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Really lost and need some advice

(17 Posts)
annabel1234 Fri 14-Jun-13 23:14:04

Have namechanged so I can stay anonymous.

I'm just really lost and feel so confused about my life and wondered if anyone could help. I'm 24, graduated from a degree course last July but haven't done my dissertation yet, so haven't got a final grade. I deferred for health reasons as I have depression/anxiety and really struggled meeting deadlines. I got really behind in essays during my third year, and had to keep delaying deadlines because I got so panicked and couldn't do anything. I had panic attacks, couldn't focus and was so scared. The first time it happened I was sat in the library and got really stuck on an essay, started crying, couldn't breathe, ran home and didn't know what was wrong with me. This has happened again and again with essays etc after that. For example, a big 6000 word essay that was meant to be in in February got handed in in May. I got myself so worked up on my dissertation I hardly did any work on it in my third year, and as it got nearer the deadline I panicked more and more and couldn't do anything..I felt frozen every time I thought about it. So it's now nearly a year after my dissertation was due, and I'm still getting extension after extension because I can't make myself work. I get panic attacks, I have no motivation whatsoever and I just feel so stupid. When I do work on it and try to write, I get panicked and stop within a very short space of time. I just avoid it so I don't have to feel the panic, which is really bad and landed me in this mess. I've been diagnosed with depression, which was on/off throughout university (felt suicidal at points and self harmed a few times).

I'm back living with my parents which makes everything worse, as I feel so claustrophobic and like a child again. My childhood here wasn't very good, so I guess I feel completely out of control with no independence. I live every day numb and full of self hatred - so many people do their stupid dissertation, it's not that hard. I spend every day trying to distract myself, but I often fail to get dressed/showered/do anything meaningful. I feel so worthless. Before this all happened I'd had really successful internships and contacts and was well on the way to getting a job. Now it's going to be really awkward explaining to prospective employers what I did for a whole year and why I didn't just do it. I feel like such a failure and that it's going to be like this forever. Nothing has moved forward.

I just wondered if anyone had gone through anything similar, or if anyone could offer me any support generally. Or tell me to just get on with it and stop being so pathetic. That's what I tell myself every day though and it's not working. Thanks for reading anyway, I'm sorry it was so long.

GoingRoundTheTwist Sat 15-Jun-13 00:48:52

Take one day at a time and be kind to yourself. You will get there in the end, one step forward, two steps back. But keep going. Don't ever give up. Think of it as a journey, you might keep getting lost, but you'll get there in the end, just don't ever give up hope. You're not pathetic, you're human, you have thoughts and feelings, and at times they are just a bit too real, they start to take over your life. BUT it won't be like that forever. Good days, bad days .. try and look for the small things that put a little smile back on your face. Then take it from there.

IT affects more people than you think, you're just a bit braver and honest in admitting it. You know what it is, that's half the battle. It doesn't matter what "your story" is. I'm nearly 40, mum to 2 kids, I've had IT on and off forever. Keep going. Keep talking. It helps to get it out. It helps to know you're not alone. You don't have to explain "trapped, claustrophobic, panic, confused, scared, can't breathe", I know how you feel, its the worse feeling ever, but if IT comes, IT can also go. It doesn't last forever. It will ease. There is hope!! Take whatever help you can get, maybe try a few self help books, there are answers and there is help, its just sometimes hard to find the right advice and apply it to you, in a way that means something. Take care, you are never on your own, it just feels that way. There is light at the end of the tunnel, you just haven't seen it yet. xx

mayaswell Sat 15-Jun-13 08:17:11

Are you having any treatment or help with your depression? I think you need some practical support to decide what you can do next.

Are your parents helpful now? They must be worried about you. Do you see friends? Do you go out, get exercise, eat well?

Please don't think getting a degree is more important than your health. It isn't. There are other routes to success.

annabel1234 Sat 15-Jun-13 12:25:43

Thank you for your kind comments... Goinground your advice is really good, thank you. It's the same type of thing I'd say to other people, but it's really hard to see it in myself...I just don't see why I can't just pull myself together and finish something that so many people do. I have no 'real' reason to be depressed or dead, I haven't been abused, I'm not living on pennies..I feel like I'm just not trying hard enough.

