I'm hitting rock bottom. How do I pull myself back up?
April 28, 2015 2:51 AM   Subscribe

Everything in my life seems to be spiraling out of control. I'm afraid I'll hit rock bottom soon and will need to rebuild my whole life. Help me not go crazy.

For the last 4-5 years of my life, everything was not perfect, but it was pretty good. After some odd jobs and graduating in the middle of an awful recession (2008), I landed work in my field in 2010. It paid decently, I had good friends and a somewhat active social life, I had mostly positive relationships with my family. Last year, I picked up a second job doing social media to acquire some additional skills and start saving to leave my mother's house. My boss at the second job loves me, I respect her back and the rest of our team is great.

Now, I find myself out of work after being fired from my primary job for performance issues. I got put on a performance plan late last year despite never having any disciplinary or performance problems during my time there. I take responsibility for my actions, but management was also pretty inept in more ways than one. I filed for unemployment in my state, got approved and then today got a phone message from an examiner who wants to know more about my separation from the company. I am scared to death now, especially since my money will likely be held at a time where I have virtually no income coming in, no pending job offers and now I really need the unemployment to get by.

I also received notice that my second employer, where I receive a weekly stipend that barely covers...anything...got randomly selected for an audit by the IRS and they are now saying those of us who worked for her in 2014 could owe thousands in back taxes if she's found to have misclassified us as contractors when we should've been employees.

I have also had a rare problem with my eye for almost two years that I now have to travel out of town to get solved, as the doctors locally have been unable to do little except prescribe the same type of medication. That keeps the problem down for a while, but it's come back four times already. I had blood work done to find an underlying cause, and everything came back clear, so still no solutions other than flare-up, eye drops, fine, flare-up, repeat. This is at a time when my insurance expires in a few more days and after that, God knows how I'll afford the appointments at every doctor they keep bouncing me to. I'm already on my third doctor, four if you count the one who filled in for my regular specialist while she took a leave of absence.

On top of all this, my grandmother passed two months ago, my friends seem to be backing away from me and not really interested in providing any kind of support and I'm not going to get out of my parents' house ever, it seems. I feel like everything I worked for is going down the drain and that I'm going to have nothing positive left in my life to hang on to. I'm single and cannot count on a significant other for support. My mom (I do love her even though I should've been long out of her house by now) and one of my casual friends are the only ones who seem to care. And I can't rely on my casual friend too much b/c he (I'm a she) has a girlfriend and I'm almost too cautious when I'm around him as a result. So, I just decide to discuss mostly bland topics out of fear he'll ask me to back off and find me inappropriate.

When you're feeling down and it seems like the world is against you, where do you go from there?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I've had clients like you and I always tell them one of my favorite phrases from Wayne Dyer.
He said, "When you feel guilty, you're trying to change the past, and when you feel scared, you're trying to change the future. All you have is the present."

I'd like to recommend this as you Go To phrase from here on out.
I feel for you deeply and hate that you're going through this, but here's the deal: You WILL get through this.

Take a deep breath.
The world is not against you.
The world is not against anyone; it can't be.
Things have happened, and will continue to happen.
All you can control is how you react.
We react best by being present.
We react by seeing what is in front of us.
Be Spock.
Not Kirk.

The Money Issues: These will take care of themselves. You cannot control them and they are done. Wipe them from your mental blackboard and let them go. If they approach you and question you, tell the truth. Come from a place of Everything Is Going To Be Okay. Handle what you can, when it arises.

The Housing Issues: I'm super glad that your mother is on your side. Embrace this, and the roof over your head as a blessing. Help out around the house. Keep yourself busy. Contribute, even if you can't financially. I also want you to start going for walks, and eating healthy and taking care of yourself. Depression and anxiety can be exacerbated by a crappy diet. Make sure you are hydrated.

The Health Issues: Handle these as they come up. Don't try to live in the future by fearing them or being scared. Just take a deep breath and handle what's in front of you NOW. Love yourself and take care of yourself as best you can.

The Friend Issues: These will take care of themselves. Remember, people are in our lives for Reasons, Seasons and Lifetimes. Some of them may fall away. Some may get stronger. Some new people may appear, as nature abhors a vacuum.

I want to encourage you to not be afraid, just be .
Be the loving, kind, funny, awesome person that you truly are.
Get out there and find new things to do via MeetUp.
Surround yourself with new positive people who will learn how wonderful you are, and be willing to provide encouragement and kindness.

You can do this.
Stay out of the past.
Stay out of the future.
Be here right now, and take care of what you can take care of.
Take care of yourself.
Treat others as blessings.

