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Feeling lost

hyperJuliehyperJulie Registered User Posts: 1,542 Senior Member
edited April 2010 in Parent Cafe
As some of you may remember, this is not my first time asking for advice. To give a quick update of my situation, I've been in counseling and trying to implement some lifestyle changes into my routine (getting exercise, eating a little better, etc.). Now I feel physically and emotionally better, so things have definitely improved in that regard, but there's one thing that's just not changing.

I have completely and utterly lost my drive and motivation. While I would usually procrastinate a ton, I always got my work done no matter what it took, and now I just physically can't seem to make myself do it anymore. I already withdrew from physics this semester, and I'm getting Cs in calc II (after getting an A in calc I). While I'm doing fine in the rest of my classes, I really just feel like I'm going through the motions and not getting anywhere. I really don't like the freshman curriculum for my major, and I'm on my second year of college with no practical progress toward anything but these specific career-oriented programs (OT, then engineering). Frankly, I have no idea whether I have no idea what to do or if I just don't want to do anything.

I've been encouraged to do the first semester of electrical engineering and see how I feel about it, but considering that I'd be taking even higher level math and more difficult physics, I don't foresee myself having a great experience. I really have lost my passion for things in general, and it's driven me to reevaluate some previous choices. What I would previously have regarded as responsibility, such as refusing to see the people that I cared about in order to study or work, now seems unconscionable. It just doesn't make sense in my head to tell the people that I love that I can't spend time with them because I have to do things that don't matter to me and feel completely pointless.

I've mulled over changing my major, but I really have no concept of what I would change it to. I've considered taking a year off but I have no idea if I'd even be able to find a job or if it would be even worse than school. I just feel really lost and miserable every second that I spend in a classroom. At this point, if someone told me that I didn't have to go to class if I just hit myself in the thigh hard with a hammer, I'd definitely choose the hammer.

I just can't seem to force myself to do the work anymore. It's always been somewhat of a struggle to pay attention and get stuff done. Even in middle school I wasn't allowed to sit by windows because I wouldn't pay attention. In high school, I slept in class all of the time, not out of disrespect, but because I was so bored and tired I could sit there and poke myself with a pencil and bounce my knees and do anything I could think of to stay awake, but none of it worked. When I try to do work at home, even if I eliminate every single distraction I can think of, I end up literally staring at a wall instead of working. Either that or I fall asleep and drool in my textbook.

I have a feeling that a lot of people will say to change my attitude, and develop a better work ethic, but how? I don't know how to make myself think differently and even my counselor hasn't been forthcoming with that answer.

Sorry for the rant and wall-of-text. I just really don't know what to do anymore.
Post edited by hyperJulie on

Replies to: Feeling lost

  • JustaMomJustaMom Registered User Posts: 2,377 Senior Member
    You don't say how old you are, but I remember those exact feelings between 21 & 24, things didn't start turning around for ME until I was almost 25, and it was a huge relief. I thought there was something really wrong with me. I think I am mildly ADD oriented, but I think that comes with being creative and not being willing to just accept things as black or white.

    It's possible that you just really are not studying something that really floats your boat.

    Try answering this question: if failure were not an option, and there were no obstacles (money, time, family requirements, etc.), what would you REALLY, REALLY want to do?

    For me it's tell stories in both the written form and film. And travel. If I could combine them, I'd be in pure heaven!

    Sometimes we need to inspire ourselves, and believe me when I say, those 4 or 5 years were $&"t for me me.

    Maybe next semester you could take all different and more creative classes and tap into that side of your brain for a short time.
  • DoveMomDoveMom Registered User Posts: 81 New Member
    Hi Julie! You haven't said, but you may have a bit of ADD, but despite that, not everyone is cut out for traditional learning. Just's suggestion of trying out some more creative classes may be a way to go. Here are some other options: 1) Check out the clubs at your school and join a few that appeal to you. As you make new friends and perhaps do some volunteer projects, you may feel more energized. 2) Get some help from free campus tutors for any course you are struggling with. Sometimes, just another person's way of explaining a concept is all you need to get you back on track. 3) If you can manage it financially, you might consider spending your summer doing something challenging and fun: an Outward Bound program, Habitat for Humanity, Camp Counselor, study abroad progam, classes in something you would enjoy, be it cooking, pottery, jewelry making, etc. 4) Talk to your adviser about your confusion regarding a major - there may be some aptitude tests that will help you learn your real calling and it may be something you have never even thought of or knew existed! I hope these suggestions help and wish you the best, DoveMom
  • GreeneryGreenery Registered User Posts: 975 Member
    "Now I feel physically and emotionally better..."
    That's a great beginning, we wish you the best.
    Have you taken those tests that will help to pinpoint your strengths? I'm sure you are good in math and science, but maybe the area is not motivating you...maybe Business Administration, Biology are better areas.

