Almost there ! Advice for late coming of age after family issues
December 10, 2007 2:40 PM   Subscribe

Any good formulas /advice on how to get back on feet after emotional earthquake / epiphany ? (story inside)

Hello Mefites ; after reading al that i could find on the topic, i still felt it would be useful to hang out in the "question section" and get some advice.. The story is long, here it is, if you care to give your adive regardlessly of it (its totally possible, scroll down to the bottom of the post, to "question"

After living all my life in an environment that was pretty remote fom the outer world due to some extreme religious interdictions, and one of my parent's now diagnosed paranoia, and going through anorexia, depression and incestuous abuse from one of my siblings, i eventually got out of it age 17. This by dpretnding i was into attending a bible school on the opposite side of the world (im european)...anyhow, anywhere, i had to escape, and i ended up spending an entire year in a christian community, better than quite desperation :). At first it was only an excuse to get out... but the breach was wide enough so that i eventually gave in to the pretty edgy extreme xian ideas that i heard all day over there (YWAM is the name of the organization..and it really does change lives). There for the first time i experienced true friendships, my life not being scrutinized in detail by family members..and associating this with the message i was given, i converted and started to really open up, socially, to myself, to art, ...a true flip

That was 4 years ago. Since then, ive had the opportunity to analyse and ponder every single thing i learned there, and i got to a positiv epiphany : the simplicity of life, thinking fulfilment was somehow attainable without too much trouble with a balanced life (that was last march)- All along undergrad things were pretty cool at university. I was always excited, pretty good looking, original, and had travelled.. blabla, enough to impress my peers.

Since mid september i have been done with undergrad, and the last semester of it saw major issues come up in my life, which got me wrecked. These include the suicide of a close friend, the realization that this whole fundy upbringing messed up my siblings as well (one of which is pretty violent, and outcast from social circles because of it), my coming out to my family as a much more down to earth person, if not agnostic, which actually wasnt too bad and last but not least, the realization that ive let go a potential love of my life due to my judgemental attitudes towards a lot of things. (black and white is the christian flter).

Now the problem is that simultaneously to these events, 7 of my close friends (= all of them) changed cities, 3 of which got engaged / married, and arent coming back. The people that remained were acquaintances, that i saw go pretty quickly with no explanations, along last summer.

To sum it up, there i was, desperate at what i saw, spiritually out of the realm where "god" and prayer were answers, with noone, physically, to turn to. Life looked like a blank page 4 months ago. in a scary way. This resulted in 2 entire months of panic attacks. I mean severe weight loss while first 2 weeks, sleepless nights, an entire month disappeared like this, right before exams..that I still managed to pass, but it was pretty bad stuff. I started a therapy, which got most of the bad jazz out of the way. Also, i loosenned bonds with my family a Lot. Since then, ive found new acquaintances, and really things arent that bad (i admit some of my christian friends pursued me, and i still get to see them sometimes..which is enjoyable though in an odd sort of way)..


QUESTION : Now im sure life-changing events happen to all of us, right ? be it a heartbreak, moving, changing jobs, grief, any life name it.... For those of you who have experienced them, and who have found themselves in a position where they just HAD to get back up on their feet quick, but were dealing with such issues as shyness / lack of organization / a bad reputation for having acted strangely due to events noone knew about / ...all this sort of jazz, what would you give as advices ?

Let me add that im okay financially, dont have panic attacks anymore, am able to manage myself quite okay, and am seing a therapist regularly. Simply it seems that these events got me pretty behind in my organizational skills/personality/willpower. I am lucky enough to be..say, attractive to people, simply, i dont know what to say about myself when meeting people, because my job and gradschool are taking all of my time, and i feel like im really "naked", compared to what i was before. Also, Im a lot less responsible than i used to be (which sucks for gradschool, and have to watch myself more tha, before for not being late to class or spending more money than i should...).