Mayaswell I did when I was at university. I had CBT for anxiety which didnt seem to help, and I tried ADs but the ones I tried really didn't seem to work for me. I joined a gym in January and booked some classes (yoga, Zumba), but I haven't done any of that in the last month. Exercise made me feel better straight afterwards but after a while I just went back to feeling hopeless. I know I need to get a grip.

My parents really don't know anything about MH problems in general and don't know how to help. My mother keeps asking me about my dissertation and I hate being asked about it, so it just makes me feel more panicked (though I know she's only trying to help). My father has always been very controlling, and is more so now he's getting older (70s). I just feel I've totally lost who I am..feel like I'm living in a daze. I loved my independence when I went to university, but now I don't have any control over anything. For instance, I'm on the insurance for my mother's car, and have been since I was 18, but my father sometimes tells me I can't use it because I've been 'rude' or disrespectful. Eg interrupt him or confronting him when he's walked all over my mother and made her cry. I really feel like a child. I don't have enough money to move out but I'd love to if I could.

I have some really good friends but most are from university and they're all over the country now, and the friends I had when I was growing up have all moved away from here now for jobs.

Sorry for another long post..I just really don't feel like me anymore

CappuccinoQueen Sat 15-Jun-13 13:05:16

Hi Annabel, your OP really struck a chord with me as I was in the same situation as you. I deferred my final year at University as I was very unwell with depression and couldn't cope. At the time I remember thinking that I had totally screwed my life up, that I was unemployable, a failure, worthless; it was a very dark and lonely time.

I was also worried about explaining to potential employers about why I had taken a year out of my studies but when I was interviewing for potential jobs, if I was asked the reason why, I was honest and explained that I had been unwell and needed to take some time out to recover. FWIW, I went onto secure a great job in an industry that I really wanted to work in so please don't worry about being unemployable. I don't know if this helps but I know of two people on my course who also had to defer a year (one because her mother was ill and the other had meningitis) - both of these people went onto find work in their chosen fields, which shows that taking longer to complete a University degree is not a hindrance to your employability.

Right now though, the most important thing for you is to concentrate on getting better. Your health is so important. Please don't worry about the future, focus on the here and now. Take every day as it comes, don't put pressure on yourself. You are so young and you have a bright future ahead of you. I know it must feel as though things will never get better and that you're stuck but this is not forever. Depression is an awful illness, and having suffered for it on and off for many years I know exactly how you must feel - it sucks all of your hope, your self worth, your energy from you but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Living back with your parents must be difficult, especially if you had a bad childhood (I can relate to that as well) but try to think of it as a temporary situation. You won't be living with them forever, and you just need this time to focus on yourself and to get better.

As Maya said, are you taking any medication? Perhaps some counselling sessions would help?

Sorry for the epic post! Take good care of yourself and hang on in there. You will get through this x

harrap Sat 15-Jun-13 13:11:29

Well, I've experienced some of what you are going through. When I did my first degree I kind of ground to a halt and had to repeat a year. I was depressed I think but constantly asking for extensions and living with the anxiety of not working made me feel even worse and really spoilt my time at university.

Having a big piece of work hanging over you is a horrible feeling.

Since then, I have done two post graduate qualifications and my job now involves writing to deadlines, and sometimes what I have to write seems overwhelming. But over the years I've got better at not procrastinating and while not totally cured there are a few things that help if I'm stuck.

The first is, I tell myself I'll sit down and do just half an hour, I find that once I've done 20 minutes I'm absorbed and will keep going, if 30 or 20 minutes seem too much do 15, 10 or 5; anything is better than nothing.

2) I only work for 90 minutes at a time and then have a break of half an hour.

3) Sometimes I'll start by reading around the topic I'm writing about, that way I can sort of "sneak up" on the actual piece of work I have to finish.

4) I let some perfectionist tendencies go.

5) I have a routine that includes set hours for work but if I miss the start time for any reason I'll sit down and start anyway.

