I hate everything and everything hates me.
September 4, 2019 7:50 PM   Subscribe

Feeling hopeless in a new town. How can I get back to not being angry and finding some hope?

It's been 10 months in a new town (a college town) out West and... I hate it. If you see my previous asks, I spent a good chunk of time thinking about the pros and cons of moving out here, and it all seemed like a good calculated risk. What's the worst that could happen? (Narrator: The worst did happen.) I was sad to leave my community and city behind on the east coast, but excited to try living out West and living with my partner again. We are about 1.5 hours away from Big Known City in the West. I thought that the city would have enough to do as a college town, but I now know I need a big city to thrive and not feel so...Othered.

I cry at least once a month in a "why was I such a dumb person to move here?" mess. Like, no one dragged me here, I made this dumb choice all on my own. I don't like my town. I HATE my toxic job (somehow, it gets worse by the day. Someone spit on another coworker out of anger, and my boss regarded that as normal), which I have been saving up to leave, but I can't bring myself to quit because I need the health insurance and pay, and the experience boosts my resume. I travel a lot for my job, and I also commute about 2 hours to it, so I feel like that makes it even harder for me to plug into the city. However, I can't say I haven't tried. In my 10 months here I have:

-found a therapist to cope (but have cycled through 3 therapists so far. My latest therapist is very sweet, but I am afraid we are not going anywhere, as we sit in silence for a good chunk of our sessions. I miss my old therapist on the east coast, but I miss everything about there.)
-joined volunteer groups and am as active as I can be outside of work
-tried numerous activities that interest me like arts, roller derby, started fostering dogs, etc. Unfortunately, I have yet to stick to something for more than 3 months (besides fostering) because I haven't found the hobby that I really enjoy yet. Going to try dance next!
-Made many different acquaintances that border on friendship, but haven't really clicked. I think it feeds into a cycle of "Why haven't I clicked with anyone? They probably don't like me, maybe I shouldn't reach out unless they contact me first..." However, I've also been trying to protect my energy and not hang out with those who really drain me. That's only happened a couple of times.
-Gotten outdoors more often because that's The Thing to do in this state.

And nothing. I still don't feel a sense of community here like I did back east. Maybe it was dumb luck, but in a year there I felt settled and at home. I found friends I connected well with, I joined a group for POC (because there were many, but it's hard to find a group in this town), I liked my coworkers, and it was easy to find many things to do because it was a big city. I miss my friends. I spend my time texting and catching up with my old friends to keep myself happy (and to remind myself that I can and have made friends in new cities before) and I spend what I save for travel on going back to my old city or escaping my town. I know I definitely had times of loneliness there, but I didn't feel this...down. And angry. Angry at myself that I haven't connected and that I'm here and that I'm stuck. I feel like I'm a bad match for everything here.

It's hard being in a small town and feeling Other. It's harder that I feel stuck here. I can't just quit my job, which probably contributes to 55% of my misery, and I'm still looking for a new job (whether that be in a bigger city just south of us, in our current town, or even back east. I'm OK with giving up if giving up is moving back.) I know I'm not alone in this feeling, because my partner feels the same way about this city, and the two close friends I met (who also feel Othered) do not like it here and are moving back to DC in a couple of months.

I just can't do anything. Or at least it feels that way. I feel like I've expended my options here. I've even tried connecting with people in my partners cohort in grad school, but haven't clicked there either. Most are younger than me and really big into drugs, which is cool, but I don't do that as much. If it comes to a year and it's still like this, does that mean it's not going to work out? That I suck at this moving thing this time? That I suck in general in this city? How much more time should I give this? And what else should I try?

When I talk to my therapist about the anger at myself and loneliness I feel here, it circles back to "Well, what are you doing?" and then I say, "XYZ and therapy?" But my therapist says that isn't enough, but hasn't really told me what more I should do. I don't feel comfortable talking to her about this anymore, because I feel like I'm going in circles, further spiraling me into a mindset of "There's nothing else I can do. This is it. This is the end. I'll be here for years and angry and bitter and hating myself."

