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Doctor E
Doctor E, Social Worker
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 50
Experience:  I am a Ph.D-level therapist and college professor with a specialty in couples counseling.
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This isnt strictly a relationship question but I am wondering

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This isn't strictly a relationship question but I am wondering if somebody can help me anyway? I have recently moved to a new area and started a new job. I am struggling with the sense of isolation that I am feeling and just a general sense of meaninglessness and disconnection in my life.

I have spent today really spinning my wheels going around and around in circles looking for a way I could do something new to make my life more meaningful - for example further study or something (I am very interested in psychology, or something like that), but the hours of my job don't make it that easy, as I frequently work in the evenings. Other than that I just really don't know what my passions are or what interests me.

It seems like a lot other people have beautiful holidays, happy relationships and meaningful, fun lives and yet I never seem to quite grasp those things they are just always a little bit out of reach and my life is a bit monotonous. I am currently actively avoiding getting involved in relationships because all my previous ones have been so unsuccessful that I've decided that until I'm good enough and have grown up into a proper full adult with interests and responsibility and everything, there's no point even trying. The trouble is the lack of a companionship and closeness, can be in itself quite demotivating and so I am struggling against this now at the moment as well.

I really want to start living the kind of life that I should. I wasted my early 20s in bad relationships that led to nowhere. Over the years, I have had issues which have meant that I've hemmed myself into places - for example relationships I did not want, or stuck with my parents ( quite isolated where I grew up) but it's like, now I've got the freedom, I don't know what to do with it and it is a bit unsettling. It's like all I want to do is get into bed with a cup of tea and watch TV - even though I know this isn't really all that I want, then I end up feeling isolated and very depressed. If I leave the house to go somewhere I end up getting lost of wandering around aimlessly. People are always telling me that I don't seem very confident and I'd like this to change. I am frustrated because I am aware that I need to change but don't really know how to start. Does that make any sense?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Doctor E replied 1 year ago.

Doctor E : Hi there. I'd like to try to help you out. In reading your narrative, above, I can recognize a lot of strengths in you: namely, that you have an awareness that you are at a transition point in your life and that you are in need of a change. First, I'd like youth pat yourself on the back for this. All too often, individuals go through life avoiding or denying that they need to make changes in their lives to be truly happy. Awareness and acceptance of the need for change is a very good place to start. Secondly, I notice that you feel both some urgency in the situation, and it seems as though there is some pretty severe self-judgment happening on your part. Mainly this stems from the frustration of recognizing the need for change but feeling overwhelmed and powerless too so, because you don't know where to begin. I would suggest that you invoke a technique called partialization: instead of looking in all the areas that you want to change, identify your top 1 or 2 concerns, and create some specific, realistic goals for yourself. It might be worth creating some goals that are a little bit beyond your comfort zone. For example, you state that you're more comfortable relaxing after work with a cup of tea. Would you be willing to push yourself, just a little bit, and join a singles activity group like "Events and Adventures"? Would you be willing to talk to some of your new coworkers and put yourself out there, just a little bit, in telling them that you're looking to meet new people but don't know where to start, and do they know others that might be willing to show you around? It can be anxiety-provoking and overwhelming to do that, but if you try to meet these small goals, even in trying to change up your routine one night a week, you might start to even appreciate more those nights in,
Doctor E : I also want you to know that it's very normal to feel a sense of meaninglessness or a loss of purpose in life, especially when things taper out a little bit. In your earlier years, you strive to establish yourself and find a vocation: something you will enjoy and help you support yourself. This is exciting and overwhelming. However, eventually things start to calm down and can settle in a comfort-zone routine. Human beings crave novelty and excitement, but we are also afraid of change and taking personal responsibility to create that change. This can cause us to feel paralyzed. Many individuals also feel a sense of isolation and need to work to connect with others to push through that, as it can cause some anxiety. Are there other ways you might connect with others to feel more meaning in your life? For example, volunteering at a soup kitchen, as a tutor or big brother to at-risk youth, might give you a sense of satisfaction.
Doctor E : Please don't be too hard on yourself, you've just moved to a new place and transition can be very overwhelming. It's important you also give yourself some mine to adjust and not terrorize yourself with what you "should" be doing. It isn't helpful to berate yourself for the past: ask yourself, does this really help me feel better? Does it motivate me to change, or does putting pressure and expectation on myself only make me feel worse?
Doctor E : I hope this was helpful, and I'm happy to talk to you about it more. Please take good care of yourself.
Customer:

Thank you for your reply. I do really want to start taking those small steps as you say. One of the challenges at the moment is that my job is quite bizarre hours, so I never finish before half past 6 and normally finish at 8pm which means that I miss out on social groups etc:

Customer:

and would love to do some volunteering of some kind but again it is the time commitment.