These are all obvious tips and I'm sure you know them, after all you have got through your exams and other course work.

I would suggest that you do 20 minutes every hour for 6 hours a day and gradually increase the time by ten minutes over the course of a week or two. Maybe keep posting here as you progress.

Yes, most people do get work in on time but, an awful lot of people don't so you are not alone.

annabel1234 Sat 15-Jun-13 13:19:22

Thanks for your post Cappuccino, it's really good hearing it's not just me that's been through this (though obviously I'm sorry you did). It's really useful to hear your employers were understanding and you got a job. I guess I see depression as harder for people/employers to understand..if you take a year out because you have a physical illness which means you're in the hospital, or if you have a parent that dies, it's really obvious what the problem is and people are more sympathetic. But I still feel with MH problems some people might just think "get over it" and think I'm not a good candidate for a job if I'm going to keep getting depressed. I don't see it as a "valid" reason for me.. Of course, if someone else said this about them I'd say of course depression is valid, and it's not something that you can just snap out of. But I can't seem to stop beating myself up about it. I don't want people to see me as weak and pathetic..that's not me. But I feel as though depression has made me though things, and I'm no longer a strong, motivated person as I think I was before.

I really am trying to take it day by day, but I just do nothing all day and it's been like this for ages..there seems to be no sign that it's going to get any better anytime soon. I know it's 'temporary' really, but there's no proof that it's not going to be forever.

I was on an AD but it made me feel worse and I totally lost my appetite. I'm a good weight now (I used to be underweight) and I don't want to slip back into not eating properly, as I do when I'm feeling really bad.

I had counselling at university but I never found it really helped. I saw the same person for two years but I could never totally open up. What's the difference between this and seeing a psychotherapist? I don't know which is best.

Sorry if this sounds all really pathetic..I know people have bigger problems

mayaswell Sat 15-Jun-13 16:14:16

Part of being depressed is often feeling you want to hide from the world, that you're less valid, and should be ashamed of not coping with what other people seem to achieve so effortlessly.

You sound like you're trying to manage alone, and that's just too hard, you need someone on your side.

I agree sometimes parents can't help, but do you have anyone else in your family who might support you? Can you go and stay with a relative, even for weekend? Have time off worrying. Permit yourself a break.

You are young, life is just beginning. Please don't think you have to do it all now, or by yourself.

annabel1234 Sat 15-Jun-13 21:07:25

harrap that's really good advice, thank you. I feel like the department really hate me for causing them so much work with all the extensions. I really felt as though it ruined my university experience too. I'd avoid going out or just couldn't face getting up in the mornings. It really helps to know you're doing so much better with the anxiety now, I hope that can happen with me too.

I have cousins that I get on with, but I wouldn't really feel comfortable talking to them about it. They can really judgemental. Not sure if it's just me not wanting to tell someone though..

Does anyone have any more good self help strategies they've used for depression/anxiety?

clareabouts Sat 15-Jun-13 23:04:45

I would definitely go back to the GP and ask for some different antidepressants. I was prescribed Citalopram and they actually gave me panic attacks, but the doc switched me to Sertraline and they really seem to make a difference (although it took 3-4 weeks for me to feel it).

There are as many different talking therapies as there are people doing it, so do also consider asking the GP for a referral to a counsellor or psychotherapist.

On the dissertation, do as others suggest and set yourself very small targets to begin with. Don't worry about when you'll finish it; just focus on the next little goal. Do twenty minutes' reading tomorrow, then put it out of your mind until the next day, when you can choose to do the same again or a little more.

And don't worry about what your university department thinks. They'll have seen it all - and worse - before. Your job is to look after yourself and your health.

annabel1234 Sun 16-Jun-13 00:08:45

Do you think ADs are always the best way to go? I'm so hesitant, as a few of my friends have been on them and it's made them feel really numb..they don't feel so bad, but they don't feel so bad. I feel really bad sometimes, but I also feel good sometimes. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have those good moments. They keep me feeling sane.

How long do you think waiting lists are for counsellors/psychotherapists? Before I went to university counsellors so I haven't gone through GPs for it. I know it probably varies depending on area and demand. Would they take me seriously or do you think I'd be really low priority?

