How to Fix a Broken Life?
August 19, 2016 2:15 PM   Subscribe

My life lately has been pretty awful. I'm trying to fix it, but it's hard to focus on the good a lot of the time. Snowstorm under the fold.

So, my life over the past few months hasn't been great. Here's why:

-My mom passed away in June. We weren't close, but I guess it's still kind of affecting me. I'm in a bereavement group which meets once a month, and I've read a few books on bereavement. I posted about it on my FB page, but I'm not sure a lot of my friends read it. As a result, it's caused some awkwardness when I meet up with some of them and they ask me how I'm doing. Some of them did reach out right after I made that post, but no one has in a while.

-I like this guy. We went to school together a long time ago and I noticed he got hot, so I added him on FB and he added me back. I was in his city last weekend and messaged him to meet up, but he was out of town and mentioned maybe meeting up when he's in my city, which might be next month. He seemed friendly in that message. I've been getting obsessed about this crush, I guess maybe more so now that my mom died. I came across his IG account and have considered adding him, even though his account is private and not connected to his FB account. I'm worried that I'll come off like a stalker, so I've decided to wait until when/if I see him in person, but it's hard. I'll see sometimes that he's added girls on FB and I'll get jealous, even though I don't know if anything's going on there. I think I've done a pretty good job of not messaging him too much or anything like I've done with past crushes, but I did send him an inane message today about how much fun I had while I was in his city and how I took a lot of pictures, and I'm now really worried about how it will be received.

-I hate my job. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. I'm making steps to rectify this. I'm applying for jobs. I've been on interviews. I'm taking online courses to make myself more marketable (I plan to make an industry change as well as a career one). But nothing's panned out yet. I've been looking since April, when I returned to work after having had surgery and realized that I wanted nothing to do with this place anymore. I think about later this year, when we're having this org-wide training, and I realize that I would much rather live in a morgue than spend two days straight with these people in this job. I want so badly to take some time off, and I'm very tempted because I have the PTO for it. But I took some time off a few months back for my aforementioned surgery, and there's currently a lot going on here right now. I also don't know how to explain to my boss exactly why I want to take time off-- I can't exactly tell him it's because I hate it here. My boss also wants to make major changes to the way I'm doing my job. Meanwhile, it's a struggle just to get motivated enough to get out of bed in the morning. I'm late a lot. Once I do get to work it's a struggle just to do what's on my to-do list. I usually end up dicking around online and on my phone.

-My therapist (yes, I do have one, and yes, she knows about all of this) is closing her practice at the end of this month because she is leaving the area. She says she can meet me via Skype while I find someone else. It's still hard, though, and honestly I've just avoided thinking about it because it's really one more thing to add to the shitstain that is my life. I can't meet with her more than I already am-- I need to skip next week's session because I went on a bit of a shopping spree right after my mom died, and while it didn't get too crazy and I'm getting it under control, it is going to make money tight for the next couple of months.

There are some good things-- like, I'll see a movie that I like or something, but they're so temporary it's not even worth mentioning. The one good thing that I guess is going well is my health-- the doctor who presided over my surgery says I'm doing well and I don't need to see him until next year.

But I haven't been eating as well as I could, and so I'm kind of ashamed to see a GP for my physical. I used to exercise, but I had to stop when I had my surgery, but I've been so unmotivated, and the weather has been so hot, that it's hard to start it up again. I know I've gained weight. Part of why I'm dreading going back to exercising is because I know how out of shape I'm going to be.

My life didn't used to be this horrible. I want to just stop being sad and hopeless all the time. How can I find the light at the end of the tunnel?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I can't address much of this, but can you just put in for vacation because you want to take a vacation? Does your boss actually require that you have a non-work obligation like surgery for you to be allowed to use your PTO? If that's the case and you can't just say "I'd like to take a vacation", you should lie, frankly, because that's terrible.

