shitstorm

Looking for a Job When You’re Depressed: Circumstantial, not Existential

No Help WantedLooking for a job when you’re in the midst of a depression is really fucking hard. I think that’s step number one – acknowledge that what you’re doing is really really hard. It’d be hard for someone who’s healthy. And it’s especially hard for those of us who are not.

I’m currently in this position, having been told by my current employer that my contract won’t be renewed past January. Luckily for me, I’m not suffering from a major depressive episode, just trying to recover from one.

The thing is that I don’t have a lot of hope. Despite my fancy education and respectable resume, I don’t believe that any job could be fulfilling or rewarding or anything but awful, so the tasks of applying become almost impossible. I am FILLED with dread.

Then of course there’s the feeling of being overwhelmed. I am directionless because I find myself believing that every option is bad, so I’m unable to narrow things down. I also find it difficult, like many people looking for work, to convince myself that the next job won’t be forever. That it’s not one of the biggest decisions of my life. So it’s overwhelming both in breadth and in depth.

In a word: it sucks.

This is too complex a problem for a “Five Step Guide.” One has to do some soul searching and take each day as it comes. One has to build a schedule and stick to it. A schedule that includes off time, when you’re not thinking about the job search. A schedule that includes exercise and whatever other therapies work for you. I believe that one has to try to think ambitiously about what one is qualified for, and then do the hard work of reaching out to people. One must try not to think too far in the future or let themselves believe that they know what it holds.

The fish is deadI am trying to be honest with my support network, which is difficult because they see more potential in me than I see in myself. I often feel like their advice is ludicrous: they tell me all the cool things I can do with my fish, not understanding that the fish are dead. So I am trying to fake it until I make it.

I’m trying not to “catastrophize” things. I am trying to remember that my job does not define me, that it is not the source of my happiness. I am trying to be patient and flexible. I am trying to think of this problem as circumstantial, not existential.

Anyone out there got a job they wanna give me? 🙂

First photo by BillsoPHOTO on Flickr.

Second photo by Bhope34 on Flickr.

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The Meta Thoughts

Bebop Sleeping

Bebop Sleeps

I was chilling on my back porch the other day with my adorable dog on my lap. Suddenly I was sure that the reason my doctor hadn’t called me back was that I have cancer and they don’t know how to break it to me. They know I’m depressed so they want me to come in in-person. I’m never going to have children and then for the rest of my life people will look at me and think, “How sad. She always wanted children.” A blow like this will sink me back into the worst of my depression. I’m never going to get better. That’s my future. I’m never getting better.

See that? Blink of an eye and I’m like four steps into my hypothetical, mourning my imagined losses, starting to panic.

This is the moment when therapy, or some other intentional recovery effort, does something. Before I started recovering, a turn like this would have landed me in bed, completely shut down and miserable. Now…

The Meta Thoughts

The Meta Thoughts

Enter: The META THOUGHTS

Instead of following the hypothetical, I realize that it’s just a hypothetical. I realize that I’m panicking, that I’m entering a tailspin. I realize that nothing bad has actually happened.

I got up, shook myself. Put a leash on my dog, went for a walk and called a friend.

After a bit of distraction and support from my friend, after I was able to calm down, I remembered that not every thought deserves its day in court (or its time in rumination-ville).

The appearance of the Meta Thoughts is new for me – the inkling that bad thoughts aren’t real events. If you don’t know what I’m talking about – I’m genuinely happy for you. If you do, try to remember, they’re there for you – those heroic Meta Thoughts.

 

Second photo by Lisa Cyr on Flickr.

I say “affliction.” You say “totally normal and necessary part of the human experience.”

affliction afflactionI was recently told by a loved one that depression is not an affliction. Affliction has a negative connotation, and depression is something everyone goes through – part of the human experience.

I took a deep breath. I said that if anything deserves a negative connotation this does, but she didn’t budge.

It’s a common refrain – a gentle way to dismiss the pain depression causes, and it hurts to hear. So what’s going on here? Why are people so defensive of depression? I’ve thought of a couple options.

