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Having trouble - looking for advice from someone similar


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     I can't stop the negative self talk and I am anxious about the future.  I am so anxious I just don't want to even wait around for it.  Part of why I am posting is that I have no support system.  I know my family and friends don't care or don't identify or simply don't want to hear anything negative.  My sister has told me herself she doesn't care about my problems.  She was someone I was close with, but she started to withdraw as soon as her life got better with family and a better job.  I think I was put on the list of toxic people in her mind to avoid that bring her down.  I'm a 40 year old man, and I am a mess.  Work has me stressed out with the excessive demands and low pay, and school makes me feel less competent every day.  I had wanted to quit my job to focus on school, then Covid hit, and the only reason I stayed was for the insurance.  With that, wages were cut and the unpaid overtime is endless.  I'm in the software development field and I always feel dumb or too slow to keep up.  I hate how mentally difficult software development is coupled with unreasonable deadlines and endless work.  My career has kept me so busy that I have burnt out too many times to count.  I feel a burnout coming again and I just want to flee.

I have a hollow life.  I live alone,  don't date, and don't have my own family.  I don't really have any external interests.  Relationships scare me because I don't really want someone else to have to put up with my mess.  Honestly, dating is not a priority for me because of my physical appearance (short, heavy) and everything else I feel has too much damage for someone else.  I finish school in a year, but it is an online degree and I feel it will not be taken seriously.  Plus I don't think I can do anything else at 40, I feel just too old.  I am also afraid just switching jobs in  the same field is not possible.  I'm somewhat stuck with this, and I hate it.  I just don't want to tough it out anymore.  Most men at my age in my career are pulling in large salaries and show off their assets.  They probably have days like I do but can tough it out, and I can't keep up that false front anymore.  I have a long way to go before I get there but I just don't want to keep up this fight anymore.  Has anyone found a way to do a turn around mid life?  How did you do it?  How did you get out of the handcuffs that make you feel like you are drowning in sorrow?


I feel so sad.  I'm having trouble really voicing this, but as I reflect on 20 years of my past life, I don't want to do another 20...I'm just ready to stop

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Welcome new friend to our forum family.

Yes it is possible to turn things around for anyone.

My motto is : DESPAIR not / REPAIR a lot.

I am a big believer in using metaphors to strategize solutions to mental problems.

I noticed you invoked metaphors : hollow , handcuffs, drowning in sorrow.

 "Hollow" is a common description of depression .

Personally I invoke a cave metaphor for my depression experience.

I hope you will find a supportive home here with us.

This forum has really helped me and it can hopefully help you.


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Hi algernon,


Welcome to our forums. We're glad to have you; thanks for posting. You are with friends here.


I too am middle-aged and have a life that didn't measure up to what I hoped. Or planned. Or worked very hard towards and invested everything into. Very little family (none of my own), a job that collapsed right before quarantine, no friends, no motivation, no therapist, plenty of health problems, and a 10-year wife that abandoned me at the first sign of struggle. Sometimes (often times) I'm drowning in sorrow, and the thought of another 20 years makes me laugh, literally.


There are a lot of things I could say in response to your post, but the one thing I'll stress right away is don't measure your life by the lives of others. You are a unique individual, and that means your joys are unique and so are your struggles. You don't know how "successful" they really are because of their careers / statuses / etc. any more than they know how hard you've worked to present that false front. Right? How do you even know they're fulfilled? They might be faking something, just like you. But life - living - is so very much more than that. So much more. It is memories, it is experiences, it is faith, it is the magic in a single meal you made for yourself on a candlelit summer night, and it is the beauty of a sunrise that doesn't remember your mistakes and has no concept of what "might have been". If you can't think of the next 20 years (and I don't blame you), think of the next 20 hours. Or the next 20 minutes. Every moment is a choice: you can choose one path of thinking or you can choose another. And either way, I promise you that you're not alone. The handcuffs may not even be as binding as you think. Keep posting, and be well.



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I do agree with Tymothi that you have your whole life ahead of you and you should not think of it in a long term sense but in what you can handle at the moment.  Enjoy your life regardless of what others might think of you because no one has it  all together.

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Oh boy, I can relate to a lot of what you're feeling @algernon. In my own words: feeling stuck, falling behind, stressed, lonely, grieving the half of my life that's over, an empty fearful feeling inside when thinking of the future. My coping mechanism for it all was avoidance -- which worked, up until I went off the rails. 

