What should a dropout in debt do?
April 19, 2006 11:29 PM   Subscribe

I need to get on the right track to fixing my life.

I dropped out of college last fall after being fired from a job I held for three years (I needed it to pay for college; I didn't take out loans.) Spent the rest of the fall struggling to find employment; finally found some at a science press, but found I screwed up too often and walked out when I was at the point where I would have been fired in a couple of days (was told so by several people, including my supervisor).

Spent the next four months searching for a job, and found a few weeks ago the only place that would hire me--Wal-Mart. Even there, I'm feeling like I may get fired.

I'm thousands of dollars in debt--$2500 to my college, which aren't loans, but immediately due, over $2000 to my roommate's parent, bills that have accumulated during my unempoyment stints. I've more or less lost my social network; I can't turn to my family. In sixty days I won't have a place to live. I'm chronically depressed with no health insurance to see a therapist, and the depression is hindering my normal drive to do better--get another job or have a positive outlook or attempt to have a social life again.

What do I need to do to make things change? I've read the "what do I do" threads--I don't have the money to do something like go to Europe for a year. I need to just feel secure again.
posted by Hot Like Your 12V Wire to Human Relations (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I find when times are or have been tough for me, the simple power of choosing to feel secure and motivated can go along way. The only true motivation that lasts is the type that comes from within. 5k in debt in the reality of the world we live in is nothing (i have alot more!) it can be handled. Just remember the solution to any problem begins with one small step, followed by another and than another and so on. Pretty soon you'll realize how far you've come and look back on all of this as personal growth.
posted by crewshell at 1:34 AM on April 20, 2006

ah, 5k ain't so bad.

My advice...get thee to a restaurant. Get a gig bartending or waiting tables. It's what I did when I dropped out of college. You make pretty good money (if the place is right) and if there's a young enough staff, you'll find that out a lot of people are in your situation...

...and you'll have a blast. I did this for about two years, went back to school (while bartending/waiting tables) and graduated a few years later.

But it's always good to get this type of experience, cause if you decided to move somewhere else...well, there's hungry and thirsty people everywhere (I even have friends who went off to Europe and bartended for a year or so).

Your life isn't off track...it's just beginning. You're taking the back roads....nothing wrong with that. And most of the time it's the more interesting and scenic way to go.

Just don't waste your time sitting still.
posted by ryecatcher at 1:46 AM on April 20, 2006

I owe 37 thousand in college debt. It could be worse. Just keep calm, and pay it off as quickly as you reasonably can.
posted by stoneegg21 at 1:57 AM on April 20, 2006

Might want to check this out for some mental health tips. Your life is not over. Most of us go through some dark days. I've just been through 2 years of them - and that's AFTER I picked up and moved to Europe :-)

Have you talked to your college about financial assitance? It's noble to work your way through college, but perhaps there are some aid options available to you. On the job front, I hear Home Depot pays pretty well. Try that or the waiting tables idea for six months to help you get back on your feet, then try to get back into school.

Good luck! You sound smart and motivated. Don't give up. You can do it.
posted by syzygy at 2:34 AM on April 20, 2006

I second the restaurant advice, but I'm wondering why you're having difficulty holding a job. Can you give more details on that? It's a hurdle that seems like the key to a lot of the rest of it.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:54 AM on April 20, 2006

I don't understand, why didn't you take out student loans? I'm $50k in debt right now and I have no trouble making payments at all.

Why aren't you taking student loans?
posted by delmoi at 3:05 AM on April 20, 2006

Sometimes, when you feel your life is screwed up and out of control, it isn't so much the situation itself as the feeling of stagnation or regression. If you do a couple of minor things so that you feel you're making progress, that alone can give you a real lift. For example, you could call your roommate's parent, express appreciation for the loan, apologize that you haven't paid it back yet, say that you are determined to do so once you are able, you hadn't forgotten about it and you take it seriously. You will undoubtedly get a kind and understanding response since they were kind enough to lend the money in the first place. And you will feel that you've faced and dealt with that situation, at least psychologically, so that you don't have to feel chronically guilty about it.

Ditto for the money owed to the college. Talk to the person who is expecting the payment, show that you intend to repay when you can, but you aren't able to know. Lenders like to hear that. It's not as good as getting paid back, but it is reassuring that the borrower acknowledges and continues to accept responsibility for the debt.

