Find answers to some of the more frequently asked questions on the Forums.

Forums guidelines

Our guidelines keep the Forums a safe place for people to share and learn information.

I want to start living but I don't know how

spontaneous sunflower
Community Member
I have been struggling with depression and anxiety for a number of years now. I’ve been seeing a psychologist since I was diagnosed and I’ve sought help on these forums. Both have been helpful; some aspects of my mental health have improved and some haven’t. I’d say the main thing getting help has done is made me understand my feelings better and stop me from causing serious harm to myself. But I’m yet to see some real improvement and I’m starting to feel hopeless. I feel like I’m losing everything and I didn’t even have much to begin with. I left high school because of my struggles. I completed a one-year TAFE course but have yet to do anything with it. I’m 19 and I’ve never had a job because of my anxiety. I’ve been trying to apply for jobs and have even been to a couple job interviews but the whole process is just nauseating and I’m so inept at the whole thing. All my friends are going on with their uni degrees, working and earning/saving money, getting their licenses, etc. I have none of that because of my anxiety and depression. Everyday I feel myself falling behind my friends and drifting away from them. All of this boils down to the stark realisation that I don’t really know who I am or what I want. I feel like I’ve spent my whole life so far trying to work this out. I’ve always been quite self-analytical and philosophical. Maybe that’s my ultimate issue. I can’t just do things (like most functioning adults do), I need to almost feel like it’s my purpose to do whatever the thing is. But I’ve never really felt like that, I feel like an imposter and out of place in most situations. It scares me that I’m almost 20 and I have no work experience, no savings, no prospects. I know I don’t need to have everything figured out but I honestly have nothing figured out. Life just isn’t very fun and I don’t think I’m a fun person to be around anymore but I’m not sure how to change any of this. I look back on my life so far and I don't feel I was even there for most of it, like even in the good memories I'm in disbelief that it was even real. Maybe I'm just thinking this because right now I'm nowhere near "happy" or "okay"... I don't know. I just feel like I haven't lived and I want to but I don't even know how to start. I feel like my whole life is just being eaten away by my depression, anxiety and internal battles.
22 Replies 22

Community Member
I think you have been so brave. You completed a tafe course! Its a big achievement, because mental illness often means we can’t commit and complete things. I also think that we can’t measure ourselves against others. They are not dealing with the illness you have. I think life needs to be more about just doing something, anything, any activity (be it running, walking in the park or at the beach, art, anything). We can’t all be earning lots of money and doing 9-5 etc. We don’t need to be. I know it means that we need to find creative ways to live with less money. I know its hard, but your heart and soul are worth that effort. The social pressure to be ‘productive’ is not a fair requirement. Just do something that interests you (even a little bit) and hopefully be with others who share that thing. Being ‘you’ is good enough. You - are good enough. Truly.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello there,

I think Teek made a really good point.. Everyone is different in terms of their motivations, their mental/physical health and what it allows.. I think a lot of the time, because of stigmas around depression and anxiety, those who suffer from it don't fully realise that it's not fair to expect things like employment and studying to be as easy as it is for someone without depression/anxiety. Never impossible, but not as natural and seamless, and often times incredibly daunting.. And yes, sometimes impossible in the moment.

It sounds like you're feeling a very normal social pressure that's 1000x more intense because of your mental health, and that's often how it goes. I hope you can reach a point some day where you're patient with yourself in the sense that you might need more time and extra help with these things, and that's not fully in your control. You simply can't wake up one day and choose to do these things easily, like going to a job interview, know what your purpose is, and it's okay. You will get to where you want and need to be, and I have full faith in that.

Finding where you want to be is incredibly hard, and I think often times it comes from actually doing things. It's near impossible to exist in a small box and be ambitious, inspired. Going for a walk, people watching, reading/watching about other people's ambitions and life stories are tiny steps to figuring out the world and where you might fit, or where you might like to fit. It's never easy and maybe there's no right answer.

I'm 19, and before only working in a small cafe last year for a few months which I found incredibly daunting, I finally have a job that I enjoy and feel comfortable in after the massive leap in starting it, and not thinking I'd like it at all. I've learnt so much so fast about people, where I want to work, how I want to interact with people and help them, how other people live.

I don't have the answers.. But after hardly any work experience and falling into this job, life and the world for me changed incredibly quickly.

I don't know. Sometimes starting is just picking one little thing and rolling with it, and somehow everything around it falls into place. It's comforting to know that those studying, working 9-5's and saving money don't really know what they're doing or what they want too, and that's okay.

I hope you're taking care of yourself as best as you can at the moment. What would you think about asking your psych for advice on this and finding work?

Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi spontaneous sunflower,

Please know your feelings a completely valid, and shared by many of us with mental illness who have tried to operate at the same pace as our peers who don't have the same mental health challenges. It's not a fair comparison, but we easily fall into the trap!

I agree with the comments already made here, focusing on finding something you enjoy can be as simple as a hobby at home (drawing, gardening, cooking, gaming, yoga) it could be anything! Bring some small moments of joy into your life, get creative and explore new things.

Another step might be to look into some volunteer opportunities, if the workforce is a bit too daunting. Maybe your local area has some events you can pitch in for or there's a charity you can offer to volunteer for. This can help build your confidence and resume too.

