Putting my life together after depression
January 6, 2017 7:09 AM   Subscribe

Hello, I'm 28, male, have been diagnosed with depression for a few years now, been taking meds, have very few friends, no job, haven't worked in about a year, never had a real full-time job. I feel like I'm throwing my life away and I don't know how to be happy/productive/human again. Please advise?

I've been taking lexapro for about 1.5 years and recently had my dosage upped to 15 mg from 10. I have no insurance so I can't see my therapist as often as I'd like, but the meds seem to do most of the work anyway. I haven't had a job in a long time and I don't know how to get back into the real world. I'm interested in websec and I used to do part time webdev (just PHP, CSS, etc, nothing impressive or useful) in school, but I have nothing to show on a resume and zero example code or projects. I really have no reason to not have this stuff so I quickly end up blaming myself for sabotaging my own work life. No money means I spend most of my time at home (living with my parents......) I only talk to a handful of friends and most of them live in other states or countries. If I'm lucky I'll spend time with a friend in person once a month or less. Love life is totally non-existent. I like to think that a job would be a good stepping stone to friends, money, activities, a relationship(??), but whenever I even think about applying to jobs I realize how little I have to show - and then in interviews, all I can think about is a year or so ago when I interviewed around, bombed almost all of them, came across as miserable and depressed... (this was before I was disagnosed and on medication)

How can I put my life back together? Where do I begin? I feel like I've thrown away all my chances and there's nothing left, like I've waited too long, like I'll never get out of this rut.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
1. Get a job. It probably won't be in the field you want. Apply to retail stores and restaurants. If you need resume help feel free to memail me. Somebody will hire you. Full time.
2. Take a web development class in the evenings at a community college.
3. After you have saved enough, move out.
4. Once you've taken the class weigh your degree options.

You got this. I reallllly think that getting a job will help your social life tremendously.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:21 AM on January 6, 2017 [16 favorites]

I really have no reason to not have this stuff

Sure you do - you had untreated depression until super recently!
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:27 AM on January 6, 2017 [23 favorites]

It seems like you are feeling newly motivated which is awesome! But it seems like some of your patterns of thinking are still your "depressed brain" talking - you are very self-critical and you believe that your efforts will not lead to anything because you had struggles in the past.

Some other folks can hopefully point you toward resources for changing your patterns of thought - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is something you can Google for and there are workbooks and resources for people who can't afford therapy.

I want to offer you one small nugget of perspective which is that you are 28! It is really totally normal for people who are 28 to still be figuring out how to be an adult. You have plenty of time to establish a work history, figure out what you want to do for a career, and get a degree of that's what you decide you want. Think of it as a slow steady process of growth, and treating your depression is the first step which you are already taking.
posted by mai at 7:35 AM on January 6, 2017 [5 favorites]

Yes, just getting any kind of job will help. You don't have to do it forever but you are right, it will definitely help with your social life, money and all that. Ask the handful of friends you do have if they have any openings where they work. This can usually get you into a service or retail job, where turnover is high, skills don't matter so much, but recommendations do.

Something else you might be able to do with no experience but a degree is standardized test evaluating, depending on your state and where you live (I'm assuming you're in the US because you mention health insurance). You'll need to look up if there are any centers in your area. Standardized test evaluating is low commitment and usually just requires that you have a degree and can pass their tests. When I did it where was a very brief interview that was mostly to make sure you weren't bonkers. If you meet their requirements they will just contact you when they have a project, it will be full-time for a certain period and the pay is usually alright for the work you do. The same people tend to do different projects so you can end up meeting a lot of new people/contacts through this. If you want to work and feel you have no options I really recommend this.
posted by Polychrome at 7:45 AM on January 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

As someone who is coming out of a similar situation after 8 years or so, I would warn you against taking jobs you know for a fact will make you miserable. Yes, you'll have to start low somewhere, somewhere you probably don't like, but if you're an extreme introvert manning the cash register at a Starbucks (for example) it is going to send you backwards, not forwards by rapidly draining your energy. Energy you need to stay healthy.

The hardest thing about dealing with depression (to me) is constantly being on the lookout for the lies your brain will tell you. When you decide not to do something, ask yourself why. When you have the why, ask yourself, is this even logical? Is this even TRUE? It probably isn't. This process is hard, but practice makes it easier and if you keep up with it you will soon be able to prune away all the depression-driven nonsense and see your reality for what it actually is. Armed with this and appropriate medication you (I) can(did) build a strong foundation for progress.

I'm sure someone else will also recommend this but, 'Feeling Good' by David D. Burns is a really great place to self-start with CBT.
posted by deadwater at 7:48 AM on January 6, 2017 [9 favorites]

Something that has a rigid and set schedule will help. Whether that's a job or going back to school full time. I know it seems hard. It's a big commitment for the current state of your mental health, but having experienced it twice personally - doing something new at a set time every day has been the only things that cured me of depression.
posted by INFJ at 7:50 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Since it may be difficult to find a job in the current market, I recommend also cultivating a hobby. Job searching can be itself a full time job, especially if you are following the good advice to look for a job that you will actually like. If you can afford to wait it out, spend the time looking for a good fit.