    The Counselor can administer the test to identify other educational areas. Once you find your place and graduate and work there is always struggle so balance life with hobbies too.

    -It could be as simple as vitamin deficiencies...however, talk with your doctor too.

    Many people go through those stages...hang in there...but have some hobby, see the counselor and the doctor; they are experts in their areas.
  • VeryHappyVeryHappy Registered User Posts: 16,759 Senior Member
    Another possibility is that you might need an antidepressant. No shame in that; some people need high blood pressure medication and others need antidepressants. Talk to your counselor again or, perhaps, your doctor. There's nothing wrong with a trial of these meds for a month or two to see if they make a difference for you.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    I also agree that it sounds like depression- ADD doesn't usually manifest wait till college to be apparent.
    I think a good physical and mental checkup is in order- but I think it is also good to consider the issues raised in this article
    Study: Pay, Promotion Limits Lead Women to Exit Engineering - TIME.
  • sewhappysewhappy - Posts: 4,428 Senior Member
    At first, our child at college was taking very heavy loads of tough classes and starting to sink under the enormous work load. When we tuned in and took a look at the actual graduation requirements and saw the pace he was keeping we had a good talk. He slowed down and hit a better balance. Still well on track to graduating on time. It was important for him to stop seeing it as a race to be finished.

    Maybe take the 20,000 foot view of your college years, determine if next semester you can lighten the course load a bit and find some really fun activities outside of academics. The sky won't fall. We are not machines.
  • mkm56mkm56 Registered User Posts: 3,062 Senior Member
    Hi Julie,
    I am a parent of a child who has expressed the exact same feelings in almost the exact words.

    He began feeling this way during his freshman year of college. We encouraged him to see a counselor and the one he saw then was a great help--unfortunately the guy moved and he has not found another one with whom he could connect as well. The counselor suggested ADD testing and he was off the charts. ADD meds have helped some with the concentration but not the feeling of loss of motivation. The meds also led to several side effects with their own problems (the worst being insomnia).

    He felt at a loss---decided he didn't like his original major or his original career goal. Changed majors and eventually transferred schools to see if that would help. It doesn't help the loss of self esteem when he focuses on friends who are doing what they love and being successful too!

    Like you, he often procrastinates but would get the work done. The last couple of semesters he has had to drop classes due to getting behind (and also some medical issues like surgeries). He called last night and though he has a reduced course load is still having trouble focusing and motivating himself to do the work. He should graduate in May and still doesn't know what he wants to do (his major doesn't lead towards employment immediately after undergrad).

    He has tried several different antidepressants and is currently on one now, however they really haven't helped this loss of motivation, feelings of worthlessness and just general "at loose ends".

    I'm afraid I am guilty of just what you said people are telling you, Julie. I tell him to make a plan, set a goal--his reply is that then he just feels more like a failure when he doesn't follow the plan or meet the goal. He, like you, WANTS to change, to be happy, to meet his own expectations, but is at a loss of how you get there. Sometimes he gets angry with me and says "OK, fine, I'll just push that button and presto, I will change!!!"

    I know I haven't given you any answers, but I hope that maybe it will help you feel not so alone. It is easy to look around you and think everyone else is doing great, happy and has "all their ducks in a row". But you really don't know what anyone else is going through privately.

    I am hoping that like a previous poster stated, he will come into his own his time and will find that area that "floats his boat". He is finishing up a major, more due to default than interest, so maybe after undergrad he will discover his calling.

