I’d never worked before. Then came COVID. Now what?
October 29, 2020 1:16 AM   Subscribe

To make the longest possible story short, I’m 30 and haven’t worked for pay more than maybe 2 days in my life. Not that I’d planned it this way. I was even, for a while, branded the golden boy of my family and circle of friends in not so many words. But the same things that served as inspiration porn for the first third of my life had all the while been hard at work hiding mountains I now don’t know how to move. I have cerebral palsy, I stutter, and see no end to a saga with treatment resistant depression and brain fog. I need to work. What do I do? *Warning: definite wall of text*

I have a long history here on MeFi but have neither the spoons nor the sadistic tendencies necessary to push links to my whiny question history on the ever-charitable hivemind. It’s there, just past the name, though let me save you the trouble and say: this is gifted child syndrome, extreme edition, and nothing’s changed over the years, except to get darker and more difficult.
I’m thoroughly burnt out.
After pulling teeth to make it to college graduation in spite of a sudden loss of my ability to write without paralyzing hesitation, I made a half-hearted attempt to grow up: Sent out some resumes, let myself be dragged through a maze of dehumanizing vocational and training programs supposedly meant to help folks with disabilties, set up a linked in, rewrote those resumes 1000x, networked as best I could. After the millionth un-returned phone call, bureaucratic fever dream of a meeting and and “good luck to you” email from this contact and that job coach and that program,
I gave up.

I had been sitting at home with depressed and declining parents, spending too much money on Amazon and time on Netflix, and making too many trips to the same three or four sad haunts - the drugstore, Target/Homegoods, the grocery store, etc for years. But I had a core group of friends that I saw for very occasional coffee dates and jaunts to the city (NYC). I slogged through a medical coding course before becoming too overwhelmed and quitting. I was still dead-tired. Life still sucked. I had, though some semblance of a reason to get my ass off the bed in the morning and follow some sort of a schedule. It’s important to say, however, that this too was fading quickly and on the past 3 years went, with me spending more and more time in the house, doing less and less.

Then came COVID, and what rare, weak sparks of motivation to get out of these four walls and on with life turned into full days staring out my window and paralyzed by existential dread. There was a maybe-perverse peace I felt in the beginning. The guilt I had about wasting years of my life at the most basic levels of existence felt a little bit easier to bear because, just like it had for me, the meaning of time and goals and relationships had dissolved for most of the planet, for most of this year. If I’m honest with myself, I know full well I was only using it as a socially acceptable placeholder I planned to stretch for as long as I could, so that maybe I could finally join adult society at this new starting point when my brain stopped burning

That isn’t happening. Even as working life has undergone massive shifts, I still can’t find my place. I still have a stubborn microscopic spark of hope that I’ll one day work in medicine, and write again, and find a loving relationship, but those are fading quickly and I feel like I’m just regressing to being a blob. I talk to no one, not even online, though I’ve promised again and again to finally make good on my promise to reach out after posting the odd-attention seeking status and getting largely supportive, warm comments.

I haven’t done anything but cope with existence in some very maladaptive, low-effort ways. I don’t have anything to show for the past 5 years *at least*. There are things before then that I might have been able to get creative with on a resume, but anyone with a brain will raise several hundred red flags after a look at my “work” history. No remotely recent projects/ training/learning/ volunteering. Nothing. I feel dead. What do I do, with a psychology and neuroscience degree and 10 years of nothing after it to work, start earning a decent, livable salary and get my sense of self back?

I know this rambling mess probably leaves many details fuzzy, so Ill do my best to answer, though I’m hoping my question history can help any curious, kind Greenfolk make better sense of things.
I just have zero spoons, have been meaning to post this question for months, and knew I never would if I didn’t just put words down already. Hope me, please. My parents have given up, friends and mentors too, if I’m honest. I don’t know who I am anymore and I need help.

A note: I know I need but cant afford good, long-term, consistent therapy, and it never helped much when I could. More generally, my parents are very, very deeply sunken into their apathy and don’t have the stamina, money or headspace to help in really any way. My younger brother moved out two years ago and got married last week. It’s just me, my parents, my bed, my depressed dog, and Fox News almost 24/7 because, for my dad especially, that's all he’s decided is left at 65.
posted by marsbar77 to Work & Money (35 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Please excuse me if I sound excessively dry and practical, I'm out of feelingswords myself at the moment (but you deserve all the kindness, your suffering is legit and please don't think of it as whining.)