You asked if anyone can turn things around in midlife. I made a huge course correction by ending my long career in the tech field. I'm pursuing a completely different career and with it, an entirely new future that may or may not be rosey. The only certainty of my ambitious move is growth will happen -- and that's sufficient. I'm 50 years old. Must you do like I do? No. Walking my path works for me, you do you. 

Wishing you some insight and some relief from your burdens. 

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Thank you all for your help!  I really liked what you said Tymothi of only looking at the next 20 hours.  I think that is a good spot check for me to follow sometimes, as I usually project very far in the future and that outcome never looks positive.  I struggle a lot with worry and measuring up.  These are things that I feel are so "in our faces" when we see friends or other coworkers succeed.  I have long accepted that I am neither the best or worst at what I do...but most likely in the middle of the road.  At this stage, it honestly makes me happy when I talk to a friend and they don't know an answer to a question I have....because most of the time they do know, that often just makes me feel like I've fallen too far behind. 

@Atra, thank you for your messaging.  We sound very similar. What I always feared was the marketing of "just change your life....", which to me makes me worry for every success there were probably many more people with regrets or failures.  How did you go about this?  I really like your realistic view on this, "may or may not be rosy" but I get it.  A lot of times these things end up somewhere in the middle with a slight nudge in a different direction.

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9 hours ago, algernon said:

A lot of times these things end up somewhere in the middle with a slight nudge in a different direction

I like how you put this. I wrote "rosey or not" which sounds rather binary, black or white -- a way of thinking I've been attempting to free myself from. Perhaps in any tragedy there's some beauty, in every rejoicing some sorrow. I would like to position myself such that I'm not focusing entirely on either one or the other, but both. 

9 hours ago, algernon said:

How did you go about this?

I go about this by seeking growth. I try to accept how growth is always uncomfortable, often painful.

I view stagnation as the fuel for depression. The worth in starting a new career (with all the sacrifices I am and will be making) is not because I'm somehow assured of success. I'm certain of nothing except that I will have new opportunities to grow and things will not be the same. That's what works for me, I think it's a better problem.

I got here in part by accepting that I can't be what I was -- I mourned the loss of that.

I recognize with a bit of joy when skills or knowledge I learned from previous careers come in handy in a new one. There's a feeling that "I've been traveling in this direction the entire time, although I thought I had no idea where I was going". And I try to let that feeling just be, without skepticism.

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I actually just got my degree in Computer Science and I minored in math. Its software stem field so its a good profession, theres a learning curve to programming and it can be stressful.

Its very important to exercise because the job is not physical but it lets me do bodybuilding because when I worked construction and was in the militay id be too sore to workout at the end of the day. Other than that eating healthy foods.

Some people at Universities make all the students feel dumb and some are really strict graders but thats why people are there. If they already knew everything then it would not benefit them. It is a friendly atmosphere where you should feel free to ask many questions much more than corporate world or military

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Hi @Evergreenforst4,

    Ironically, I could not sleep last night and I went to the gym in the first time in ages.  It has been shut for covid and opened recently.  I'm an apartment dweller, so I figured I'd go early when no one was there.  I could only run a mile, and lift 10lbs lighter than usual, but I did feel better.  That is an important part of the equation, and I should know better by now to keep that up. 


@Atra , Reading what you wrote is impressive.  You have a lot of courage to switch things up.  I especially like your advice because nearly all people "advising" on career change are in their 20s which makes me fear that ship has sailed.  When I think about switching anything, I'm crushed by the what-ifs and worry.  Even though financially I am ok with the pursuit, the fear of change and ending up in a worse area is too loud of a siren for me to make the jump.  A big portion of this stems from everyone else telling you you're making a mistake.  Knowing my family like I do, if I were to switch careers they would see me in a negative light.  It is very difficult not having that support system, did you face this and how did you overcome it?  I know the Alpha's of society say "well, just don't care what other people think."  To me, that is easier said than done.  Did you reach a breaking point where you felt you had to switch?  I've broken a few times which has always made me anxious when the next time will happen.  I don't know how you felt with your career, but I oscillate between anger and fear.  The anger emotion is the more productive of the 2, but does not cause me to break.  It can be fuel for productivity and manageable.  Fear, aptly named, is the one I fear most.  If I get myself into an "omega problem"/unsolvable situation, that gives me tunnel vision....which is where I am at now.


