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.
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