this too shall pass? really? how can you be sure?
April 17, 2022 7:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm feeling depressed after friend break-ups last year and a romantic break-up this year and I feel like I've failed my college social life completely, and now I'm feeling super anxious about life after graduation. more details inside. thank you for the advice.

I've been posting a number of questions in the Human Relations section which I feel guilty about; I'm just in a moment where I'm feeling incredibly overwhelmed and, honestly, pretty hopeless about the future.

I'm a senior in college and my time in college has been...difficult, to say the least. Especially this semester. I'm still dealing with residual grief from pretty bad friend break-ups that happened over a year ago (more details here) and now also dealing with grief from a breakup earlier this semester that I did not want to happen (more details here). I have trying to dealing with these difficult situations the best I can and I can tell definitively that I have learned a lot from them, and I imagine that in like five years, I'll look back at this time in my life and in some way be grateful for these experiences because of how much I have grown.

Two common mantras I've repeated to myself ironically-but-not-really in this time are "It's good for the plot" and "It's good for building character". These are mostly just a way to make me laugh in times that feel especially dark and difficult, but I do deep down believe in the truth of these statements. I know I have gained the gift of experience through these situations, and I can already tell that I am reaping the benefits of this experience; I am better poised to empathize with other people, to offer advice and support when they're going through challenging situations, to treat people in general with so much more kindness. I am so much more emotionally open than I have ever been in my past, which makes the world a much more beautiful and terrifying place. And I am deeply (sometimes almost painfully) aware of all the things I've dealt with in my past and my deepest fears, and I'm trying, every day, to heal from these past hurts and let go of my fears. Clearly my time in college, everything I have gone through, has been so formative for me, and I am so grateful to have learned and grown so much.

But I am so terrified of what comes next. This past year and especially this past semester has just been so painful at so many points - I began the year still reeling from losing all of my closest friends and trying so hard to make new friends, and feeling a sense of impending doom about my relationship that I sort of knew deep down would never last but was too afraid to admit to myself. Most of this semester, I've been processing my grief over my breakup. I feel like I have lost so much at my time in college. I entered college scared and confused (though unaware that that was what I was feeling), and in college, I feel like I struck gold - making friends and finding love and getting all the things that I never even dared to dream of getting as an anxious child who was convinced she was ugly and unlovable. And now, I'm graduating college without those things. I know I've gained so much too (listed above - all of this experience! yay, character development!), and it's not like I've lost all of my friendships. But the friendships I have now aren't super close. And sometimes I feel overwhelmed by what I've lost.

With all of that angst for context, here are the two main things I would love to get advice on:
1. How do I finish off this semester without feeling so depressed? I go to a very small school where I see my ex and ex-friends around all the time; it's pretty much impossible to completely avoid them, though trust me, I've been trying them. Because my school is so small, it's also hard to make new friends - everyone is busy with their other friends. I just feel so emotionally and mentally burnt out, and I've been putting in effort to organize time with my friends, but I just don't have a super steady support system right now, which makes this that much harder. How can I be kind to myself as I try to finish off all my schoolwork and how do I actually enjoy the end of my time at college?
2. How do I stop feeling so terrified about the future? I feel like I had my best moments already in college, and then all of that beauty crashed and burned when my closest relationships ended. I know that it's harder to make friends and meet potential partners after college, and I feel so scared thinking about the future. It feels like college was this kind of unique haven that perfectly incubated friendships and romantic relationships, and I had my chance to make friends and get into relationships, and then I fucked it all up and that's it - I've lost my chance. I know that this is irrational; I'm going to be living in Boston after graduation and I already have a job lined up. But the stakes feel higher now - I'm scared that no one I meet will actually like me or be as interested in getting to know me better as I am in them. All of the advice I've read is contradicting; some people say that life gets so much better after graduation and others say that life gets much harder.