The next day, look for other little things you can do to maintain the feeling of progress. Maybe at Wall Mart, is there something you can do to reduce your feeling that you'll get fired, such as coming in early?

Take baby steps. So long as you feel you're moving you up and out of the situation rather than down and further into it, you'll be fine.
posted by mono blanco at 3:47 AM on April 20, 2006

Find a real classy restaurant and work as a busser. Depending on the restaurant, they might have a very nice pay rate--I work at an upscale restaurant, and they pay $3.00/hour + 2% of the house sales for the day (well, the 2% is split up among all the bussers, depending on how long they worked that day). I can draw in well over $100 for 10 hours of work, and I get to pick up the cash the next day.

So bussing can pay almost as well as waiting or bartending, depending on the place, and it doesn't require much experience or training (a classy restaurant might not take you was a waiter or a bartender if you don't have those).
posted by schroedinger at 4:47 AM on April 20, 2006

A restaurant gig will keep money coming in, but it's basically a black-hole of a job. You'll probably never make enough to actually get out, so think of it as a stay of execution.

And to those who say $5k ain't nothing... it is when you don't have a job. It's easy as hell to get yourself $50k of debt when you've got great credit and a steady job (thanks, America!)

HLY12VW, wise choice in not getting yourself into more debt with student loans. I can tell you now that you'd feel far more miserable if you'd accumulated ten times your current debt, only to find out that you still are going to have a hard time finding a job these days that pays the bills.

Short term: get something. Anything. Bookstores. Coffee shops. Restaurants. Anything.

Long term: you need to think about a job that will actually make you enough to not be miserable, but that won't hinge on getting yourself so far into student-loan debt that it's no longer worth it. What are you interested in? Do you like working with your hands? Mechanics make great money. Like working outdoors? Electricians, plumbers, contractors all make great money.

Yes, these will require specialized schooling. But it will probably only be a couple of years of school, you will actually learn something useful, and it won't cost as much as a "liberal arts" degree.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:47 AM on April 20, 2006

I would always have frequent fantasies of running away from my life, packing up and leaving with no forwarding address. I would always lament "Why do I have these awesome plans at exactly the time I can do nothing about it?" and then I realized that it was the fact that I was stressed out with too many things to do that was causing my feelings of wanting to run away. I still wanted to run away, but realizing there was a reason for it helped my coping mechanisms.

Managing the depression will be the first step to getting started on a lot of the other things on your list. Lack of health care coverage will not, in most cases in the US, keep you from getting triage-level mental health care. Call these people (785-843-9192, if your profile info is correct) and keep it simple "My depression is hindering my normal drive to do better and I'm in a bit of a hole right now" and see if you can move forward from there. Make some lists about the things that need dealing with and their level of immediacy and try to make small steps towards at least not making things worse (try not to lose the job, try not to get evicted) and try to keep your stress level down and your engery and eating-well levels up. As mono blanco said, try to make every day a net positive, even if it's just tiny steps. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 5:25 AM on April 20, 2006

Getting a restaurant job now to carry you through the summer is a good idea.

I would also re-enter school for the fall and take out some student loans to pay for it and your living expenses. Student loans are debt, but they're relatively cheap debt and they come with a return, a college degree, which will allow you to make more money in the future. Most schools also have some sort of health services on campus or to which they refer for mental health stuff.

Hang in there. You are not doing too badly, and you'll get through this, as long as you start working on it now.
posted by OmieWise at 5:33 AM on April 20, 2006

The most important thing you can do right now is to avoid (or minimize) accruing more debt. This may seem counterintuitive, or impossible given your situation, but it's imperitave in order to keep your siutation from spiraling further out of control. Whatever you do, take on as little new debt as possible.

Minimize current expenses. Can you move back home with your parents? Serously. If only for a few months, this may help keep costs under control.

Next, find a job. Find two if you need them. For a few months, at least, you're going to have to bite the bullet and work like hell. You may have to work unpleasant jobs like restaurant dishwasher, or fast food fry cook, etc. Work as much as you can, maximizing your income.

Gradually pay off your debts. Start with your smallest debt first. Don't pay attention to interest rates. Just find the smallest debt and get it paid off as soon as possible, then move on to the next smallest debt.

Do you have some stuff you can sell? If so, use craigslist to generate a little cash.