I'd like to point out that this (A)
What do I do, with a psychology and neuroscience degree and 10 years of nothing after it to work, start earning a decent, livable salary

is a separate issue from this (B)
I don’t know who I am anymore and I need help

They're of course intertwined and it makes sense that you feel the way you do. Many would. But B does not necessarily follow from A, solving B would not necessarily solve A and vice versa, and both can be addressed independently from each other.

Trying to handle both as one package seems overwhelming and unviable.

If it were me, I would focus on coming to grips with my depression first, it seems the more fruitful approach. However, you have ruled out therapy. (I would be interested in more details of your past experiences with therapy?)

Sorry if that doesn't give you much to go on. I feel like the question is a little out of our paygrades as anonymous commenters, precisely because it is both serious and extremely well expressed (not at all a rambling mess). You seem like a thoughtful and resourceful person with a love of precise writing (hello fellow word lover!). I hope other people here will have more immediately useful advice.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:49 AM on October 29, 2020 [6 favorites]

This might seem like suggesting you climb a massive mountain when you’re struggling to get to the top of a molehill right now, but is there any way at all you can move away from your parents? Living with two apathetic, depressed people, who watch Fox News 24/7 (particularly if they’re your parents, who can have a particularly powerful effect on us) seems like it would drain anyone’s life force from them.

If you’re reliant on them because of your disability, is some kind of assisted/supported living arrangement possible at all? I’ll admit to knowing very little about the practicalities or the emotional implications for you of that. But it feels like receiving assistance from neutral people and not having your draining parents constantly around you could be a tremendous step forward.

Can you make one of those social posts explicitly saying you have something you need help with, to move your life forward, asking if anybody would be prepared to spare some time to help you? Then ask them to help you research possibilities (via Zoom if need be), keep up momentum, and help you through it. You say your friends have given up, but you also say you get supportive comments when you make a post. Seems like there’s a good chance someone would be willing to respond to a specific request to help you with something that would create a positive change in your life.

Sorry if this is hopelessly naive for your current situation, but getting some space from your depressed parents does seem like it would be a great step forward if it’s possible.
posted by penguin pie at 4:12 AM on October 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

I think trying to solve everything at once is really human and also hard to cope with. My comments below are practical and you may need medical help with depression too, but my knowledge is at the other end.

I think I would advise you to treat yourself like your own beloved child or partner. And take it down to a very bite-sized level. What can you do today in your day that will make you feel better, and help you start building up the qualities you have that will help you enjoy your life including reaching your goals. Your parents have kind of failed and my guess is basically you need to treat yourself like a 16 or 17 year old and be kind and supportive to that person.

So, baby steps. My family made a list over the shut down:

Get up by a set time.
Get outside every day even if it was sitting on the porch (most days we did more and explored parks...I don’t know what your specific physical limitations are)
Do 3 chores (chores in my house are divided into 5-10 minute chunks)
Work on a hobby for 20 minutes.
Eat fruit/veggies
Read for 30 minutes for pleasure, but off a screen. We light candles and put in spa music and have warm blankets for this.
Look at one piece of art on the internet or in a public place. (I recommend searching on Twitter or Instagram and following artists.)
Share one thing you’re grateful for at dinner.

This list might not work for you but I can take you through it a bit:

Getting outside and moving, eating ok - physical well-being
Chores - feeling of accomplishment, relationship to the home/earth
Hobby - persistence, exploring ones own interests and abilities
Reading art and gratitude - connection To human experience, screen detox

I would look to build a few habits focused on treating yourself like your future clients. I see your future in something like social work because you have built up a very deep well of experience in barriers, and unsuccessful supports, and once you crack this nut for yourself you will be mighty. But that’s kind of a five year project. Right now you just need to get back in touch with the qualities that you already have where you finished (finished!!!) a degree. Please do it kindly.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:25 AM on October 29, 2020 [52 favorites]

I was in a similar place as you are - college + no work history + crippling depression for 10 years + abusive marriage - and what helped me was saying, fuck my dreams of a "Real Job Worthy Of My College Degree", I'll get a job at Starbucks.