But - while you are looking you will need an outlet that feels productive and rewarding to help you through the times when the job search isn't. When I spent over 6 months searching in 2008, I learned to carve wood with an axe and a knife. Making chopsticks of a spoon was completely different from crafting resumes and cover letters and was also immediately rewarding -- I could literally hold and eat with the fruits of my labor. I even sold a bit on Etsy. The creative outlet has served me well and can be a good place to turn when I find my own depression trying to creep back in.

Even if you find a great job right away -- and I do wish you luck in that regard -- it might still be good for you to have more than one thing going at once. There will be days when the job just isn't cutting it in terms of keeping you going, so it can help to have something else to turn to. Also, your hobby could be a good way to meet interesting people (it can be difficult to prospect for a relationship through a job).
posted by cubby at 8:15 AM on January 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

I feel like I've thrown away all my chances and there's nothing left, like I've waited too long

You are 28. You are only just bouncing back from depression. Be kind to yourself.

When you begin being kind to yourself, start looking at some thing you enjoy doing.

You like websec? Start a blog about that as well as a twitter feed. Keep it going even when it feels hard. Write tutorials. Offer your services to small local businesses who might need a bit of help doing web - a local cake shop or a nursery - or volunteer to do web stuff for small local non-profits that need someone to make them a website (e.g. "save the local meadow" or "fundraise for a new church roof"). And suddenly you'll have not just stuff to put on your CV but also a local network that might be great for finding you a job somewhere.

Baby steps. And it all starts by being kind to yourself and forgive your brain chemistry for being tough on you.

You got this.
posted by kariebookish at 8:30 AM on January 6, 2017 [5 favorites]

I recently got involved in some of the non-profits in my town (examples: tree conservancy, food pantry, community garden, arts center) and they *all* need volunteers to help with their websites and social media. They will be understanding of your schedule and grateful for whatever problems you can fix. Depending on the people involved, this can also lead to paid work. I helped one non-profit with an easy update to their website, and now they keep referring me for paid opportunities.
posted by xo at 10:23 AM on January 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Do look into self-employment (f/t eBay seller? one can do quite well once one nails down the needed skills and ability to source saleable, profitable whatnot) -- you will get a lot of well-meaning people telling you a job is an easy thing to get "as long as it is entry-level" or, well, "try retail and restaurants," but both of those, outside of the most exhausting and degrading (Walmart, fast food) have no interest in people with no experience in that industry, and I'm not sure an exhausting and degrading job is a great idea for somebody just peeking out of the other side of depression. And being turned down over and over for awful jobs that lots of people will tell you "anybody can get" (no) is really brutal.

Doing volunteer web work for non-profits is a great idea.
posted by kmennie at 11:20 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

My dear. Be so, so gentle with yourself. Not indulgent to dull your motivation, just gentle. You are building things slowly after a hard time, and you *do* have time, for you have youth. Trust me. I have a couple of decades on you and I have ripped up and drastically changed my life half a dozen times and will probably do it again. You can do this. Write to us (referencing this question) in a few years. It will be better. You will have other problems then. Like what to name your new dog, or your baby, or what to do about your boss who is SUCH a pain even though you've been promoted three times. Don't forget to help others along the way. Hugs to you.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 4:05 PM on January 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

Look for social workers and/or support groups in your area. If you have a driver's license and clean driving record, driving a taxi might be one way to earn money, food delivery being another. Lastly, there are hotlines for people who are struggling with depression. Use them.
posted by Beholder at 5:29 PM on January 6, 2017

I partially agree with the advice not to take a miserable job, with a caveat. Jobs like food service can really help exercise your brain. Personally, my brain was kind of creaky and slow after severe depression, and it improved over time and practice - there's no other way. It's better to get some practice in a job that doesn't really matter much than in your first real job. You just shouldn't spend 40 hours a week at something like that, because you definitely don't want to spend the majority of your time there, be miserable and lack the energy to do things to make yourself better. Try to get a part time job if you are doing something like that - working 2 or 3 shifts a week max. A lot of places prefer to hire this way anyway. You can use your other "working" time for therapy, self-care, trying social activities, and maybe classes to get yourself on track for a coding job or something else you'd like better. Trust me, it is possible to get better. Be very gentle with yourself, forgiving, and take it slow.
posted by decathexis at 8:34 PM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

in interviews, all I can think about is a year or so ago

This is going to sound ridiculous, but when your brain gets hung up on stuff like this, it can be helpful to pretend you are Scott Bakula in Quantum Leap*.

