There's no escape
July 28, 2014 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Adrift, lonely and feeling hopeless. Advice would be appreciated.

I've been wanting to improve the quality of my life, but I'm completely lost. I've lost the passion for creativity recently and I feel I've got nowhere to go. I've focused most of my life on art so I never got around to going to college and getting a degree. I've been going from unrelated depressing job to unrelated depressing job for years. I want to move out of my parents and leave this town. I want to establish some sort of life of my own in another city and form meaningful friendships. Yet I'm afraid of the idea of being even more lonely in a new city and not knowing anyone.

I've been going to therapy and I'm currently on a low dosage of anti-depressants. But I still feel really anxious and lost over what to do with my life. I try to reach out to good friends but almost all of them aren't near me anymore. I haven't made a new friend in years. I'm starting to feel flawed, unliked and "broken". Feeling I don't deserve friends or love. People unable to appreciate me or like who I am. Unable to truly connect with anyone.

I don't know what to look for career-wise. I'm considering going back to school to learn a trade but I'm not fully committed to the idea yet and I have no idea what to pursue. I still am paying off old debts and don't really have enough to go back to school full time.

I've been making decent progress with myself but the loneliness is really getting to me. It's getting to the point where I'd rather escape than fix my overwhelming situation. With music, movies, alcohol.. anything. I daydream of picking up and running away on a daily basis. Abandoning my family, friends and job. I feel like I'm doomed to live out this life just to get by. I need people who understand me and who genuinely care. If it weren't for my family, I don't know where I'd be. I'm scared that I'm never going to escape these feelings or find a life of my own.

What do people do when they're in this situation?
posted by morning_television to Human Relations (14 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Your drawings rock! Do you have a dribbble account?

If I had your talent, I'd get a portfolio together and market myself as a freelance illustrator. Maybe you could approach some agencies with your work?
posted by popcassady at 1:10 PM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

They get a new therapist. That is number one, the first thing you might do.

They start making concrete plans to do what they want with their life. Even when it feels hopeless. What would it take to get you from here to where you want to be? Break that goal down into tiny tiny tiny chunks and work on it every day.

They write down how they feel every day. They make tiny goals - "I will work for a half hour on the thing I love today" "I will write 750 words a day" "I will join and look every day for an event in my area" "I will shower today." They track how their goals are going and readjust and practice kindness when the goals were too much and they fell short. They may not derive joy from meeting these goals at the beginning, but that is ok. They keep making themselves do things. Get into a routine of doing what needs to be done to get you where you want to be.

They also try new medications, higher doses.

But the first thing I would do would be get a new therapist.
posted by sockermom at 1:12 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wellbutrin works faster than SSRIs -- you might want to consider taking that instead of or in addition to your current antidepressant.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:20 PM on July 28, 2014

So the loneliness part may be coloring a lot of other things. I would find some activities where you can interact with other people. Are there things nearby that interest you? I bang on the community theater drum all the time (because that's my "thing"), but the thing I like the most about it is that I insta-made a bunch of friends 20 years ago by showing up to an audition and suddenly having something to talk about with a big group of people who showed up in the same place several times a week. Something like that may just drag you out of yourself a little bit, and that might shed some light.
posted by xingcat at 1:27 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What do people do when they're in this situation?

It's very easy to be overwhelmed when you feel like you want to fix virtually everything in your life. Much easier and wiser to attack your situation methodically, in more-easily managed pieces with a constant eye on your overall goal. For one thing, big goals become easier to reach when you break them down into smaller ones that build upon each other. For another, depression tends to lend itself to cognitive distortions which can make getting help seem difficult or impossible.

Cognitive distortions often manifest themselves as absolute statements. "I'll never." "No one." Etc. Recognizing these feelings and either learning to ignore them or how to counter them with reality is important. I like Anne Lamott's explanation that paying attention to those feelings is like tuning in a radio to station "K-Fucked." KFKD. She says that if you let it, "station KFKD will play in your head twenty-four hours a day, nonstop, in stereo. Out of the right speaker will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement. Out of the left will be the rap songs of self-loathing." When we are depressed, our own brains can be our worst enemy. So learning to turn off the station, or perhaps just mute it a bit, to stop reiterating to ourselves that we are unworthy or unloved or untalented, is an important step in breaking out of depression.

So how do you do that? You pay attention to the subconscious messages you tell yourself, and quash them when you can. Then start taking action towards change. We break out of the loneliness cycle by getting up every morning and making incremental progress towards our goals. Even if it's tiny progress, that's good. So to make sure you don't feel overwhelmed by the entire situation, try tackling immediately reachable things first. You wouldn't try to eat an entire meal (steak, potatoes, veggies) in one bite. But take it one bite at time and you'll get to a clean plate. One bite at a time.

For example, going back to school full time isn't affordable for you right now. Okay. What kind of financial and time commitment would part time education cost? Would it be possible given your current circumstances? I went to school part time for years because I needed a full-time job's income. It's a slower path, but it's still progress. You can also take a free online course to get your feet wet, and see how you like it.
posted by zarq at 1:27 PM on July 28, 2014 [10 favorites]

The book where Lamott said that by the way, is Bird by Bird.
posted by zarq at 1:32 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I second upping the dose on your meds. Usually a psychiatrist will keep upping it until there seems to be no more improvement from it, and then go back down to the lowest dose that works. But I would pursue the drugs aggressively and see what happens. If your psychiatrist is too conservative in this regard, find a new one.

