What should I do to get back on track with my life?
January 3, 2017 8:24 AM   Subscribe

I work in the technology field and have ended up in two jobs where the interviewer assured me the positions were not call centers when they turned out to be just that. I began to feel disillusioned about my career and if I picked the wrong career. The stress from not knowing what I should do with my career, myself, my life, as well as my boyfriend's depression led me to experience burn-out and become depressed.

I just found a new job and it starts in a week, but I can't get myself to feel less hopeless and unimportant.

For more information, I have a very tiny social circle (of about two acquaintances). I was sexually, emotionally, and physically abused as a child, and have kept interactions with my family to a minimum. Due to my upbringing, I ended up with few friends and still struggle to make and retain friends, leading me to feel lonely. I feel that I cannot really connect with other people as my life was so very different and I feel that my interests are a bit different.

Due to an incident with my family, I moved in with my boyfriend and his mother. My boyfriend had anger issues (not violent), but still he would blow-up over little things. The first time I ever tried to initiate anything sexually, he yelled at me and told me I was boring him (I was a virgin). He has become much more patient, but I still think back to that incident three years ago whenever I try to initiate anything. I'll feel my hands shake and if he has no reaction sexually, I give up and stop doing anything. I feel so ugly and feel like I cannot please him. He is so limited in what he likes sexually, so it's difficult to please him.

We have an okay relationship otherwise. I have PTSD, so he'll talk with me and listen as I describe my fears. We have a lot in common, but as I became more depressed I didn't want to do any of the hobbies I once loved.

My boyfriend has been unemployed for over a year now. He quit his job in fast food due to how stressful it was and have been unable to find work since. He turned down interviews early on in his job search because he thought he could find something better. I would also suggest that he volunteer and he said he shouldn't have to because I didn't volunteer to get my job in technology. He has stated that he is jealous and feels that he can't catch up to me. He keeps holding out for a job that is $13 an hour and is in technology. He has no tech experience, won't volunteer, doesn't network, and with the time he has been out of a job it feels unrealistic to me. He has been having breakdowns due to his job search.

When we met he was a bad alcoholic with a temper. He has since agreed to stop drinking due to his issues with alcohol, but I have caught him once with alcohol recently. His mother got a separate place, so now I found us an apartment and pay all of the bills and purchase all of the food and necessities.

He does the cooking, but will often neglect the laundry and dishes while I work full-time. I don't know if he is even applying for jobs since the times when he has received the most calls are when I am applying to jobs (usually around 70 at a time). He seems to not respond to recruiters or calls either. He is really selective on who he chooses to contact. I have tried to be patient, but am growing frustrated. I would have liked support financially to help, especially since he costs a lot in food costs.

I have asked him to contact psychologists and he finally did, but he told me yesterday that the psychologist cancelled. I am not sure if they did since he has a tendency to lie about what he has done. He'll lie about what chores he has gotten done and has told me that it's not a big lie, so i shouldn't get upset.

I don't know what to do with our relationship. I feel so ugly sexually, so inadequate. I feel like I just serve as a convenient place to stay sometimes. He'll cook, take care of me while I am sick, or suffering from an episode, but I still feel insecure and inadequate. I have grown to feel jealous of women who have no trouble sexually appealing to their partner as well as couples where both people are working and contributing equally/fairly financially. It is also draining to have to comfort him every time he gets a 'B' in class or he feels that other students get more perks than he does. I feel so run down comforting him for the smallest slights when I feel I can barely take care of myself.

The call center tech jobs I have worked have been tremendously stressful and as soon as I left one feeling I had finally escaped call center hell, I ended up in another (I did find a new job that isn't supposed to be a call center position). I also don't feel like I have the drive to learn technology as I did before. Law, crime, and forensics have always seemed more interesting than technology did, but there had been parts to technology that I enjoyed. Now I enjoy nothing. Learning feels foreign to me and I don't understand anymore how to learn and develop skills. It feels like too much work and unachievable. I used to love to exercise and read books, but now have stopped doing those things and instead waste my time reading article after article.

I have been to see several psychologists and stopped seeing the first one because she told me to never talk about my childhood abuse, the second blamed me for being sexually abused, the third one told me if I learned to think of the positive times I spent with my family I could be happy. I really wanted to see a psychologist, but I feel disillusioned by them and feel frustrated by CBT practices used.