I hope that some of this advice sounds at least a little practical and applicable to your situation.

Don't give up.
posted by jdroth at 6:03 AM on April 20, 2006

It's a rare situation where you actually can't turn to your family. Unless there's something really out of the ordinary (and you'd be surprised just what's ordinary, friend), you can turn to family.

Anybody that you owe money to needs to hear from you. Tell them you're having some troubles, and you want to work out payment arrangements. Any creditor, business or personal, wants to get rid of the debt, they don't want you dropping off the face of the earth (thereby making it damn near impossible to collect).

There are other places where you can get treatment for depression. Another poster gave a reference; perhaps also consider a church (if you're the religious type).

I know it sounds cliche, but you'll be stronger for the adversity you're facing now. Many of us have had challenges in our earlier years, and they seemed insurmountable then. They rarely are, submitter.

They rarely are.
posted by Merdryn at 6:39 AM on April 20, 2006

When I'm feeling overwhelmed, I (as others have noted) do best by breaking things down into smaller piles. How I might handle things if I were in your situation:

Step 1. It sounds like you're at Walmart now, but worried about your performance. Assuming you're making enough to scrape by on, your first task is simply to concentrate on job performance. With the knowledge that this is ultimately a short-term gig in the back of your mind providing some solace and inspiration, suck it up (I say that in a friendly manner) and work your ass off. Get there on time, do what it takes, volunteer for extra shifts, become the friggin' employee of the month. Don't worry about anything else. I'd caution against considering a different or second job until you can stabilize a bit and feel some accomplishment for working hard.

Step 2. Figure out your living situation. It doesn't have to be as settled as a lease at a nice apartment. Negotiate with your roommate's parents. Start paying them back a little at a time (now that you've got worked smoothed out) - even if it's a pittance, a regular sum from you will show them you're serious about your debt.

Step 3. Hopefully you've now got a place to live beyond sixty days - You haven't even thought about school yet, but now you can go to your school - explain the situation and work out some sort of plan - I'd guess they'd rather get your money eventually than punish you now. I wouldn't worry about going back until you've worked for a bit and gotten at least a small cushion of cash.

Good luck!
posted by jalexei at 6:41 AM on April 20, 2006

This is going to sound harsh, but why do you keep fucking up?

What I mean to suggest: I think you need to spend some time contemplating what it is that has repeatedly either gotten you fired or gotten you almost fired.

Have you really been on the verge of getting fired, or are you sabotaging yourself and pre-emptively quitting because of self confidence and depression problems? Sometimes it can feel better to fail on purpose and take responsibility for the failure than to seriously try to succeed and risk failure despite that effort.

If you really have been on the verge of getting fired, what specific actions can you take so that doesn't happen again? Are you showing up late? Then get to work on time, make getting to work on time the most important thing in your day. Are you mouthing off to people at work? Learn to bite your tongue; make it your most important job duty. Are you slacking, pulled down so low by the weight of intertia that you can't make yourself do the required tasks of your job? Fight that inertia with every ounce of your being. You can do it. If it's something else, identify what the problem is and come up with a plan for dealing with it. You can do it.

Do you still want to graduate from college? I strongly recommend you talk to your school's academic advising and financial aid offices.

I'm going to guess, based on your defeatism in other walks of life, that you may have screwed up your GPA a bit toward the end of your time in school. I did the same thing when I was in college. There's this miraculous option that many schools offer, and I think it's really worth exploring: the medical delete. I was able to delete an entire semester of grades from my transcript for "medical reasons" -- that reason being depression -- after I talked to the right people at my undergraduate school. They helped me get counseling to treat my depression, which was party underwritten by the school. Did you drop out of the University of Kansas? Check with the office of Student Success to see how they can help you.

Finally, like others have said, you need to talk to the people you owe money to about what's going on, so they can make plans to cope. Be forthright: "I fucked up, I don't have the money I owe you, I want to make this right, but I don't know how long it's going to take." What's the worst that can happen? They'll get upset and be jerky. But you'll survive, and you'll have done the right thing in the process.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:50 AM on April 20, 2006

What jalexei said. You need to prioritize and make a plan.

Your immediate concern is finding a place to live. Go on craigslist, ask around, all you need is a floor, a sink, a toilet and a relative amount of safety. Try to find something that meets the criteria and fix it it up.