4 hours a day, 6 days a week, I worked the opening shift starting 5 a.m. Best thing I ever did for myself, hands down. Getting up and going to work every day, bantering with coworkers, wiping down coffee machines, and honestly just putting myself in a fresh environment... that made all the difference. I do have a real job worthy of my college degree and a pretty kickass life now, six years later, but all this began with getting a job at Starbucks. Getting started is key when you're frozen in place.

Perhaps being a Starbucks barista isn't the right job for you, but think along those lines. What can you do that will get you out of the house by next week on a daily basis? Yes, it's Covid, but there's work and volunteer opportunities out there still, waiting for someone to show up. Show up. It's not beneath you, it's not beneath your degree. I promise.
posted by MiraK at 4:32 AM on October 29, 2020 [79 favorites]

(Adding to the above: IDK about you but one of the hardest things for me to do is create habits for myself and keep commitments to myself. Making outside commitments was therefore the only way for me to unfreeze. Getting a job was the only way to keep my momentum... every other resolution to work out or write or set aside time to do X every day seemed to be beyond me then, and honestly is beyond me now.)
posted by MiraK at 4:41 AM on October 29, 2020 [10 favorites]

If long term therapy wont work, how about medication? There are several antidepressants that might be useful to get you out of this rut. You dont have to take them forever, but you can if you want to. Honestly, you sound about where I was 5 years ago (for different reasons but the same mental state), and medication gave me my life back. It gave me my self back.
posted by ananci at 5:42 AM on October 29, 2020 [7 favorites]

Completely agree with MiraK above. Having a consistent routine and someone needing you to leave the house is so huge to morale and energy and self-value.

Jobs that pay well, and treat their employees well:

Amazon fulfillment center (Yes, really)

Get the job first to give yourself motivation. Then in a few months, re-evaluate.
posted by bbqturtle at 5:47 AM on October 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I really, really, really agree with the idea that you should get an entry-ish level job like Starbucks (or retail store cashier, or whatever could possibly work for you). The caveat is COVID, and you may not be comfortable taking the risk or possibly putting your parents at risk. The current state of the economy may also be a challenge, but maybe a program that helps people with disabilities find jobs could help connect you with something.

The key is that it could break you out of inaction. You'd have an external schedule imposed on you. You'd have to get out of the house. You'd have to focus on something other than yourself. You'd have the sense of satisfaction of having done something for the day. You'd make a little money. All of this could help reduce your depression enough to take more steps later in the future (studying for a different job, moving out, etc.) If you try to take on too much (even just trying to figure things out at home), you could stay stuck. A basic job can give you the momentum to do more.
posted by pinochiette at 6:02 AM on October 29, 2020 [7 favorites]

This is a random thought so take it with a grain of salt, but recently my boyfriend's absolutely horrible "depression" that we all thought was treatment resistant turned out to be absolutely horrible ADD that responds very well to medication. I looked at your old questions and saw you were on (self-procured?) Adderall and wondered if you might want to think down those lines. Bf is doing a lot better now in large part because he says his brain can actually slow down and feel good about having completed tasks, instead of making everything feel like insurmountable drudgery. Anyway worth checking.

Whether or not that's applicable to you, I think you really should try to find a job also. Not for money as much as accountability to an outside source. Finding any random job as long as you have a manager who expects you to show up/logon on time would work. When I first applied to retail jobs as a high school kid I got rejected all over the place for what I assume is lack of experience before getting a job and I was a GREAT cashier once I got my foot in the door :) You can definitely do it too and I think you will have an easier time with a college degree-just saying, don't give up right away if you get a rejection. You can do it.

Or even get a pet. Even a hamster or rat would be dependent on you for food and would make you get out of bed every day.

Anyway, thinking of you. These times are just baseline really shitty.
posted by clarinet at 6:15 AM on October 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

So, the OP has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, and I think it would be cool if people could be thoughtful and stop recommending physical labour jobs. Retail may also be dicey, not because they would be unable to do it (although counter work isn't always very accessible, depending on the way the place is designed) but because retail employers are horrendous wrt disability stuff. I don't think that the main issue here is of someone who thinks they are too good for certain kinds of work.

