On the Job Hunt (feat. Depression and Anxiety)

So, real talk. I have moderate social anxiety and chronic depression, with extreme episodes here and there. PTSD is a newcomer to the scene, adding its own flavors of hurt to an already afflicted mind. Therefore, job hunting and networking is ten times more challenging for me.

I’ve just moved to a new area and am presently unemployed. Job hunting is a nightmare. I submit applications and hope they don’t get sucked down a black hole, all the while struggling to prevent my thoughts from becoming a black hole. I don’t always succeed.

How can I stop comparing myself to friends and colleagues from my Japanese Studies major who are employed? Where to begin reckoning with those intrusive thoughts telling me I’ll fail? How to stay focused on finding work when I can hardly focus on getting out of bed? How to impress potential employers behind a fake positive veneer? Will I have to suck it up and just pop into local businesses asking if they’re hiring? How can I do that and not let my anxiety overcome common sense?

I haven’t looked in the right places, or talked to the right people. That’s always been an issue, further exacerbated by my introversion. I’ve never been socially adept. Although I’ve worked in retail in a small business environment (a job I gained through a unique set of circumstances, not through any established method of job application) I still struggle to engage with people.

However, over the past couple months of scouring job boards and crying with worry, I’ve come up with a couple ways to soften the mental overload:

1. I limit the amount of time I spend online job hunting.

I used to spend two to three hours glued to my screen, my will and spine wilting with every job description I read that listed qualifications I didn’t possess (my depression says “those are qualities you will never possess, so don’t even bother trying”). Not only did I get headaches, but I forgot to take care of my body. I’d end up cranky, disheartened, hungry, and dehydrated.

Now I set a timer on a phone. If I’m in the midst of a depressive episode I generally limit my job hunting time to 20-30 minutes. On my worst days, even if I only look at job boards for 5-10 minutes, I’ll congratulate myself on doing so. I made an effort. That’s a victory, no matter how small. It’s my victory and effort, not society’s, and that’s all that should matter, no matter what anyone else says.

Make sure you stay hydrated. Have a glass or tumbler of cold water on hand. No matter what else you’re drinking at the time (and I’ve downed some rum before) always have water.

2. I listen to background noise generators.

While I love my screamo and hard rock, it doesn’t make for the best music to concentrate to. Sometimes the guitars and epic vocals distract me. Recently I discovered Noisli. Combine different sounds  — wind, leaves scattering across winter ground — to create your own mix for concentration or relaxation. This has kept me calm when I’m scanning job boards or filling in online applications, and I’ve found I’m less prone to get distracted by doubt or worry.

I have a short-term job coming up, but I’m still looking for something long-term. My depression says what I really want to do (writing and private Japanese tutoring) is not feasible, won’t pay the bills, won’t buy me food. I want to gain more students for tutoring, but my anxiety tells me not to bother promoting that, no one wants to take lessons from someone with staggering confidence and a weary haunt in her eyes, who isn’t even fluent in the language she’s teaching. I’ve looked into work-from-home jobs, and given my personality that might be the way to go, and yet…job hunting is dissatisfying when your own mind is primed for failure, for negativity.

Society demands a “real” job, and people are expected to have a sound mind. I’ve never had a sound mind. I do want a “real” job. I just don’t know how to trick my mind into believing that. Depression and anxiety form the reverse echoes of my consciousness, twisting every positive thought or dream I have and carrying more weight than I can sometimes bear. Nevertheless, I’ll keep on going, and try to set that dismal weight aside whenever I can.

Please feel free to comment if you have any tips/suggestions/articles for navigating this caustic minefield. I know I’m not the only one out there.

-apf

© Cat and Moth Writings
All Rights Reserved

7 thoughts on “On the Job Hunt (feat. Depression and Anxiety)

  1. Margaret Landini

    I like your strategies with time management. Have used the timer myself. Jane I like your comment on failure and who gets to define what it is. The same is true for success. A house down the street may have a garage and yard filled with boats and motorcycles and jet skies and some people may think those folks are successful but I would tend to think that they only succeeded at cluttering up their yard with toys that will drain their checkbooks for years to come.
    Those voices of self-doubt will always be there Alyssa. They are being much amplified now with your current situation. Just know that paths will open up for you.
    Love you dearly. Dad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jane

    Looking for a job is the worst, of all the things that can overwhelm us. Consider this before you get too hard on yourself. The stress level can be relentless. You are step-by-step doing what you can, and that is enough.
    You have an exceptional ability to dig deep and to be honest. I applaud you for this. Your story is a difficult one. There were so many things that ran through my mind when reading your blog. The most important one has to do with how we define our Self. At the deepest level, is it our thoughts, our emotions, our name, our address, our occupation? No, it is none of those things; it even isn’t our story. I recently read a book that for the first time really made sense as to who our true selves are. The book is “the untethered soul” by Michael Singer. Basically, the self is our awareness. It is that tucked-away place inside that always is watching. That self is open, unfettered by expectations, by the past, by fears of the future. Due to our daily habits of carrying on almost constant judgmental conversations in our heads though, we lose touch with this self. I recommend reading that book by Michael Singer. It’s a game changer.
    Another thing that came to me is the concept of failure and how it can scare us. But really, who is defining the “failure”? Is it society? Is it part of a repeating refrain in our heads that has become habitual? I have found that throwing myself into a creative project can help alleviate this kind of negative wall-building. Being free to create is such a blessing. At least something in our lives is not confined to some tight little box.
    Alyssa, being that you are introspective and serious, I think you will find a way through this crappy milieu of job-hunting. Don’t let it sabotage your self-esteem. On the practical side, you have some very desirable qualities for an employer: you are responsible, smart, able to meet deadlines, a good writer. Some possible types of jobs that you may consider: editing scientific papers, writing grant proposals, computer programming (honestly, it is a pretty interesting field; has clear rules and can do so many different things; and programmers don’t need to be all that capable in the social arena). And, like you say, maybe working from home would be the ticket.
    Good luck and thanks for sharing. Keep up the dialog.

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  3. I always found the job market difficult to navigate — it’s inherently competitive and dogged by politics. I did it for over twenty years. And even while I was employed depression made it difficult to believe I was doing a good enough job. I later contracted so I could move around and not be committed to anything/anyone. I used to relapse right in the middle of projects sometimes, feeling like I couldn’t go on, and quit a few jobs because of it — all very inconvenient. But later I found mindfulness quelled most of the anxiety and doubt, and helped me become more functional. Are you receiving any support/treatment? Have you tried mindfulness?

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    1. Imposter syndrome haunted me in my last job, and I’m still trying to reckon with that. I try to do certain activities every day that keep me still in body and mind, like studying kanji. Pilates and good soul stretching have helped me focus on the immediate, so I suppose that is a form of mindfulness. Also Don Miguel Ruiz’s book “The Four Agreements” is my go-to when I’m more distraught than usual.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ginny Price

    It’s drowning. Treading water until exhaustion takes you. Then sinking down, holding your breath until you become resolved to let go. But just then there is a calm and you float to the surface again. With your face breaking the water you breath. With each gulp of air it’s a chance to fight to stay alive; a chance to make it different. Nothing stays the same. You will survive. Now let’s check out how to thrive.

    Liked by 1 person

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