In need of love, compassion, and a slap to the face.
August 3, 2015 5:49 PM   Subscribe

Allow me self-indulge, and give me some advice if you'd like. I'm rebuilding myself after a full-blown existential crisis, and I'm still having a very difficult time adjusting to my life as is, and trying to take steps moving forward.

I've read hundreds of great questions similar to my own here on AskMe, but I want something directed towards myself, obviously because I'm selfish or something. (25 year-old male with no idea what he's doing anymore)
Here's the skinny:

The genesis of my current situation happened about two years ago exactly. I was on the right track to self-discovery. I had gotten a transferable Associates Degree and moved to Seattle to go to the University of Washington. It was the first time I was on my own in the real world and I was excited for the start of my new life. Only six months in, my "new life" started to crumble. While I was at work, I suffered through a somewhat minor injury that ended up being much more serious than I was made to believe. Thanks, Worker's Comp doctors! I worked through it for five months and finally collapsed. I realized how miserable and lonely I was living in Seattle and having physical pain added into the mix amplified my depression ten-fold. I decided to move back home (for what was supposed to be three months) to heal up and reevaluate my life plan. This is when I found out how serious my injuries were. I was unable to work for six months without being a liability so I decided to just deal with it and do small manageable projects for my family and family friends until I was able to work again. Over this small period of time, I lost every idea of who I am and what I wanted to do with my life. When I was released for full-duty work, I just decided that I didn't want to do anything anymore, and that mentality has continued up until the present.

As this lifestyle has evolved, I haven't made any progress with any of my *former* dreams and aspirations. It's been an absolute waste of the past two years. I know Metafilter is big on telling people that time hasn't been wasted and how it's just a part of X's journey and blah blah blah, but trust me- it's been an absolute waste. My life has consisted of doctor's appointments and self-pity. I literally haven't researched a single prospect for what might bring me fulfillment and advance my life.

This post was supposed to include me not being employed for 18 months and counting, but I finally just landed a job as a bank teller and I hope that it's starts activating my mind a little bit and improves my self-esteem. However, currently:
• Im currently seeing an osteopath, physical therapist, and a pain management specialist for my injuries. This means I take moderate doses of pain-killers. When I don't take them, I feel slightly more motivated but I notice the pain much more and have a tendency to ruminate about it. Plus, quitting is a bitch.
• Chronic pain has seriously ruined my life. If you haven't experienced it, pray that you don't. It's a very real condition with serious self-worth repercussions.
• I've become very introverted. I've lost nearly all my friends over the past few years due to my depression and a few other circumstances. My best friend moved back up to Seattle and some others have moved also. Most of my friends are in relationships and are partying like we did when we were 20, and I'm not that into what they do anymore. Some others I've cut out of my life due to their unreliability. I'm really not introverted by nature, but I have little desire to find friends again.
• I'm perpetually single. Despite my current circumstances, sometimes girls want to have sex with me but that of course is very short-lived. I haven't been in anything long-lasting in five years and have no idea when I'll be ready and able to have a serious relationship.
• Due to the above, I sit on my ass most of the time. I don't leave my house unless I have to. I haven't had a night out in way too long and I hardly tolerate socializing with my family.
•I'm very much sober due to the absence of a social life and because it'll wreak havoc on my mindset.
• I see my long term psychiatrist monthly and I'm prescribed three medications for my ADHD and depression. Seeing him only helps with medication management but I really feel like i need to see a life/spiritual/whatever coach in conjunction.
• Aside from losing some of my hair, I'm relatively attractive but have a hard time confidently accepting the way I look.
• I don't exercise anymore because of my injuries. I know it substantially improves my self-worth but it just isn't in the cards right now. I don't eat as healthy as I once did, either.
• Of course, I'm living in my parents' basement.
• I used to want to travel the world. I still do, but it's been on the back-burner for far too long. I wanted to get my degree, join the the Peace Corps, and possibly go to Med School and bounce from state to state.

I might make a different post about decision making, but my questions are this:
How do I get back on track with perusing some of the above aspirations?
How do I prioritize my life to be prepared for a major life change?
What should I add to my daily routine to feel more accomplished?
And: What did you do when you were in a relatable situation?

