Stage 5: Depression m6.jpg

After Andrea Norton had pounded the pavement for four months while she looked for a teaching job, she became convinced that her unemployment was a just punishment. "I blamed myself for being awkward, hesitant, and clumsy, and I relived every embarrassing mistake I'd ever made. Beating myself up seemed logical and reasonable. It was natural for me to play the martyr and feel sorry for myself. After a while, my self-inflicted pain actually began to feel good. It distracted me from my financial problems for awhile, anyway."

Once you realize that becoming the most deserving professional in the world won't get your old boss to reverse her decision to terminate you or inspire another employer to put you on his payroll, despair may set in. You feel abandoned and as though everything you had - your routine, status, professional network, office, and even your coffee cup - has been taken away. So you decide you probably deserve to be where you are. Every nasty thing your spouse, in-laws, kids, neighbors, or colleagues ever said about you was probably true. Every skeleton in your closet, whatever mistakes you've made, and any unresolved issues from your past come back to haunt you. Some of the ideas that creep into your mind are:

  • It's all my fault.
  • You had it coming, hotshot.
  • They gave me enough rope, and I hanged myself.
  • If only I hadn't done that.
  • I'm worthless.
  • This is the end of the road for me.
Depression is, in effect, anger turned inward. During my own bouts with depression while I was unemployed, I vividly imagined myself sitting on a park bench, unshaven. In my mind's eye, my clothes were tattered. I was holding a bottle of wine. My car had been repossessed. My wife and kids had left me to my misery. And I knew I'd earned every bit of what was happening to me.

Many PIT members have woeful tales of unemployment. Janice, for one, remembers when her depression hit. "All I wanted to do was sleep. I stopped answering the phone, didn't go outside, and basically gave up on life. People would knock on the door, and I wouldn't answer. I had no energy or desire to face alone. I felt stupid and ashamed for losing my job. I just wanted to hide and be left alone." Janice felt that her world had ended. She was a loser and a coward with nothing to live for, and nothing to do.

It's also common, while you're in the throes of depression, to hit bottom. An event occurs - in my case, I totaled my car and landed in the hospital - that propels you into an abyss of despair. When you reach the pit, there's only one direction in which you can go, and that's up. Unfortunately, hitting bottom isn't necessarily something that only happens once during your voyage through the e-wave. For some PIT members, it happens over and over again, and each time it arises they have to deal with it as if they were on their first round. The good news is that there are proven techniques you can use to move from depression to action.

Coping With Depression

When depression takes over, you'll be flooded with feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and lethargy. It takes all your energy just to get out of bed in the morning, and there isn't much left over for fighting your way out of the gloom. Yet that's exactly what you have to do. If you give into your depression, you'll never get your job search into gear. You'll remain in limbo, licking your wounds, and hiding yourself away from the world and everyone in it. What you should do instead is follow some PIT-tested techniques for chasing away the e-wave doldrums.

Depression is a cloud that, among other things, blots out your good feelings about yourself. Lift the cloud by forgiving your past misdeeds.

  • Pamper yourself. Indulge in a bubble bath, a walk in the woods, a ticket to the opera, or whatever makes you feel special.
  • Do all the things you never had time to do.
  • Play with your kids, and spend time with your spouse.
  • Go to a comedy club or rent your favorite comics' videotapes; humor is another effective way to combat depression
  • Step outside your situation, and understand that unemployment is a temporary condition.
  • Treat yourself as if you were your own best friend.
Do something productive and helpful for other people.
  • Volunteer to chaperone your child's field trip, serve food at a soup kitchen, clean up the litter in a local playground, raise funds for your favorite charity, or the like.
To combat the lethargy that depression often brings with it, exercise.
  • Running, walking, swimming, and other aerobic activities gives you energy. The goal isn't to beat your "personal best" score, log more miles than you ever have, or win a competition with anyone else.
  • Rather, the idea is to let loose, shake off the blues, and do something nice for your mind and body.
  • Also, exercising will help you sleep better, and you'll need your rest to keep yourself healthy enough to executive an effective job search.

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