You got this.

posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 3:33 AM on April 28, 2015 [85 favorites]

Great advice above. Something that jumps out at me, and until I got hardcore CBT didn't recognize how often I used to also do this, is you display a fair bit of cognitive distortion.

When we are truly in some bad places, it's not unusual to create that thought pattern of "everything is the absolute worst."

I suggest that you reread what you wrote and pull apart how much of this is bad stuff that you WILL plow through, and how much of this is a cognitive distortion on your part. In other words, you've definitely got a few things going on, but these don't mean you'll be living with your mother forever, etc. That's cognitive distortion.

When you're feeling down and it seems like the world is against you, where do you go from there?

Therapy helps. And I would strongly advise finding someone who practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy because if anything, you'll get the tools to work through catastrophic thinking.
posted by kinetic at 3:57 AM on April 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

To follow up on what Kinetic said, here is a direct link to a PDF of Cognitive Distortions, as discussed by David Burns, author of Feeling Good and The Feeling Good Handbook. (Hint: GET THEM! They are awesome!)

Read the PDF, and see where you might be creating that mountain out of a molehill.
Be gentle with yourself, but also be HONEST with yourself.

Every day you can learn, every day you can get better, every day you can move forward.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 4:28 AM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

FWIW, I have known people who were fired and still received unemployment. Often they are just making sure you didn't do something that violates the rules, like stealing money. This depends on your state and the circumstances. Here is a brief write-up from NOLO.

If you do get denied, it might be a good idea to call your local legal aid. But don't worry until you are actually denied, they did that with my husband once, and he still got unemployment. It was just routine, and whatever his employer had said about him didn't really hold any water.

I know one person who got a new job through volunteering, if anything, it would help you keep active while looking for new work.

The most important thing is to get up and have a routine every day. Shower, eat, get outside and go for a walk. Do chores for your mom.

If you feel like you're dumping on your friend(s) too much, look into your county's mental health services and see if they have any free or low cost therapy available. Sometimes having a neutral person on your side can help motivate you. It has done so for me in the past, because I know I have to report back on whatever mental and/or physical exercises I am supposed to be doing.

If that's not available, look into a local support group. Our state also has a thing called a warm line, where you can call and talk to people for free, and all they do is listen.

It's okay to feel discombobulated after being fired. It's normal. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and allow yourself that full 20 minutes to worry about things, then when the beeper goes off, you have to get up and do something, like eat or shower or walk, wash dishes, etc.

Often, unemployment offices will have groups for improving skills, so that may be one way to meet people and make new social and future work contacts. I think those are available even if you get denied benefits, as are use of the facilities to search their job banks. But don't worry about not getting it until you are actually denied (and even then you can appeal). IANAL, so find out the answers via your state's unemployment website or a legal aid office.

Very sorry about your grandmother, the only cure for grief is time. Please take care of yourself, eat right, even if it's only smoothies and PB&J, and realize this is only temporary. You will get through it.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:40 AM on April 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

IANATaxAccountant, but it's my understanding that if you were misclassified as a contractor when you were actually an employee, the back taxes would be owed by your employer, not by you. In fact, it's possible that you might be entitled to a refund, because contractors pay both halves of the Social Security taxes, while employees only have to pay half, while the employer pays the other half. If you want to find out exactly what's up with that, call the IRS helpline. I've been told that the folks there are really helpful about answering questions, and they should be able to tell you what the likely outcomes are if you are reclassified.
posted by decathecting at 5:23 AM on April 28, 2015 [23 favorites]

Unemployment is usually strongly skewed in favor of the employee. The company is paying unemployment insurance on every employee. Getting fired for poor performance does not cost you your unemployment. Getting fired for stealing, or not showing up for work, or something like that does.
posted by COD at 5:28 AM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sometimes it helps me to imagine what is the absolute worst thing that can happen in each given circumstance - every single time I've done that, the worst thing is far worse than the thing I am actually afraid of, or that is actually happening.

It helps me in two ways:

1. It gives me perspective - nothing is as bad as it could be.
2. I realise that even if the very worst thing Did happen, I would still be here, I would survive and I could find a way to rebuild my life.*

One of the things that is well articulated by meditation practitioners is that you are not the things the happen to you. It sounds trite but it's true.

