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Please Help Me

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FYI: I'm a 23 y/o male.

I've struggled with depression and anxiety for much of my life. Despite this, I've somehow been able get through my schooling, and will be graduating on Monday with an MSW (Masters of Social Work). I've already started my first full-time job. But I'm still miserable.

I never developed any competencies when I was younger for a variety of reasons, namely: lack of parental support and low self-esteem. When I say "competencies", I'm referring to skills and abilities such as a sport, music, art, writing, etc. Basically, I never was able to develop into being "good" at something. I did reasonably well in school, but when I wasn't doing schoolwork, I was generally unfocused and unproductive (Watched a bunch of TV, played video games, etc.).

Ever since I recognized this flaw, I have tried to develop a competency, but it's been a struggle. I did not realize the significance of not having a competency until the end of high school, and attempting to develop a competency from scratch while experiencing significant depression and anxiety and attempting to maintain my grades was a challenge. I saw therapists during this time period, but made little progress. They utilized CBT techniques, which wasn't problematic, but despite efforts CBT wasn't working for me. This seemed like a deeper problem than CBT could fix. I tried to get support from my friends and family, but I realized an almost complete lack of empathy, as no one understood how I could be happy and did not validate my very real depression and anxiety that I was experiencing as a result of this. I struggled for years, was close to committing suicide my sophomore year of college, but thankfully was able to come out of that state of mind.

Things got better towards the end of college, as I finally was able to find a group of friends that I enjoyed being around. I've always been naturally funny and I kind of took on being funny as my identity. It worked for the time being and my insecurities were put on the back burner for my senior year of college. I even had a short relationship and had my first kiss. I thought I had moved on.

But I didn't. Once I completed college, my friendships in school started to fade. I enjoyed the time I spent with my friends in college, but never connected with anyone. I didn't really have much in common with most of my friends, except we enjoyed hanging out/partying together. Therefore, after college ended, the friendships became less enjoyable. I got bored. The friends I still had from home also didn't meet my needs. We just, weren't really suppose to be friends. They were friends by convenience. Without my social life to distract me, my depression and anxiety came back again.

I know that if I had some type of competency, I would be better able to cope with and eventually overcome my depression and anxiety. A competency would allow me to more easily find friends that I have something in common with. A competency would allow me to add more to my life, an activity that I could regularly engage in that would provide joy. It's what's missing.

I'm 23. I'm still young. Although I'm working full-time now, I still have time to find a competency to add to my life. I have some interests: basketball, photography, poetry, writing, running, lifting, music. I also thoroughly enjoy my profession as a substance abuse social worker. I yearn to grow and learn more about my field.

But I can't seem to make any progress because I'm so miserable. I feel so empty. I have friends but don't want to be around them because there is no connection. No commonality. Personality-wise/interest-wise. Not having experienced intimacy in over two years also has taken a toll.

Basically, I'm in a catch-22. I need to start engaging in activities I enjoy in order to develop a competency, feel less empty, experience more joy, and find friends that are more suitable for me, but I'm struggling because my depression and anxiety make it so difficult to motivate myself. Also, it's harder to get involved at age 23 than in high school or college. Further, doing this without social support also is quite challenging.

Please, tell me this isn't hopeless. That I'll someday not feel empty. That I can have a life that isn't marred by misery. That I don't have to keep dragging myself through each day. Please.

TLDR: I never developed a competency, which has given me identity issues,self-esteem issues and trouble making connections with people, leading to a lonely, miserable, empty life. Attempts to improve my life have been marred by lack of opportunity and overwhelming depression/anxiety.

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First off, welcome. Hope you can get some help and much needed assurance here that you are not and never are alone here.

Reading your post would seem like a series of contradictions in some way (no offense meant). You know that you have competencies and by crud, are you showing them on a daily basis. But yes, it is useless throwing yourself 110% into your work and hoping somehow that masks "deficiencies" outside. What I would really love to do is personally shake your hand and say that you are an amazing person for getting to where you are and just need to be a bit easier on yourself in order to get the life you want.

I suppose in your line of work you need to be compassionate and be someway receptive to all initially. Maybe showing that compassion and trust towards yourself is needed, but yes, difficult to do.

As for your age, well you still have plenty of scope to meet GENUINE friends. Never think that cos you are at certain points that you can't make new friends. Typically, it is through shared interests that this is done. Cr@p, I picked up the guitar again about at that age and loved it. Look inwards and be kind to yourself - is there any interest that really inflames your enthusiasm? Is it something that you have always regretted not doing, because you thought you would be deemed useless at it? Thats only depression telling you that, and if even you were crud at the beginning you will get better. It may not be a hobby but something you feel passionate about (environmentalism, volunteering).

Trust me - you are being far too harsh on yourself. You are not perfect but who is and who the heck wants to be anyways?

We are here for you always,


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Wow.... I'm glad I have read this. Thank you so much for sharing. That is a tough situation. I'm too a 23/male in college and I am going through something very similar except I haven't even completed my undergrad and feel heavily judged for it. I do pretty fair I school. It is so hard to get motivated in anything when you have debilitating depression, but not doing anything makes you depressed as well. So you spend most nights depressed on how you don't have enough motivation to do things that your too depressed to do that leaves you depressed. It is a vicious cycle.

I don't have any real answers but I feel like you do have talents somewhere that are hidden under your depression. I say don't try to force it. That makes you feel like more because you can't do such a "simple" task hence the beating yourself up. I don't know how you are socially, but I know you said you haven't got much support because that does help. I don't have much either.

One thing I know for certain, is you have accomplished ALOT with dealing with depression. Don't forget that. I too tried Social Work but couldn't handle it. It takes a pretty competent person and emotionally built person to do that line of work. And you haven't lost the one thing others and I have lost. You seem passionate at least about your job. I would give anything again to feel that passion I once felt.

And lastly, for some reason I have been seeing a lot of 22-25 year olds feel this way. Its that weird age where you are unsure about the future and it's worth and it's scary.

I would say look around you and find something that draws you in. You my find it from your job, a visit in another place, or from something you happen to see that peaks your interest and builds up that drive. And I should take this advice, but start small and work your way up.

I wish you the best of luck!

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SomeGuy, Icarus,

If I could get a De Lorean and some plutonium, go back to when I was yer age, I'd firstly give a younger me a boot up the h0le, while uttering Red Foreman's classic line of "Duma$$!". It is really so difficult to get the point across that life is there to be enjoyed. It does take discipline to find a moderate balance, but we far too often define ourselves by one or two things in our life. So long as you have the passion and belief that, whilst there will be effort, that you can meet challenges, you are doing fine.

Perfection and a linear life is unachievable, but in the lack of that being compassionate to others as ourselves is the best we can do. Compassionate as in taking time out to do the things WE want to do. Compassionate as in knowing that we also have to make time for ourselves as well as others.

As regards abilities, heck, again no-one is seeking perfection. Just so long as the effort is honest and that means that recognising that sometimes we can ask for help

Edited by StoniumFrog
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