I'm open to literally everything. Any anecdotes, third-party knowledge, tough love, books, articles, stories, non-tested methods. It's all acceptable and I'll be taking any advice very seriously so make it good!

Thanks everybody,
posted by omgkinky to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
• I see my long term psychiatrist monthly and I'm prescribed three medications for my ADHD and depression. Seeing him only helps with medication management but I really feel like i need to see a life/spiritual/whatever coach in conjunction.

If this is all the mental health help you're getting, you really really need to add therapy to the mix. You sound super depressed - not without good reason, which is actually good news in a way because that means it'll be easier to address, but you definitely need someone to talk to.

I'd also recommend group therapy for you, because you feel so isolated. It really worked miracles for me when I was feeling like a loser/failure/etc, because I got to meet all these cool, likeable people who it turned out had huge problems of their own, and they made me feel so normal.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:01 PM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

Sorry you're going through all this. Therapy sounds like a great idea. And, as much as you can handle it, exercise--can you at least go for walks so you can spend time outside in some sunshine/fresh air/around some nature? Also, I have no idea if these truly work, but have you looked into electrical nerve stimulation for pain? Might at least be worth a try. Also, I think meditation can help with pain.
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:29 PM on August 3, 2015

Wow you are really hard on yourself. Chronic pain can be debilitating. Life has thrown you a curveball. You've had to take time to manage all of the issues that it's brought up and to learn how to cope with this new reality. You're not just coping with the physical pain.

Very few people's lives go exactly as planned. I think you know the practical ways to achieve your goals, but the trick is how to incorporate this detour into your overall narrative of your self. That's what it sounds like is holding you back. That's where therapy can help.

You are a goal oriented person who is coping with chronic pain. Think of any movie where the hero suffers a major setback. If the movie ended there, it would be unsatisfactory. But it doesn't end there. The movie shows that the hero puts in effort ("montage!") and slowly claws his way ahead. This is where you are at now - the start of the montage. It's the toughest part of the journey, the effort and endurance. But you can do it, by making small changes and being focused on the larger goal, and guarding your mind against discouragement. (Again where therapy can help.) good luck!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:55 PM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

I know you feel the time has been wasted, but some of the most interesting and wise people I know had their early or late 20s interrupted by a major injury. What you've learned -- by having been derailed from a life of (mindless?) work and partying into a life of introspection and body-consciousness -- and what you're learning now -- as you try to find your way out of this mental/spiritual hole -- can really benefit you the rest of your life.
posted by salvia at 7:00 PM on August 3, 2015 [10 favorites]

Go get a job and meet people and get out of the damn house, and you'll probably feel better. Like seriously, if you can handle working at a grocery store, just do that for a while. Replace grocery store with whatever other low barrier to entry job you can think of that would accommodate your chronic pain. But damn, isolation will make anyone miserable if they haven't sought it out for themselves. Start there and give it a few months, and you'll probably get some inspiration just getting out of your damn head a little bit more.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:03 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sorry - just noticed that you got a job as a bank teller. That's great! Just ride that out for a while. Maybe think about hanging out with other sober people since it's something you value about your current situation.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:06 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Can you go for a steam and a hot tub at a health club on the regular?

You're 25, you can ride this out for a little while.

Try to keep your body warm and your interactions cool at your new job, and you'll find a way out.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 9:00 PM on August 3, 2015

I wanted to get my degree, join the the Peace Corps, and possibly go to Med School and bounce around from state to state.

THIS is what you must do. You are in pain, so it might take longer or involve difficulties, but there is a way for you to do the things you've dreamed of, and that is what you must find. Focus every day on how you can achieve these dreams: what local college you might earn your degree at, what kind of Peace Corps stint you might do, getting med school prerequisites, and so on.

Also, by the way, have you sued your former employer or at least made claims for lost wages and emotional distress against their insurance? With injuries this extensive caused by your former work environment, you should really look into it. It will help finance the degree and medical school that are in your future!
posted by 3491again at 9:22 PM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Love this ^. I was just coming in to say kinda the same thing.

