Galeflower at 7:40 PM on August 5, 2014

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