Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The down and out

Naturally I am incredibly fortunate, so the pain that I suffered during the period following the layoff was purely emotional, psychological. I was not destitute or homeless, I was very lucky to secure a way to stay in the country and not have to leave the masters degree and relationship I had started here. I didn't even really have to downsize any aspect of my life, other than to budget more than I've had to before, and that was only because I have anxieties about running out of money.

There is no need for me to further explain why I felt the way that I did, though logically everything worked out almost as best as it could. Instead of working and going to school, I was able to wrangle my school into supporting a full-time student visa. I didn't exactly realize what this meant at the time, but needless to say it cost me a bit more money and time than perhaps I'd originally planned. Both resources I had. Again, so incredibly fortunate.

What I want to express instead are the emotional battles I've had to deal with. I think perhaps that's the main part I've been wanting to share, now that I've explained what happened on the outside.

To sum it up in just a few sentences: I became a hermit and didn't leave the house for several months. There were days at a time where I physically could not and did not leave the house. Something as easy as going out to get groceries (even if I needed them), simply alluded me. Every time I would try to get ready to go out, I would get anxiety about whether or not I was ready, and need to lie down for 15 minutes (even fully clothed) in order to get my strength and anxiety at a level where I could feel relatively okay going out.

Social events were avoided completely. The thought of having to explain to someone what I had gone through and was going through currently, was simply too much. I was only able to talk to Goose and my gay bff J about things on a semi-regular basis. 

The shame I felt was crippling. Even though logically I understood there was nothing to be ashamed about. I wasn't singled out; this was a very large company decision that had, generally speaking, absolutely nothing to do with me as a person. It didn't reflect on my professional abilities or experience, it had nothing to do with me as an individual. It was not about something I had done or not done.

And yet my identity has always been so wrapped up in my successes, personally and professionally, that I couldn't let it go. I felt I would be judged for what had happened. That I would be looked down upon, lesser than what I otherwise normally felt were great accomplishments in my life.

Everything I had done up until that point felt like it didn't count for anything. The multiple moves, the great jobs, the amazing experience...in my mind these all vaporized the moment I was let go and there was little recourse for me getting another job for a year. Becoming a full-time student with no job felt a million times worse than the impressive juggle of a full-time job and part-time school. It felt like a very big demotion. Like I was letting everyone down including myself. That I was supposed to be doing more than just school. It is such a normal thing to do, there's no glory in it.

Naturally that's absurd to think. I realized this some of the time, but the thing with low mood is there is not much that will convince you otherwise. There are actions you can and should do, and those will slowly lift you out...but just talking and thinking about things will not easily change your mind. It is so fascinating how once again your entire understanding of the world is controlled by some chemicals your body releases (or doesn't release).

In any case, beyond going to class, where I avoided most contact with other students, especially the new full-time students who wouldn't understand what I'd gone through, who I'd been last year in comparison to this year, but also the other part-timers who I'd made friends with last year...I pretty much stayed home. I worried about using money for anything outside of necessity (meaning just groceries and rent, utilities, etc.). I am incredibly fortunate that Goose is no stickler and made me feel comfortable, didn't push me to spend money I thought I didn't have.

After about four months of this (though it felt like forever), I went and sought out CBT therapy. I'm lucky I live in a country where this is available for free, you just need a referral from your doctor, which I got. I was asked to take a series of surveys that determined how low my mood was, how high my anxiety. Apparently I scored high enough to where I was given a referral right away. Before I set off for Christmas I had my first appointment in the new year.

I just went to my last session today and I cannot say enough about how much this has helped me. CBT is about changing your ways of thinking, knowing when and how to act when you feel you can't do things. In other words it helped me to stop avoiding (which just reinforces itself and keeps you isolated) and start trying again. Honestly it was also nice just to talk to someone about all my problems without fear of it being too much. That is genuinely what they are there for. My therapist might not have always been the most patient, he is human after all, but his advice and techniques were sound, and for that I am incredibly thankful.

And so I am finally coming out of my down shell. I felt the first rays of light a few weeks ago. Hence the being okay with writing this blog again. And trying to find more friends. Seeking out old friends and reestablishing ties. Making it a point to leave the house, even if just for a short walk, every day. Getting back into exercise. Knowing that everything will be alright and that I will soon be onto my next great job and back into feeling secure about my identity, successes, experience, again.

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