Can you propose to your doc that you come up with a plan for pain management when you are traveling? Can you stick to a health regimen that supports the meds? Don't give up.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 9:37 PM on August 3, 2015

I hesitate to suggest it, because I'm sure you've done the rounds, also I'm not sure it's appropriate in your situation, but just in case - have you tried electro-acupuncture? It helped me with (very localized) chronic pain in my foot and ankle.

I had zero interest in the idea and didn't think it would work, but agreed to let my physiotherapist try it after I'd exhausted alternatives. A couple of months of that, plus targeted massage (which hadn't worked on its own), took me down from a steady 6-7/10 pain to a 1/10 that I can ignore or live with. Am sure you're familiar, but if not - it was explained to me as a way of "rebooting" wonky nerve signalling, moving it away from indiscriminate nocioception to something closer to what normal nerves should be doing. It is what's allowed me to walk for hours instead of minutes at a time. Much smaller scale, though, and of course, YMWV so much.

Are you able to do pool exercises at all? Some community centres have therapeutic (warm) pools and/or dedicated pool hours for working with a physio, might be worth looking into, if you haven't already.

I think your idea of working with a coach (e.g. an ADHD coach) is a great one, and 2nd therapy (and group therapy).

(I don't know if I came across this story here or through my FB feed, but goal-setting writing exercises of the kind described in the source paper [internal link] might be worth a try, with a coach or therapist, or on your own.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:01 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Aside from losing some of my hair, I'm relatively attractive but have a hard time confidently accepting the way I look.

sometimes girls want to have sex with me but that of course is very short-lived.

Ok. Great advice so far regarding a few issues you've listed. So, I will address something else. You mention a few things that stuck out to me, particularly the headline of your Ask. You say you are In need of love, compassion, and a slap to the face. Welp, let me say that compassion need not be had in the form of an outside source. You can find compassion within yourself for the situation you are in. This is a website recommended in another thread that has been helpful for me. Particularly in situations when I feel despairing and the breathing exercises help me relax.

It's a great place to start, especially because you will need some compassion for yourself in order to hear and truly listen to this tough love part. Ok, self-confidence has taken a blow due to your injuries and this curveball as someone else mentioned upthread. The women that want to sleep with you may be attracted to you physically, but low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence is not attractive and is actually grating after a while. Plus, it is exceptionally difficult to be in any sort of healthy sustaining relationship while someone(s) is depressed. Which, quite honestly, it sounds like you are. You had an idea of what your life would be like and who you were, and then this thing happens called Life and it throws you off-kilter with that perception you had of yourself. Mourn the "you" that could have been, and once you are ready, embrace the "you" that is now. What can you do for him that will set him back on a path that will bring fulfillment? There are concrete, actionable steps that you can take as others have mentioned.

Confidence is key, but mostly, motivation. Do you want to feel better about yourself and move forward? Pushing on through the montage and enduring life's setbacks and challenges while taking it in stride? Because that is the only way to push forward. You have to want it. You need to want it so badly in order to truly change your life situation, because you first have to change your perspective. Silver lining and all that. Good luck. You can do this.
posted by lunastellasol at 11:38 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's funny that you are living in your parents' basement and doing projects for your family, but you say you barely tolerate socializing with them and you mention them surprisingly little here. I wonder, have you sat down and had an honest conversation with your parents about what you're going through? If they are letting you live in their basement, I'm guessing they care about you and they are worried. Maybe they have some useful advice. Just sitting down and telling them how lost you are, admitting the truth to them, may help break this rut you're stuck in.

You definitely need to see a therapist more often than you are. I'm going to copy and paste something I've said a lot on Ask Metafilter:

Call local therapists and ask if they can hook you up with anybody who will see you on a sliding scale. If you live near a large university, call and ask if they have any program where a psychology intern can see you. (Don't get scared off by them being interns, it doesn't mean they're just the kids who get coffee for the real shrinks. They've had plenty of training and they can be great. That's how I met my longtime shrink, and I would take a bullet for that lady.)