OP, I don't have easy solutions for you. We're living in a horrendous and unjust world. I will tell you that three things that have helped me immensely, in different struggles but with a certain commonality, have been fandom - where labour happens all the time, in a way that is free from the requirement to be paid for it - finding people like me (in my case, gay and trans and autistic) to talk to every day, and getting angry. It's harder for me to flop and blame myself for the world's injustices when I'm angry about them.
posted by Acheman at 6:19 AM on October 29, 2020 [39 favorites]

Sorry, missed you have a dog and absolutely know that retail can be difficult in a wheelchair. But something online (call center? data entry?) would work too. Forget me saying to get a pet and maybe take the dog on a short walk every day? Or play with him for x minutes a day?
posted by clarinet at 6:26 AM on October 29, 2020

-Find yourself an online support group, or two, or three. You need new people with whom you can interact on a regular basis. If you don't find one you like right away keep trying.

-Look into online certificate or masters programs with good job placement track records. Have you ever considered genetic counseling as a possible career? ( I know about this growing field from family members who have needed it and from the college students I worked with until I retired in January.)

-Look into subsidized housing for people with handicaps so you can become independent of your parents. Or find a graduate program that offers housing.

-Vocational Rehabilitation programs used to pay for education and maybe still do. Are you in touch with people at your local office, which is probably this one?
When was the last time you interacted with them? Get in touch and be persistent!

Best of luck to you, and keep reaching out.
posted by mareli at 6:29 AM on October 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Acheman makes a great point: OP is disabled and uses a wheelchair. Being a Starbucks barista may not be a possibility for you, OP, but there really are entry level jobs that you would kick ass at.

Call centers and online tech support/helpdesk jobs might be good to consider, but I'm pulling for something that will get you out of the house and in a new environment with at least some level of contact with real people face-to-face if possible. Cashier, service counters, receptionist & front desk roles, or even dog walking might be just the ticket for you.
posted by MiraK at 6:30 AM on October 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

I agree that getting any job at all would be a good short-term goal. Lionbridge and Appen have legitimate work-from-home jobs that pay a decent amount. (At least some of them do; I'm not familiar with every job.) You set your own hours and never talk to another person. Something that got you out of the house and in contact with other people, with accountability to someone else who would know if you didn't show up, could be preferable. On the other hand, with online work you wouldn't have to worry about transportation and no one would have any way of knowing you were disabled or had a stutter, so you wouldn't have to worry that might be a barrier to being hired.
posted by Redstart at 6:46 AM on October 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

This question brings to mind the card that made the rounds a few years ago from anti-capitalist love notes: you are worth so much more than your productivity.

Our culture attaches a lot to jobs. A job can (obviously) serve or is often expected to serve a lot of different purposes: income, structure to your day, providing meaning, providing social interaction, providing social status and/or self esteem, etc. While you may want or need most or all of those things and a job might provide them, given the circumstances (both in the world and of your life at the moment) it makes sense to look for each of those things from different places. I know of people who are on disability (which is obviously not 'making a good living' or setting you on a path to it, but neither is retail or a call center) and engage with the world and find/create meaning for themselves on their own terms (often including arts and social justice stuff), and that's also a totally valid way to live.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:01 AM on October 29, 2020 [15 favorites]

(And I'd like to add to the above: I have worked at retail/etc jobs, and yes they can absolutely be useful for getting out of a certain kind of funk, up to a point. I'm not saying that those jobs can't be useful or that you shouldn't try for them if there is one that fits. But there's also a lot of factors there that are not in your control, especially in times of pandemic, and pivoting to things you can change (including the way you view yourself as someone who does not have a job) is valuable.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:10 AM on October 29, 2020

To clarify, I don't think any of us are telling you to get a job because we think having a job makes you a more worthwhile person, OP. This advice is meant 100% for YOUR benefit, to break you out of feeling stuck and frozen in life. Getting a job now is a way to get the momentum and energy and confidence you need to start moving towards YOUR self actualization, whatever that looks like.
posted by MiraK at 7:37 AM on October 29, 2020 [11 favorites]