Doing bits in tiny portions is a good idea, I should do it. I just put it off completely, which I know is bad. Not facing up to the panic is worst for this, I'm just so scared of the panic attacks I had all the time at university. I was so scared.

Thank you all for helping, it's so kind.

clareabouts Sun 16-Jun-13 06:16:11

If you get the right antidepressant at the right dose it won't make you feel numb or stop you from feeling like yourself - it will just give you the strength to tackle the problems that feel unmanageable at the moment. Here's an analogy: imagine you're an athlete with a sports injury. It will take a little time to get better and you need physiotherapy to treat it, but in the meantime you need to stay active, so you take painkillers that will let you use the injured body part gently while the physio gets to the root of the problem. The painkillers are antidepressants and the physiotherapy is your talking cure, and combining the two gives you the best chance of a speedy and successful recovery, because you treat the cause and the symptoms simultaneously.

I think if you go to your GP and tell them exactly what you've told us here they'll take you seriously. There's lots of help available to people going through what you're going through, so be kind to yourself and take advantage of it.

And after you see your GP come back here and let us know how it went. I'm rooting for you.

harrap Sun 16-Jun-13 10:09:36

I was on citalopram for about a year a couple of years ago- I was very sceptical too but they really helped me and I had no trouble coming off them.

Plus look into mindfulness.

Is there a Buddhist centre near you? I'm not a Buddhist but I used to go to a centre and did some courses in meditation including one for meditation for depression. I met some very lovely people on those courses too.

Mindfulness is very helpful for when your mind starts spiralling. You can just bring yourself back to the tiny thing you are doing at that precise moment. Again very helpful when there's some huge "thing" looming in your life.

I really do feel for you-I remember that spaced out feeling when I was failing my year at university -not that you are failing because you have done most of it. I felt shut off from everybody else and because I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing I did virtually nothing except sit and watch every soap opera there was throughout the day.

At the risk of patronising you and sounding like your mother, why don't you do ten minutes now and report back?

annabel1234 Sun 16-Jun-13 13:13:02

clareabouts thanks for your post. I think I'll go and see a GP and see what they suggest. It will probably take weeks to get an appointment but I'll ring tomorrow morning.

harrap It was citalopram I went on too, that's the one that made me feel worse. I suppose I'd be so much happier trying to do this without drugs (not saying they're not really good for some people). Do you think it would make sense if I went down the non-drugs route for a month and see how it goes? So if I signed up for counselling/similar, looked at the buddhist centre, did more exercise.. The mindfullness thing sounds really useful, I'll have a look around. I think there's some kind of Buddhist centre near me. Does anyone have any more ideas about non-drugs things I can do? I know if all of that doesn't work I will try the ADs properly.

I have some things to do until about half 2, but shall I come on here then and then try and do 20 minutes? I'm getting panicky even thinking about it though, I give up at the first sign of panic which I know is counter-productive.

harrap Sun 16-Jun-13 18:13:39

How'd you get on? If nothing done don't worry at least you thought about it. Try again later or tomorrow.

Re ADs do what feels right for you or you'll end up with something else to worry about, all I'd say is don't rule anything out.

annabel1234 Sun 16-Jun-13 18:24:44

Nothing yet..sorry. I'll try again after dinner. I have booked 5 exercise classes for next week though, so that's hopefully a good step. The next thing I need to do is email my department and ask for some more time..they must be so annoyed with me, I do this every time.

Can you tell me more about the mindfulness for depression courses? What's different about the depression focussed classes rather than normal meditation ones? It does sound like something I'd like to do.

harrap Mon 17-Jun-13 19:48:01

Well, it's a long time since I did them but as I recall the "ordinary" meditation was just that-covered various kinds of Buddhist meditation, breath counting, a thing where you try to be compassionate to yourself, a relative, a friend, a stranger an enemy-something to do with loving kindness I think, walking meditation.

The meditation for depression involved practising meditation and a lot of CBT techniques for dealing with anxiety.

The recommended reading was a book called "Full Catastrophe Living" which I highly recommend.

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