I'm definitely caught in an anxiety spiral. I'm going to take a few deep breaths now. Thank you for reading this, and I appreciate any and all advice.
posted by cruel summer to Human Relations (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: All of the advice I've read is contradicting; some people say that life gets so much better after graduation and others say that life gets much harder.

These things are not mutually exclusive and both true! It is definitely hard to make friends after college. It is also definitely possible. Particularly as I get into my later 20s I have realized that (most) everyone else is also friendless unless they grew up in the place they currently live and therefore many many people will be so excited to meet you. Not being in college was personally wonderful for my anxiety. Having a 9-5 work schedule instead of a procrastination-shame feedback loop was absolutely magical. You will have disposable income and a cool new city to live in. It's going to be great. My recent question history uhhhh shows there can be setbacks, but despite how rough life can be I would not go back to undergrad pretty much under any circumstances. Even though I had a lot of fun!

I came back from study abroad for senior year having been dumped by my first bf and my main group of friends (because we had grown apart while I was gone and my ex was a big social mover and shaker in that group). I spent time with other friends but it was a quiet, lonely end to college. So hugs. I think the best thing I did was to really enjoy campus. You only have a few weeks left, so just soak in the vibes of your favorite places.

Also: I do have lasting friends from college even past all that but they are a full 12 hour drive from me. So even if you got really lucky and came out with a bunch of besties, there would be no guarantee you wouldn't need more friends later. It's just how it goes. You're going to be fine!
posted by clarinet at 7:35 PM on April 17, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Okay, I went back and read through your past questions and I would like to tell you something not directly related to this question: your friends dumped you over behavior that was not actually particularly bad. I went to a small college and had some bad times and lost a set of friends and honestly all the stuff you describe as "destroying those friendships" happened multiple times in the friend-group I kept.

People dating exes without checking in? Happened! My literal best friend dated the guy I'd had a huge crush on and hook-up with and frankly there was no checking in involved - and that was just how it went, all's fair in love and war, etc. And that was pretty normal - happened a lot. It was a small school; if no one had dated exes, no one would have dated. (This has prepared me well for life as a queer person.)

People not necessarily being totally supportive all the time? A lot of the time none of us were very supportive to each other because we were young weirdos working out our own shit. People came and went, took time to themselves, shut themselves off, came back, etc. I was a huge jerk to my friends in several situations and they were huge jerks to me - really objectively stupid, flouncing, self-absorbed behavior.

This wasn't ideal, we could have been better friends to each other if we'd had more interpersonal skills, etc, but neither was it some kind of huge sinful reflection of our failures as people.

Obviously your ex friends can stop being friends with you if they want but there are at least two other ways to look at this: your ex-friends were high drama people with unrealistic expectations who together decided that you were the bad one; and/or the stresses of pandemic life made things bad.

I didn't have friends much before college and college was a big adjustment. One thing I see in retrospect is that because I was uncertain and had few people skills, I often ended up in socially unstable situations where things went wrong. My first friend group? I felt intensely intensely guilty for years - I dropped them, but it was because they treated me really badly (like, epic badly! not just "not checking in" or whatever, real creepy cruel user stuff) and I felt like I deserved to be treated that way and that it was bad of me to drop them. In retrospect, I can see that they were a group without a lot in common, held together by one particular unpleasant but charismatic person who set the tone. I would never be friends with any of them in a million years now.

My point being that you are beating yourself up for stuff that really, really isn't that bad, and certainly isn't unusual. You feel like it's bad because you're young and your experience, although greater than it was, is limited. Also you're at a small college - that can be hell.

As I say, I had basically no friends for most of the time before college, I was not exactly attractive to romantic partners and I had few social skills. A lot of my college years were pretty unhappy. Through my twenties I made more friends, had some relationships and built my social skills. In general, people like me now and I find basic social interactions fairly easy. It just took time.

I know that "it just takes time" sounds a bit like "it builds character" but what I'm trying to say is that you write about yourself like a monster and a failure and I think that you're probably a regular person who has had a tough time and who is after all graduating with a degree, a job and some life experience.

