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I feel like a freak


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Guest hopefully somewhat anonymous

Sometimes I just don't know what to do with myself.

I started a PhD program more than two years ago because I wanted to become a professor. I was one of those lucky people who had found their passion in life and was pursuing it.  But I had to drop out because starting the program triggered a vicious episode of depression.

Fast forward to today.  My life is still not together after all this time.  I basically haven't had a job since this happened.  A lot of this is my fault because I was so incredibly med-phobic that I put it off for a long time.  I thought that if I would quit being so afraid of trying things (also socially phobic) and just tried as hard as I could in therapy, I could push myself forward in life.  I was so stubborn that I spent a whole year in therapy before giving up and going on the meds.

Up until about a week ago, I had that calm, at-peace-with-myself-and-the-world feeling that SSRIs can induce.  Then I added Wellbutrin, because as nice as the SSRI is, I am in a long term relationship and would like to be able to have some sort of sexual life with my partner.  Now I am afraid I will relapse.

Anyway, that isn't really the point.  I just don't know what to do with myself. I no longer have any passion for my subject and of course had no backup plan.

I read a lot of these posts here and I think "how can these people be miserable? They all have jobs, they can support themselves.  They at least have some kind of a future to look forward to."  I am in Vocational Rehabilitation, I see a therapist, I take meds.  But I haven't been able to get a job yet, and for me, life without a job and career goals to look forward to equals no reason to live.  There's just too much empty time, and in a society where people define themselves by what they do for a living, I can't bear the thought of being looked down upon for the rest of my life.

I imagine that people my age (mid 20's) are working on starting their lives as independent adults, perhaps starting to build their careers.  Meanwhile, I sit here sponging off my SO (at least I'm not a financial burden to him) and think that my life is over. 

I mean, is there anything someone in my position can do to instill a sense of hope for the future?  Fill my weeks with as much volunteer work as I can find?  Take classes?  Keep plugging away at applications?  Or just accept that I will never be accepted back into normal society and plan my life accordingly? 

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I am 21 and have worked and studied since I was 16, and I have had to leave my degree program due to MI. I am also unemployed, living on benefits and have no firm date set to go back to work. It is unlikely that I will return to my degree course as it will be too costly to do so. I have to think about a career and I have no direction. So you're not alone. I recommend volunteer work, as soon as I am well enough and know when my therapy schedule is finalised, I will be going to do that, just to structure my day. Being unemployed sucks socially, people do have prejudices about it. But they're not the sort of people you want to hang out with anyway. Can't you just tell them that you're on a career break right now?

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i do not know what you can do. suffice it to say that i got 2.5 years into a phd programme and took 6 months leave about 5 years ago. although i have worked a bit in that time i am completely adrift in my life. i have moved back in with my parents and drive my sister's car. and for me add ten years to yours. you sound highly goal driven. i do not know if i am the same.

i have no answers, only commiseration. and i don't know if i've spelled it right.

all i can say is i hear you and i understand.

grouse.

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This might not be what you want to hear but I going to say it anyways In regards to your hopes and dreams etc. I am almost 50 years old and I have achieved alot of what you seem too want in life but I will tell you it only gets worse. I have the wife,kids house,good job and the things that go along with it but am still wallowing in depression/anxiety, living with tons of regret about what might have been. You still have your future ahead of you and let me tell you, it is alot harder to look back at things that you cant change than it is to look forward to what you can change. Sorry if this has made you feel worse but sometimes the bad has to come before the good.

P.S. Youre log in name "hopefully somewhat annonymous" intrigues me! I have often been paranoid that  one of my fellow crazyites might know me or somebody might figure out who I am from something I say.Paranoid hey! I know the chances of this happening are probably really low but I sometimes think one day a co-worker is going to come up to me and say Hi Reco49 from the Crazyboards. Someone once told me you can find out alot about someone just by Googling their e-mail address. Yikes, and now I've given my age out to boot,  I dont know and I havent really tried the google thing.. Anyway tell me if that is the thought behind your log in name, I'm curious or if anybody else shares my fear.

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OK:

Enough of the "god it sucks huh?" posts! I am 50, happily married and my life has only gotten better.

  Meds and therapy and getting real about my life are what have saved me. If I were still in denial? I would not have a new career, a new passion for my life, and lots of expectations for a bright future.

  You are young. When I was in my 20's, I had a totally different goal. I was a different person. You are going to be so different in 10 years, that you won't believe it. IF, and I mean if you take responsibility for what has happened. Yes I am talking about the original topic, your gambling.

  Start with your p-doc. I always do when I mess up. They can't tell anyone. They are bound by law. BUT you can develop plan to work your way back to a place where you can feel proud of yourself.

  I take it you went on Wellbutrin in order to have sexual relations with your spouse. It may not be working. This is not the only answer. This is what they usually try first.

  You are smart, young, and it's not too late. You may pick up that PHD again in your thirties. But don't give up! There is too much good stuff around the corner.