Next, keep the job at Walmart. It will help you a lot if you can demonstrate to future employers that you can hold down a steady job. You'll also be able to get a good recommendation. Go to your supervisor and explain that you know your work hasn't been that great in the past but you've been going through some difficult stuff in your personal life (no need to go into details here) and now you're through the bad stuff and thus your work in the store will improve. Also, as your work gets better and better, you'd like for her to consider giving you more hours. Then you simply have deliver on your word. Show up ten minutes early and leave twenty minutes late. Give the extra 5%. Volunteer for the shitty tasks that nobody likes to do like cleaning the bathroom and stocking the glass pks. Every few weeks ask if you can get the extra hours. Be persistent, work hard, and you'll likely be rewarded. Keep in mind that sleeping in a shelter isn't fun. It's dangerous and humiliating.

As for the loans, don't worry about them. They're not a big deal. The people who loaned you money just want their money back. Their biggest fear is that you'll welch and disappear. If you can convince them that this isn't the case then they'll be all too happy to work with you. For your roomate's parent you'll want to speak to her in person and give her the ol' sob story. Then ask if you can either work out a payment plan (say $50/mo) or pay off the loan by doing some other form of work. It's worth a shot. For the college people you simply need to tell them the truth: you have no money, can barely afford to eat, and they need to provide you with some new options. They will likely offer you some sort of payment plan with a ridiculous set of interest and penalty fees and you'll have to take it. That's life.

As for the depression, go outside, frolick in the park and eat chocolate mint ice cream. It's spring time. The weather's wonderful. Get a hobby and get some exercise.

The most important thing though is to make a plan and stick to it. List the steps, describe how the steps will let you meet your goal, and then follow through. The plan will give you enormous piece of mind if you're honest about it. In a few months you'll be in a much better place and you'll be able to calmly start thinking about your long term future. And really, as bad as you have it, there are a lot people out there that have it much worse. You have a lot going for you. Concentrate on your strengths and what you already have and less about what you don't have.
posted by nixerman at 7:10 AM on April 20, 2006

HLY12VW, wise choice in not getting yourself into more debt with student loans. I can tell you now that you'd feel far more miserable if you'd accumulated ten times your current debt, only to find out that you still are going to have a hard time finding a job these days that pays the bills.

This is bad advice. The green is very anti-debt for some reason, possibly because a lot of people here are in the position of paying them off. This is the wrong view to take. Debt is not a burden; it's an investment in yourself. If you think you're a good investment then there's no reason not to rack up whatever debt it takes to achieve your goals. Obviously you don't want to go overboard, but this is one of those things where it's better to do too much than too little. Education is the best investment you can make. Your student loans return over many, many times. If you can find a career and industry that you really like then there's no reason not to go back to college and take out loans.
posted by nixerman at 7:19 AM on April 20, 2006

Just hang in there, seriously. You have less debt than the average American household, as hard as it may seem to pay it off right now.

There are people with much better-paying jobs and what would appear at first blush to be much better circumstances that are actually in a more precarious situation than you. I know some personally.

If you do take out student loans (which is ok!) then devote yourself full-time to your studies. If you decide to first pay off the debts you have (also a fine choice!) then don't stress out too much, they will get paid off in due time. I am slowly recovering from a similarly rough spot myself (dang taxes threw me off schedule, though!) These kinds of circumstances are normal in our country, most people will have to deal with a similar situation at some point in their lives.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:30 AM on April 20, 2006

You'll get different advice from different people, because there are a lot of possible ways to go about this. what you have to work out is some sense of what you want. why are you going to college? do you have any idea what you want to do for a living? Do you know what skills / traits you possess that are positive? that are negative? It sounds to me like you just feel kind of lost and unmotivated, perhaps because you don't really see the point of the path you're on. So I would try to work out the plan first. It doesn't have to be a final answer, but try to take the question seriously enough that you can see a few different options in your future. Would you be happier making money with a trade or do you like the idea of a liberal arts education for its own sake? is it more important to end up with an interesting career or a high paying job? Etc.