I know that it can take a up to a year to adjust to a new place but wow. I've moved a lot in my life and this has to be the worst time I've had in a new place. The only good thing I can think of is that I get to foster adorable puppies and elder dogs now. That's really nice.

Since I cannot just up and move as much as I wish I could, how do I cope outside of what I have already been doing? What do you think I could be doing better? I would like to be less angry at myself. It doesn't help anyone that I feel this angry. I would like to feel less stuck. I would like to feel some hope that it can get better although I feel like I'm at a bottom of a dark pit.
posted by buttonedup to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so sympathetic. I left NYC for a job a few years ago, and even though it was to a city I'm fond of and had lived in before, I ended up falling into a long period of depression (and eventually had to move back). When you can't connect with your environment for whatever reasons (and mine were less good than yours), you feel like such a failure, almost unlovable. Some thoughts:

I actually think there's a U-shape in feelings about a new place, unless it's just a horrible match altogether. The first few months you're very busy and everything is exciting and new, but after a while that wears off and you're left with the routine and all the things you've discovered that you don't like. Ten months sounds about right for that. However, in a few more months, you may acclimate more deeply. I found myself feeling less alienated at about the year and a half mark, although not enough not to come back once I'd found a good job back in NYC. By the end, I was kind of glad that my new-city job had just proven financially unsustainable, meaning that unless I was willing to jump sectors I objectively needed to come back here. I'm not saying that suddenly you'll fall in love with the place, just that you may find yourself figuring out how better to like it.

The way you describe your spiraling thoughts, though, is classic what we call VOD ("voice of depression") or Radio KFKD. No, you are not trapped, you are not doomed to misery, you did not do anything dumb, much less irretrievably so, everybody doesn't politely dislike you because your awfulness has been exposed in this new place. You tried something brave and it's not working so great. Since therapy doesn't seem to be helping you cope with these feelings, I would really recommend that you look into an anti-depressant. Not to drug you into complacency, but to turn down the volume on what are irrationally negative thoughts. You don't have to walk around with that constant storm of black in your head.

That said, it sounds like you are doing a lot to build connections and it's just not working, and both you and your partner don't like the place, so, if your feelings don't change...why can't you move? Not right away, obviously (it took me nearly a year to find my current job), but what's preventing a job search for that two of you? When you have that as a goal, life may not feel quite so hopeless. When you feel less trapped, maybe even where you live now won't look so bad.
posted by praemunire at 8:20 PM on September 4, 2019 [11 favorites]

That sucks. I don't have recommendations about connecting with the town, but in terms of dealing with your feelings of frustration, have you tried intense aerobic exercise?
posted by pinochiette at 8:30 PM on September 4, 2019

Like pinochiette I came to say high intensity exercise can help a lot
posted by anadem at 8:40 PM on September 4, 2019

If there happens to be a CrossFit style gym nearby, you can combine intense exercise with some socializing.

I’m in a weird position where I’m in limbo right now, neither working nor in class, and my gym is what’s keeping me from going crazy with loneliness. It’s a huge social outlet for me, even though a lot of the people there aren’t ones I would necessarily have become friends with otherwise.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:46 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

"I'm OK with giving up if giving up is moving back.) I know I'm not alone in this feeling, because my partner feels the same way about this city..."

It sounds like you both want to go back to the east coast again. If you talked it over with each other, and decided on a reasonably attainable goal (time frame, type of job you may have to consider/accept, location you'd rather be, and even how you may manoeuvre one person getting a job and moving before another(?)), then you will have the escape you need to not have that trapped feeling.

In the meantime, while you are planning your escape, you can continue to explore where you are, as you have been (it sounds like you've been very busy, and creative, in trying to find people you enjoy socially, and activities you enjoy doing) - but you will still have that "escape plan" with a time limit for packing it in. At any point that you start to feel a realization that "hey, I might miss this place when I go back", you can reevaluate your plans and try to visualize yourself in a modified scenario.

