DEAR ABBY: I am a 46-year-old woman, and I feel as though my life is over. I lost my job more than a year ago and haven't been able to find another one. I have no friends, and it has been 13 years since I dated.
I live day to day, only for my mom and my dog -- both of whom I love tremendously. I'm glad I can spend so much time with them each day, but I know I'm missing out on something more in my life.
I am well-educated, well-read and have traveled quite a bit, when my financial situation was better.
Abby, I feel like I'm 96, not 46! I am depressed and disheartened and don't know what to do. I can't afford counseling. I have thought about volunteering, but I don't want to work with kids and most volunteer jobs require that.
Please, can you suggest anything to help me out of this slump? I figure I have a good 20 to 30 years of living before me, and I just can't go on like this.
I have already accepted that I'll never find a mate, and I'm struggling with the thought that someday, Mom will no longer be here. I see no future for myself. Please tell me what to do. -- DOWN IN CONNECTICUT
DEAR DOWN: It is premature to conclude that you will "never" find a job, a friend or a mate. Things seem hopeless right now because you are depressed.
In your letter you hit on a wonderful, positive idea -- your impulse to volunteer. Not all volunteer opportunities involve children. How about volunteering at a non-profit organization, an assisted-living facility for seniors, a VA center, an animal shelter, a program for people who are homeless, a food delivery program for shut-ins. Your local police department might also welcome some administrative help from a mature, organized adult.
I'm sure your time and talents would be deeply appreciated whatever you decide to do. Not only would volunteering be a rewarding way to fill your time, but it will help you to network.
P.S. Counseling is available on a sliding financial scale in most counties if you feel you need professional help.