Feeling stuck - fix my life!
August 26, 2017 4:35 PM   Subscribe

Bit of an exaggeration: obviously there’s no easy fix for such a thing, but all thoughts greatly welcomed. Me: 30, female, single, only child, living in a big city on the Canadian west coast, artsy degree, medium-term underemployed at an entry-level communications job with no prospects and feeling stuck all around. Problem: Recovering anxiety sufferer, medicated for depression, need to start making personal and professional progress - start a satisfying career, find a partner - and looking for any insight, ideas, suggestions on how to do that.

I will try and keep this as concise as possible but I’m not sure what details might be pertinent.

Grew up in a little village in England, huge tomboy and anxiety sufferer meant I was socially isolated, bullied at school by the guys, had none of the rite-of-passage experiences. Made some friends but no one close as I kept people at arm's length to avoid anxiety and humiliation. Graduated from university, spent a depressing, lonely, underemployed year at home. Came to Canada in 2009 at my parents’ suggestion just to get away from it. Continued to be underemployed and lonely, but at least I was making some kind of forward movement, right?

Did a college diploma here, got an entry-level sort-of-marketing job in 2013, stayed in that while applying for permanent residence. Got that in 2016 and immediately began a depressive episode: despair, misery, hopelessness, disturbing thoughts. Saw a doctor, got medicated, went to counselling, returned to something approaching normality.

I’ve slowly been working on some things since then. Now I’m a bit less of a tomboy, believe I’ve overcome most of my anxiety issues, dipped my toe into online dating with guys (went on dates but shut it down after it turned romantic - it all felt way too accelerated and I wasn’t feeling it), tried various sports and hobbies and have ended up in all-female groups, which have given me some friends - nothing too close, but once a week we might do something.

No longer doing counselling as I feel what I need now is a life coach, but still taking medication as I’m still in the same circumstances that I believe brought depression on in the first place. Same house with pleasant but distant roommates, same entry-level job formatting Powerpoints with no prospects, no partner, few friends. I'm functioning: I'll go to fitness classes, occasionally cook for myself, meet up with friends, accept any invitations, go running now and again. I just find on balance I have little mental or physical energy, and I have never been very self-disciplined. It’s often easier just to curl up and watch Youtube and escape my situation.

No interest in moving further into the marketing/communications field. Interested in a career change to coding and I try to spend as much time as I can get at work teaching myself, but unsure if I'm suited to it and of my emotional and mental resiliency at this stage to handle the stress of doing something like a bootcamp on my own. I have a wild notion to sign up to crew a tall ship or work on a farm somewhere, just do something completely different for a while, but I don’t have that money, don't know if those are good ideas for me. I feel I need to be extremely mindful of any risks to my mental health.

Parents are back in the UK, mid-60s, retired, health not great, no real prospect of them moving here, verbally and financially supportive but day-to-day I am on my own. I’m unhappy at being financially dependent on them for big ticket items - car, laptop, any more education I’d like to do, etc. It’s shameful and not right at my age, especially as I’m not yet in a position to pay them back, but it seems preferable to loading myself up with commercial debt.

No real desire to move back to the UK. I love Canada and the people and getting into the outdoors. I’d be starting from scratch again and losing what friends I have, plus with Brexit I’m not optimistic about employment and prospects. I’m also afraid of leaving Canada and feeling like even more of a failure.

Despite medication I have ups and downs and in the downs I crawl under the duvet and sometimes wish for a reset button on life. Didn’t really work out this time, try again, see if the cards come out better next time. That said, I have no desire to self harm or worse. Just feel sad and down sometimes and the mind gets maudlin.

I know I’m fed up with being alone, underemployed, little money (expensive cost of living). This is no way to live and the years keep going by wasted. There is so much to experience, so many things to do and so much of the world to see. I need to make significant personal and professional progress to do this, but how do I light the fire that's needed? Need to get out of my go-nowhere job at the very least. Would be nice to find a partner in life too.