From where I stand, your debt is minimal, student loans are not a bad idea, and your real issue is whatever's making it impossible for you to hold down a job. But that's based on my own life - I've got far more debt than you, mostly in student loans, and the only job where I was laid off, I had been slacking off at, and sorta wanted to be let go. I think the folks who advise against student loans are probably unsure about what you're investing in. Taking out loans to go to college is no different from getting a deferred payment plan on yr car, or a mortgage on your house. You don't have to start paying until you graduate, because the idea is you shouldn't have to pay that kind of money through unskilled labor - instead, you get the skills necessary to earn a better living, and then start making the payments. The only reason not to do it is if you imagine yourself working at walmart again after you finish your degree. Which is why you should put some thought into what exactly you want...

again, don't be stressed to draw a conclusion, but take a free evening to seriously consider different possible routes, to write out lists of all the pros and cons of different things, to really imagine your future. Then work back from various scenarios to see what particular steps need to realistically be taken to achieve them. It is really easy to just float on without thinking about these things, so in a way take this crisis as a blessing. When things are generally 'good enough' people will often not take the time to work out the more important stuff, and then suddenly it's 5 years later and they're still working at wal-mart.
posted by mdn at 7:39 AM on April 20, 2006

This post has some excellent responses. I agree with jalexei most, though, it's especially important to show the willingness to pay back the roomie's parents.

5K sounds like a lot, but the 2K to the school is what they call 'uncollectable'. The college may holler, but they are better off waiting for you to pay them than sending the debt to collection. It's where I'd start. Visit them, apologize for the mess, indicate your intent to pay it, but advise them you're temporarily unable to do so. If they send it to collection, a collection agency will get 1/3, and that will be many, many years down the road. However, if you DO get a call from a collection agency, all you hve to do is tell them not to call any more, and they are legally required to immediately stop contacting you.

Don't skip town. Do tell the roomie's parents, in person, that their debt is safe, but you need several months to start repaying it.

Then, as jalexei suggests, be the best damn employee Wal-mart has and do your best to get back on your feet. It sounds like depression may have gotten you into this mess and not vice versa, so I would also suggest doing whatever you can to get treatment and learning what works to get out of it. Exercise is good and cheap and effective.

You are young and there is plenty of time to get this fixed. Lots of folks go through it. Don't despair, just do the best you can. It is not lethal, just uncomfortable, inconvenient, and humbling. Once you're successfully through this rough period, you'll know what you're made of and have new skills for the next phase of life.

Good luck!
posted by FauxScot at 7:54 AM on April 20, 2006

"I've more or less lost my social network" and the inability to hold down a job are huge. What's the deal here?
posted by selfmedicating at 8:44 AM on April 20, 2006

You certainly sound like a textbook case of depression and I hope you get some help with it. I also hope you take everyone else's advice here and learn to take a deep breath and let some things go. There have been times in my life I'd have killed to have the level of debt & career problem you have, but I can look back on them now and see that from here they don't look as insurmountable as they did then.

You do need to look at this self-destructive behavior and deal with it, though, since it may be something that persists even after you deal with your depression. You should learn to look at some bigger picture beyond pride or whatever motivation led to this:

but found I screwed up too often and walked out when I was at the point where I would have been fired in a couple of days (was told so by several people, including my supervisor).

If you're ever again in a remotely similar situation, get fired. It's hard on the ego but you get to collect unemployment. Since you're paying for unemployment insurance whether you like it or not, don't shoot yourself in the foot by denying it to yourself. Your supervisor told you because they company is delighted when you quit rather than get fired - it gets them off the hook.

Good luck.
posted by phearlez at 9:09 AM on April 20, 2006

Some followup:

- I feel part of my inability to hold down a job may be due to having a form of ADD. I have a hard time focusing and concentrating on something, even when I know I should be and have the desire to do so. The job I worked for three years involved constant variation, and it was only when I was promoted from that position to a more repetitive position that I showed performance problems. It's not that I really despise Wal-Mart, per se--it's a job, even if it's a low-paying part-time job--but I fear my inability to focus and "get things right" (the other day I had a register $20 short) will come back to haunt me.

- I'm a surprisingly well interviewee and wound up shooting my foot a lot over the six month period I was looking for employment by saying I was never promoted to the second position I held at my first employer and left voluntarily (as that was the original plan.) Thus, I interviewed for a lot of better jobs that I would have had had I not done that.

- Family situation: mother is an only child who is in a retirement home, father is incarcerated and as a result his extended family is quite hostile towards me.