If you're not too sure about your therapist, try a new one. You can even stay with your current one as you try some new ones. That's assuming you could afford it. Not many people can. And if you don't like a new one after the first visit, absolutely do not feel guilty about not coming back. Something like 50% of a therapist's clients only come to one appointment.

But I can empathize you 100%. I know how tough is to get things going. I'm working on it myself these days. We just have to hang in there. And as for the jobs/career thing -- our generation is an aimless one. There's a Fight Club quote about our generation being the "middle child of history" with no great purpose and nothing to fight for. You're absolutely not alone in your despair about that. Fight Club was in 1999 and I think things have gotten even worse since then.

Try volunteering for places that help people. It will help you get out of your own head as well as appreciate how lucky you really are with what you've got already. I know how hard it is though. Trust me. I wish you much luck. You'll get through this.
posted by frankly mister at 1:33 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

To jump in with what popcassady said, I'd be one of the first in line to buy a copy if you made a graphic novel. Hang on tight to your art!
posted by jbickers at 1:34 PM on July 28, 2014

Check out this thread. Some problems are best overcome by "escaping" them, and "I don't want to live at home anymore" is one!

In some fields, it's hard to get a job in a big city without already living there. If job hunting isn't working, the way out of this catch 22 is to find any toehold in that city that offers a way to quickly meet people and build professional connections, e.g., a four month certificate program, an unpaid internship.

It takes savings. It requires tolerating some stress. The more you plan it out, the less adrift you will feel when you get there. Have a place to land that will keep you occupied for 2-3 months (and job search like crazy during that time).

But don't set the bar so high that you can't ever make the move. Living on ramen with six roommates in the city you want to call home can be a much happier situation than living an easier life with your parents in a place you find uninspiring.

Maybe build your savings via a side job that you could also hope to get when you get to the city, like waiting tables.
posted by salvia at 1:42 PM on July 28, 2014

Your drawings are indeed fantastic. Is your job creative in nature? If not, can you integrate your creativity into a social outlet? Maybe teach a cartoon drawing course in an adult ed program, or a summer program... check in with local schools or your town's rec department. They are often looking for talented people to teach. It won't pay much, but it might be a great way to connect with like-minded folks.

If you are living with your parents in your hometown and all of your friends have moved away, that could very well lend itself to feeling lonely and "less than". You could be wondering why your friends managed to move on and you're stuck. The good news/bad news, in my opinion, is because you seem like a very authentic and introspective person. I base this on your artwork and other questions you've posted here. Authenticity is one of the most beautiful traits in a person, but it's also one of the most difficult to live with. It causes you to question things that others don't. And some of these questions are good to ask ("what should I do with my life?" "should I move?") and others are just borrowing trouble ("am I flawed?")... so focus on the questions that can lead you somewhere positive, and answer those to the best of your ability.

I think if you've been questioning moving for a long while, the answer is likely a yes... sounds like fear is holding you back. And of course when you move, you will bring your stuff with you. You need to be realistic about that. But sometimes a shift in location can spur a shift in outlook. I've been there. And what's the worst that can happen? You try a new town, it doesn't work out, and you move back. I assume your parents would welcome that?

I highly recommend the book "The Gifts of Imperfection" or "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown. She speaks of many of the things that seem to plague the minds of the authentic.

You're not alone, you are lonely. It sounds like you have a family who loves you, and some friends who maybe are in different places in their lives.
posted by hippychick at 2:31 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I creeped your profile and website. Your art is at a level at which you could be making some money off it...graphic novels, t-shirts, web animations, mugs, cards, etc. You're very talented.

I'm a creative too so I know about these bouts of depression we can get into, but I'm older enough than you that I've gone through this several times. I've learned that these times are actually fallow periods, like winter when crops are covered with snow and it gets dark early. But the seeds were planted and they're waiting for the sun. Your creativity is waiting for you. This too shall pass, and when it does, you will be ready to draw again. In the meantime, can you try marketing your existing work? Have you thought about joining a Meetup of artists or anything like that, or finding a writer to collaborate with on a comic? Feel free to MeFiMail me if you want to talk about other ideas!
posted by xenophile at 2:33 PM on July 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

Holy crap are you talented. Even if the muse has left you, you've done enough good work already that you could still make money off of it, or even get "discovered".

What was the least depressing job you had? Maybe you could go back to something like that for a while.

At least you CAN work. At least you CAN escape...I'm grateful every day for escapism. Frankly, it rocks. As long as you are still making progress, don't fault yourself for escapism. It will help get you through until your debts are down and life is looking up a little.

I need people who understand me and who genuinely care

I understand how you feel in this post, and I'm sure a lot of people reading it care. Is there a counseling hotline in your area where they will simply talk to you?
posted by serena15221 at 4:08 PM on July 28, 2014

I need people who understand me and who genuinely care. If it weren't for my family, I don't know where I'd be.

Have you ever considered that your family may well have played a role in the fact that you never finished a degree or found a job that made productive use of your talents? Maybe you need a change of environment and scenery to branch out.
posted by deanc at 7:06 AM on July 29, 2014

here are some previous threads where you might find some food for thought etc:

Finding purpose and choosing a life direction
How do I find a new direction in my art?
I can go anywhere and do anything, what do I do?
Help me find myself?
posted by mrmarley at 10:58 AM on July 29, 2014

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