Doctor E : Hi there. That's really tough. Again, I think it's very much for you to dice what you are and are not willing to take on. Finishing work at 8pm does limit your time abilities: would it be reasonable for you to get a late drink with some coworkers, even one night a week? Similarly, do you have any free time on the weekends that you could devote to volunteering? I'm also wondering if, since your schedule is so limited, you might want to take on a new project for yourself that you can manage in your home, whether it's an exercise routine or some kind of hobby: caring for fish, or plants perhaps? One of the benefits of taking on a new hobby at home is that you can manage your own time and there are a huge amount of Internet forums out there with like-minded people to offer you tips in gettin started. In this way, you can start I feel a little bit more connected with others.
Customer:

Well a tiny goal that I have sort of set myself is to do some baking for easter - to make a cake or something. And I suppose to do something like that as a hobby would be quite nice.

Doctor E : That's actually a really good, concrete and measurable goal. There's a tremendous amount of satisfaction in baking:there's an element of creativity there, but there's order in terms of steps to follow, and a good outcome at the bed
Doctor E : pardon me, that should say END
Customer:

aah ok

Doctor E : There's also the benefit of creating delicious treats to bring to others. People feel extremely cared for when someone gives them the gift of food
Customer:

:) yeah i would quite like to do that.

Doctor E : I really appreciate that you've done a lot of thinking about this. Whatever you decide has to be something that works and that you would want to do, so you're motivated. Something that feeds your soul, you know?
Customer:

Yeah that is the problem. I think my heart just isn't in anything enough at the moment. I flit from idea to idea. Maybe I have just lost confidence in my ability to follow through. I know what I should do, it's just making myself do it.

Doctor E : Motivation is always the toughest thing, whether it's running a marathon or baking the cake. That's why having a specific goal and clear steps to follow is helpful. At the same time, don't push yourself too much. You need to be patient with yourself, because you've really just undergone a big life transition: moving and starting a new job can be pretty overwhelming, and sometimes feeling a little less motivated is your body's way of telling you to slow down, too, and take it easy for a bit
Customer:

I think you're right, my new job is quite stressful and there is a lot to learn so by the weekend, I am ready to rest.. I think the loneliness contributes as well - I don't really feel that I have any really close friends I can call up and speak to on the phone. I do have one or two, but I suppose life just kind of fragments everything the old you get and then it is difficult to reach out to people when you feel so down.

Doctor E : Yeah, that is so true. Then you get into a spiral of feeling badly about it, which only serves to make you feel more upset :(
Doctor E : It is definitely important to reach out, though, to avoid some of that loneliness. Or if you're an animal person, finding a reasonable companion to take care of that wont take up too much time or responsibility, like a fish or small rodent even. Something that relies on you for food and love. Again, even plants need nurturing!
Doctor E : But do remember that your aren't alone, even if you feel isolated. There are lots of people out there going through what you're going through.
Customer:

:) thank you. I think that you are right and I do know that it will get better. I just seem to have been caught up in this spiral for far too long, long before I moved up here to be honest. I spent so much time under other people's wing and in their shadow and people keep saying ' be courageous' and they always say 'Oh why do women just stay in these bad relationships' but then when you do the courageous thing and try and exist on your own, it's like there is no rule-book about how to fill up that massive space in your life. That is how it feels to me anyway.

Doctor E : I think your assessment is pretty accurate. If you've come out of a pretty grueling relationship recently, you definitely have some mending to do and it takes time. You never go into these things expecting them to be so hard. At the same time, it does take so much courage to exist on your own BECAUSE of that loneliness and vulnerability. It's hard when you've been with someone and even if things were going poorly, you could count on that person being there and the routine you created
Doctor E : But I also want to say that what you've described to me doesn't sound like a spiral. It actually sounds like you are in the process of climbing out of something that's been sucking you down. In my opinion, that's actual forward momentum. The problem is, so few people acknowledge and praise us when we do make the effort to stand alone. There's not always someone there to motivate you to keep pushing ahead when you feel down, even when you're making strides. It's hard to see yourself from the outside, and it's easy to feel like things aren't getting better
Customer:

Yeah and it seems like everyone else thinks relationships are the be-all and end all and for me, they're not. Like I enjoyed the closeness but there were so many bad things that for me now I am pretty suspicious of motives of men with me.

Customer:

thank you for that and yes I mean I am really trying. Moving up here was quite a big step but it has just left me a bit lonely now. I a, hoping it is temporary and will pick up soon

Doctor E : Yes--but remember you never really know what's going on in someone else's household. People like to portray situations as rosy and enviable, because nobody likes talking about, or hearing about the difficulties. I don't blame you for being suspicious, and healing takes time. We humans are just so impatient!
Customer:

:)

Doctor E : I do believe this suffering is temporary for you, though. You've made a lot of difficult but positive choices, and those are going to pay off.
Doctor E : :)
Doctor E : I hope that's at least a little bit helpful? It's not easy, I know...but if you ever need more information I'm happy to help, ok?
Customer:

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. What you have said is really helpful, so thank you.

Doctor E, Social Worker
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 50
Experience: I am a Ph.D-level therapist and college professor with a specialty in couples counseling.
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I am a Ph.D-level therapist and college professor with a specialty in couples counseling.