- Schooling: I didn't take out loans for a simple reason: bizzare financial circumstances forced me to file my tax papers several times to Direct Loan Servicing and the like, and I didn't become eligible for my Perkins until after I left (I actually have only $20 something left on my Stafford, so I'm not concerned about it.) I've tried since to enroll at other colleges--the problem is that they require my transcript (I have about twelve hours at KU, despite not accrueing any of them there--I dropped out about a month and a half into the semester) and KU has a hold on my transcript until I pay off the money.

- Social network: Combined with the depression and lack of monetary funds (a lot of my friends are based in Topeka, about 30 minutes away,) I slowly lost contact with people who I previously held close.
posted by Hot Like Your 12V Wire at 9:13 AM on April 20, 2006

This might seem out of the blue, but just in case: Quit smoking pot. Quit drinking.

Sorry if that's not the case here, but I lived with fuck-up roomates, the ones who could never hold down a job, never quite make it to class, always getting fired / locked out / car wouldn't start / whatever the excuse this time.

It always always ALWAYS came down to them being potheads. Loss of social network? Check. Job troubles? Check.

I remember how romantic it seemed at the time to spiral ever-downward in a Tom Waits / Sid Vicious / Dylan Thomas kind of way. But it looks pretty stupid in the rear-view mirror.

And if this is completely irrelevant, my apologies.
posted by ImJustRick at 9:41 AM on April 20, 2006

Regarding the college debt issue, you might find that even big universities are willing to cut you some slack in cases like this. A roommate I had was in a very similar situation - she needed a job to make up the remainder of her tuition that wasn't covered by scholarships and loans, and partway through the academic year she lost the job. She already owed money for the current semester with bills for the next semester coming up, and she was understandably freaked out.

But she went to her advisor and explained the situation, and her advisor in turn spoke to the financial aid people, who simply tacked on a little more to her need-based aid package. I was astonished that my school (which has a reputation for being somewhat money-grubbing) was willing to give a student more aid just because she asked for it, but that's exactly what they did. Maybe you've already tried this, but if you haven't, it's definitely worth at least finding out if they're willing to help.
posted by emmastory at 9:52 AM on April 20, 2006

See your college's financial aid officer. Find out if they can help you apply for bursaries, loans or emergency assistance. Then go see your housing office.

Contact all your creditors. Work out a repayment plan. If you can only afford to send $25 a month, let them know and make the payments regularly. Tell your roommate's parents that you are serious about repaying them -- show it by making the repayments -- and ask if there is any way you could repay part of it through your labour. Maybe they need some documents typed, a ditch dug, walls painted, etc.

Concentrate on your job performance. Ask your supervisor for feedback and try to improve on weak points. If customers say you do a good job, offer them a pre-filled-out feedback form, if that's in keeping with the culture at your workplace.

$5k feels like a lot of debt because you're depressed. It's really not a lot of debt for a college student. But your emotional state is skewing everything. Go see your college's counselling department. They can probably direct you to someone who offers free counselling, if you can't get this from the university itself.
posted by acoutu at 10:11 AM on April 20, 2006

In response to a related question, ikkyu2 had some good advice. What resources do you have? Can you move back to Topeka? Otherwise get those people back in your life? Are you so positive you can't turn to your parents, or is that maybe the depression talking? If you took the student loans, and went back to school, would you be covered under the school's health services, and would that cover mental health treatment? Is there any kind of free clinic in your city?

Your performance problems only showing up when you switched from a job with variation to a job with repetition does sound ADD-ish. Try reading Thom Hartmann's ADD: A Different Perspective. (Naturally, AskMe can't diagnose.) If you can see a doctor, talk to him/her about it. (Surprisingly to me, taking methylphenidate for ADD also had an anti-depressant effect on me.)

Like others have said, $5K isn't necessarily that much debt compared to the salary you might be making with a degree. After finishing college with lots of loans, and buying a cheap car, I was $35K in debt. It seemed insurmountable at the time. It was gone in about 8 years, and I really didn't suffer for the payments.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:16 AM on April 20, 2006

I realize I didn't sufficiently emphasize what I feel is the most important bit of advice I could give:

Figure out how to see a doctor and get treated for your depression and/or ADD. One way or another. Make that your priority. Everything is going to feel like a thousand-times worse problem, an impossible trial, without that. (And keep in mind that SSRIs usually take about 3 weeks to change your mood.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:26 AM on April 20, 2006

You still have your physical health, that is important.

