A brief history of my mental struggles

(Content warning for mentions of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts.)

I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety in 2008.

It was in the throes of the U.S. financial crisis. My mother had lost her job. I dropped out of college after one semester because we could no longer afford tuition. I started working at a grocery store to pay off my debt and to help my parents with bills. I couldn’t go back to school until I settled my balance with the university.

One would look on the outside and think that my diagnosis was the result of a really bad situation, but I had those thoughts and feelings throughout my adolescence. There was my bout with an eating disorder my junior year of high school. I coped in unhealthy ways. I had that nagging feeling that I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t belong anywhere, I was just a fraud, and soon people would find out. I went above and beyond in everything that I did because if I was doing something, that would keep me distracted from my spiraling thoughts. 

With medication, I was able to function again, but I would still go through bouts of a deep depression, either triggered by events or completely unwarranted: my post-grad internship at a major news organization, working at a station on contract, last year, and now. 

In the past, I used exercise to cope with crippling anxiety. In the rounds of deep depression though? I eat less. I do the bare minimum to keep going but otherwise I’m in a haze.

The current state of affairs

I was laid off six months ago. “Position eliminated in a restructure” is the polite term. I’m still unemployed. 

It’s funny how events are cyclical.

My biggest fear after the Great Recession was financial insecurity. I’m a big saver and my student loans were paid off early in our marriage. We were getting on the right track on our savings and JR’s debt before I lost my job.

I was okay for a while. At the time, I knew I was skilled and was confident I’d land another job. I kept myself busy with job applications and sewing classes. (I had signed up for two garment sewing classes to build my confidence right before the layoff.)

 My confidence soon faded with rejection after rejection, and an offer I didn’t feel was right to take. After several panic attacks and suicidal thoughts, my husband asked me to go back to therapy. (We cut it when I was laid off.) I also went back to my doctor to recalibrate my medicine. 

I’m not suicidal anymore, but my mood ebbs and flows. I’m working with a therapist on not only my negative thinking patterns, but also the deeply-held beliefs I’ve internalized since I was a kid. I’ve cried enough fill a small lake. JR and I found a new church that we like. 

Sewing has also been a constant. It helps me keep my mind off of the pain of rejections. When I feel like I’m not getting anywhere in my job search, finishing a project makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something.

Today I got another job rejection. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but with each passing month, the situation feels more desperate. I’ve been fighting the unemployment office on restoring my benefits from turning down a job offer that wasn’t right. I freelance when the offers come, but it’s a pittance compared to what I was making. We get help and support from family and friends, but anytime I share another disappointment, I worry I’m weighing them down more. I feel like I’ve failed them again. 

I see posts from friends summing up their decade and charting their growth. I started the decade trying to claw my way back to university. I’ll end the decade with a degree, married, but unemployed. 

It’s really hard for me to pick up a sewing needle today. Sewing isn’t a cheap hobby, and with my ongoing situation I worry that when the money runs out, I’ll have nothing to center me. But for now, it’s what I can turn to in moments like this.

I’ve rounded out some mental health resources if you or someone you know is struggling.