Unemployed? Hire anxiety and depression as your personal assistants
Kate Kemp, five days into unemployment, comes to grips with reality while negotiating with this two-headed beast. This is the fifth in a 13-part series.
In January, Kate Kemp lost her job as a creative director in New York due to a corporate restructuring. Monster asked her to write about her life after a layoff (we’ve all been there, right?). This is the fifth in a weekly series that will chronicle how she went from crying into a hot dog in Times Square to moving cross-country for a new employment adventure.
By day five of unemployment, I’d successfully replaced freak out mode with “freakin’ get on with it” mode. After revamping my resume and portfolio, I felt more confident and better prepared for any interview.
That’s not to say I was completely worry-free.
I’ve been a long-time sufferer of depression and anxiety. These always evil, sometimes painful beasts can rear their ugly heads at any time. And, because it’s not cool to say you have to take prescription drugs to act like a normal person, most people who have to set daily reminders to take their pills don’t talk about it. Considering I don’t give a crap whether people think I’m cool or not***, I’m talking about it.
Dealing with depression and anxiety on a normal day is hard. Dealing with these mind-jacking jerkwads just five days after an angry post-layoff cry in Times Square is approximately 26.4 billion times harder. I knew I needed to redirect this pity party energy into job-hunting energy. Luckily, I was very familiar with the “avoid the downward spiral” drill.
Having dealt with these irritating ailments since I was a cliché poetry-writing teen Goth sipping 6-shot espresso drinks at Insomnia in Deep Ellum, Texas, I’ve learned coping skills that produce much better results than writing in iambic pentameter about the black darkness of the world’s soul. Instead, I make depression and anxiety work for me.
JUST ANOTHER MANIC MONDAY, TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY, THURSDAY …
Because I knew I could easily fall into “I CAN’T KEEP UP WITH ALL THIS DRAMA!” territory, I put systems in place to put my anxiety to work.
Anxiety tells me I need to have every single answer to every single question figured out before anyone even asks. So, I put together a web-based spreadsheet that tracked every job lead along with the primary contact’s info, our last date of communication and all the notes on what we’d talked about so far. I also kept folders for every lead containing all the homework I’d done on the company, every email I’d sent/received and any notable industry news stories that might add to interview conversations.
When I was tossing, turning and not sleeping in the middle of the night, I’d grab my phone, pull up my spreadsheet and see who I needed to contact next. I’d use my nervous energy to write emails to people I hadn’t talked to in a few weeks, then save them as drafts to re-read the next morning with a clear head before sending them out. If writing felt like too much work, I’d search job boards and my favorite agency sites for new job postings. If I found a good one, I’d email it to myself so I could dig a little deeper the next day.
Having spent some time updating my to-do list, it was much easier for me to go to sleep knowing I’d been productive and had a plan for tomorrow.
GET UP, DON’T GIVE UP
On the other end of the spectrum was my frenemy, depression. The complete opposite of (and often the result of) anxiety, depression wants me to stay in bed all day long, every day. If I weren’t all-too-familiar with the effed up ways anxiety and depression work together to keep me down, it would’ve been easy to think, “Well, I did stay up until 2 a.m. searching for new jobs and writing emails, so I totally deserve a day off.”
A night filled with anxiety-fueled job board hunts can make getting out of bed at a reasonable hour seem unfair and, sometimes, even impossible. But I knew I couldn’t land any morally acceptable gig from my incredibly comfortable bed. Plus, I knew I couldn’t sound like I’d just woken up from a nap when I got calls from potential employers.
So, every morning, whether I wanted to or not, I got up by 9 a.m., made the bed, took a shower and sat at my computer to send emails and research more opportunities. Even if I didn’t accomplish anything else, I’d accomplished making the bed and taking care of myself. And, as small of a thing as that was, it kept a little structure in my unstructured day.
If you can harness your anxiety and depression to work for you, awesome. If you can’t, don’t freak out. These beasts are not easily tamed. Sometimes, you need outside help. And, as someone who can finally admit that therapy sessions are signs of strength, not weakness, I urge anyone struggling to reach out for help (you can find local resources via the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website).
Whether you’re experiencing anxiety and depression for the first time after losing your job or you’ve already got your psychologist and pharmacy on speed dial, remember: You are NOT alone. Brilliant people have been let go. And even not-so-brilliant people have bounced back into better jobs than they had before. I was determined to rise up from a potentially dark place. This was my time to find the next big thing. And I wasn’t going to let these chemically-induced emotions get in the way.
*** Just kidding, I totally care. But I felt like it was more important to use this platform to show depression and anxiety sufferers that they aren’t alone than win cool points.
Read Part 2: This is what it’s like to wake up unemployed
Read Part 3: Playing ‘Fallout 4’ helped me with my job search
Kate Kemp is currently the Group Creative Director at HackerAgency in Seattle.