Good luck!
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 6:25 AM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I can really only speak to the tax situation in the specific: it is almost impossible to "accidentally" misclassify an entire staff as contractors instead of employees. For the most part this is something a boss does deliberately to dodge taxes. Your employer will owe all of the back taxes in this situation, not you. She may be telling you what she told you because she's legitimately so incompetent that she has no idea how any of this works. But more likely it's because she's a shady mf'er doing some shady shit.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:25 AM on April 28, 2015 [9 favorites]

Anguish management for sufferers in acute crisis: what to do in the nighttime
Bed is for sleeping and brief stints of reading and sometimes for filling in sudoku puzzles while listening to the Judge John Hodgman podcast. It is not for figuring life out. It is definitely not where we writhe and cry. Set aside time to writhe and cry each day, preferably in a bathtub full of hot water. When the water gets too cold, writhing and crying is complete for that day and you take a brisk shower and get on with living. Now on occasion you'll wake up at 3 in the morning in the middle of a writhing cry. That's fine and normal for a grief-stricken person, but it's not okay to stay in bed once you're aware you're doing it. Get up out of bed and walk around at a leisurely pace while you get finished crying. Indulge in a refreshing, second bout of mintyfresh oral health maintenance activities. Have a glass of water. Check on all the plants. Pet the cat. All without turning on very many lights. Stroll around until you're soothed and then hop back into bed and resume your bed-approved activity regimen. This is better than taking a bath towel to bed with you to sop your tears while you "cry it out." You never will "cry it out." Crying is lifelong, which is fine because it's a healthful, necessary activity. Like all healthful activities, it has its place and should not be allowed to get in the way of other healthful, necessary activities like sleeping and filling in sudoku puzzles while listening to podcasts.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:29 AM on April 28, 2015 [30 favorites]

I got put on a performance plan late last year despite never having any disciplinary or performance problems during my time there.

This is bullshit, and you were manipulated out - probably so they can try to contest any unemployment claims. It's a scam you were a victim of, and you are probably not the only one this has happened to, and it's thrown a flag down at the employment commission. Assume they want to talk to you to get more evidence against the employer, not to hurt you. In most states, the unemployment office is actually there for workers' rights and employer compliance.

(It's unlikely you'll get any extra money out of this or anything, but you may at least get some satisfaction.)

I take responsibility for my actions

Do not take responsibility for being gaslighted.

This may be lowest you've ever been, and that is meaningful - we only know the worst of what we know - but this is the sort of thing that, 5 years from now, will be a rough spot, but one that probably made you a stronger person and more healthily skeptical employee (the trauma of being fired for bullshit reasons lingers for decades, but don't wear it like an overcoat). You've had you head fucked with, and that makes it really hard to find and maintain healthy perspective.

Dust yourself off and go about the business of doing the things you can do - look for work, cooperate with any investigations of your various shady-ass employers, try to process the trauma so you can put it away. Medical difficulties are hard because they come with so many unknowns, but just keep doing what you're supposed to do as best you can.

I'd suggest you contact NAMI.org to see if there are any low-fee/no-fee resources in your area for both personal counseling and also maybe someone to help look into your potentially illegal dismissal, as well as resume assistance and other job-hunting help. Your city/county website may also have some information (or may be totally unusable, it's a crapshoot - I recommend everyone check with NAMI because they have good databases).
posted by Lyn Never at 8:03 AM on April 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

Hey, I am also going through some bad things without using a support system and sitting outside, reading Feeling Good and journaling has helped immediately and incredibly.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:45 AM on April 28, 2015

You're not rock bottom. Your mom loves you. Your second boss (confused as she may be about taxes) has faith in your ability. You made things work when the odds were against you once, and you can do it again. You're a resourceful person, and you have what you need to pull through. This bad weather's going to change.

Just make sure you take care of yourself, following the excellent advice above. Walk, for sure, every day. Find a patch of nature - there's healing in the sun and green things and water, and in hearing birds sing, no matter what happens.

(This song, overplayed as it is, helped me a lot when I felt similar to how you're feeling now.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:33 PM on April 28, 2015

Hey there,

I'm going to weigh in on the 'how to deal with rock bottom' side, rather than any of the specifics of your work and health issues. Hope that's okay, but people here seem to be pretty great at giving you good advice for the specifics.

My advice for you is to get hold of a copy of Pema Chodron's 'When Things Fall Apart' and read it. Even if just one thing in it sticks out and makes you feel differently about where you're at, it's worth it (and there are *loads* of things in there that might - it's a very powerful book).

I'm not into cheesy Buddhist texts or anything (or cheesy self-help of any stripe), but this is an important book that could really help you out here. Solid, practical advice for dealing with feeling rock bottom.


And as people here have already said, be gentle with yourself, breathe out the stress (I understand that you're under tremendous stress) and definitely, definitely exercise to help get it out of you as well.

Good luck :)
posted by considerthelilies at 3:52 PM on April 28, 2015

Hey there, class of '08. (Me too.) It's interesting to be us, isn't it?