(I think that some of the rhetoric around "checking in" and "being supportive" is actually internalized misogyny/misogyny-adjacent stuff that women and queer folks use to police each other, but that's another story.)
posted by Frowner at 7:49 PM on April 17, 2022 [30 favorites]

Best answer: I went to a really small college, which was excellent for me academically - I thrived in small classes - but awful for me socially. Some of peers clearly enjoyed all of that togetherness, but I found I needed to live off-campus for my mental health. Then I moved to a very big city, and found making friends was soooo much easier than college. I still had some friends from college, but it wasn't long until most of my friends were those that I had made post-college.

So, let's recap:

I feel like I struck gold - making friends and finding love and getting all the things that I never even dared to dream of getting as an anxious child who was convinced she was ugly and unlovable. And now, I'm graduating college without those things.

If you can make friends and fall in love once, you can do it again. I'm in my late 30s now, and very few people I know married their college sweetheart, or have friend networks that are mostly from college.

I'm going to be living in Boston after graduation and I already have a job lined up.

Congrats! This places you way ahead of the average college grad facing unemployment/moving back home with mom and dad (not that there's anything wrong with that). You are moving to a major city with a job! This is something to be excited about!

How can I be kind to myself as I try to finish off all my schoolwork and how do I actually enjoy the end of my time at college?

Honestly, don't even bother trying to enjoy the end of your time at college. It's over. Endings are often anticlimactic. I'd focus all of your energy getting excited about Boston. Research restaurants to try, museums to visit, clubs/activity groups/amateur sports teams/etc. to join, what the best day trips are, plan a long-weekend vacation, and so forth. In short, forget college, what's done is done, focus on your future, enjoy daydreaming.
posted by coffeecat at 8:53 PM on April 17, 2022 [14 favorites]

I only now put together that you asked the romantic break and friend break up question. I'm having a lot of compassion for you. You asked, "this too shall pass? really? how can you be sure?" and I will tell you the answer for me. The reason I know I can get through a break up: I've done it a handful of times now. That's how I know. I'm sorry I don't have a better answer for you. But I know a few things: when it hurts the most, and when it's the hardest, and what can help me feel better, sometimes. And I also know that it hasn't kept me from loving again.

In college, the way that I would manage a break up with someone who was part of my friend group was to look around at who were some of my outlier friends and acquaintances, and starting spending time with those folks. You only need to know one person like this.

College was great in many ways. But it wasn't the only great time time in my life, not by a long shot. Life is, in many ways, a lot easier and better a few decades later. And you've had a pandemic in the midst of all this, which has just mangled so many things. Please try to extend some grace to yourself.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:56 PM on April 17, 2022

Best answer: 1. How do I finish off this semester without feeling so depressed? How can I be kind to myself as I try to finish off all my schoolwork and how do I actually enjoy the end of my time at college?

Senior year, at high school or at college, is a fucking nightmare because it feels/seems like everybody else is living their best life and making memories and meanwhile you're actually doing the work of being a senior (academic courseload AND the emotional stuff). The extended period of mismatch between expectations and reality can be so hard.

How to enjoy the end of your time at college: do things you enjoy doing. And know that a lot of those things will still be available to you after you graduate. FWIW, I agree 100% with coffeecat; endings are usually anticlimactic, and that's fine. Boston is what's next, focus on that.

2. How do I stop feeling so terrified about the future?

A few months out from my college graduation, I was sitting in a corporate training room somewhere, and I clicked on a video of a pond being stocked with fish. It turns out that you stock a pond by dropping fish out of the cargo hold of a low flying plane, which in itself is pretty funny, but as I was watching it, I saw the expression on the fishes' faces as they fell out of that plane and I laughed until I wept with how much I felt like one of them. In a room of thirty people I was howling with laughter and tears were streaming down my face with how much I felt seen by some poor fish in, presumably, the most confusing seconds of their lives.