For a long time I was in a situation where I could not use my vacation. Policy changed and now I am forced to use my vacation. I highly recommend regular three-day weekends - it has changed everything for me. I still can't really get away for more than a day or two at a time, but using that time for regular long weekends has changed the entire feel of my work. It might also be easier to get folks at work to agree that you need to take your PTO and you would like to take X number of three day weekends between now and year-end.
posted by Frowner at 2:43 PM on August 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

You're hopeless and can't get out of bed... have you been evaluated for depression? Is this something you've raised with your therapist and/or GP? Obviously, you're grieving, but it sounds like this is affecting your life a lot, and you might need more support for your mental health than you're currently enlisting. Planning some PTO so you have good things to look forward to might be a good first step that wouldn't require a cash outlay now.

Atypical depression is a thing, you can be both severely depressed and still feel happy once in a while, don't think that just because your life isn't completely devoid of happiness that you won't benefit from some kind of more depression-focused treatment.
posted by momus_window at 2:45 PM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

I had a time in my life when I felt like this. My partner had passed away, I was so deep in my grief and mourning that everyday tasks seemed unsurmountable. I wasted all of my time at work, and left the actual things I needed to do undone. I struggled to get out of bed in the morning, I could barely take a shower, I just wanted to be in my bed all the time. I felt like I was adrift in a sea of sadness. I hated my job, and I tried really hard to date, but I was actually just a complete needy mess. It was the worst time of my life.

That was three years ago, and none of those things are true now (ok, so sometimes still a bit of a mess dating, but nothing out of the ordinary). I am here to tell you the good news: someday you won't feel like that any more.

There were a couple of things I did that I hope can help you, take what sounds good to you, leave what you don't need. The first is that I made an effort to work out. Every day. My therapist told me that if I didn't she was going to "make" me take anti depressants, which I did not want to do. This helped a little.

So then, I had a panic attack in the closet at work one day, and I was like, enough is enough, I'm going to try these pills. I was so against them, but I started on the lowest dose of Celexa. It was the first thing that made me see that light at the end of the tunnel. Seriously. I was only on it for 4 months, and it was enough to get me past that feeling of never wanting to get out of bed.

Then I did something to honor my partner, something that he wanted me to do. For me, it was walking the Camino De Santiago with his ashes. This can be anything for you, but take some time to honor your mother.

The job was the last step for me, it took me about 8 months to find a new one, but I eventually did. When I was interviewing in the depths of my grief I was probably not making a very good impression. Same with the dating. Getting in a place where I was ready to date took me about 2 years, but that will probably not (hopefully not!) be your experience because your loss was very different.

This time period will end, but for now, be kind to yourself.
posted by foxonisland at 2:46 PM on August 19, 2016 [12 favorites]

From the brief description, your message to that guy doesn’t sound inane. I think it makes sense for you to say those things since you were in his city and he knows that, so coming from a stranger, don’t worry about it! :) Like Frowner said, can you ask for a vacation without a specific reason, but just for you to get some time for yourself? And even with things so busy at work, maybe just one or two days would be ok to take off anyway.

I haven’t really been in a situation like yours, but I just want to mention a few things in case you haven’t thought of them. Would it help if you put your alarm far away from your bed and had to get up to turn it off? And I also sometimes end up on my phone at work, but I’ve found that it helps when I put my phone away in my purse and keep it out of sight. And it’s even better when I forget my phone at home (or in the car), but I don’t know if that’s something you want to do on purpose.

I also have trouble exercising, but here are a couple things that come to mind. I find that if I start browsing random stuff online when I get home, I don’t really do much the rest of the day. But if instead I start off with something I need to do, I usually get more done. Many exercises can wear you out, but I prefer taking it a bit easier than that. Becoming a little winded or just feeling a little burn in your abs etc can be enough; you don’t have to go all the way the first time you get back into exercising. There are lots of low-cost and free exercise options that you can do at home so you can stay out of the heat. And maybe your area has cheap indoor sport options.

