Wednesday, May 16, 2007

BLACK AND BLUE


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."
---Albert Camus

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jules,

"Dark though the night,
joy cometh with the morrow."

Jude

Vicki said...

Julie Marie,

I don't know what input or advice I can give you. I can only tell you that I have been in this exact same place and my heart goes out to you. I have spent the last three years struggling with the inconvenience and very real fears brought on by unemployment. I have finally, just two weeks ago, found a regular, full time postion. It is not what I have worked at in the past but it is a good job with a good company with good benefits and decent pay. I am so very grateful to finally be back in the workaday world.

As for the depression, it is something I struggle with everyday. I think I have always, to some extent, been depressed but it was only six years ago that it became full blown. A traumatic event in my life is what brought it to the forefront and when I had constant thoughts of letting my car go off the road and smash into a tree I knew I needed professional help. Thanks to a wonderful doctor, medication, and a loving and supportive husband I have managed to turn myself around. There are still days when I find myself in a horrible blue funk but I don't think about killing myself and I don't have that terrifying feeling of being smothered by some heavy black cloud that makes me feel I cannot breathe.

No one's pain or struggle is exactly like that of someone else but I hope that by knowing that someone understands it will bring you some small measure of comfort.

Vicki

Daisy Lupin said...

I am so sorry to hear about all your woes, you ask for advice, I think you have done what I would have suggested, and that is to write it all down, then read it all through. Sometimes this gives us a new perspective on things, and we either see a way forward or at the very least have stopped the problems whirling around our head and put them solidly down on paper which can give us relief. Take care, and as a relation of mine was fond of saying 'the worm will turn'.

Lazenby Family News said...

Dear Julie, I love your blog and I just stumbled on this particular post. I broke both my knee caps about 5 years ago. I wish I would have used my hands to save my knee instead of my face and I could have gotten a free face lift. Anyway, I lost my job and gained weight, couldn't ride my horses and generally didn't want to do anything even though I have a big ranch.

I threw away my depressive medication. (NOT For Anyone) but replaced it with water aerobics. My new job that costs me money but has brought my life back. The weight was on from my meds. I play with the horses, sheep, my goats (and I milk) because of my new energy. I'm happy.

A ninety year old lady at my aerobic class told me, she always says, "It could be worse" and my husband says, "Get Over It!" And I'm having a plaque made from the two saying together and hanging over my door.

I found what works for me. I walk straight and tall (slow) but not like a penguin, like I have for years. I'll be 60 this October. Accck! I haven't written that down yet. But I'm planning on a new life as busy as I can be. Lots of sewing. BTW I was looking for a Bunad for my daughter who will be celebrating and also running a marathon with her sisters in a group of Scandinavian area in Utah. I've got it almost made. My husband is Norwegian and me...I'm Irish and Scot, just like you. I have family in Minnesota and Bismark, N.D.

Anyway, I've written too much. But you are a wonderful person and I love your blog!!! {{{hugs}}} Susan