Thursday, April 14, 2011

Post-Traumatic Stress?

Anyone who knows me is aware that for the past several years, I've been very underemployed or not employed at all. Unemployment paychecks stop coming after a time, and even when I got unemployment, it was not enough to pay all of my bills. I had to give up having a car and many other things most take for granted.

Even now with a great job and working environment that seems practically designed for me, I still hesitate to celebrate. Too many times things seem to be taking a turn for the better then it ally disappeared through no fault of my own. I have not seen any signs of anything going south with this particular job much as I started to after a short time at other jobs. I should feel more confident about it. But I do not.

I talked with a friend who is a social worker who told me that my feelings are not unusual for those who have struggled for a long time to find employment. I half-jokingly quipped that I felt as if I had some sort of Post-Traumatic Disorder. I link that illness with those who have suffered a catastrophic physical event and not someone who has been unemployed and struggling. However, my friend told me that spending months and even years consumed by looking for employment - just looking for any paycheck and not finding much of anything - is one of the most stressful things that can happen to anyone.

I thought a lot about my conversation with her afterwards and I can easily recollect even as recent as this past January feeling as if I was going to lose my mind, yet again. The constant stress and then my spending literally 8 hours a day looking through want ads, being on line looking for work and creating new resumes and even going down the employment office to look through what they had posted. I even had the thought of being 50 years old and never getting hired again. I had that thought many times over.

I was fortunate in many years in that when it came to pivotal moments (such as will I be moving into a tent to live?) I had friends and family who tapped into their limited resources to help. This one reason why I will never judge a homeless person on the street - a person who hit a bad patch because they lost their job and didn't have anyone to help them. It is so easy to wind up on the streets as a homeless person.

One of the reasons I post this note is that many FB friends and others who read my blog are experiencing the pain and stress of not having a job and, like me, consumed every waking hour with looking for work or some way to pay rent and utilities. If you feel as if the stress is overwhelming remember you can get treatment at clinics and through Medicaid. Talk to your doctor about it and don't allow the stress to manifest itself in your body. I gained 50 pounds during all the years I've been looking for steady, full-time work. I am only now starting to lose that weight. Also, realize that it will take you time, once you find employment, to feel less stressed so don't think it's weird if you started a new job and even after a few months still feel wigged out. My friend the social worker tells me that is normal and that over time that feeling will dissipate.

One important piece of advice that the social worker gave me: try to do something for yourself each day even it is only going on a nice walk through a park. There are free things to do and it is important that you safeguard your mental health every way possible as constant stress wears you down physically and mentally.


4 comments:

Cheryl said...

I can't begin to imagine the kind of stress you've experienced, and am awed at how you were able to hang in there and hold on to life itself while you were going through all that -- along with the fact that the more material effects of unemployment will likely linger for some time, such as the unavoidable debt that comes with it. I can certainly understand that even with your present and seemingly secure employment, the idea that the rug is going to be pulled out from you at any time looms large. I mean, how could it not? Post-traumatic stress sounds very much like an accurate description of what you're going through. I hope that with time and the reassurance of those around you, these feelings will begin to recede and be replaced with those of optimism. Blue skies from now on!

Cheryl said...

I can't begin to imagine the kind of stress you've experienced, and am awed at how you were able to hang in there and hold on to life itself while you were going through all that -- along with the fact that the more material effects of unemployment will likely linger for some time, such as the unavoidable debt that comes with it. I can certainly understand that even with your present and seemingly secure employment, the idea that the rug is going to be pulled out from you at any time looms large. I mean, how could it not? Post-traumatic stress sounds very much like an accurate description of what you're going through. I hope that with time and the reassurance of those around you, these feelings will begin to recede and be replaced with those of optimism. Blue skies from now on!

Annie said...

Nancy, I'm so glad that things have turned around for you. You'll start to trust your good fortune more and more as time passes. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and the reason you had to wait so long was for this great job to find you. Rather than any old job, you found a job that is perfect for you. Anyway, I'm glad that you are finally finding some well-deserved happiness.
best, Annie

Dawn said...

Nancy,

I am going through the same thing. I've been unemployed since March 31, 2009. Did the unemployment and went back to school for Medical Transcription. finished school in May 2010, and have been looking and looking ever since. I found an internship, but as we are SO far behind, it has not helped us really catch up yet. I don't get medicaid as my husband works and pays almost half his salary for us to have insurance. I talk to my doctor, but that doesn't do much for me as copays for specialists to talk to are out of the question because we are financially hurting so. I think the stress is doing bad things to me, and if I survive all this, it will take a few years off my life in the end. We've come thisclose to losing our house, so being homeless was a real reality for us. I just want an end to it all.