So, the answer is, you keep feeling terrified about the future. There's a solid 1-2 years of anxiety as you figure out how to be an adult in a new context. The good news is that it's not existential; mostly, you feel like a kid playing dress up and wondering if anyone can tell just how green you are. (Established adults can and the reasonable ones won't mind. Ignore the rest.)

I'm scared that no one I meet will actually like me or be as interested in getting to know me better as I am in them.

It might help your anxiety settle to think through strategies for making new friends. At your job, if your organization is large enough, there may be a cohort of new graduates; or there's probably a group of young professionals in your industry in Boston. You can start there. I have a friend who uses bumble friend to meet new friends. In my experience, the most important thing in developing relationships is just showing up consistently and being open to small talk. Not everybody you meet is going to be best friend material, but the more people you meet, the more likely you'll find that person, and a few fun people to go to museums with too.

In regards to whether they'll like you or be interested in knowing more about you - I know saying don't worry about it is not exactly helpful. But. That's a lot of baggage to bring to any individual conversation with a new acquaintance, and it's helpful to remind yourself of the context you're in. Sometimes drinks are just drinks! A chitchat is frequently just a chitchat. Sometimes they lead to more chitchats leads to friendship, sometimes not. You'll figure it out as you spend more time in the world.

In the spirit of your mantras, I'd like to recommend a quotation from the podcast Welcome to Nightvale: "The past is gone, and cannot harm you anymore. And while the future is fast coming for you, it always flinches first and settles in as the gentle present."
posted by snerson at 9:08 PM on April 17, 2022 [5 favorites]

The man who I thought was the love of my life at 21 when we broke up (and who I got over) turned out to be (when I was 48 and we met up again) not someone I could live my best life with (which I pretty much am doing). He hadn't grown intellectually (wasted that witty brain and stuck to still waters) or ethically, he still thought it was OK to cheat. The man I married I was relieved to leave at 42. The friends I had then were lovely people, but not at all adventurous, and the friendships died quiet, natural deaths, that hurt at the time. 54 probably seems a eon away for you, but at different times and locations, even not as a very social person, I made friends and had good times with them until I outgrew my location or situation. Some have reconnected via Facebook, and it's nice to see the little happinesses in their lives but I don't ache for a good long chat.

This is how I know this too shall pass. Even my post-marriage romances that were serious gradually evolved into friendships and then acquaintanceship, and to my surprise, I don't ache over them either.

Life after graduation was late for me because I didn't graduate until I was 42, and then, my career opportunities took off and I have the perfect job for me - totally surprising because up until then it'd been whatever crap job that would take me on. Now people compete for me. Who'd a thought??

So, in my opinion, it'll take longer than you want, but life throws up surprises and challenges and opportunities and who you are now and the feelings you have now will be different in 5 years. You, of course, will have to put work into it, and maybe consult people like metafilter for steps moving forward, but your world opens up after college, you have so many choices. Sometimes you will be so busy pursuing a goal and getting on with folk at work, and deciding who the next you you want to be that you won't have time to miss the people it was unbearable to leave behind.

Fine print: I wouldn't have believed this at age 21.
posted by b33j at 10:16 PM on April 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was depressed through all of college and came out of it with zero friends. I made all my friends after, when I got a job and moved to a new city. Go to every single social event you can manage, and keep in mind that the first people you make friends with may not end up being your closest friends, i.e. even if you are not too enthused about the event or the company just go because when meeting a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend you will eventually find someone to click with.

It's also OK to feel sad and scared right now - like a fever when you're sick, it's an inevitable part of the healing process and will eventually pass.
posted by airmail at 10:56 PM on April 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To clarify, I mean, don't put pressure on yourself to enjoy the rest of the semester or stop feeling sad or to become more "rational". You already feel bad; no need to feel bad about feeling bad on top of that. Anxiety spirals happen when you return to the problem again and again looking for a solution; in this case, there's no magic pill that will make you feel any better. To put it more positively, your work here is done for now - let yourself take a break!
posted by airmail at 11:10 PM on April 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

You could easily use the lower social engagement to focus on studies and scoring well.