Thank you all for listening and replying

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Honestly, if you want to turn your life around, it will take time. It’s not just through all the long term goals. It’s being able to break down all these goals into everyday steps you can take. Once you set a plan for the steps you take, it feels less overwhelming. It’s not just for example “Be Healthy,” but also, “have better nutrition,” “exercise more,” and “sleep well.” If you were more specific, it’d be .. drink enough water per day for a week, practicing counting in your head before you sleep to lessen worries, or taking a walk everyday for 10 minutes. Just. . . I know how much depression makes the motivation for everyday tasks hard, so start with something simple. If you master that, then move on to the next thing. 

 I also work with software, and well, there are actually people who are open to online schools. I’m not telling you everyone does, but there will be people. Besides, a lot of employers who won’t like online schools don’t tend to be the best bosses anyway, not being open minded about it. Working in technology, you really have to be updated — it’s not just meant to be an optional characteristic, and those people just aren’t. Honestly, I’m doing a lot better around programming if you judge by status — with a school history of something the opposite of a community college, but really, I’m still depressed. It still doesn’t feel like enough, no matter how much more experience I have with others around me. Maybe I’m whining, but recognizing that doesn’t make me feel less upset. Career certainly factors in happiness, but I don’t think it fixes every other mess in life. Though perhaps, with my experience, I can at least offer you some advice around that. 

I’ve read obsessively about career, and it seems like career satisfaction is statistically more of a matter of being able to make a big difference in others’ lives, continous learning and progress, and relationships in the workplace. There are janitors out there who feel incredibly happy just cleaning out hugely messy areas of poverty, just so that everyone there can live healthier lives. I wish I had that type of attitude, but well, my brain can’t function well without enough stimulation. There are people in higher paying jobs, but nothing ever changes, so they feel stagnant from nothing new to learn. I try to practice a gratitude journal everyday, to appreciate the simple things around. Doesn’t fix everything, but it helps.

Besides news trends say in the era of coronavirus, everyone is much more open to online schooling, considering much education buildings are closed, and much learning is left to do online. Chances are someone will take you in. Software is literally the most in demand job after all, considering it’s so hard. The reason it’s in demand is literally because there are little people who can understand this stuff, and the fact that technology can blend with nearly all career fields, so with all the demand, there’s bound to be someone who’ll take you in really. I’m impressed you’ve almost finished a course. Lots of drop outs would envy your progress. 


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10 hours ago, algernon said:

It is very difficult not having that support system, did you face this and how did you overcome it?

That's an excellent observation, it's so much harder without proper support. Even friends and family who truly wished me well didn't have a lot of practical advice.

So, I "bought" a support system: I researched professional career counselors. I found one who was middle-aged like me and had switched careers at age 40 (from tech) to counseling. Bit of luck finding one so uniquely suited. I worked with them for a year; I complied with their requests, did the homework, took the inventory tests. They also provided me with emotional support -- which I didn't realize I needed, but in retrospect it was the most important support as I lacked confidence. 

I also sought wisdom from @Bulgakov he worked in the same sector of tech. A little older than I, he offered perspective and friendly advice. 

10 hours ago, algernon said:

Did you reach a breaking point where you felt you had to switch?  I've broken a few times which has always made me anxious when the next time will happen.  I don't know how you felt with your career, but I oscillate between anger and fear.

To be candid, I was fired from my last tech job because I was so burned out that I no longer cared what I said or to whom. And uh, I don't recommend this! Getting sacked was my way out because I couldn't reconcile my burnout with the fact that I was very good at my job and it paid me well. C'mon, what sort if fool turns away from that, right? 😉

In an effort to move forward, I sought a different relationship with anger and fear. When I turned 40, I thought a lot about the saying, "when you're older you'll regret the things you didn't do much more than the things you did do." I marinated my brain in that phrase until I came to believe I could no longer afford to play it safe. I got angry at my aversion to risk taking, how all my adult years until 40 were spent building a foundation, then a scaffolding, for a future focused on careerism. Less financial uncertainty and yet totally miserable.

And I feared, "alas, I spent so many years invested in this, I can't change else it'll all have been for naught." That is a lie and a trap. 

What am I really afraid of now? That I won't have really lived -- until my life is almost over. That I won't have learned more about what I love and what I have talent for -- both requires exposure to new things. What am really angry about? I refused to accept certain realities of working in corporate IT and sunk 15 years into fighting for or hoping for changes. As a matter of fact, nobody cared about what Atra thought corporate IT should be (which finally became obvious when I was escorted out the door with my box of personal items!) 😆

Perhaps you can find another way to reconcile. I believe career is just one aspect of identity and not necessarily the most meaningful. Maybe another area of your life needs nourishment and tending to that will help you attain contentment.

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