Beyond that, you need to start doing the things you know you need to do. You can sit on the couch dicking around online for hours, or you can do things. Deep down, you know that's the choice: waste another day, or do some shit. If you waste another day, you'll hate yourself for it. So do some shit. It's really that simple.

Right now I need to write some smut (it's my job) and I need to exercise and I need to look at some forms, and I do not need to be dicking around online. So I am going to post this answer, then I am going to go do some shit. After you read this answer, you go do some shit too.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:15 AM on August 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Something that stuck out for me from your question is that you were only in Seattle for 6 months. It sounds like it was a good thing, in this case, that you moved back home, because you weren't getting the medical care you needed there. But just something to keep in mind next time you move: I've moved a lot, and so have a number of my friends, and we all agree that it takes at least a year to even start to feel like you're settled in a new place. The first six months are generally the hardest. But after a year, you can usually get around okay and not get lost every time you try and go somewhere new, and you have found some spots in the city that you like, and you have probably met some people, who are either co-workers or acquaintances or potential new friends. But, for me anyway, it usually takes two years to feel like a new place is truly my home. So, keep that timeline in mind; if you're miserable at six months, it doesn't mean that your move was a failure. It just means that moving to a new place is really hard.

Which brings me to the second thing that your question made me think about: if you want to make new friends as an adult, I have found that you have to work on it like it's a second job. And, believe me, I know that is hard when you're dealing with chronic pain. But it's just sort of a fact of life that if you want to meet new people and make friends, you have to go out and put yourself in lots of social situations and make small talk with lots of people until you meet someone who you have friend chemistry with. And then you have to get their contact info and invite them out to coffee, and if it goes well, then you have to get in contact with them again in a week or two, and invite them to come with you to the local farmer's market or cool museum exhibit or whatever, and you both have to work on the friendship--keep inviting each other to things, and keep being available to meet up--and after about a year of that, you'll be good friends.

So, your challenge is to find social things that you can do that don't require a lot of physical effort. Once you have, you should make a deal with yourself and make a plant to do something social once a week, or once every two weeks, whatever you can physically handle, and then you have to actually go do it. Here are some ideas for social possibilities for you:, foreign language classes for adults, adult education classes in general, board game nights (if you have a comic book/gaming shop in your town, that's a good place to look for those), knitting classes, tai chi classes (a Chinese martial art that is often recommended for people with arthritis because it is so gentle), start going to church.
posted by colfax at 1:49 AM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Everyone has given some great ideas and I would second almost all of them: not isolating, being around people, etc. May I suggest you find a copy of When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. No book will change your life. But it will help you understand how to develop compassion, as in compassion for yourself.
You can get through this. Just breathe.
posted by jtexman1 at 6:44 AM on August 4, 2015

Something worth thinking about is that people aren't all they're cracked up to be, and that's OK. As I have gotten older and into management, I am quite amused at how little people actually know about their chosen field but still manage to get along just fine. I think when I was young I thought I had to be an expert before I would be respected for my work and this has just not been the case. 90% of getting what you want is showing up consistently and not making excuses for yourself to not at least take a stab at work projects. No one expects perfection, and believe me, it's OK. It's OK to not know lots of things but still be really good at something. So, my advise would be to not hold yourself back because you don't believe you can do something but to just go and do it the best you can, or even just go show up and then deal with what comes up as it comes up. Don't overthink this. Getting through a debilitating accident and recovery is HARD, being a productive human being is not that hard, it just looks hard from the outside. I can't tell you how many times I've been paralyzed with fear over an upcoming deadline, presentation, meeting, etc because I thought I wasn't ready only to find it all worked out just fine. Just do your best like the rest of us and the universe will take care of a lot of your worries.
posted by waving at 10:29 AM on August 4, 2015

Hi kinky,

I'm sorry you're dealing with chronic pain. It sucks and I hope you get relief. Mine comes and goes a bit in combination with chronic fatigue and a bunch of other stuff so I know how hard it is. Congrats on the job! Having a job is a huge help both for establishing a routine to hold on to and for having money (and I hope insurance?) to help with other stuff. YMMV, but here are the things that most helped me, so might be helpful for you (some are repetitive with things others have said above):

• Seeing a therapist weekly. It sounds like your monthly therapist is mainly about the meds, but maybe finding someone on a sliding scale you can see weekly would help. She helps me with goal-setting, with ranting about the injustice of it all so I don't do that to friends and family too much, with sympathy, with wrangling insurance papers and doctor coordination (she has social work experience), with working on staying connected, etc. I have also hidden from the world more and more, but try to balance that with some small, manageable social time.