It will get better, you will find spidey senses for people who give you another chance and deserve another chance from you. Every new town I've moved to has had a job to help socialisation, but it's at least 18 months of settling each time. We can keep older friendships through all the communications options at the time -- the thing is to build a roster of people you check in with and see when visiting the bits of the world you can go and see.
posted by k3ninho at 4:39 AM on April 18, 2022

Best answer: 1) You only have like a month left in school, right? Since you're feeling so emotionally tender, don't put pressure on yourself to maximize your benefit from it. Just put your head down and take a lot of walks and watch a lot of Netflix and get through it.

2) Make a plan for how you will meet people after college. Think of a regular activity you won't be unhappy getting into: CrossFit, or curling, or a choir, or Food Not Bombs, or whatever. Once you settle in to your new job and apartment, you will start doing that thing, and you will meet people and get to know them by seeing the same ones every week. That's it; you have your plan and it's a really effective one for most people, and now that you have the plan you can stop worrying.

3) You feel like you threw away your single best opportunity to ever develop intimate relationships. (I don't think you did, but it's your feelings that matter, not objectivity.) Does it help to think about how much more you were able to get out of it than most people? People who didn't go to college, people who were so shy they never left their rooms, people who acted like the life of the party but never had intimate friends, just drinking buddies, etc. For me, that helps me better perceive how WELL I did, rather than focusing on my frustration with myself for not managing to draw out every single possible benefit from a situation.
posted by metasarah at 4:39 AM on April 18, 2022

I think about my college social life, um, not at all really. This has been true since probably my mid 20s. I'm in my mid 30s now. It's just been completely irrelevant to my life for many years.

I was in a particularly terrible long term relationship in college that ended shortly after graduation. I had good friendships in college, but none of them lasted more than a few months out. Everyone I had spent significant time with moved to either San Francisco or New York, and I stayed in Chicago, the city I fell in love with.

I moved on, made new friends, had new relationships, moved on past those friends and relationships, too, as I changed and my values solidified. Some people keep the same friends their whole lives, or their whole adulthood at least. And that's great for them. Other people, like me, do not. And that's worked out just fine for me.

The most significant and long term relationship of my adult life has been me falling more in love with the city I live in every day, and finding a life here that suits me.

You'll be okay, I promise. Don't carry this with you.
posted by phunniemee at 5:29 AM on April 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

My kind of mantra is 'the only way out is through'. Life will happen to you whether you are afraid of it or not. You'll start your job, probably meet new friends through that. Other people will come into your life whether you are looking for them or not. New experiences will come into your life whether you are looking for them or not. The most you can do is try to take some agency over life, and add on to life happening to you by working to make life happen for you. Open yourself to new people and experiences, seek them out, take control, then see what happens. Bad stuff will happen. Good stuff will happen. But you'll grow and learn. Then rinse and repeat.
posted by greta simone at 6:09 AM on April 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't know how helpful this is, but you likely would have found the prospect of the next couple of years scary even without all this stuff. College can be so insular, especially at a small school (I went to one of those) that being released into the wider world can be terrifying. Even if you had a group of really close friends, those friends would likely scatter all over the country, and you'd still be left trying to figure out what to do next. I still consider myself friends with my close friends from college, but none of them live where I do, so I had to make a whole bunch of new friends anyway!

My experience is that life after college, ultimately, is better. But life immediately after college can be hard. This is a passage from one of my favorite writers, the late David Rakoff, in which he revisits the city where he lived right after college and has a very different experience the second time:
I have been so relieved to find that the city in and of itself is not enough to unlock the sadness of my younger self. To the contrary, I have been unable to wipe the smile from my face since I arrived, giddy with a sense of survival. It’s not even clear to me that that old misery is still housed in my body anymore. I have been avoiding a monster behind a door for thirteen years, only to find that it had melted away long ago, nothing more than a spun-sugar bogeyman. It’s definitely not the first time in my adulthood I have realized this, but it never fails to cheer me to have it proven yet again that almost any age is better than twenty-two.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:53 AM on April 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: A way to maybe think about The Future: remember who you were ten years ago. Just a kid probably! Lots of stuff you didn't know and experiences you hadn't had, and it probably would have been pretty tough as an 11-12 year old to imagine a trajectory of your life that would lead you to where you are today.