I would say forget the 4 year college degree and go learn a trade that will pay real wages. College today is no guarantee of a good job. So instead of spending years, learning English literature and studying history etc, go read for free at the library and get a small student loan for a 18 month program for a trade or vocational program at a community college.
The transcripts in that case would be irrevelant...so start off fresh.

You need sellable job skills, research the market...and pick something that cant be outsourced. You can always go back for a bachelors later. When I was young I make the huge mistake of majoring in something that was very unsellable... and I paid a HEAVY price.

I really want to tell you to avoid dead end jobs. They are a blackhole. Being a waiter, busboy, Wal-mart associate etc can work in the short term, but they have no opening for you to move up. Work them for short-term but dont consider them a long term plan.
One thing to realize all low level jobs suck, and are BORING. Thats why they call it work. You arent ADD, youre NORMAL.

You do need to get your depression treated, this I believe reading between the lines is probably what could have contributed to you getting fired. Depression makes it harder to get along with others and even if you sought to hide your downcast mood or irritability people do pick up on it.

Why not move to Topeka and live with one of those friends?
posted by Budge at 10:55 AM on April 20, 2006

I realize that you've an entire page full of responses that will be far better than mine, so feel free to scroll past.

However, I've got a friend to struggles with sever depression issues. To the point that he used to not be able to function in the mornings if he woke up in the wrong mood - which always sounded to me like something that easily avoidable, but to him was an incredibly high target to aim past.

What managed to turn him around was listening to self-help books on tape and self-help conference recordings that he could download online and check out of the library. He also likes to read a lot over at stevepavlina.com .

The most important thing, though, as is outlined above in several of these responses, is that you must'nt give up. This situation is incredibly temporary and is fully in your control to change.

As for working, start hunting around for a new job elsewhere, like everyone has mentioned above. Meanwhile, start working at your fullest capacity at work. It's difficult, but you're likely to get an incredibly positive response from your coworkers and employer if they see a serious turnaround in behavior and attitude. Trust me, the job I'm currently working I started out by skipping out of the office early and lazing around the office until my manager finally confronted me about it. I've since cleaned up my act and decided that it was the best route to go. It all only sounds difficult to accomplish when you aren't busy putting one foot in front of the other. Just start moving and it should come naturally to you.
posted by myodometer at 12:14 PM on April 20, 2006

This is bad advice. The green is very anti-debt for some reason, possibly because a lot of people here are in the position of paying them off. This is the wrong view to take. Debt is not a burden; it's an investment in yourself. If you think you're a good investment then there's no reason not to rack up whatever debt it takes to achieve your goals.

Exactly. The people claiming you should not get deeper into debit in order to stay in school are, in my view, idiots. There is nothing wrong with student loans, most people have them. Think about it, would your life be worse or better if you owed $20k in debt, had to make $200/month payments (that's what I pay each month for my $20k in federal loans, the private loans are a bit more).

Also, if you become unemployed while paying back federal loans, you can get your payments deferred until you can pay them. These federal loans also have crazy-low interest rates.

Unless you think you're going to make less then $200/mo more with a degree then without it, you should get loans.

Staying in a shitty situation simply because you think "debit is bad" is just plain stupid.

Get loans, get your degree, then worry about getting a job.
posted by delmoi at 12:41 PM on April 20, 2006

To clarify on debt: It's only good if it's a good investment. Education is a good investment. A car (for example) is not. But you knew that probably.

Depression and ADD are both frequently mitigated by exercise, which is much cheaper than therapy or medication. Seriously--I am much clearer-headed if I've been exercising. Exercise can be cheap; the easiest is running, usually, but swimming or weights can be inexpensive depending on your circumstances.

If there's a lot of things wrong in your life that you want to change, it's often good to start with the physical so that you have an immediate benefit and a good base/outlook for future improvements in other areas.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:15 PM on April 20, 2006

Hopefully you get a chance to read this post, b/c I felt like you a few years back. And now I'm in a much different place. Let me explain...