    I wish you the best--keep up the good nutrition and exercise. It does help and try not to be too hard on yourself. PM me if you ever need to "talk".
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    Im wondering what sort of counseling are you having now?
    I had behavior mod " therapy" which has been helpful, but you may need something with a different approach.

    regarding major- one of the problems with science majors is that you have to boom start on them freshman year- even with a biology major which was my older daughters major ( and up to now my younger daughters as well.)
    I am not a fan of undergrad programs that I feel are too career based- which would be teaching- engineering- & business.

    I think that those fields are fine to explore in undergrad, but that the student will ultimately be happier and more successful, if they have a broader base of understanding and take more of a liberal arts approach.

    So much can also depend on
    are you getting enough sleep?
    eating good?
    our bodies aren't just there to carry our heads around- maybe you would feel better if it was spring!
  • hyperJuliehyperJulie Registered User Posts: 1,542 Senior Member
    First of all, thanks for all of the advice so far. I'll try to respond to your questions and suggestions, and hope that this makes it more clear what my situation is.

    "just"amom - If I could do anything I wanted to without worrying about failure, I would probably be a very successful genre fiction writer. In a (much) more realistic sense, I am very fascinated by medicine and the human body. However, I don't want to be a doctor and I haven't really found an allied health type position that appeals to me.

    I have definitely considered going off track for a while and just pursuing things on a whim, taking more fun courses. Engineering is very rigid and I am anxious to be out of school, but I don't want to just push through it and discover I hate it while in the workforce. Thankfully, I have a couple things going for me. My low EFC combined with my dirt cheap schooling situation (living at home and attending Binghamton) make it so I don't have to worry so much about wasting a lot of my parents' money. Now the taxpayers' money, however... Also, if I feel like I need to take a bit in the workforce, my mother's insurance policy just changed so that I'm covered until my late 20s as long as I'm not married.

    DoveMom - I had considered the tutor, but the main thing that's causing me to struggle in calculus is that I need to practice and I just haven't had the motivation to do it. I understand calculus conceptually, but I fail when it comes to applying the correct methods in the correct situations (which is at best intuitive, in some instances) and following through with the algebra.

    As for my plans this summer, unless I make a drastic change (which I might), they currently involve taking physics. Which is definitely challenging but definitely not something I'm happy about. I'd really love to take up knitting, or take a baking course, maybe, but I don't know where I'd learn how to do these things. Also, transportation is a BIG issue.

    Greenery - I've taken the Strong Interest Inventory, and not surprisingly all of my results leaned toward the medical professions. I actually scored pretty low for engineering. However, at the time I was studying occupational therapy, and it's super easy to predict what sort of fields the questions are favoring, so I think I may have subconsciously swayed my results to tell me what I wanted to hear. (I got OT as my number four match, even though through studying it I know that it would have been disastrously wrong for my personality.)

    VeryHappy - I wondered about the antidepressant, but I'm kind of surprised by the lack of... suggestions on the part of my counselor. At some point, she asked me if I'd ever been evaluated for ADD, and she has tried to help me deal with my "depresssed feelings," but she has never actually suggested that I get evaluated and possibly medicated. This led me to believe that she didn't think I should do those things because she usually doesn't hesitate to suggest changes.

    emeraldkity4 - I read the article. Definitely made me think about things. Also, maybe I will schedule a doctor's appointment for once school lets out, so I can get a good thorough checkup.

    As for my counseling, it has almost been more like life coaching, if I can think of any way to explain it. It's definitely not therapy, per se. To sum up all of our time together, she has not really suggested anything too revolutionary. Get more exercise, journal, and drop physics, basically. So I have been taking better care of myself, and feeling better in that regard. That's part of the problem, really. I would rather go on a nice brisk walk than do my homework, and it only really serves to remind me how much I loathe such a big chunk of my life when it stops me from enjoying the weather because I have other things to do.

    sewhappy - Unfortunately, in engineering the path is so rigid that I can't not take 16 credits and graduate. And that's not 16 credits of gen eds. That's higher level math, programming, physics II, and stuff like that all in one semester. At best, lighter loads entail summer classes, and at worst, just not progressing in the major.

    What I can do, maybe, is take a year-long break from engineering to take the classes that I want to take instead of the ones that I have to. Then maybe I can do SOME of the requirements, and if I decide to go back into it, I'll be able to take a couple of lighter semesters. The only thing is that I'm really not sure if this is a great idea or I'd just be shooting myself in the foot.

    mkm56 - It really does make me feel better to know that I'm not the only person to go through this. I wish your son the best of luck. :)
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    Both my kids took a year off before college & I think it made a difference.
    So much from K-12, has been directed by adults, your parents, your teachers, and for some kids, to immediately go to college, may make you feel that it is an never ending treadmill.