  But only if you make it happen. There can be a life of everything said before me too. But, it's up to you.

Breeze

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I'm wondering should I ask my GP to take me off the Wellbutrin?  I'm between pdocs right now, I'll see a new one in I think less than two weeks.  I've only been on it for a week but it has been going badly and I have the feeling that I am not going to get much done while I feel this way.  Before I started it I was doing just dandy on the SSRI, feeling fine and able to work towards goals, but had basically no sexual functioning.  I feel like a frickin' idiot for thinking everything would be ok.

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Hey there-

I'm a little younger than you and still finishing up my undergrad career, but I can relate in some ways.  What I eventually want to do is teach Creative Writing at the university level. 

I'm going to graduate in June.  After that, who knows?  I just know that I'm not going straight to grad school.  I'm taking some undetermined amount of time to do some undetermined thing and gain "life experience" whatever that is.

And the idea of not working towards something terrifies me, which seems to be what is freaking you out.  But you have to realize that it's only been a very small amount of time that you've taken off.  You are still on track for anything you want to accomplish.

How long had you been on the SSRI before you started taking the Wellbutrin?  Sometimes side effects (even sexual ones) will fade with time, or there are other ways to work around them.  Since you were doing so well on the SSRI by itself it seems superfluous to add Wellbutrin unless you can't work around the sexual issues any other way.  Of course, I'm not a doctor and my opinion should be weighted as such.

Patience, grasshopper.  You are in no hurry- take your time and listen to your heart and figure out what it is that you want to do... even if what you come up with is a list of several things that you want to explore further.

Can you think of this as an opportunity for rebirth? 

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Thanks for the responses, guys.  I guess the problem is not only do I not have a job, but I am no longer interested in my original career plans.  That makes it hard because a lot (perhaps most) people choose their careers based on what they studied in college.  When you separate yourself from that, how are you supposed to figure out what to do next? I think I invested too much of myself in my studies and not enough of the other things college had to offer.  I guess I am going through an identity crisis.

The most important thing for me is just getting a job, even a part time one.  That alone will probably keep me stable for a while.  As most people know, though, even that can be difficult.  I'm just looking for basic clerical work or other kinds of service work and the competition is just intense.

Becca, the reason I added Wellbutrin is that I have been on the SSRI for more than 6 months and things were not getting any better in the sex department.  And I suppose adding Wellbutrin was the most obvious answer.  I never thought it would destabilize me, I mean I was already stable, so what could adding a little dose of Wellbutrin do?

Karuna, you are right, the people who would judge me are not people I want to hang out with anyway.  I think I hold back from people because I don't know who is going to get an attitude about me not having a job and who isn't.

and thanks to everyone else, though I don't have anything specific to add to those comments.  I'm probably going to try to wait it out with the meds until I get to the pdoc unless I get totally nuts and non-functional.

In all honesty, I don't necessarily want some huge career, I'm just trying to find a place in life where I'm reasonably happy, and that would include having a job that I like enough to stay in for a while.  And I don't want my stupid nutjobbery to stand in the way of that.

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Thanks for the responses, guys.  I guess the problem is not only do I not have a job, but I am no longer interested in my original career plans.  That makes it hard because a lot (perhaps most) people choose their careers based on what they studied in college. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

They really, really, really, really don't. I literally can think of no one who is doing what they studied in college. No, wait, one person.

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I apologoze. I thought you were The Gambler (song in head)

I'm wondering should I ask my GP to take me off the Wellbutrin?  I'm between pdocs right now, I'll see a new one in I think less than two weeks.

Check with someone before you just stop taking it. It's good practice. Granted you have not been on it that long, but you really shouldn't just start and stop meds on your own.

Good luck to you. Sounds like you have a good head and heart, the right direction will present itself. You'll get there.

Breeze

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First off: I am FORTY-TWO, and after a lifetime opf tail-chasing, I SEEM to have hit on a useful DX/treatment (ADD/Adderall).

I say SEEM, because I am so accustomed to having some shoe drop on me that I'm just waiting for some big steel-toed workboot to drop from the sky. I just can't quite trust yet that it is better...sigh.

That said - I am just now, having failed with every academic untertaking throughout my entire life (never could handle classrooms - faked my way through everything by reading and test-taking, but I eventually gave up on that, so great was my discomfort), stealthily eye-balling COMMUNITY COLLEGE...and I'm still afraid to have an overt interest in it.

The really sad and dumbn thing is I only want to take a few classes to help me with what I already do - not (heaven forbid) even pursue a cerificat/diploma/A.A. degree. But I'm still scared.

So - you're young, you got this far this soon...and you can always take abreak and go back. Sometimes a little real life helps, or so they say.

Re: Meds/sex:

Personal Factoid: I cannot tolerate SSRIs at all. Huge agitation leading to Panic Attacks ensue. However, Melatonin, 5htp and tryptophan are not troublesome.