This has helped me whenever I've felt trapped in something I can't change right now, and have likely agreed to for a period of time. (Going back to school for my degree in my 40's, taking on a roommate to help pay the bills, even selling my house in small city to buy a condo in big city - a downward move - to avoid the rental crisis while attending school) - some of those things were longer commitments than I realized, and it was affecting my health and wellness.

Yes, having a dream, or a vision of what you want your life to look like REALLY helps. Dream big. Take small steps. Revisit your goals, and revise as necessary. You'll get there.
posted by itsflyable at 9:38 PM on September 4, 2019 [11 favorites]

"why was I such a dumb person to move here?" mess. Like, no one dragged me here, I made this dumb choice all on my own.

As long as you hold that taking a risk that doesn’t work out makes you a dumb person you are stuck. How could you ever move forward? Anything you try, if it doesn’t work out, it will be because you’re dumb.

It seems to me that you made a solid decision based on the facts you had. You even predicted where things might go wrong. You actually seem pretty on top of the situation for a dumb person.

(Narrator: The worst did happen.)

I realize this was meant to be a humorous aside but I feel compelled to note: No, the worst did not happen. Not by a long shot. And that is at least in part because you made careful decisions.

As far as your current mood, between the commute and the environment your work situation sounds like a total nightmare. I suspect that moving on from that will change your outlook on many parts of life. I realize you won’t be able to do it quickly, but it’s something to look forward to.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:14 PM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm originally from the East Coast, and lived in the Midwest for many years. After many years, I just got tired of it. Moving to a smaller town magnified the difference for me. I finally moved back to the East Coast, and while I am currently living in a small town, it is familiar to me, and I am not too far from the ocean (if I want to go), and find it easier to get along with the people. The landscape is familiar to me. The customs are familiar.

I once took a trip out west and lived there for about 6 months. While the scenery was gorgeous, the people were a bit different. Not bad, but the culture was vastly different than what I grew up with, and even from the Midwest, which I had somewhat gotten used to. I moved back to the Midwest, and from there, eventually realized that I was sick of that, and moved back East in 2006.

Your job and commute, etc. sound horrific. Not being able to make close friends and connections is very difficult.

I know people who have moved here from the Midwest, who don't like it, due to lack of diversity and feeling othered. They eventually took a job in Boston and now interact more with people who they have things in common with, simply because Maine doesn't offer that for them here. Maine is a beautiful place for vacations, but the rural lifestyle here doesn't appeal to everyone. The customs can be weird to people from elsewhere. Even within the state, it's partly rural and then there's the Portland area, which is vastly different in terms of diversity and culture compared to the more rural areas, tho' there are pockets where the two overlap.

You said in your opening statement that you now know you need a big city to thrive. You also knew it was a risk. All risks don't work out, and that's okay. Put it down to a learning experience. You have now gained more insight and self-knowledge as to what makes you tick, and what you need to thrive as a human being. Congratulations!

You don't have to make an instant decision, nor do you have to continue to struggle to feel like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Just acknowledge that it sucks right now, and it's okay to admit it. It's not something "dumb" you did. It's something brave that you did! You were brave to move across country and try something new! It was for the right reasons, to be with your partner, to try something new, to stretch yourself.

Ask yourself: do you want to continue to live there longterm? If you found a new and better job, would that make you more inclined to want to stay? How long is your partner going to be in grad school there? Do they want to finish and stay there, or finish and move back East, or transfer schools and finish back East? IDK if that's an option for grad school, just a suggestion. Do you want to move back East and establish yourself again, and then they can join you later on, when they have finished school?

What I'd do is just have a greenlighting session, using a giant piece of paper, or notebook, and write down all the possibilities. You can make it like a tree, or roads with forks, and say, "well, if I did A, then this and this and this might happen, if I did B, this and this and this might happen," and on and on, until you've exhausted all the possibilities, good and bad, and in between. What are you willing to compromise on in the future, and what are deal breakers to you (such as having your own community and not feeling other, having a job that doesn't suck, etc.)? Then go back and revisit it again a few days later, after you've sat on it and had time to process it and see which path tugs at you the most. Without guilt, or worry, just which one you are drawn to the most. Figure out why, and then figure out do you want to try and do that there, where you are at now, or do it back East, where you have had good experiences. Maybe you'll want to stay and give it a chance, or move closer to the big city or maybe not. Only you can answer that question, because it's YOUR life, not your therapist's, not your partner's, and certainly not your funked up jobs and spitting co-workers' and boss's life.