  1. They confuse the person with the condition. Not wanting the person to feel stigmatized, they feel a need to celebrate the disease.
  2. They are hesitant to accept that you’re hurting – or that your pain is profound – because they love you.
  3. They worry about their own mood health and want to believe that mood disorders are common and even positive in the long run.

I was relieved to notice that all of the explanations I could come up with were rooted in love and concern for self and others.

I shuffled through possible reactions and settled on “meh.” It hurts my feelings when someone disagrees with me about the nature of my condition – but only momentarily.

With this stigmatized, little understood condition, it often falls on us to be patients and educators at the same time. But what if that weren’t true? I love the idea of letting go of the need to educate, of the need to manage other people’s responses. I love the idea of just being a patient for a while.

My friend is not responsible for my recovery. I am. Does it really matter if I think she’s wrong headed on this particular issue?

I can respectfully disagree (maybe send her an article or two) and then let it go. I can stop worrying about the fact that “someone is wrong on the internet,” and focus on getting better.

 

Photo from Patrick Feller on Flickr.

To Rest or Not To Rest?

Be EasyWhen my brother was about to be put in “time out” as a kid he would face his palms up to my dad and wave them around, saying gently, “Be easy Daddy. Be easy with me.” Judging from the smile on my dad’s face when he tells the story, I think my brother’s pleas worked – Dad melted a bit and went easy on the guilty toddler.

Depressed people are told to be easy on themselves all the time. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t worry so much. Don’t take on more than you can handle. It’s good advice.

Unfortunately it’s in direct contradiction to the second refrain we’re constantly hearing – that of “contrary action.” Contrary action is the thing you’re supposed to do when you don’t want to get out of bed, don’t want to shower, don’t want to feed yourself or answer your phone. You’re supposed to act contrary to those urges. Fake it until you make it they say. You must not give in to those urges, because they’ll make you more depressed in the long run. Also very good advice.

So… um… which are we supposed to do?

Two Paths

I get that I’m supposed to wash my hair occasionally. But what about sports events? What about things I used to enjoy that I simply don’t anymore? How often can I fake it before it starts making me more miserable? And if being easy on myself means doing very little? Is that ok?

The internal debate is NEVER ENDING because when you’re super depressed, it applies to almost everything.

I don’t have an answer here. I’m looking for suggestions. Am I thinking about it wrong? Do these two types of advice actually complement each other? Is one just bullshit? Help end the ongoing argument in my struggling head-bag. Hit me up at depressionwhoneedsit@gmail.com or click through to leave a comment. Thank you!

 

Top photo from Regan76 on Flickr.

Bottom photo from William Ward on Flickr.

Helpful Links

Blue and Droopy and Still BeautifulI recently found a treasure trove of useful links about depression on Reddit.

I was thrilled to see a lecture on depression by Robert Sapolsky, the author of one of the books in the “Books To Chill To” post. The lecture is almost an hour long, but he does a fantastic job of laying out the case for depression as a serious biological condition, and describes the biology and psychology of depression in a compelling and approachable way. I found this video very validating. I think it’ll be helpful not only for friends and family who are trying to understand what their loved one is going through, but also for people in the midst of the shitstorm who doubt the credibility of their own experience and symptoms.

Wing of Madness Depression Guide is an almost twenty year old blog on depression. It’s not overly technical, but it is well researched and the tone is somewhat formal. I love that it has a Start Here post that walks the reader through a context for depression, understanding a diagnosis, and tips on seeking treatment. There are also TONS of links to articles, curated for sufferers as opposed to mental health professionals.

I really like this article from the New York Times. It argues that trying to find an up-side to depression is to minimize the seriousness of the disease. I completely agree.

Healthy Place: America’s Mental Health Channel is more formal than Wing of Madness. If you’re looking for good information about types of depression, symptoms, etc., this is a great, centralized collection of information. They have a mood journal app that I haven’t checked out yet but that looks good. Anything that makes tracking your mood less maddening gets an A+ in my book.

More to come.

 

Photo by Dominic Alves on Flickr