Id be curious to hear about your own TRANSITION PHASES, what they made of you in and out, what/who helped you, but mostly, HOW you helped YOurSELF get going smoothly, as quick as possible again =) (i need feedback of self discipline, social circle, the easy stuff of life) Thanx for listening !! (PS: 23 yr old girl writing)

PS 2 : Less importantly, but still relevant, would yo have any ideas on how i should act when comingacross former potential love of my life, whom i apologized to already, and didnt dare to go meet as he called me up (proselytism in relationships surely doesnt do good..), but whose mere sight really gets me ashamed and insecure...

PS 3 : same thing, how should i act when i come across the "friends" who fled from me along the summer ? (i recently found out part of it was my personality change to insecurity, part of it was their hearing from a big-mouthed ex bf, my family story, yep that includes the sibling stuff..). Ouch.

------> I hardlyever see the latter 2 i just mentionned, thanx to gradschool.. but any advice would help =)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total)
Take the long view, and remember that over time all shocks gradually dissipate. What's on your mind today will barely be of any importance to you a year from now. Anyone who avoids you is not a friend so don't waste trying to endear yourself to them.
posted by StarForce5 at 2:58 PM on December 10, 2007

Reading this post, I imagine what it must be like to live in the 4th dimension. It's a technicolor rainbow with lots of little emotional feelers.

My only advice is to live one day at a time. You only have to get through right now, today, and not have figured it all out. It sounds like you are transitioning from being a child to adult and trying to figure out your own likes and dislikes and you have some insecurities about it all, but so does everyone else your age. It doesn't matter where they came from, some insecurities are universal and you only season them out with age and experience. You now have some basis of comparison to see what you grew up like vs. what other people experienced. Embrace it all as a wild ride and keep yourself open to it as much as you can, but it's okay to hole up in your room and read a book, too.
posted by 45moore45 at 2:59 PM on December 10, 2007

Wow, what a lot of questions.

1) I find that in crazy-making, loneliness-inducing transition phases I cling to books, books with narrators who have their heads on straight. (I don't feel like your interests and mine are similar enough that any book I could suggest might be good, but maybe you could ask that as your question next week?)

2) Writing in a journal is a great place to keep yourself company, look at your thoughts, and keep thinking through who you want to be. It could also be a place to keep track of your progress on goals like organization.

3) Check out the book When Things Fall Apart. It talks about how you can separate yourself from the crazy emotions passing through yourself (ie, you are you, and those emotions are just passing through; rather than you being the crazy emotions). And the author talks about how everyone feels naked, or they should, so maybe your perspective right now is more accurate than most people's.

4) In general, stop caring about what others think about you if you can. You're probably not correct. Over the long run, it's you who you have to please. Just practice honestly reporting. (eg, you ask "I don't know what to say about myself... my job and grad school are taking all my time," so why not just say, "I'm so-and-so, My life? Yeah, it's basically my job and grad school.")

5) You are a new person every day. If you feel you need to confess to people what you wish you'd done differently, or the hard time you've gone through, go ahead and tell them about what you've been learning and how you're trying to change. Good for you for making progress. Either they'll understand, or else they'll be out of your life soon. Just focus on behaving the way you want to and becoming the person you want to be from here on out.

6) Cut yourself a few breaks now and then. Words like "ashamed" tip me off -- and coming from your background, which surely is heavy on the "shoulds" -- you're probably much harder on yourself than you need to be. See if you can't just accept yourself with all of your screwups as one whole package.
posted by salvia at 3:02 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

(On my #5, I was talking about people from the past. I don't mean to suggest that you confess to new people you meet -- for new people, I'd say play things cool and let them in on some of the more complicated history slowly.)
posted by salvia at 3:14 PM on December 10, 2007

Try building good routines for yourself. Get out of the house by a certain time every day. Eat lunch with someone from your department a couple of times a week. Get some exercise (even just a 20 minute walk) every day. Clean up the worst of the mess in your house every weekend. (etc). Routines don't need to be rigid, but in times of transition and feeling "at sea" they can really help keep you going. You have a lot of control -- you can choose good positive habits. If you feel like you are slipping into habits that you know would be bad for your own goals (for example missing class), take steps to break those habits.