I just don't know how to take care of myself anymore, how to eat healthy, exercise, learn, have fun, hang out with people, feel attractive, enjoy the things I used to, and much more. I feel so isolated, lonely, and scared, and have been for a while contemplating if I should end it. I just don't know what to do anymore. I am really sorry for the long post, but I feel like my life is a mess and I don't know how to fix it. Soon I will be attending university with my full-time job, but I am afraid I won't have the motivation I once had to do well. What can I do?
posted by wasurenagusa to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You are facing so many struggles, and I don't want to minimize any of them, but I will tell you one thing that will make your life easier: not having to support a useless jerk who treats you badly and leaves you feeling unloved. You must be so exhausted! Don't give your precious energy to anything or anyone who doesn't treat you well in return. What you have with your boyfriend is not what a relationship is supposed to be.
posted by praemunire at 8:30 AM on January 3, 2017 [30 favorites]

Can you break up with your boyfriend and tell him that he has to find another place to live? You would have more money, you would be alone but not constantly dealing with rejection and managing his feelings and you might have more energy to tackle the other issues you're facing.

When you look at what you've written about your relationship, I bet you see how little positive and how much that's negative you have to say about it. He makes you feel unwanted, doesn't make you happy sexually, requires a lot of emotion management from you and doesn't want to take the only steps that will actually help him to find work. Having a relationship with a partner who contributes more-or-less equally is very common - it's not an impossible dream. You can have a relationship with someone who pulls most of his weight - there are all kinds of social and gender things which mean that "not pulling 100%" is common, especially in re chores, and that's very frustrating...but guys who do no paid work, do no housework, demand a lot of emotional labor and are not sexually giving should be kicked to the curb.
posted by Frowner at 8:33 AM on January 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

My advice to any friend is to find somewhere to live and dump the loser you're with. It sounds like he's an ass, and you're in a place where you forgive him for that because you're not feeling too good about yourself. I think you'll feel a lot better about yourself if you're not with an alcoholic liar who tells you that you're not attractive.

So start making plans for moving out. Whenever you feel down, get on that list of things and know it's a positive step forward. You don't have to tell him your plans until you have your stuff in your car and are pulling out of the driveway. A post-it would do.
posted by xingcat at 9:00 AM on January 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

The good news is, you have a new job starting in a week. That is not nothing - there are lots of people looking for work right now and not finding it, and even though I understand your trepidation that it will be another dead end, it will pay your bills and throw you among a new set of people, and those are two of the most important things you need to make a fresh start.

Maybe the job will be great, but even if it isn't, see it as a means to an end and sock the money away so you can plan for a place of your own. Once you are able to move out, you can reassess things with your boyfriend. I agree with the other posters that based on your question, he isn't treating you in a way that sounds like a healthy relationship - but there's no way to see if that's fixable when you're stuck living with him and his mother so he never has to earn your attention. You can also try making an effort that with the new job you'll eat a little healthier - that can also affect your mood and well-being - even if it's just packing some carrot sticks or nuts or fruit for snacks. Or if that's too stressful, maybe you can find a way to exercise before or after work as part of your new start. Just something small that you can do so you can remind yourself you're doing something.

It doesn't sound to me like you're looking for an overhaul - you just need to find a way to give yourself permission to like the path you're on a bit more, or change it for something better. I think either of these are possible. Just take baby steps, and give yourself permission to see them as enough for now.
posted by Mchelly at 9:15 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Once you are settled in this new job (which I hope will be great), dump your boyfriend. And don't you be the one to find a new place to live-- you are paying for your current apartment-- he can go back to living with his mom, like he was before. I am guessing that your unfortunate childhood with a dysfunctional and abusive family skewed your view of what constitutes loving behavior and trained you to take care of dysfunctional people. (Why do I guess this? Because the same thing happened to me. It's okay. It's not your fault. This issue is common.) You learned as a child to manage and "mother" the people who were supposed to be parenting you-- to excuse and deflect and plan around their bad behavior-- this was a thing that you HAD to do to survive. You probably got so good at managing dysfunctional people that you forgot to even think about doing it-- it just became a thing you do, really well, all the time. And now your boyfriend, consciously or unconsciously, is taking advantage of the survival skillset and mindset you developed as a child for dealing with difficult and dangerous people to provide himself with a pretty sweet relationship deal where you provide all of the financial support, and do all of the physical and emotional labor. And, consciously or unconsciously, he's trying to KEEP things that way by making you feel insecure and inadequate and unworthy of better treatment from him. He yells at you, he insults you, he lies to you; he's made you feel inadequate sexually from day one of your relationship (which is BULLSHIT behavior-- nice, sane people don't yell at an inexperienced sexual partner for boring them-- nice, sane people TEACH inexperienced partners how to do fun things). And in an area where he can't possibly deny to himself or anyone else that you are clearly more competent and experienced than he is, your career, instead of congratulating you and encouraging you, he ruins things for you by constantly acting jealous of your success. In fact, he apparently needs so badly to prove himself better at your own career than you are that he is now refusing to take ANY job that is not in the same field, even though he does not have the experience or the education to do what you do.