Yeah, when I am depressed it is so so hard to be accountable to myself for anything. Like I love crafting, but if I were super depressed it would be so hard to make my daily goal crafting for x amount of time because I would only be accountable to myself and feel like I could put it off, so I would, and then I would feel crappy and guilty for "failing" and it would be a bad cycle. Hence the job suggestion-your manager is totally separate from your inner thoughts and is simply a person who wants to see you at work. I will be quiet now :)
posted by clarinet at 7:54 AM on October 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

I find myself wondering why the medical coding didn't work out. Maybe it was depression, and maybe it was too much by rote and not enough thinking. It is a possibility that has some of the advantages of the Starbucks idea, but which can be done in a cubicle, or even an office, and the disability issue is much less important.

I agree with the folks the important thing is to something, anything. One way to volunteer is to answer questions on one or more of the many platforms that make it possible: here, Quora, Stack Exchange, etc. Find one dealing with subject matter you know more about than most people, and get feel for what level of difficulty you are best suited to deal with. It will give a chance to revisit the knowledge you garnered via education, and add to the pattern of your day.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:55 AM on October 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I want to chime in that this is not your failing. Having a disability is a huge barrier to education and employment and that is a shameful societal failure. If you can find a community of folks with disabilities, ideally located near you, they’re going to have much better advice than you’re getting here. +1 to prioritizing treating yourself kindly and reconnecting with friends, and then making sure you’re maxing out the government and organizational support you can get. You deserve therapy and help moving out if you want to and accessible transportation and a full life and I’m sorry it’s hard to get. Remember that you deserve it and keep asking.
posted by momus_window at 8:57 AM on October 29, 2020 [10 favorites]

When is the last time you rolled by the nearest Center for Independent Living? If they are on your screen, consider volunteering in some capacity.

Also, have you watched Crip Camp? It features real people, and follows friendships and careers, and there are a few people that have a similar profile to you. (Went to college, fought barriers). It’s R because of frank discussions about sexY’all activity. Your parents won’t see this content on Fox, and frankly, it might scare them. How are they with ableism? How are you at rooting out internalized ableism-it can be a real struggle, even on a sunny day. My hunch is that the spark you mention is actually a much larger ball of energy once you dig a little deeper. How that interacts with depression is something else to sort out. Bruce Springsteen battled some of it out with the songs he wrote and sings, and your parents may be numbing their own with TV. You get to manage your own path which can be both frightening and empowering. Go to a protest in NYC that has access at its core (subway access, affordable care act, etc) - it might energize that spark.

Create your own tribe or join one via social media. Search up, and network with, people who fit your profile and made a life and career for themselves. Are they self employed? Started their own business and employed others? That happens as well as being hired, and you’ve mentioned it’s a tough market for hiring. You have solid writing ability, how would you do at editing resumes? Grammar-checking and coaching ESL written materials?

Alice Wong’s Disability Visibility podcast opening music is my favorite earworm. She is someone who custom designed her life and, I believe, successfully lives with, and worries about, her parents. You are far from alone, and may be having a wee bit of a hangover from your brother’s wedding. Remain open to what puts wind in your sails as you wrestle with the slings and arrows.
posted by childofTethys at 8:57 AM on October 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

Consider online tutoring? There are several volunteer sites as well as paid ones.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 9:16 AM on October 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Oh, you're only 30. So there are a lot of people your age who have no work history yet, or they have work experience that didn't turn out well. In that regard you're not so far outside the norm to an observer, although I am sure it feels like you've been stuck for a very long time.

Here's what I did when I had moved to an new area and had no idea what to do for work. I volunteered with a literacy organization, which turned out to be mainly about English language learning, not reading per se. For some of my fellow volunteers it was a bridge to getting into (or back into) teaching or some kind of counseling-- which is honestly the kind of thing I think you might end up doing. For me it was more about getting out and sticking to a schedule, and it was fun and interesting. You might want to find an organization like that right now and see if they are doing virtual meetings-- if not with students, among themselves. There is usually a short orientation. It could be that if traveling to a site is an issue, you could continue on a virtual level even as restrictions ease up.
posted by BibiRose at 10:12 AM on October 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry for all the tone-deaf advice you're getting about manual labor when your question makes it very clear you are disabled. I like to think AskMe can do better than that. I hope you're not feeling too discouraged by it. It sounds like you've already tried everything you can think of to get a job including vocational services for people with different abilities.