    Take a break from the engineering classes, maybe even take a class at a community college this summer to explore an area your school doesn't offer.
    It isn't going to help your next milestone of graduation, if persisting on a course that drains you is so overwhelming you collapse before you get there.

    Since you enjoy being outside-and you have good science math skills, I suggest investigating an environmental science class.

    Green Degrees with White-Collar Pay
  • Cardinal FangCardinal Fang Registered User Posts: 15,763 Senior Member
    hyperJulie, Those motivation issues are definitely, absolutely ADD traits. Some people find that medication helps them with procrastination/motivation problems.

    Also, for those of us with similar problems, tricks help. You need to break up big problems into little chunks, and you need to reward yourself. You are probably the kind of person who does well with a schedule and organization, even though you hate those things. I suggest trying this: Divide your responsibilities up into little pieces: Go to class, three problems from problem set 4, do laundry, two calculus problems, go to lunch, go to bed at 1:00, etc. Make each item small enough to seem manageable; you don't feel like doing your math homework, but doing two problems doesn't seem so bad.

    Write a DETAILED schedule for two weeks, including everything. Everything: meals, sleep, going to class, socializing, doing homework, all broken into little pieces. Follow it. When it's 2:30 and time to do those two math problems, do them. Include rewards in your schedule: if you do the two math problems and the three physics problems, you can reward yourself with a frappacino or half an hour watching TV or something.

    Try it for two weeks and see how it works.
  • mkm56mkm56 Registered User Posts: 3,062 Senior Member
    Great ideas Cardinal. The counselor had my son keep a time sheet just for a couple days (so that he could see how and where he spent his time) and then make up a schedule similar to what you suggested---small chunks of work, interspersed with "reward" time or mental break of some kind. It really did work, just haven't gotten him to make the effort to do this again.
  • aibarraibarr Registered User Posts: 4,249 Senior Member
    None of my talk therapists have ever been the first ones to suggest that maybe I need medication. I've always brought it up to *them*, and have asked whether or not they'd think it'd be helpful, and they've been very enthusiastic that I'd opened the door, and have recommended a good psychiatrist to do medications management, and we've gone from there.

    If it's something you'd be willing to try, go ahead and bring it up to your therapist. Ask whether or not they think it'd be effective in helping you out, or whether they think you should be evaluated as a candidate for medications.


    As to the rest... If it walks like a duck and it talks like the duck, you should probably admit it's a duck! Maybe engineering really, really isn't what you want to do. Maybe you want to explore healthcare fields. Being a doctor isn't the only thing that's open to you. You could be a pharmacist, a physical therapist, and occupational therapist, a kinesiologist, a respiratory therapist, a physicians' assistant, a nurse, an EMT, a perfusionist, a phlebotomist, a social worker, a doula, a dance/musician/movement therapist... Plenty of interesting careers out there. And if there isn't a field that interests you, make your own. I have a friend who's getting her PhD in the history of public health. (What do you do with that? I'm not sure, but she's really happy doing academic research on the history of public health!)

    Don't get stuck in linear thinking! If there's one thing I wish someone had told me through college, it's that I didn't need to stick to this idea of "doctor/lawyer/engineer". There are a lot more careers available out there, that pay pretty well and that are in demand... And that they'd probably make me happier than following a cookie-cutter notion of what a "smart young woman" ought to do with her life.

    Important to note that at this point, healthcare workers are probably a lot more fortunate in their job searches than engineers are...!

    Good luck to you.
  • thecheckbookthecheckbook Registered User Posts: 406 Member
    Has spring arrived where you are? Is it possible for you to get some sun everyday? In the meantime take vitamin d. A lot of people are deficient this time of year and the lack can cause depression. Also there is a type of add caused by low potassium that I just read about.
  • ADadADad Registered User Posts: 4,920 Senior Member
    (I got OT as my number four match, even though through studying it I know that it would have been disastrously wrong for my personality.)

    What is it about your personality that makes OT disastrous, yet might make other medical fields attractive?
This discussion has been closed.