You're probably just a little too young to remember this gem of cheesy, early nineties, TV sci-fi, so I'll explain. Basically, the premise was that Scott Bakula's character would bodyswap with various people from history who had got themselves into bad situations or were in danger of messing something up and - after first working out who, where and when he was - would do his best to improve things and fix the timeline so that he could move on.

You're like Scott Bakula right now. Don't blame yourself for those bombed interviews or worry that history will repeat itself, because all that was before the Lexapro Quantum Leap. You were not in the driving seat for those interviews, they happened back when depression the guest star was still running things. You are in control now, with a fresh perspective and a willingness to change. You've identified the problem and can now begin the work of bringing about the best possible timeline...

Sqwee doo doo doot doot doo doo. Doo doo doot doo, doo doo doot doo.

* It needn't actually be Quantum Leap, pretty much any cheesy bodyswap media property will work.
posted by the latin mouse at 4:59 AM on January 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

To expand on what pintapicasso said, I think that your life seems to be missing a component that is extra important for depression-prone people: exercise. When I feel hopeless and like... my soul is flattened/missing, I find that exercise helps. A lot. It just helps me to feel a bit more angry and alive, it wakes up the part of me that wants to keep fighting. I know that my brain NEEDS at least 120 minutes of gentle exercise every week as a bare minimum.

If you are feeling isolated and can afford it, maybe join some kind of exercise class and go once or twice a week.

I also find uninspiring work to be more rewarding when I can see it fitting into a larger plan that would lead me to a life I am proud of. E.g. if your goal is to work at a mid-level position in a tech company by 35 years old, you could break this big goal into more achievable milestones as follows:

2017-2019: re-start career
- Get good work references by working in an entry level job and staying there for 2 years (preferably tech-related, but anything that keeps your mind active and fills up your life)
- Develop coding skills by taking courses / joining coding meet ups

2020-2022: start career in the tech field
- Get entry level job at a tech company
- Continue developing coding skills

2023-2024: professional development
- Get mid-level job at a tech company
- Continue getting qualifications for your tech skills

I think when you're in a funk, you have to just fake it / work hard as much as possible, and have faith that all the pieces will slowly fall into place. That includes friends/relationships - I think the best friendships/relationships effortlessly happen when you are busy living your life. Take care! :)
posted by Crookshanks_Meow at 7:00 AM on January 7, 2017

Hi there, I'm 22 and have dealt with depression since age 13 or so. I don't have experience in re-entering the workforce after a rut, but I do have a lot of experience in learning how to enjoy the world around me again after a serious bout of depression, and how to increase my sense of self-worth.

I agree with the recommendations to get any job you can while you work towards getting the job you want, and taking up the offers to look over your resume. I'm sure there are also posts in the AskMe dedicated to interview tips. I don't think it's abnormal to feel behind in experience while in your 20s, though. I empathize with this a lot. Something I do to manage life-things when I'm depressed is to do one productive thing, one engaging thing, and 4 basic self-care things every day.

Starting with the basic stuff, I make sure to drink water, brush my teeth, take a shower, and eat something every day. Bonus points for my face being clean and wearing clean clothes. Extra bonus points if my room is tidy and I'm pleased with my external appearance, but generally the first four things I've mentioned are things I make sure to do even in my most serious bouts of depression, because they are so essential to my self-care.

Things I do when I'm feeling well enough to engage with the world but don't know how to start are of the kind that I can start and finish within a maximum of a few hours. Whether it's going outside/taking a walk, reading a short-story, taking the time to cook myself a meal rather than just grabbing whatever is simplest or just there, I starting a task and completing it gives me a sense of accomplishment/contentment. Sometimes this sense of accomplishment will give me a bit of energy and I'll be inspired to do other projects that interest me, and sometimes I'll just be tired but glad I completed something. Either way, I never regret doing this, even if I don't totally see the point in it before I start. It's a good way to invest time in figuring out what you enjoy.

The last thing I do when I'm really craving results is to do one productive thing every day. Whether this is making one important phone call, applying to one job, or even just researching one job I want to apply to the next day. This process is slow, but it is cumulative. Sometimes I have good days where I can do much more than one thing. Other times, though, I get depressed and avoidant of doing anything for long periods of time. Doing one thing every day helps to eliminate the feeling of being 'stuck' by ensuring that you are moving forward, every day, even if it's just a bit at a time.

Feel free to memail me if you'd ever like to talk!
posted by snufflepup at 9:31 AM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm 35 and I could have written this 7 years ago (except for the computer stuff). I know it's hard to do anything when you're depressed so I'll keep it simple. Go out and get an easy, super low-stakes job. Anything at all: food service, mowing lawns, retail, doesn't matter. You can quit after a month if you want. You're in a negative feedback loop and even the smallest change can help break it. You're doing fine and I assure you there are tons of people who have been through this.
posted by aliasless at 9:30 AM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

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