• Breaking down goals into smaller chunks and reevaluating goals. Having chronic illness has meant for me that I've had to give up some goals and scale back others, but it's also meant I've really focused in on what's important. I use money in a way that furthers my goals more than I used to. I, too, enjoy travel, but now I take mostly smaller trips and when I take a big trip I plan more buffer time to recover, more time to rest while on the trip, and I save up a little more money so I can have a nice hotel/airbnb room, instead of, for example, the cheap hostel room I might of gone with before. It takes more time to plan and save for, and I might not get to just "travel the world" as I would like but only go to one country here, one there, but I can be really thoughtful about the places I do go, immerse myself in their cultures beforehand with books, movies, etc.

• Having small manageable goals and to do lists is crucial to me feeling like I'm doing things and not just sitting around being lazy. Small projects that edge toward bigger goals, saving money toward things, learning a language for a country I want to travel to some day, etc. help me be less depressed.

• Getting out of the house every single day is important to me. Days I don't work I walk around a bit if the weather's OK and then sit in a cafe and read a magazine for a bit, go to a museum, go to a park, etc. Bonus: this gives me something to talk about to the people I work with when they ask what I did over the weekend instead of "I sat around hurting." After I go out, I'm allowed to take a nap. Feels much better mentally than just sleeping in, and I get some exercise.

• Learning to be assertive about medical care helped a lot. Ditching crappy doctors and finding better ones (no, it is not "all in my mind" asshole), seeing what wasn't working after a fair trial and moving on to something else, etc. has made a huge difference for me. I keep an open mind as much as I can and listen to doctors and give things a fair shot, but if it's not working I move on. I have found some things I thought were nuts (trigger point therapy) turned out to be a huge help for my pain, so again, I do keep an open mind, but it's my body, and in the end I get to call the shots.

• Giving myself a break now and then. I don't always do the exercises, eat what I'm supposed to, get to bed early, etc., but god, it's a huge amount of work, nobody would be perfect all the time. As jtexman1 said, being compassionate toward yourself is very important. You do have to keep yourself going, but in a compassionate, understanding way. Being able to bounce back from small setbacks and get back on track is key, rather than small setbacks triggering downward spirals. Therapist helps with this, too.

• Reconnecting with distant friends. Most of my closest friends no longer live in the same city as me, and I've made a concerted effort to reconnect by Facebook, email, written letter (old school, I know!), even an occasional visit. This has made a huge difference to me.

• Asking for help. If your new job involves standing all day and that hurts, tell them to get you a tall chair or at least a stool. I'm not totally familiar with all the ins and outs of the ADA, but I believe they are required to make reasonable accommodations for you, and that's a totally reasonable (easy and cheap) request. Plus most people are absolutely willing to help in small ways like that when you ask nicely and explain how important (say you can bring a doctor's note if they like) it is. At my job I've been able to work from home one day a week, which has been a huge help.

Sorry that's long, but I think those are the main things that have been helpful to me. I guess I'd say for you to look at your care team (including your therapist and GP if you have one) and see if you are satisfied with them or if you need to interview new ones, look at your goals — which one is most important? If it's move back to Seattle, what's one small thing you can start now to work on that? If it's traveling the world, can you start breaking that down to the one place you'd most want to go to and work on learning more about it, starting a savings fund, etc.? If the Peace Corpse is the thing, is it about volunteering? Is there a local place you could volunteer once in a while to start on that track? Once you achieve the smaller goals, you can start upping the ante.

Good luck and gentle hugs, kinky.
posted by rafaella gabriela sarsaparilla at 5:52 AM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

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