I live with an anxiety disorder which has really weighed me down professionally, I ended up striving to work in the mental health industry because the work culture is so supportive of people living with mental illness.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Spontaneous sunflower, a major complaint we all have is that we compare ourselves to what our friends are now doing or have done, they all have different brains and their circumstances are completely different, so we can't physically compare them to us.

I have many people I went to school with who are trained professionals, doctors, dentists, lawyers and builders, good luck to them and I didn't get marks and wouldn't want to go through the years of uni they had to spend achieving this, so I can't make a contrast, their lives aren't the same as mine, and it doesn't mean their lives are happy.

Can I suggest you go to a job agency, any experience is learning, whether you stay in the position for a day, a week or longer this will give you some knowledge that can build up to have a position for a job.

Best wishes.


spontaneous sunflower
Community Member

Hi everyone, thanks for all the support and advice.

I appreciate all the advice of finding something I enjoy or a hobby. I used to have a few hobbies but at the moment I've lost all motivation and enjoyment for them, unfortunately. Finding it hard to get back into them. Partaking in my hobbies used to be a form of self care for me but I'm struggling with even the bare minimum of self care some days, like drinking enough water or cleaning my room. I feel so consumed by my anxiety and depression at the moment, and I know there's a way out of this rut I'm in, but when I'm deep down in it like I am right now, I completely forget how I got out of these ruts before.

I have a psychologist but I haven't seen her in a while so I decided it would be a good idea to get back in touch. But my appointment isn't til May 5th. Not really sure what to do with myself until then.

Hi spontaneous sunflowers,

While you wait for your May appointment, if you ever want to talk to someone you can always call the Beyond Blue helpline, they are really helpful and supportive. The number is: 1300 22 4636

We are always here in the forums too, to help you get through.

That's really great you've taken the step to rebook with your psychologist, at least you have a timeframe to work towards and in the mean time I would just be gentle with yourself. Make small and achievable goals for each day to get yourself through without putting pressure on yourself. It might just be aiming to make your bed each morning, or taking a slow walk outside once a day.

Let us know how you're getting on.

Community Member


I'm 36 and I still don't know what I want or who I am. Sometimes I think I know, but then I change or I encounter a new life road block and I stumble again. It hasn't stopped me from aging and progressing through life. I even have a masters degree and a job.

There is no right path. No perfect direction. I thought there was when I was younger but I was wrong. Life is a journey and no one has it all perfect. There are just not enough hours in the day to have everything. There will always be something else. The key to life is recognising what you have and being grateful. Try not to expect what you need to align with those around you, as geoff mentioned. Those that judge you, do not have everything figured out. I'm still working on this myself though. It's a constant work in progress.

Community Member

Hi all and thank you to spontaneous sunflower for your initial post

All I can say is wow. That I am getting from reading everyone's post is a sense of familiarity and counsel. Evenryone who has posted here has the same feelings and experiences at some level

To intro myself to this theme, my exp with mental health began when i was your age at 18

I aslo see myself in some of what you have posted. I went to uni straight out of school because i didnt know what else to do. I ended up not liking the course, i quit and then went back to a different one at a diufferent uni and a different course altogether. I was about 1/2 way into it and started questioning why i was doing it. I re assessed my priorities and stuck it out and my marks improved. At that time i was depressed and my self worth came from these things. My perception of who i was, what i was meant to do and where i was going was all over the place. I guess it has been for some time, all of us can relate to these themes hey?

In terms of work my first proper job didn't come til 25. For very similar reasons, I was afraid and i was struggling with the anxiety I had. I recently started a new job about 4 months ago but had to leave - because it just wasn't for me and i wasn't fulfilled. It wasn't up to standard for me and I was bored there. IT was too easy. Some said i was mad beacuse it was easy and secure - but it made my mental health worse you see.

My experience is but 1 amongst so many. What I have realised is that we are all in this cocophany of life together.

There are no straight answers and there are no ways in which wisdom can be passed down to us. It is really up to us to go out into the world (of our own volition of course) and seek out things and experience.

My friend, do not fret. I know this is hard to say and i know what its like. It is not meant as a command or an easy fix - such things do not exist. All I am saying is that I know EXACTLY what it is you are describing because I've been there myself my friend. Take care and keep posting. There is a community of people here who want to share i can sense it. I think we can all learn

I actually just did a youtube search about "lessons in your 20s" and there are some fascinating things.

My friend, my best to you

spontaneous sunflower
Community Member

Hi Banksy, Karen0901 and Hamsolo01,

Thank you for all your support and advice. It is comforting to hear that others can relate to my story, oftentimes when I am feeling low I can feel very isolated and alone in my struggles. It is actually nice to know I am not completely unique!

I agree with the ideas of being proud of your daily small achievements, being gentle with yourself and understanding that there is no right path...until I am at my lowest and I lose all the reasoning and self compassion I once had. It's frustrating that when you need those beliefs the most is when your mind decides to stop believing in them. Anyway, I am trying to reintroduce those beliefs to myself again and at the very least trying to remind myself that the narrative playing in my head at the moment is false.

Yesterday I started cleaning my room just by folding some clothes and putting a couple things away. My room is still messy but it's more of a organised, manageable mess and I've made it a little easier for myself to clean when I feel up to it. Today I made an appointment over the phone, I hate talking on the phone but I did it and I'm recognising that as a win today. I don't feel great but I know it's a process and as they say, Rome wasn't built in a day. It's great to have this community on here that is so understanding and judgement-free so I will be sure to pop on here time to time and let you know I am going.