And in general maybe doing fun things with other people, in case you haven’t been, or working on some fun projects, maybe even with other people, would help.
posted by SillyEvelina at 3:22 PM on August 19, 2016

I'm so sorry you're going through this hard time.

A lot of what you wrote reminds me of things I was asking/writing when I was in the midst of a major depression earlier this year. I assume your therapist is treating you for depression. She should also be able to refer you to practitioners you might connect with after she's done. I want to echo what foxonisland said: you won't always feel the way you're feeling now. Be kind to yourself and take the clear, simple steps you can.

Take the time off. You have the PTO, and people take vacations all the time, even when things are busy. You don't have to explain it to your boss -- although, if you want to, and your employer allows for it, you could request bereavement leave or something equivalent. Give yourself a breather, during which you can think about next steps for getting out of there. That space can be so, so illuminating.

Do you have a friend you can ask to take walks with you? You don't have to jump into a full-out exercise routine right away, just aim for a couple times a week. (Personal anecdote: When I was going through a major depression earlier this year, I forced myself to go on lunchtime walks with a friend. I never wanted to go but I always felt better afterwards because of the combination of moving my body + talking to a person I cared about). Sometimes when I'm really depressed I feel, like, resentful of how well exercise works. Freakin' science, doing what it says it will do!

It's perfectly natural to message a friend about visiting their city. However, if you feel yourself fixating on this guy, and it doesn't feel good (which is how it seems from your question), consider redirecting some of that energy. Go on dates with local people. Or, forget dating for now and focus on taking care of yourself and connecting with friends.
posted by adastra at 10:15 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here's one thing: fuck your job. " I want so badly to take some time off, and I'm very tempted because I have the PTO for it. But I took some time off a few months back for my aforementioned surgery, and there's currently a lot going on here right now." So? Will it matter in a year when you've left this place? Maybe you make your boss a bit grumpy. So what. Look after your own oxygen supply first. Take your PTO. You're deserved it.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 6:12 AM on August 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

From a practical standpoint, it sounds like there's not that much to look forward to for you right now. Can you adopt a pet, or take an inexpensive Parks and Rec class? Volunteer? Call up some friends and let them know you've been struggling*? Plan a trip with those friends? Try to be active, not to lose weight or compare your current fitness with previous levels, but with your sole goal being to get some of those endorphins going? Having more to look forward to might make potential temptations like your crush or shopping less powerful. You might also talk to your doctor about possible medication, just to get you over the hump; I see that one of your tags is depression so maybe you've already considered this. It's also important to note that surgery can have psychological after effects, and that there is some link between general anasthesia and post-op depression.

Emotionally: you sound like you need to be a bit kinder to yourself, quite honestly. There are lots of judging words about yourself in your post; to me, it sounds like you're doing all the right things and for whatever reason, they're not working. You had a huge loss, losing your mom; it doesn't matter one bit if you weren't close. And that was only two months ago! That's no time at all, really. Can you fire your board of directors telling you all the "shoulds", and just take things at your own pace? Try talking to yourself like you'd talk to a friend who just lost her mom? I recognize a lot of myself in the self-descriptors you're using. You are enough just as you are. You are doing great, even if it doesn't feel like it. I see you. You matter.

*many people in this culture, especially those who are maybe in their twenties or thirties and luckily haven't had to deal with much death yet, are absolute shit at being there for people suffering loss. I think people don't know what to do and mistakenly think that they'll be bothering the person or "making it worse" (as if!) by reaching out, when in fact what happens is someone who could really use some extra love and care is left entirely alone. It's not an excuse, but if you can bring yourself to do the emotional labor of calling up some friends and saying "you know, I've been struggling since my mom died, can we get together to watch a movie/color/go for a walk/drink/sit quietly together" you might get a good response. I think your friends love you and they don't know how to help so they are inexcusably doing nothing.
posted by stellaluna at 6:44 PM on August 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

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