In 2003, I had a best friend that turned out to be an ass. He was also my roommate. It was hell that year... Short story--I lost my car due to stupidity and ass roommate/friend, I couldn't talk to my parents b/c we had a fallout, I got into $5K debt, and I was doing horribly in school. (I had been doing great in school and financial stuff beforehand). The thing is, it didn't creep up on me just one day. It was like a snowball-into-avalanche effect. I knew the small problems would eventually come back to bite me, but I chose to ignore it, and then the more I ignored them, the bigger the problems got.

I became miserable and depressed and thought my life was a complete failure. I didn't think I would finish college. But I finally sat down one day and just let it all out -- I told myself how much of a dumb ass I was, I was pissed at myself, etc... And then that day I realized that I was pretty much at the bottom of my life compared to all my other experiences...but I also realized that it wasn't that bad. Yeah, I was in debt. Yeah life sucked. But I still had my health, although I felt depressed. I could still get a job. I wasn't handicapped. I didn't have some life-threatening illness. And so it really wasn't that bad. I thought of all the people out there who had it worse than me, and life didn't seem so bad.

So to counteract the avalanche, I did the only thing I could--take tiny steps and make my own snowball-into-avalanche effect of positive changes to my life. So I got a job to try to pay back the debt. I explained that I was having trouble in school, and my college found me free tutors as part of my financial aid to help me with my classes, and I called my parents to apologize for our fallout. It wasn't easy. But I kept telling myself that it'd get better.

Well eventually it did. It wasn't an overnight thing, but looking back today, my life has completely changed from then. I graduated from college in 4 years when I thought that I would never finish school. I did really well the last couple of years to make up for that one horrible semester. I'm currently in grad school working towards my doctorate degree, and I only have a couple of years left. I only have some school loans to pay off eventually. I have a job that pays me enough for my car, apt, etc. I have a car again that I am paying for. I talk to my parents and my friends often now. I'm telling you this to show you that ppl can change no matter how 'screwed' they seem to be. Although my life's not perfect now, (but whose life is perfect anyways?), I know I've come a long way.

So the lesson I learned seems really cliche, but it's true. I just didn't give up, and I became a selective listener...So many people gave me this look like I was screwed or flat out told me that based on what I told them about my grades or debt or whatever. But I chose to ignore them. It wouldn't do me any good to hear negative things or believe them. I chose to make small changes that would hopefully impact my life positively. And those small changes added up. Not everything I did worked, but I didn't let it get me down.

So what should you do to improve your life? I don't know that answer. But it seems like you have many good suggestions on here. I just wanted to share my story so that you could perhaps find some hope from someone who knows what you feel like. It's easy for people who never were 'screwed' or 'failures' to tell you advice on how to be successful or perfect. But they don't know what the 'screw-ups' of life are going through, and how hard it may be to change their life for the better.

Just remember that what you're going through right now is not that bad and that it will pass with time and effort and positive change. Don't give up and don't listen to ppl telling you how screwed you are. You're not. :) Everything works out, eventually...
posted by secretsmile720 at 5:21 PM on April 20, 2006

I'd like to give szyzygy's link a second shoutout. I've been reading through it, and find it unusually good, especially for free internet content. It's the type of commonsense, reality-based, 'Life 101' that many of us can use if we haven't learned everything at the feet of an incredibly stable and healthy family. Just wanted to call that out a bit more.
posted by Miko at 6:01 PM on April 20, 2006

Hi. I'm currently at the end (I hope) of a year+ long major depression, so I may be projecting, but I'd like to point out that one of the lesser know symptoms of dep. is an inability to concentrate. This plus the lack of motivation and apathy make it pretty hard to study/work/live in general. IMO, what you need to do first is start getting the depression under control. The above suggestions about exercise are great, but many people are too depressed to do it. A private-practice therapist is very expensive, but there are some great free/low cost alternatives. I did a little research and came up with some resources for you. I hope you'll check them out. Once you get your brain straightened out, everything else will seem much more manageable.

Department Mental Health
Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services
Docking State Office Building
915 SW Harrison Street, Tenth Floor East
Topeka, KS 66612
Phone: 785-296-3773
Fax: 785-296-6142
E-mail: sxxe@srskansas.org
Internet: www.srskansas.org

National Mental Health Association

Mental Health Association of Kansas
3745 SW Wanamaker Road
Kansas 66610
Phone: 620.325.3938
Fax: 620.325.3899
Email: asknbeg@terraworld.net

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Depression and Related Affective Disorders Association
posted by umus at 8:03 PM on April 20, 2006

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