You're out of spoons and don't have a support system. That's a hard place to be in. I've been there myself. I'm autistic with a bunch of mood disorders. You mentioned that you can't write without paralyzing hesitation. I understand that too. I'm a professional writer and editor. And I don't have a typical job. I'm currently writing a novel. That's all I've ever wanted to do, and now the pandemic and expanded unemployment benefits along with my family's support have made that possible.

"They" say you can't make a living as a writer. Well, here's what I say back: I haven't been able to make a living as anything else, so why not give this a shot? If all I can get are part-time minimum wage jobs that net me < 10K a year, if I have to be fucking poor, why not be fucking poor doing something I actually love?

Despite the hesitation, which is very normal for writers, you ARE a good writer. And writing a book can give a sense of purpose to life during this pandemic, if that's something you're interested in. Even just journaling every day can help.

I have found paid work as a freelancer for a local lifestyle publication in the past, so if that interests you and there is one (or more) in your area, you could look into that as well. Or maybe write for disability advocacy publications.

The hesitancy will diminish with practice over time, especially once you start getting positive feedback. It's pretty awesome to get fan letters, thank yous, and praise from your editors (or angry missives from people you intend to shake up, if you're the muckraking sort).

Online writer's groups can also be a source of support, just make sure the people in the group are a good fit with you. Even just one person can make a difference. I have a weekly phone meeting with a fellow novelist and we read to each other from our WIPs and encourage each other. This is a friend I have known since college, so I know he's a safe person for me to share things with and vice versa. We don't harshly critique each other, though we do make suggestions from time to time.

I'd be happy to talk more about writing if you feel like MeFiMailing me. I really think you have a gift for words.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 10:40 AM on October 29, 2020 [11 favorites]

Your writing is compelling. Have you ever considered it as a vocation? I like a lot of the suggestions above including finding independent housing. Writing about your disability, writing for disability rights publications or organizations, writing on other topics of interest to you, might be an outlet for part of your talent and ambition. I know writing is not necessarily a lucrative career but if you haven’t considered it, maybe just throw that in the mix as an idea.
posted by amanda at 10:40 AM on October 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Is this something that would be interesting to you? They have a way to build your resume.
posted by gt2 at 12:31 PM on October 29, 2020

Memailed you
posted by Omnomnom at 1:00 PM on October 29, 2020

Would you be at all interested in AmeriCorps? They're year long service placements in nonprofit orgs. The pay is bad (because it's just a living stipend) and it might or might not allow you to move out of your parent's place depending on your finances, but it could be a good way to get started on building a career. There are placements in healthcare-- an example in ny, here's another example that is in healthcare but more communications/grants focused.

If you are interested in AmeriCorps, you should know that their are multiple branches and that the VISTA programs tend to focus more on the behind-the-scenes capacity building work which might be of interest if you're looking to develop your writing skills.

Feel free to message me if you have any questions-- I've done two years in different programs and know a lot of people who have done it. The placements are definitely a mixed bag so I can give you some thoughts on finding a good one and some guidance on navigating the application process.
posted by geegollygosh at 1:08 PM on October 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

As a fellow disabled person A lot the responses in this are disheartening and honestly not good advice. Even when I was a more spry and able bodied teen, retail and customer service is physically and mentally crushing work. It’s like beating yourself against rocks. Maybe people love it but you can’t deny the physicality. Not to mention we are in a pandemic and customer facing work for a high risk person is not ideal. Nor is it easy to just pick up a retail job especially as a disabled person.

I’m am SO sorry you are feeling this way and getting advice that is lacking.

1) I assume you have a doctor. I also know doctors can be crap. But have you consulted about these symptoms recently? Have they done any bloodwork to check for things that can cause brain fog and fatigue?

I get that sometimes that comes with the territory. I have ME/CFS and the brain fog can be debilitating and it’s just part of it. But I’ve also had it be worsted my low iron that I needed infusions for.

