Getting Back On Your Feet – 20-Something Question

Q. How do you pick up the pieces of your life? I am recovering from a period of depression. It was brought about my a combination of self-loathing, family issues, confusion with my university choices and a strong fear that I’d never ever be able to get a job.

I know the question of how to fix a life is too vague. So… I guess I want to ask how do you get a job if you’ve never gotten one and you’ve been rejected?   – 20-something

This post was difficult. While  the question is about getting a job it obviously is steeped in the effects of depression. I am not an expert on depression so the answers here are for perspective rather than diagnosis or rule. Depression is not to be taken lightly or judged. It exists in all forms and levels.

“More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply “snap out” of. Depression is a chronic illness that usually requires long-term treatment. But don’t get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or other treatment.” – The Mayo Clinic

As they say, it can happen to anyone. We all know the 20-something life-stage can be filled with uncertainty and doubt which only adds to the matter. Getting back on your feet can be taken one small step at a time. Thanks to all my 40-somethings for their responses.

Dear 20-something, 

Depression is one of the hardest things in life to deal with. Many things can trigger it but most important is how you deal with it. In my 20’s I was desperately depressed, waking up actually felt painful and I was trapped in a terrible relationship that I could not get out of because I was afraid to be alone.

The first and most important step you can do is to start talking to a therapist. The very act of doing something for yourself and trying to improve your life can make things more bearable. There are also many good medications that can really help.

Once you start to feel better, it WILL happen, although it may take some time, then you can start to focus on what you want to do. In the meantime take some part time jobs and volunteer. Being out in the world will help you make connections and will also help you stave off depression. – 40-something, NYC


Dear 20-something,

My first advice would be to seek professional help, there is no reason to go through life feeling terrible when you could be feeling great with the right guidance and therapy.  That aside, believe it or not, everyone has small and large set backs in life including rejections, sadness, loss and frustration at choices made.  Most people aren’t sure about the university choices they make and fear they will have a hard time getting a job, this is part of life.  Life is always changing and the good news is that you can overcome all of these things and move on in a positive direction.  It may take a lot of strength, a lot of perseverance and a ton of determination, but it is possible.

It is easy when we feel down to lump a bunch of things together that are bad to make a mountain, but it does not have to be.  One step at a time is all you need to take.  One issue at a time and I would start with your self loathing, negative thinking leads to nothing but negative action.  Instead of focusing on reasons to be negative, spend some of that energy on reasons to be positive – even if they are very small.  Sometimes the smallest things can make us feel happy, even if just for a moment.  The sunshine, a beautiful flower you pass, a cute puppy, a kid laughing, a great song, a delicious strawberry.  Start hooking together small happy things to help with these big negative mountains.

Make lists of all of the things you have to be happy about and focus on that.  Many people have overcome incredible obstacles to get where they are in life and some of them have achieved more than we can ever hope to, read some of these people’s memoirs and get inspired.  Start a regular exercise program, this always helps to alleviate stress and to make you stronger.  Try focusing one one thing at a time, like the university issue.  Tackle this logically, write down all of your options here, you could try a few semesters and give it a little more time, you could finish the year and re-assess, you can quit, you can switch to another university, etc.  Then focus on the solution that makes the most sense for you.  On to your next step and so on.  You can do it!

Next week I will share another insightful answer from a woman who had a similar experience in her twenties. And as for finding the job…I second the advice to seek out volunteer opportunities. Then you can build up some experience with people who can recommend you. Also work with the office at your university. There may be a part-time job at the university that you can get involved in.

Take those small steps. Once you start taking the small steps, you can build up the confidence to take more.  Here is another post about a young women having trouble finding a job…it may offer some good insight. She wrote back to me a few months later to say she had succeeded and was getting back on her own two feet. Good luck!

“Kia Kaha…Be Strong”  – from Why I Am, by John Kirwan, former All Black who went public with his battle with depression.

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