You are not dumb. You are brave, and self-aware, and you can figure this out!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:00 AM on September 5, 2019 [8 favorites]

Nthing that you are not dumb. You took a risk, you planned as well as you could, and it's been a little rocky. You have put an impressive amount of effort into making it work.

It's possible things could get better where you are. As stated above, just changing your job would probably help quite a lot. It is possible to find another job with insurance that helps your resume and isn't a soul-sucking hell-hole with a 2-hour commute. People post questions on the green all the time about changing jobs when they turn out to be toxic within a few weeks or months; you might want to look over them or post your own next week.

Yes to talking to your partner about moving back. But if for some reason it makes sense for both of you to delay the move, go ahead and look for another job. You are obviously an intelligent, resourceful person with solid communication skills - just on the basis of this ask - and it seems very possible that other employers in your area would be interested in you. I've left a toxic work environment for a temp job - twice - and it was absolutely worth it.

Also, this recent post on the blue caught my eye. I'm not very familiar with ACT but the notion of accepting your own difficult feelings about difficult situations sounds promising, and the timing. Synchronicity.

(After my first major move, it took me about a year just to start to find my footing, the second major move has taken longer - maybe 2-3 years. It seems to vary based on life stage, location, chance, age, depression, etc. My own experience with a toxic work environment was that it made me more hesitant to trust people and make friends outside of work. But we're wired for connection and it really sucks to struggle along without it).
posted by bunderful at 5:32 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I know that it can take a up to a year to adjust to a new place but wow.

Don't sell this part of it short. Moving somewhere new sucks and you're in the very worst part of it because you know enough to know how much you don't know. I honestly think it takes closer to two years to really get settled somewhere new.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:10 AM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

Focus your energy on either moving back east or to the semi-nearby city. I know you're already working on finding another job, but I'm not sure if you've been able to put adequate energy into it if you've also been trying to find ways to be content where you are.

I think that (1) giving up on the "trying to make this work" thing will give you more mental space for a job search, and (2) making a clear decision that you're leaving will raise your mood enough to make you excited for future possibilities, and thus make the job search easier and more productive.
posted by metasarah at 8:16 AM on September 5, 2019

This is not supposed to be a holistic answer, just an option to consider, if I am reading correctly: your partner is in grad school? If correct, and you are about 2 hours from the Big City, would it be unreasonable to move to or at least close by the Big City and not live in the crummy little small town? Most folks in Phd programs don't *have* to live right in town, on campus... could your partner share more of your 2 hour commute?

When I read your post - and I sympathize greatly - the thing that popped out at me was the 2 hour commute to a terrible job. I have a job I don't really care about, but I used to HATE my job when I had to commute 1.5 hours. I relocated offices so my commute is about 20 minutes. Changing my commute truly improved my quality of life, by a lot.
posted by RajahKing at 8:29 AM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh my god! I am in a similar position where I hate where I live and I hate the city, the weather, it doesn’t have the features I want or need in my life. I also haven’t clicked with anyone for friendship. It’s so depressing and I feel like a fish out of water

I’ve told my husband that in no uncertain terms, I can deal with it for a fixed term but we need to find a different future together than just living here.

Anyway, it really helped me articulate my thoughts and accept my own feelings when I read about the human need for a sense of belonging and the psychic injury it is to be rejected by my peer group here. I was crying when I read just the wiki page on belonging!
posted by catspajammies at 10:26 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Another vote for investing your energy into an escape plan. You're in the wrong place and you know it. Nothing you do will change this. Life is short—start making plans and get excited about your future.

(N.B., I am oh-so-familar with this story.)
posted by she's not there at 11:28 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

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