Very much appreciate ideas and insight, stories from similar situations. The few people who know my situation seem sympathetic but short on concrete ideas. Maybe there’s not enough to go on here, I don’t know, but I am all ears for anything. Thank you for reading.
posted by eldindeer to Human Relations (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
So these two comments seem at odds with each other
" I’m fed up with being alone" and "Dipped my toe into online dating with guys (went on dates but shut it down after it turned romantic - it all felt way too accelerated and I wasn’t feeling it)"

Not feeling it is totally fine, you're obviously not obligated to be into anyone but it does feel as though at some point perhaps it all works out with someone. All you can truly do is live your life and do things that you personally enjoy, the rest will fall into place.
posted by zeoslap at 5:46 PM on August 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Are there any hobbies or job parts you are super interested in? Maybe you love softball or teaching random thing. Follow your own interests. Maybe the first group you try for an interest isn't amazing, but keep following your heart and try another club/class/etc you are super into. I think this is a way to feel purpose and keep forming new relationships. Hopefully. Keep up the good work.
posted by Kalmya at 6:20 PM on August 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

It sounds a little like you're having a bit of an existential crisis and trying to fix the "big" things. You're not unqualified, nor stupid, nor do you have a serious drug or crime problem. So generally, these "big" parts of your life are not directly fixable (even with dramatic things like moving countries usually).

If I were you I would try to concentrate on little things. Day to day making yourself happy, finding productive things to do, finding new interests and possibly friends through that, and generally looking after yourself. Going on more dates, certainly, but without too many expectations and keeping everything nice and low-key.

Getting yourself into a stable frame of mind in this way is more likely to lead to new friendships, possibly new work opportunities, and just possibly an earth-shattering relationship that might change all sorts of things about how you feel about life.
posted by tillsbury at 7:38 PM on August 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

A year or two ago, I was in a similar situation to where you are now (and now I'm not!).

unsure if I'm suited to it and of my emotional and mental resiliency at this stage to handle the stress of doing something like a bootcamp

Upending your life and going to a bootcamp is probably much too stressful and extreme. How about just taking a CS class after work, at your local community college?

If you enjoy your CS class, take another one. Look for a job in the field that pays something comparable (or hopefully, a bit better!) to what you make now. While you're working at your new job, keep taking CS classes -- work toward some kind of qualifying credential/certification, if possible. Once you've gotten a year or two of work in the field and a certification, you'll have a much better idea of where you want to go next.

This is the path I've taken with accounting, and I'm very happy with it.

dipped my toe into online dating with guys (went on dates but shut it down after it turned romantic - it all felt way too accelerated and I wasn’t feeling it)

Dating is scary (relationships are scary!), but you've got to be brave. If you don't put yourself out there and keep yourself open to people and possibilities, you're never going to really connect with anyone. To be honest, I would recommend that you stick with online dating, and take it seriously -- because if you keep throwing your hat in the ring, keep meeting people, keep trying, it'll force you to keep yourself in a mindset that's open to at least the possibility of connection. If you don't keep pushing yourself, it's easy to fall back into your withdrawn little comfort zone (or it's easy for me to do that, anyway!). Don't wimp out :)

Also, it sounds like you want to put down roots, feel like a part of the community. Which is perfectly natural and healthy! Is there an organization that has ideals that you believe in or that resonates with you somehow, that will help you become a part of a larger community? A political or civic or religious organization? For me personally, joining a civic org that I had strong personal ties to went a long way toward me feeling settled -- and honestly, it was a bit of a lifeline! In a small way, it tethered me as the rest of my life was changing.
posted by rue72 at 8:09 PM on August 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

I took the liberty of reading your previous questions and answers to get a better feel for you and your situation, and I think I may have an idea. It's a very simple thing, but it might be the nudge to reset your path.

Join a hiking club.

It's cheap, there are tons in your part of the world, it takes you to gorgeous places, conversation is easy (initial conversation topics are pretty much preordained, and it's normal to walk in silence for long stretches), the schedule is set by others, who will be waiting for you, it will start you on fitness and nutrition, and you'll meet all sorts of cool people. You can start tomorrow. Does that sound like something you'd like?
posted by Cobalt at 9:29 PM on August 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

Dear god, you're in Canada - yes please join a hiking club!! Make friends. You need friends.

Also, and in that vein - one step at a time!!

Life is just like hiking. Or sailing. It takes a process to get to your destination. You are in process. Honor yourself, practice self-love, each step of the way. I mean this.

