I feel hopeless and it's making it hard to get out of this rut

Apologies in advance for the long post.

I had a rough childhood.

I really never flourished til undergrad. I’d been kind of a fuck up in middle / high school. I grew up in a lower middle class family that was big on the idea you’re “good” at stuff or “bad” at stuff. So I got the label of “good with computers” and “bad at math” (probably was just bad a focusing, in retrospect)

I had a lot of bad things happen during my childhood, to the point I have a full blown anxiety disorder.

Anyways, I ended up spending my 20s focused on usability - because again, I’m “bad at math” and “bad at programming” so that makes sense? And eventually that led to a PhD, which I was miserable in. And eventually that led to working for an NGO, where I felt like an alien. Ended up leaving the NGO job. “Not a cultural fit”.

So now I’m unemployed, with a skillset (usability and securiy) no one seems to hire for, since no one seems to want a ux person who actually helps people make good decisions… or if they do, they want someone from Stanford or another fancy school.

I’m interviewing for low level grunt jobs, because even though I’ve done a ton of self study (ex: taught myself python and R, in the process of rolling out a redo of my personal site in Jeckyll) people look at my resume, don’t look past the NGO job, and say “no programming experience” and again - it seems super difficult to find ux researcher work unless you went to an elite school, or you are working on shady stuff…

I feel like I fell through the cracks. I never got help with college, mentorship, anything like that. I had a parent with cancer, an abusive father, and have lost two friends. I thought I did everything right, but I feel like I’m back where I started…

Anyways, right now I’m just struggling to get out of bed. I feel like nothing I do makes my situation better. I’ve tried numerous meds, didn’t help. Well, weed did but can’t use that since I might need to do a cleared job, since all the hip bay companies don’t want me. Tried mindfulness meditation, which helps a bit, but that can’t change that I’m possibly going to move back in with my parents…

Sorry to hear about your situation. It seems like you’ve had a long run of bad run and never quite managed to hit a solid winning streak. You seem to have solid technical skills (Python, R, usability), but there doesn’t seem to a good way to signal to employers that you are good at these things and worth hiring. One of the purposes of getting a degree from a well-known school is signaling — giving employers an easy way to tell that you are good at something. Since you don’t have something like a degree from a top school, you’ll have to signal your worth some other way. One way is to start doing open source projects that fit your skill sets. For example, if you’re good at usability design, you could do some redesign of popular tools and apps that you think have bad design. This way you’re showing potential employers that you know what you’re talking about.

As for your emotional and mental state, it seems like you can really use a mental health professional, if you can afford it. A good therapist can really help you get to the root of your problems and understand how to move forward. If you need to move back in with your parents due to financial reasons, then you should totally do that, but make a plan to keep making progress. Make yourself a list of things to do everyday, like writing a certain amount of code, or applying to a certain number of jobs. Having a solid purpose and definite tasks to do and goals to achieve can definitely help keep one afloat in trying times.

It sounds like you have an amazing skill set for someone who hasn’t had many of the educational supports available out there. It’s frustrating that you haven’t found the right fit for someone who values what you have to offer.

With the employment & potential move stress, It sounds like you could use a third party support (like a therapist or social worker). It might be a relief to be able to talk all this out with someone who isn’t ‘involved’ in your life in the same ways as friends or family. And they potentially could offer up some resources you didn’t know were available in your job search.