Now apply that to where you are now. It's almost impossible to imagine where you might be in 10 more years. There are so many experiences you haven't had and so many things you don't know. Your best moments to date might have all been in college, but there's so, so much more time and you're going to change so, so much.

How to survive now while you're getting to your potentially awesome future: I'm a big proponent of accepting suck. It sounds like you're being really brave and trying so hard to be okay and have good experiences, but what if you just.... didn't for a little bit. Looking/feeling emotionally okay when you aren't really takes a lot of energy. Maybe you don't have to. Be kind to yourself and also be depressed -- your situation is hard and it's okay to treat it as being hard.

Personal story: my senior year of college was my hardest year for a number of interpersonal and brain reasons. I have never in my life wished so fervently to get hit by a bus. Almost 15 years later, I can look back at that me with a lot of compassion for what I was going through at the time but have a much harder time relating. It's not that the experiences I had weren't important, but I have a super different perspective on stuff that I think you can really only get with time and having more experiences.
posted by HtotheH at 8:19 AM on April 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

It feels like college was this kind of unique haven that perfectly incubated friendships and romantic relationships

It clearly didn't do so perfectly, since you wound up with a friend group that dumped you for some fairly normal infractions. Post-college life won't be such a rich incubator for friendship but it won't be such a pressure cooker either. You're likely to find people who can communicate their needs, handle differing priorities, make room for others' flawed humanity, and just generally behave more maturely because they're more mature.

The way we know it will pass is that it passes. After it passes, you'll know that too, or at least you'll know it a little better than you did before. And after the next thing that happens, better still. Which is not to say that life is just weathering a series of disappointments and heartbreaks, but growth kind of is!
posted by babelfish at 8:56 AM on April 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So, one answer to both your questions is that if your feelings are overwhelming, you can seek therapy and/or antidepressant medication to help keep you on a more even keel for a while through this transition. No idea if that's something you're interested in/want to consider, but if worrying about this is really getting in the way of life, or if you're feeling "terrified" on a daily basis, it's worth thinking about.

More widely - pleeease give yourself permission to stop trying to feel good about how much personal growth you'll get from these experiences. You're allowed to just feel bad about them. It's actually healthy to just feel bad about them. The more you try to avoid feeling bad about them by convincing yourself that they're a fine learning opportunity, the more those bad feelings will come back to bite you, demanding to be felt. This is a huge part of the teachings of mindfulness - being open to actually experiencing what's really happening for you, even if it's pain, will help you move through the pain more quickly. Avoiding the pain by trying to think fake positive thoughts instead, just doesn't work (and also gives you another stick to beat yourself with - "Not only did I cock up my friendships, I can't even feel grateful for the learning opportunity I've been presented with, I'm such an idiot!" etc). So you could look into some mindfulness learning. Not just sitting quietly thinking about your breath, but delve more deeply into something like Mindfulness - Finding Peace in a Frantic World, which deals with the interactions between thoughts, feelings, mental habits etc. Or maybe When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron, which deals with the idea that, throughout life, things fall apart, then they come together again, and then they fall apart, then they come together again, and that's just part of the circle of life. The challenge is to hang on in there when they fall apart, and feel the pain as it happens, and not to try and distract yourself from it, knowing that in due course it will ebb away again, because that's the way life is.

Also, I'm not sure I ever look back on difficult things that happened to me long ago and appreciate the learning experiences. I mostly just forget about them. I'd say that a very realistic and acceptable aim is not "One day I'll look back on this and be so glad for the learning", but "One day, I won't really look back on this at all, because it'll be a short and relatively insignificant period of time, out of a long and varied life."