In addition it may be beneficial for you to discuss your mental health. Have you ever been evaluated for ADHD or brain chemistry depression. Those can really mess with your executive function and follow through. I also know depression can be situational where medication couldn’t be appropriate. If you can, do try therapy or look into affordable options again. It can be hard to find the right match but it can be really helpful.

If you can get any improvement medically it may help relieve stress. However I do understand that often this doesn’t work, you don’t have access to care, or there may be nothing to be done. Of course do the best you can with habits and lifestyle, but as a fellow disabled person if one more person tells me to exercise I might explode into flames. We are often expected to be 100% perfect at self-care and that’s not achievable for most people. I assume you know what you can do with your body in your day-to-day life to try to help some of these things. But a question you’re having is about actually accomplishing them.

2) The pandemic is soul crushing it right now. As a disabled person the rhetoric and access to care, and stores, and public life is honestly heartbreaking. You are not alone in feeling lost, confused, and questioning what you wanna do in your life or wanting a change. I’ve only attended appointments since March. It’s absolutely depressing and you’re feel stuck inside. Well everyone around you seems to not care that there’s a deadly pandemic. Yeah it’s extraordinarily dangerous for people like us.

I mention that because I want you to understand that well this is something that’s going on with a lot of people it is extremely valid. It may be a good idea to journal or mentally explore how much of this stress is being caused by the pandemic. We are expected to just deal with like life is normal. It absolutely is not right now.

3) I really fully understand where you are with being overwhelmed and not being able to follow through or get into a routine. I also understand feeling very lost alone and a drift at this point in time. My general advice is to try to do everything above do everything you can if possible to try to get to a better less stressful place. That is so much easier said than done.

I wish I had a magic pill for you. This is why I definitely suggest a therapist or someone who can help you be accountable and help you set up a good plan that works within your physical mental and emotional ability to follow through. I myself am stuck in trying to get back on a routine but keeping foiled by my body.

I suggest taking a few minutes and writing down what your exact goals are. How can you accomplish those goals? What steps are in the way? Try to break it down even to the most microscopic of tasks and try to follow through with them even just a few minutes or even a minute a day. Sometimes breaking it down into the small chunks makes it much more achievable.

In writing that list I would also work on setting aside things that are not as important to your goals. Sometimes clearing our plate is just as effective as adding more to do items.

4) I know you said you’ve reached out to disability organizations, but I would look into doing something similar again. However I would maybe look more for support network and some thing you could do to volunteer to give you more of a hobby or goal or career like thing which can help and add to your resume. There are definitely disability nonprofits who may need help with something like data entry or sorting through emails or anything else that might be able to be done remotely on the computer.

For example I know some disabled people who have worked in the library. The work was more calming and the environment was more accessible.

It could also be beneficial to look for some thing like low-cost therapy or therapist that are familiar with disability and chronic illness.

5) I assume you already have worked out the legalities and pros and cons of paid work if you are on benefits. If you aren’t on benefits I assume you’ve already looked into that. I just wanted to mention it in case it hadn’t come up about the possibility of losing benefits or not being able to get the correct benefits. I also know very well that often these benefits are not helpful in finding paid work can be more beneficial if it’s possible for you to do it.

6) I truly wish I could help more specifically. But I do think that you have a variety of things going on that might take a few different approaches. That’s why I really suggest trying to find someone to speak with and breaking these things down into small doable options. Including evaluating what you may be able to physically do or not.

Life is a disabled person is extraordinarily complicated and people often do not understand the new ones as to why we can feel overwhelmed. Living with a disability is a full-time job. Just trying to manage your health is a full-time job. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed it’s just about trying to find a solution for that.

Again a bare minimum I wanted to come on here and say that your feelings are valid. This stuff is extremely difficult. It is not something that is easily solved by doing exercise are going on outings. It’s not something that’s easily solved by getting a physically demanding retail job. There may be multiple factors that need attention.

Life is a disabled person is extraordinarily complicated and people often do not understand the nuances as to why we can feel overwhelmed. Living with a disability is a full-time job. Just trying to manage your health is a full-time job. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed it’s just about trying to find a solution for that.