Pick some place in your town that can be your "hangout" -- eg the gym, a coffee shop -- where you will drop by once every other day. Gradually people there will recognize you and you will exchange pleasantries. This sounds silly, but little interactions like that can really help ground you and remind you that there are nice people where you're living, that you belong, etc.

New friends will come. The time after graduating undergrad is very hard, even in the best of circumstances. Don't feel as if you have to get it all together right now, all at once. Just start with small steps, like being sure you get to class and get enough to eat etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:13 PM on December 10, 2007

The upshot of that was: the only way to come to terms with big life changes is time. You just have to keep on walking forward, even though your mind is full of big thoughts and things seem overwhelming at times.

Also - If part of your "at sea" feeling is because you don't have any stable relationships right now, you might consider getting a pet. A pet will be there when you come home at night, and doesn't care what your belief system is. The pet only cares if you love it and take care of it. Again, I know it might seem corny, but it helps. (Be realistic about how much time you can devote to a pet. If you are very busy, a cat is a better choice than a dog. If you have a lot of flexibility in your schedule, a dog might be goo.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:19 PM on December 10, 2007

posted by LobsterMitten at 4:20 PM on December 10, 2007

Best answer: Though I am twice your age, I understand. I am enduring something similar right now--the dissolution of a four-year affianced relationship in which I was financially supporting my SO and found out, in June, that he had at least four other relationships going on in various stages of courtship. I was recently treated to a "pocket dial" phone message from his phone that was three agonizing minutes of him laughing and joking with a woman, late at night. The past six months have been the worst of my life (which tells you that my life has actually been pretty good). These are the strategies that have worked for me:

1. Reading, lots of reading. When Things Fall Apart, The Power of Now, Full-Catastrophe Living, certainly, but also a lot of fiction that deals with the vagaries of "ordinary life"--Richard Ford, John Updike--and not so ordinary life--Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Along those lines, I also watched the complete run of Six Feet Under, a smart and searing series about, in part, those phases of life that simply must be endured. For me, misery loves company.

2. Structure. In my darkest days I kept myself on a fierce schedule of working, exercising, reading, and playing music, basically just trying to keep busy instead of sinking.

3. The mantra that my feelings are not permanent, that I will feel better, that things won't always look this bleak. Some days this view is easy to maintain, some days not.

4. Asking for help when I need it. I am lucky to have a great family and great friends. Never in my life have I called on people for help like I have recently--including asking people if I can just come over and spend the night when it all feels like too much to handle alone. There are places you have to be stoic--for me, at work--and places where it's ok to break down. And I've allowed myself those break downs without feeling shame.

5. Trying to just be quiet and get through it without histrionics, binge drinking, or vengeful behavior. This has been a conscious effort. Things won't be "ok" on their own; you have to try to make them so, which it sounds like you're doing.

Good luck to both of us.
posted by fiery.hogue at 4:26 PM on December 10, 2007 [5 favorites]

Having finally pulled myself out of a desperate situation that lasted entirely too long, I am convinced that this is supposed to happen. It is another painful milestone for the books -- like the first real heartbreak, ousting by a clique, puberty, the realization that your parents really aren't perfect. I've seen so many other people my age trying to secretly deal with things like this.

At 23, everything just suddenly sucks. You're left alone, lost, and clueless as to who you really are. This may last a few months, this may last a few years -- it is your choice. In the end you are left bruised, naked, and sobbing. Believe me that you are certainly not alone in this. Find others in that situation, find others that have survived it and be with them. This is the perfect opportunity to do something wild. You've already shown that you have no problem starting over in a new place, you might as well travel and take time for introspection. Stay safe, pay attention to your mental health, and let these little earthquakes happen.

Eventually you'll find yourself reborn into the world of adulthood with a long commute and a 30-year mortgage.
posted by idiotfactory at 2:25 AM on December 11, 2007

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