When Depression Sets In

Your boss has called you into his office and taken your company ID card, and security has escorted you off the premises. You have been laid off and you are in shock, but worse than that, you feel like a criminal. As the days, weeks and months pass, you find yourself spiraling downwards. You have re-written your resume, posted applications and networked, and yet still your emotions are getting the better of you.

Do you feel like any of the following symptoms apply to you?

1. Feeling sad, down or irritable

2. Feeling hopeless

3. Crying for no apparent reason

4. Feeling tired or weak

5. Loss of interest in normal daily activities

6. Problems sleeping

7. Feeling of just wanting to give up

8. Feelings of guilt

9. Diminished ability to think straight, concentrate or make decisions – feeling like you are thinking in a ‘fog’

10. Feeling worthless

11. Feelings of paranoia

12. Loss of interest in sex

13. Feelings of restlessness

14. Suicidal thoughts or behavior

15. Unexplained physical symptoms such as pains, dizziness, excessive sweating, shaking, shortage of breath or feeling like you are having a heart of attack

These are some of the classic symptoms of depression and anxiety, two of the most paralyzing medical conditions that are experienced by all too many jobseekers and unemployed people. We are not talking here about emotionally unstable people, but regular people like you or I who are normally in control of our lives and excellent ‘copers’.

As if the sense of desperation about how you are going to pay the bills is not enough, you feel hi-jacked by your emotions. Rejection, powerlessness, self-doubt and a poor self image can arise at any time after being laid off from a job. First there are the initial feelings to deal with, and then there are the times when nothing seems to be happening. Either you are not getting any interviews or employers are not even bothering to respond to you. And then there are the rejections…With each new one that lands on the front doormat, you can feel yourself sinking lower and lower and your sense of motivation dissipating. Your relationships are beginning to suffer and you might even have started drinking to excess. And it is not just the unemployed who are affected either. The same feelings can arise if you are stuck in a job that you hate and are trying to break free.

It can feel almost impossible to pull yourself up by the bootstraps when depression or anxiety really take a grip and, for some, the only answer is to seek out professional medical help. By recognizing the symptoms early on though, it is possible to stop things from getting any worse.

In any set of devastating circumstances or loss, it is very common to ask yourself ‘Why me?’ In a job loss situation, however, it is important to remember that it is not just you. Most people will lose at least one job at some point in their lives, but that does not make them bad people or ‘failures’. Laying off people from work is a business decision – nothing more, nothing less. It is not a personal smear and it is vital to remember this.

Although it might be hard to avoid hearing news reports and reading stories of the unemployment situation in the papers, often these simply add to the feeling of hopelessness. Yes, 8.1 per cent of the American population is now out of work. But that means that 91.9 per cent are still in work.

Depression and anxiety are terrible things to face, not least because the emotions are often totally unexpected, by men and women alike. They are, however, perfectly normal, and there is no shame whatsoever in admitting them and talking about them, whether it be to family, friends, counselors or somebody from the medical profession. There is no need to suffer alone. Recognize the symptoms early and seek the help that you need, and that you deserve.

If you are on that dreadful downward spiral and there is any helpful advice that you can give, or a story that you are comfortable sharing, then please drop me a line. Feeling like we are not alone can be a powerful pick-me-up.