And finally - I don't think it's true that college is the only place you can make friends. I moved to a big city after graduation and found that a lot of my colleagues were my age, had moved to the city to start their careers, and it was in some ways a less-intense-but-sometimes-similar vibe to college - a bunch of 20-something people in a new city (and this time with a salary we could spend on enjoying ourselves). My first office would all go to the pub on a Friday and friendships sprang from that; later offices were smaller but some good friendships arose from my peers there. YMMV, but even if your workplace doesn't turn out like that, there are loads of ways to find your people in a city. Meet up groups, community theatre, community education, volunteering, physical activity groups, whatever floats your boat. You have to put in a little more legwork, but it can be done.

It's definitely not over, it's just the winding down of one chapter and the start of another.
posted by penguin pie at 12:39 PM on April 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, and one more small thing - beware of the temptation of telling yourself poetic-sounding but hurtful stories about your life. "I feel like I had my best moments already in college, and then all of that beauty crashed and burned when my closest relationships ended" sounds like the plot of a tragic film, one that is true and meaningful and significant and therefore it's easy to delude yourself into believing it.

But "I had some good times and bad times in college, then I graduated and moved to Boston" is also your story. It's just not as beguiling to tell ourselves mundane stories about our own lives.

Don't be seduced into believing big dramatic narratives about your life that end up causing you pain, when there are also much more even-keeled ones available.
posted by penguin pie at 12:44 PM on April 18, 2022 [5 favorites]

Right now, these Big Important Events are like, six months or a year old, and a year is 1/20th of your life. So that's still pretty recent. In twenty years, these events will be twenty years old, and half your life ago. Believe it or not, that helps. I mentioned some situations similar to yours from my own life, in the other thread about your friend situation. Based on my experience, it's not that you'll forget them, most likely, it's just that you'll have so much more to remember. Nobody can guarantee that all of it will be good, but it's highly unlikely that it'll all be bad too. I still sometimes wonder about some of those people, and it's nice to hear positive things about them from mutual acquaintances every now and then. But mostly I've got work and family and hobbies and taxes and car maintenance and you know, everything else, to worry about.
posted by Alterscape at 8:46 PM on April 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

My best friend for life I met in college. Literally ALL the other wonderful, long-standing friends in my life were made in my 20s, 30s, 40s, and (GASP) 50s. Does it take work? Absolutely? Is it worth the work to establish and maintain relationships with people who are friends not just because we were hanging out in dorms? ALSO YES
posted by cyndigo at 4:35 PM on April 19, 2022

Best answer: Your brain is feeding you predictions about the future and has you believing that you are able to clearly anticipate both what will happen and how you'll feel about in a way that no mortal ever has been able to.

If a person can intellectually see that their brain is believing in its own ability to predict the future and things that it can't possibly know, then they can create space to trust their own brain less and accept, on a deep enough level to go get help, or at least make it through the day, that they can be wrong (about the future being a downhill spiral of badness) and other people can be right (that the future is unknown, that plenty of positive things happen after college, that your luck is just as likely to be good as to be bad, etc.)

For me, once I got just that tiny bit of distance from my brain, from complete trust in my own brain, that let me go get help. Because by definition, I - alone - cannot outsmart my own brain.

I went to a doctor and got meds. I got an antidepressant (buproprion), an anti-anxiety med (buspirone), and a sleeping med (trazedone). I went from no meds to three meds all at once, and I figured why the hell not just try. I was very lucky that that combination worked well from me right from the start.

The despair just dissipated. If I thought about the future, I still didn't anticipate good things. But those ideas about future-me no longer had the power to derail present-me or take me away from my enjoyment of life. Eventually, I started to feel hope again too.


Please go get help. You are not just thinking impossible things, but actively believing in them in a way that is hurting you. Maybe you will be able to think yourself out of it. But many of us can't, including me. And my only regret is that I wasted time trying, miserable time that I didn't have to endure.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:40 AM on April 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

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