You don't specify your flavour of SSRI, but popular opinion holds that they are all slightly different in side effect profile for each person. You may wish to investigate another SSRI (a friend reports no sexual side effects with Lexapro)  or a multiple reptake inhibitor (Effexor, Cymbalta) -  to see if the effectiveness is there without so much sexual side effects.

Apparently, Serotnin IS your friend - at least in terms of alleviating dpression.

Personal Factoid #2: I could not tolerate Wellbutrin in the least...but I CAN take adderall. WB caused tremendous agitation/anxiety, even at a weenie dose, but Adderall has only produces slight physical jitteriness and has improved my mood (in addition to my concentration/motivation) considerably. Plus I'm hornier than I have been in years and fully capable of doing something about ti.

So - dopamine MAY or MAY NOT be your friend. I wouldn't take WB as the final word on that.

Another Personal Factoid: Strattera (SNRI) killed horrible, paralyzing depression within 10 days for me, even starting at 10mgs with only appetite supression and constipation as side effects. Didn't do squat for attention, but depression? Ate it for breakfast. 50mgs was too much (started feeling like I couldn't move/tired) for me. No effect sexually one way or the other.

So - Norepinephrine MAY or MAY not be your friend, also.

Talk with your doc about all these possibilities. Something is out there that will help on multiple levels without ending your family name, I'm sure, it just may take some trial and error to find the right thing/combo.

Fix this first and the rest will fall into place.

pigs

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I started a Ph.D. program in my mid-20s, more than 10 years later it looks like I'll actually graduate soon (although I'm not in a field known for short Ph.D. progress). I've spent several years of it so incapacitated by depression that I couldn't make any progress there, and I couldn't work either. It was really difficult to see other people graduating and moving on, and I questioned what I'm doing. The solution for me is that I do want to stay in my field and work in it, but you might come to a different one.

My goal, like yours, is a nice tenured professorship somewhere that will support my research. I've had to revise some of my expectations in that department, but it's still within reach. I would have had to change some of those anyway since I can no longer just move to where the job is -- I need to coordinate such things with my partner. So there are things other than MI that affect our career choices.

Do you have an MA or enough course work to be considered "equivalent"? I've been teaching intro classes at a local community college for some years now. They're not too heavy in terms of preparation or material, and it helps keep me in contact with some of the things I love.

As for your subject matter, Maybe you need a break from it? Someone suggested you might be burned out and that's quite possible. I took some time away from school between graduate degrees and I'm glad I did -- it also helped me clarify my goals. Are you in a program that really supports the subdivision of your field that you want to pursue?

You'll get a job soon, I'm sure. Most Americans have something like five different careers in their lifetime. Those of us to what in one thing and stay dedicated to it throughout our lives are really the aberration (for all that we're common among grad students and professors).

Fiona

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Congrats on the job. Maybe take a breather and just work as a working adult for a while. You don't need to be seeking paths every moment of your life, you know? Very few people go from undergrad straight into a PhD, and there's a lot to be said from getting some life experience to help you know better what you want to pursue with or without higher education.

My ex spent 7 years in a PhD program and ultimately bailed with over $80K in debt principle, having never managed to get a prospectus together for her dissertation, and so had to join the working world at the age of 31, buried in debt, 9-15 years after the majority of people start working for a living. It was really horrible for her and I was torn as was she about whether she should try to keep going, but at the same time whenever she'd attempt to look down her nose at people (like me) who lacked her level of education or depth of passion for Dante or Elisabeth Bishop of whoever, I couldn't help feeling that her understanding of life was completely out of whack. I hope she's doing well, really I do. But she was an object lesson in the fallacy of academia as a key to finding your calling.

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Congrats on the job. Maybe take a breather and just work as a working adult for a while. You don't need to be seeking paths every moment of your life, you know?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I know.  I guess what I meant was it is a job that will probably teach me some new skills and be valuable for getting jobs in the future, but it is not full time, which leaves me a bit of time to do other things.  It will take up the bulk of the day though.

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Ugh, now I am having agoraphobia-esque fears for my personal safety (in regards to the job, not in general).  It seems my brain will always find a way to be dysfunctional. ;)

If someone who has experience with this can help me figure out how to deal I will be muy grateful.  Or perhaps I should start a topic in the anxiety forum?

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If someone who has experience with this can help me figure out how to deal I will be muy grateful.  Or perhaps I should start a topic in the anxiety forum?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I've flirted with agoraphobic issues, but really part of general "I can't control the world" issues. The only advice I can give you is to NOT give in; that's what saved me. Even though I felt some fearful about some things and it seemed to be far more energy than I possessed to go outside, I did them anyway. And I did them every day. And it passed almost as quickly as it came on. I know if I had given in to the urge to stay inside and 'safe' it would have developed into it being near impossible for me to leave.

It helped a lot that my pdoc was pushing hard, and that I had to go out to see him regardless.

You'll likely get good advice in the anxiety forum -- it's certainly worth taking this there to ask.

Fiona

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