So I am here if you want to chat. I don’t know how much exact advice I can offer other than things that I’ve dealt with or done but it’s basically what I’ve said. I’ve gotten a therapist. I’m working as hard as I can on the health aspect. I try to break it down into extremely small tasks even a small is making a phone call. But I also am not looking for a job.

In addition I don’t know how great of advice I have because I also don’t have the spoons to do a deep dive into motivation and how we get there. Unfortunately it seems that disabled people have to spend their limited energy supporting others because able-bodied people do not understand the struggles in the same way.

I wish you the best of luck and sincerely hope that you can work on a path to try to get to a better place.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:15 PM on October 29, 2020 [21 favorites]

Something that you could do (over the next few days at least) is phone or text banking for the election. Longer term, perhaps you would be interested in exploring citizen science? There are probably volunteer opportunities for online tutoring of k-12 students right now as well.

Besides writing, have you considered editing? Creating your own YouTube channel? Contact tracing?

Your university probably offers some resources (job wise and other) to its alumni. If you think you may want to go back to medical coding you could do some background reading/ studying so that an actual course will seem less overwhelming. Or maybe take an online course (e.g.).

I also suggest that you try to find an online community somewhere.
posted by oceano at 1:25 PM on October 29, 2020

(sorry for any weirdness above. Voice to text wasn’t behaving)
posted by Crystalinne at 1:32 PM on October 29, 2020

So I took a scan at your posting history, and I see that you have tried many of the things suggested here. The brain fog and tiredness remind me of the symptoms of undiagnosed autoimmune disorders. Have you ever been screened for celiac and other autoimmune things? I think an endocrinologist or rheumatologist would be the specialists to see, but a good primary care provider could do some initial tests too.
posted by purple_bird at 1:41 PM on October 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I look at this and I think: medicine needs you. There's so many options for a smart person and so much need. Psychology and neuroscience? Counselling, therapy? Social work? Assisting people with applications for programs, with their taxes, with intake forms? Ward clerk? Please don't feel you need to start on a new degree to get there. It doesn't have to be a paid role - sometimes a good volunteer gig will get you in the door.

Depending on your physical abilities there are a lot of med-adjacent but oh so necessary roles - asthma educators, diabetes educators, cancer care coordinators, filing medical records, appealing insurance claims with your medical billing knowledge? A lot of this work is very routine, it's true, but it's also important work where you can make a personal connection and sometimes see the changes you suggest take effect.

And once you've got to a spot with some income, I hope you start up with therapy again. Because medicine burns people out, and you'll come across people whose situation resonates unpleasantly with your own, and you can't do good work if you're burnt out.
posted by quercus23 at 3:52 PM on October 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

OP, are you in New York? Since you have a disability, there is likely at least one type of agency in your area that helps people with disabilities assess their skills, sharpen resumes, apply for jobs, and find meaningful work. I was a job coach for awhile for adults with disabilities; the work for me was good, and I think a lot of the people I supported at work also found our agency to be useful and having paid work fulfilling. A quick Google search could be a constructive first step. If you do a Google search now for an agency like this in your area, maybe pause, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you're fighting for yourself and you're doing great. Even a Google search to move you towards a path is an accomplishment. I also felt some resonance with how you described your mental states to my own ADHD (diagnosed as an adult). I can't speak to the medical piece beyond this, but perhaps something worth getting evaluated for, and something that a job agency also might have additional resources on, or vice versa. Is there a support group in your region for people with cerebral palsy? Perhaps reaching out to a group that is aware of cerebral palsy specific challenges and how to cope with them could provide some leads.
Every time you reach out for help, no matter what the result, you fan the flames of hope for yourself and your life. Can you see that this AskMe question is coming from a fighting place, a place of hope? Because you're worth it.
Good luck OP.
posted by erattacorrige at 6:26 PM on October 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

As someone who also has CP, I don't think people understand the fatigue factor. Cerebral Palsy is exhausting. But it's also a vicious cycle because the more tired you get, the less you do, and then the more tired you get because you're not doing anything.

Get out of the house for a certain amount of time per day. Start with small steps.
posted by aclevername at 5:17 AM on October 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

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