I am 47, suffered from crippling depression off and on. Let me hip you to a few things... #1 YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE, ESPECIALLY AT 30 YEARS OLD. Shouted that because our parents had it easier financially, maybe, but they lived in an undercover milieu of bigotry, racism, and especially misogyny. YOU live on shifting sands. The fucked up equation our parents bought into gave them stability in some respects, but at a very very high cost. We have no safety net. We are flying blind, and against significant obstacles. At least we are truthful about the obstacles! It's hard today! I crawl under the duvet or #sheetcaking about once a week, but the rest of the time I am on point. That's a win. Seriously.

One step at a time. It comes, eventually. Then marriage is hard, parenting is hard. But you keep going. You have to.

I have a zillion more ideas. But you could master your studies and go hiking + make some friends and you would be SET until about 35 on target for the rest of your goals. Ask me how I know :))
posted by jbenben at 9:49 PM on August 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

I used to live in the Pacific Northwest up near BC. I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder and the symptoms sound similar to what you are experiencing. I thought if I just made more friends, exercised more often and harder, took meds, etc I would feel better. All that certainly helped, but it wasn't until I treated the SAD that I stopped feeling stuck and like I was in a fog much of the time. Do you know much about SAD and have you considered that you may have it? Up near Vancouver where it's sunny for only a couple months of the year you can have it just about year round.
posted by DixieBaby at 10:56 AM on August 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thank you everyone for your thoughts, insight and advice. I'm printing all of these out and sticking them where I'll see them every morning.

I think I have some immediately actionable items: I've signed up for an info session on CS classes at a local college. I'm also researching the local hiking clubs to find one that seems beginner-friendly. I've always wanted to join but been intimidated by the hardcore stuff that a lot of them seem to do here. There must be more gentle ones out there and I'll find 'em.

Also going to retool my dating profile and leave it up there, see what happens. In my first go-around I was initiating most of the contact, and with circumstances as they are, I don't feel ready to start actively reaching out again. For my own self-esteem, I'd like to be a little more financially comfortable. But! I'm going to stay open-minded, get back on the horse and get out there really soon.

It feels great to have a plan. Thank you!!
posted by eldindeer at 6:08 PM on August 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you're in the "big city on the Canadian west coast" and you recently turned 30 and you're not making >$80k (and no direct path to get there)... it's tough for anyone and everyone.

I think that perhaps moving to a smaller community - perhaps on Vancouver Island - may be a more comfortable environment for you. There's UVic as well as a bunch of colleges. Registration/application deadlines might be pasta already, though.

I grew up in Van and even I'm getting sick and tired and frustrated with the housing situation (and the dating scene) here. Not to mention climate change; the last decade's climate is definitely anomalous, more extreme, and less pleasant than the previous 30.

A friend of mine when she was about 30 (about a decade ago) was suffering from a similar life situation and clinical depression; moved to Victoria and she was able to build a community around herself more successfully than in Van (where she also grew up).

While the housing insanity has infected Victoria (and the Okanagans), North Vancouver Island hasn't quite caught the fever quite as bad and there's North Island College with campuses in the Comox Valley, Campbell River, and Port Hardy.

Comox Valley/Campbell River used to be resource extraction/solidly rural blue collar but there's been an influx of retirement money over the last decade and the towns have responded with amenities and increasing acceptance of cosmopolitanism/culture. The food is still seriously stunted compared with Van, but its improving and the standards continue to rise.

If you haven't already, and can afford the ferry ride, touring the Northern end of Vancouver Island might be enjoyable/informative. The old Island Highway along the East coast is a super pretty drive/the new Interior Highway is super fun to excessively speed on to/from Nanaimo (the ferry terminal).
posted by porpoise at 7:56 PM on August 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Two things that always get recommended here but bear repeating:

1. Volunteering - there's so many ways to do it, and it's good for the soul in a deep, fundamental way. Whether it's helping with local guerilla gardeners, mentoring, teaching, doing an elderly person's shopping or gardening. It'll make you feel good, and it'll give you good stories to tell on dates.

2. Are you getting enough exercise? I feel that same malaise creep in when I'm not.
posted by greenish at 6:41 AM on August 29, 2017

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