The dreaded quarter-life crisis
Back when I was on the younger side of 30, one of the over-riding feelings that permeated everything I did in life was that I was running out of time. As soon as I woke up, I felt like my day was almost over. As soon as I finished work on a Friday, my weekend was almost over.
Although it meant I was fairly economical with my time, if I didn’t or couldn’t take advantage of my time, I felt like my day had been a failure. That would then result in me getting tetchy and irritable with those around me, impacting my relationships with my family and loved ones. Then, because I was unnecessarily lashing out over what looked to them like nothing, I'd start to be angry at myself.
It didn't just make me feel irritable though, it meant I could never truly relax. I would turn on my PS4 to play a video game and after 5 minutes, I'd have turned it off because I feel like I was wasting my time. I would put on a movie and then be immediately checking Facebook or Twitter because I felt like I needed to be a part of the online world. I would go to read a book and, after a couple of pages, I was closing it again because I felt like I should have been doing something more constructive with my time.
The feeling was much broader too. With every birthday, I was closer to that imagined vision of having an established career, my own home and a family to provide for. For every day I felt like I had wasted, I was a day closer to failing to make that vision a reality.
I soon found out that this way of thinking was very common. I spoke to a lot of my friends about it at the time and the vast majority had some sort of anxiety about turning 30. Like me, a lot of them felt they should have had something to show for the past 20–25 years of their life.
One of my friends, who had been diagnosed with severe depression, described it as a 'quarter-life crisis'. She explained to me that the majority of her depression came from the feeling that, at her current age of 25, she had failed in life. She was stuck in a job she hated when her aspiration was to go into acting, and she hadn’t had a long term relationship.
Through my CBT sessions, I would learn that what I was feeling was very common in cases of anxiety. An elevated level of adrenaline was putting my body into an almost constant ‘fight or flight’ mode, leading to restlessness. I was just relating that restlessness with my self-imposed ideologies of how life should have been at that age.
I eventually learned how to deal with how I was feeling. I would engross myself in something that would require a lot of my attention or I would write down how I was feeling. The latter was a very good way of being able to challenge how I felt.