What you're writing feels familiar to me: I was in a similar position a few years ago. Weird health issues and all. Everyone above has great advice, I think, about trying to keep your perspective and take things as they come, rather than trying to solve every possible problem that HAS happened or MIGHT happen. You have the resources to deal with whatever you're facing right now. Sometimes that resource might be living at home even though you don't want to, or having a shitty job for a while, or leaning on your mom for emotional support when you'd rather have a friend or three to talk to.

What ended up being important for me was taking advantage of every resource I had, even if it wasn't ideal, to deal with circumstances that were definitely not ideal. I spent a long time propping myself up, treading water for a while. Here's the thing, though - it actually wasn't treading water. The work I got done during that time period of stress and living at home and going to doctor after doctor was actually crazy useful, because I developed tools to manage my mental health and inner resources, because I had no alternative.

My guess is that you'll do the same. That may be cold comfort, but I hope it's not. One of my biggest worries was that I was wasting my time, or that I wasn't being productive, or that I'd somehow "done everything wrong." You're not doing anything wrong. This stuff is just something that happens as part of life, to everyone, sooner or later. It's not abnormal, and you will come out the other side.

And if you'd like an ear on the internet, memail me. We can swap stories about how awesome it is to graduate during a recession!
posted by fast ein Maedchen at 4:12 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Of the things on your list, take care of your health first, as you won't be able to do anything about the other things without that. Without income, you definitely qualify for medicaid/obamacare, cost-free. Find your local medicaid office and apply tomorrow. Go early, bring a book. It generally takes a month to get approved, but is retroactive to the date you applied. Get proof that you applied and most doctors will defer billing until it goes through.
Ick...all that 'performance plan' bullshit is just that. Bullshit. They let you go. It was their choice. But first they wanted to manipulate/brainwash/harass you into believing it was all your fault just so they wouldn't have to pay their side of your unemployment insurance (a fraction of what you will receive). Disgusting. I had this happen once. Tell the reviewer that you did your best, but ultimately THEY decided to let you go. (The interview will generally be about 1/2hr-1 hr, possibly at your house) Don't sweat it...the system is set up in your favor. It's really hard for employers to get out of paying unemployment, but they sure will try anyway. :[
Hang in there.
posted by sexyrobot at 4:51 PM on April 28, 2015

I also received notice that my second employer, where I receive a weekly stipend that barely covers...anything...got randomly selected for an audit by the IRS and they are now saying those of us who worked for her in 2014 could owe thousands in back taxes if she's found to have misclassified us as contractors when we should've been employees.

I am a tax accountant. (If somewhat unwillingly, sometimes.) No kind of guarantee, but even if you were reclassified, this is very nearly impossible. Given your income level, it's not likely to be a big boon in the other direction, either, but I can't think of any possible way you'd get hit with a big bill for this.

Okay, that's my tax hat off.

On a more personal level, over last fall and the earlier part of this year, my life felt very much like that, in terms of feeling like everything was falling apart when I'd thought I was in a relatively good position last summer. I also lost a grandparent I was close to and had some job prospects suddenly dissolve in very unpleasant ways and some very close friends pretty much bail. I've had some really rotten days, weeks, months. I've had some days that were very hard to get out of bed. But I grit my teeth and (at least some of the time) I did even the things I didn't really want to do in order to make ends meet? And things started to turn around properly in early March and now I don't have a job I love, but I'm making enough to pay my bills, my emergency fund exists again, my new bosses think I'm a genius.

Life has ups and downs. The ups are easy. The downs are not. Just keep swimming. You seem to have a parental safety net, which is great. One of the things I found was that while the people I thought were my better friends were not there for me when I needed them most... that seemed to make room in my life to get close, once things started to improve, with different people, including an old friend who I didn't expect to ever be close with again. Loss of some opportunities has opened up other opportunities. I still have to carry a lot of mistakes with me for... who knows how long. (Hello, law school student loans.) But it is totally possible for stuff to turn around.

This is getting long but--a lot of what you're going through is close enough to stuff I've been through before that if you want to MeMail me for more practical advice about stuff like job hunting and keeping up motivation, I'd be happy to offer more. Or just if you want to talk. Trying to do grief and job hunting at the same time is a monster of a task, and I'll be thinking about you even if you want to stay anonymous.
posted by Sequence at 4:53 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

In terms having another place to talk about what is going on without draining your friends, you might want to check out 7 cups of tea: a "warm" line of volunteer listeners. You can call anytime and talk with someone who will be a caring supportive listener.
posted by metahawk at 10:53 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

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