No wonder you feel down on yourself and exhausted all of the time! You are living with a partner who has no job, is not taking appropriate measures to find a job, does no housework, is dishonest, has a substance abuse problem that you feel compelled to help him manage, demands regular emotional support from you without providing you with the same, criticizes and demeans you, and openly expresses jealousy of your success. You deserve SO MUCH BETTER THAN THIS. Don't let anyone-- including especially the voices in your own head-- tell you otherwise.
posted by BlueJae at 10:22 AM on January 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

>I feel so isolated, lonely, and scared, and have been for a while contemplating if I should end it.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, you need help. I'm so very sorry that you've been failed by the help you've tried to get. Having to evaluate services is an unfair burden on people who are already burdened. I wish that were different.

Clinical psychologists do have advanced degrees. But they are trained in a model that does not (usually) address the systemic reasons for things. (Unless they have a personal perspective that takes these into account, or pursued studies that address it. But there isn't always a way to know whether they did.) The focus of a lot of therapy is on what the *individual* can do to adjust to their reality, often via CBT. This does not take bigger (or smaller) systems into account, and *can* lean towards victim-blaming, if you don't feel your justifiable anger is being given a place or addressed.

I'm not saying other professionals are all necessarily *better* just because of their training (which for e.g. social work does look at larger factors), they vary in quality, too, for different reasons... and some psychologists do look at the bigger picture. But you might want to look into therapy offered by explicitly anti-oppressive organizations or providers (may or may not be social workers, or psychologists for that matter). Look for those words. (If you're a woman, which I sense you might be, look for feminist, too [though it will probably be there, if they express a commitment to anti-oppression].)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:38 AM on January 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

Yes, in case it wasn't clear, I am absolutely not blaming you for the quality of the relationship with your boyfriend. Sometimes I think the reason society is so often willing to look the other way when it comes to child abuse is that it requires a steady supply of abused people who have been trained through their childhood to prop up the exploitative. Predators have a keen nose for people who haven't been given good models for mutually loving, supportive relationships in their own families, because they are more vulnerable to abuse. But their vulnerability is not their fault.
posted by praemunire at 10:45 AM on January 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

(Wait. Did you mean end the relationship? If so, without question, yes, end this relationship!)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:50 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Well of course you are feeling depressed, this guy is sucking all the joy out of your life. You are young and a hard worker and have done so amazing to be able to support yourself AND someone else all on your own. You should be able to relax at home, not have to worry about your boyfriend and all the stuff he isn't doing. Try to look forward to this new job and give it a chance - you don't have to love it, but think of it as an opportunity to meet new people, gain new skills, and add to your resume. I'd definitely get back into regular therapy, take some time to find someone you are comfortable with, and see if there's a possibility to get free or discounted mental health care through your university. It's totally ok to change your mind about what you want to do, but you're never going to be able to make those big decisions while being responsible for another adult. Cut him loose and you'll find so much more time and motivation to take care of yourself. Best of luck! I'm rooting for you!
posted by galvanized unicorn at 12:36 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Look for another place to live. If you are working full time and he is unemployed, not cleaning, not good to you in bed, etc etc etc etc -- please sit down with yourself and say to yourself "I am only putting up with this shit because my asshat family taught me to put up with this shit and convinced me I do not deserve better."

You will be better off alone than putting up with this shit. Sucky job plus a home that you can turn into a personal sanctuary is bearable. Sucky job plus coming home to this horrible asshole is not bearable.

Please, DTMFA -- from someone on MF who routinely argues against the chorus of DTMFA.
posted by Michele in California at 1:39 PM on January 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

You know what, I'm really proud of you. You've done amazingly well to get out of your family situation and get a job and a home of your own, while tackling therapy to get your head straight. You're doing so much better than many other people with your background. Having said that, as you know, you still have a way to go which is why you feel so overwhelmed. If it were me, I would break down what I needed to do in bite size chunks so I could literally tick them off a list and move on to the next. To do this, you need to plan out first what you want your life to look like, goal setting if you will.

