The little poster above has sat on my bedside table for years. It really exemplifies my feelings this past week, and its colors are perfect too. I had been feeling blue because of a black mood. In short, I was having quite the pity party.
There have been tangible reasons for my mood: 1. A persistent heavy cold wind blew earlier this week. Strong, incessant wind always gets on my nerves. 2. Problems with my computer. 3. Problems with my unemployment compensation which means I didn't get a check this week and probably won't get one next week either. (It seems I will get them both eventually, but as usual it takes a while to unsnarl red tape.) 4. The auto shop hasn't been able to work on my car, although it's been brought in three days in a row. That means I'm without a car unless I want to drive it with all the windows stuck in the upright position. (Fine in the winter; disastrous in the summer.)
But there are other elements to my mood that can't be so quickly identified. I've recovered from my physical illness (and thanks to everyone who sent get well wishes). But it or something else seems to have thrown me into a mini depression.
I couldn't read. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't do art. I'm ignoring my dogs. I was agitated and unfocused. Until today, I couldn't blog. The world is bursting with blooms right now. I should have been out there reveling in it, but I couldn't. I saw the slovenly dust on my furniture, but I couldn't make myself get up and dust. I needed to make phone calls, but couldn't pick up the receiver. I had the time to do anything I wanted, but I couldn't manage to accomplish anything at all.
I am familiar with depression, having been diagnosed with clinical depression years ago. My daughter was in grade school then. She characterizes it as a time when I would 'never play games" with her. She couldn't understand why mom just wanted to lie down all the time. She was diagnosed with depression in high school and underwent a major depressive disorder episode in college. So, of course, she realizes now what I was going through. (Fortunately, I got help and these past few years I had been feeling even better because of therapy and because my medication was finally adjusted to the perfect degree. And fortunately, Kristen received meds and therapy and is doing very, very well, functioning in school and work, leading an active and happy life.)
I'm calling this down period a mini depression, because the previous episode was much worse. At that time, I literally couldn't get up off the couch. There were days when I don't know how I made it out the door to work. At that time, I could feel the depression literally inhabiting my body, an actual physical sensation.
I think this depression is situational rather than chronic. (Look at me, self diagnosing myself again). I went through many emotional stages after losing my job: relief (yes, relief was my first response), followed by shock, denial (in my dreams I'm still there!), panic, fear, loss, rage and helplessness. I believe I have now reached the stage of depression. And why not? I wake up in the morning and have nowhere to go. There is no structure to my life. I do not have an income. I do not have any health insurance. I may lose my house. I no longer have a work identity. My social life is diminished. I am lonely. No wonder they say that losing one's job is one of the five most stressful life changes a person can experience. (I've experienced all the others - I was wondering when I would get to experience this one too.)
I'm not getting much action in the job search department. What I am getting is: "Gee, someone with your skills, talents, experience...I can't understand why it's taking you so long to find a job." I am beginning to feel that no one will ever want me again.
And although fortunately I have not lost my self esteem, I know there are people who now disrespect me. They believe I have been humiliated, have lost face.
Today I began wondering if there are actual, recorded, observable stages of grief over losing a job, like the stages outlined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross as seen in terminally ill people and their survivors. My old friend Google tells me there are.
The Labor Market Information Center in "Losing Your Job" ranks depression at Step 4 out of 6 steps. An article on an AARP website called "Typical Reactions to Job Loss" and Theresa Leonard-Wilkinson's article "Dealing With Job Loss" both recognize it as Step 5 out of 6. For Debbie Markel in "How to Get Over Losing Your Job", it is Number 4 of 5.
Mark Gordon in "Stages of Grief" groups depression with Step 3: Rage and/or Helplessness (turning rage inward into depression). So does the Stress Doc on the site www.stressdoc.com . The Stress Doc takes it a step further: "Is it mourning or is it depression?", he asks. He likens depression to a heavy pot lid holding down underlying bubbling and boiling thoughts and emotions.
But grief, he says, "unlike depression's tendency to bottle up and stuff down emotions, works like removing the cover of Pandora's Box....Ultimately, grieving releases and integrates a range of emotions and energies that enables you to regain psychic equilibrium, helps evolve a new or renewed sense of purpose and direction. Vital mourning is also the wellspring of passion and determination for exploring new roles and identities."
I'm going to consider this past week as just a 7-Day Glitch. I'm removing that heavy pot lid, I'm taking off the top of Pandora's box and I'm letting the grieving begin! I am not going to sit passively in a depressive state. I have the tools to help me climb out of this pit (actually a medium-size hole): The Internet research I uncovered today regarding dealing with stress, networking, and getting professional emotional help; my in-person and online friends; my self-awareness and my willingness to explore all avenues, including learning new job skills.
And this, the best information I learned all day: "So remember, there's a real difference between 'feeling sorry for yourself' and 'feeling your sorrow.' When you are feeling sorry for yourself you are mostly blaming others. When you are feeling your sorrow you are demonstrating the courage to face your fears and pain....In mystic fashion, like spring upon winter, the seeds of dissolution bear fruitful renewal." (Stress Doc)
So, no pity party after all!
(I welcome any input/help/advice/or a good "Snap Out Of It!")
"Once we have accepted the fact of loss we understand that the loved [position] obstructed a whole corner of the possible, pure now as a sky washed by rain."