* You want a partner who is more supportive
*You would like to eat more healthily, and exercise more
* You would like to socialise more and be happier
* You would like to get back into hobbies that you enjoy
* You would like to find a therapist to work with you to make this happen.

Ok, so now for each of these goals, write down how you plan to achieve this. If it were me, I would break it down like this. (Excuse me for doing it for you, if this helps, use it, if it doesn't, discard.)

Finding a more supportive partner
Look, from an outsider's perspective, it's pretty clear your guy is never going to be who you need him to be and I think you can trace a large chunk of your depression back to him. Just breaking up with him will instantly make you feel much better and allow space into your life to focus on you. So I would do that first. Don't focus on replacing him with someone else just yet, no offence but your 'picker' when it comes to relationships is probably off due to your upbringing, you need to relearn what a good relationship is before you get back into another one, so lose the guy and focus on your health, being happy, friends, hobbies, therapy etc and do the relationships later.

Break up with boyfriend, move out. Preferably in house with people so you can get out more.

Find a supportive therapist
(I've not looked for one but hopefully others will be able to chime in on how to do this.)

Write a list of all the things you used to enjoy doing or activities you would like to try. then sign up for one of them. It may just be an introductory class that gets you out of the house once a week, but it will be a start in meeting people and giving you something to do. If you don't like it, you can always leave. The point is to start.

Start (insert exercise of choice here)
Bonus points if you do a sport where you can meet new people and make friends.

This may not happen all at once, maybe make it a goal that once a week you leave the house and go to the gym or walk the dog or try a new knitting group or book club. Just do a little bit at a time, the if you like it, you can do more.

Ok, so now you're doing more therapy, you've got hobbies and sports you enjoy and hopefully meeting some people, going out and making friends. Let's imagine that a year or so has passed and you're now feeling better, the therapy is working and you think you're in a healthier headspace. Maybe you're keen to meet someone new. How do you find someone who is good for you?

Again, make a list of all the qualities you're looking for in a partner.
(Based on what you need from your current guy, it might look something like this.)

You want someone gainfully employed and moderately ambitious
Someone who has a healthy relationship with alcohol and has no addiction issues
Someone who is supportive of you and isn't jealous or controlling
A partner who can look themselves both financially and can 'adult' eg doesn't need a mother, can cook, clean, etc.
Someone who is kind and gentle without anger issues

Ok, so they're your top five. Then you can get granular and start being specific if you want.
(These are very specific and chances are won't apply to you but insert your own wants.)
Must be vegan
Love animals
Be liberal
Into the gym and happy to join you
Likes photography
Wants to travel
Likes camping

Basically, go nuts and create a list of your perfect man and put it out there in the universe. But have your top five qualities of what your looking for. And every time you date a man, literally refer to your list, particularly your top five and see if he ticks the boxes. Give the guy a shot but if you start to see he has anger issues or he knocks back a six pack every night, you now have proof that he is not the man for you and you can end it and keep looking. Eventually the right man will reveal himself. But in the meantime, you're happy, you've got friends, hobbies, a job and life is good.

Lists and goal setting, my friend. Plan your life out and then literally check it off. It may not always go to plan but then you have something you can refer to to get you back on track. I wish you all the best, you can do this. One step at a time.
posted by Jubey at 3:59 PM on January 3, 2017

I agree with the others that you are doing really well for yourself since you are able to support two people on your own. That is amazing and hard.

You have a lot coming at you at the moment. I would encourage you to start structuring your life to be inward out. What I mean by this is you should always have a nice place to come home to. That way, if your job is stressful or you need to cope with a change, you will always have a place to recharge, relax, or just be.

I suggest that you don't have this with your partner now. You don't trust him enough to initiate sex. You don't trust that he's not using alcohol. You don't trust that he can make any money to pay the bills. This is not normal. You should only let people in your home that meet your highest standards of trust. This may mean that few people enter your home. That's great- then your home is your place.

The changes that you will have to make to get your life where you want to be will suck. Say you do decide to dump the boyfriend. He will likely not take it well. Say the job doesn't work out, you will have to find another. But you don't have to deal with everything right now. You only have to start committing to you. What is the first step to get to your place? Maybe you need to save up some money. Maybe you just need to adjust to the job. Maybe it is deciding that you will communicate to your boyfriend that a certain behavior is not acceptable. Just start with that one thing.

I don't envy the hard work in front of you, but when you reach your place, it will be worth it.
posted by Monday at 12:17 AM on January 4, 2017

Dump your boyfriend first, then shop around for a competent therapist.

Others will say this in more words and details than I do.
posted by Kwadeng at 12:20 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

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