Depression and Bad Jobs

Depression and bad jobs don’t mix.

I’m a writer struggling to find a better writing job in the community, but my day job as a cashier in retail gets in the way of positive thinking. In fact, I have found that retail work only gets in the way of progress for those seeking better opportunities.

I never liked retail because it is one of the more soul crushing jobs for me. I don’t like being face-to-face with customers for five-to-eight hours and resolving their petty materialistic issues.

But the sad thing is, when you need a job to fill in the income gaps, retail is one of the easiest to come by on such short notice. I can work part time while writing as a freelancer. The only problem is, retail saps me of my energy, so when I get home, I only want to read or play video games.

This is where retail interferes with healing from depression, because no one cares about my feelings at my job. Imagine a job where you have to ask permission to get a drink of water, go to the bathroom and wait for scheduled breaks. That’s my job. When my blood sugar drops, it doesn’t matter, because I have to wait for my scheduled break to eat. When I feel a sudden attack of anxiety in the middle of a transaction, I have to wait until I can go back to the break room for my medication.

Also, most days for me aren’t more than six hours, which means I only get a 15 minute break to scarf down food and get back to work. It’s not enough time for me to write or read a book. That’s how the retail system is designed. They make it intentionally difficult to plan your own life around the job.

After seeing so many older people in retail talk about how they just fall asleep when they get home, I realized that I don’t want that to be me. I want to actively find better opportunities and take risks rather than staying cooped up for another day.

I’ve heard an older man say that this year was his sixth Christmas working at Kohl’s. An older employee I spoke with said she wanted to write for newspapers when she got out of high school. I wonder what happened. But that won’t be me.

It is hard to work a bad job when you’re depressed. Positive thinking doesn’t come easy to me, but I took it in these steps. Here is a break down of the way I am training myself to act and think while working a bad job.

1. Don’t feel bad about not writing a novel when I come home. Write a small blog post or a little bit in a short story. Read the news and brainstorm articles for a bit. This keeps me active in my craft.

2. Retail is not permanent for me. I worked hard for four years to learn my craft, and I’ll be damned if I can’t make a decent living from it.

4. Actively seek new writing opportunities on my days off. Wander the neighborhood for ideas to prevent stagnation of my mind and body.

5. This job is temporary, and it is helping to pay our rent and bills.

At 23 years old, I’m told there is still time to make things work out. But time seems to go by so fast, and in order to make my dreams work out, I must actively seek the solutions when the opportunities arise.

Anxiety quote of the day

I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.” 
― Steve MaraboliUnapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

I poisoned myself into stress, anxiety and fear for years while living with Mom. Family conflicts always stressed me into sickness. I had headaches, stomach pains, panic attacks and nightmares

When I noticed Mom and my brother fighting, I knew something was terribly wrong. The venom spat back and forth about one trying to poison or hurt the other was too much for me to handle. My brother moved away to live with our grandparents in Michigan while I stayed with Mom in New York. Mom became paranoid about the conversations I had with my grandparents and brother. I stopped answering my grandma’s phone calls every Sunday. I dreaded the phone calls because I dreaded the way Mom would react to my grandma calling me. Sometimes she pretended to be completely OK with me talking with my grandparents and brother, but if I was on the phone with them for “too long,” she would tell me it was time to hang up the phone.

Doesn’t make sense, right? What mother gets angry and jealous about the relationship her kids have with the rest of their family? The question plagued me for years, and it still does.

When I entered my junior year of high school, Mom decided it would be a perfect opportunity for me to stay home to work over the summer instead of visiting my family in Michigan. I saw this for the ploy it was. She meant to prevent me from seeing family out of pure jealousy of the closeness I had with them.

If that’s not enough to drive me sick with anxiety, on the Christmas of my senior year in high school, Mom threw a fit about our Michigan family members sending us a box full of Christmas presents. She was angry that they sent us stuff because they didn’t tell us to send them anything. She screamed at the top of her lungs in the shrill way she always did and said, “I hope they rot in Hell!” I began to cry from the horrible venomous words Mom spat.

Of course, she automatically thought I was also upset for the same reason she was. I told her she was upsetting me, and I hope she didn’t get rid of the gifts my family sent me. She said she would never do that, and I could keep them if I wanted to.

Looking back on all these instances,  I can’t agree with the above quote. When you’re a kid living with an emotionally volatile mother and her emotionally unavailable lover, and have no one to turn to to talk about these feelings,  I had no choice but to poison myself with anxiety.

Where do you stand on Steve Marboli’s quote? Feel free to respond in the comments.

More Than Shy

It is difficult for me to pinpoint the exact year I started to have social anxiety, because the more I look back, the more I think it was always there. Social anxiety disorder has become so much a part of me, that I don’t know when it started.

socialanxiety

My earliest experience was probably elementary school. Anxious feelings triggered by public settings were always present, but the severity increased with age. I feared speaking in front of the class for presentations. In middle school,  I raised my hand if I knew the answer  to a question, but I grew afraid of even that when I started high school. During my first year of high school, I noticed a fear of speaking to other students. I had trouble making friends even though I wanted  some, but not popularity.

brain-and-people-sm

The more I looked around, the more I noticed many of my peers were self-centered and treated me as I was invisible because of my awkwardness. I didn’t want a lot of friends. I just wanted a few that I could hang out with every day, get coffee with, visit on the weekends, play video games and to bitch about family life. None of that happened in high school. At least, not to the the extent I had hoped.

Social situations were scarier every day.I was afraid of eating in public by myself. Standing on a line because I felt that the longer I stood stationery, the more people would look at me and make fun of me. I would look down at the ground when I walked outside. Social anxiety also manifested itself, but was not limited to, a fear of men. This fear was limited to men I didn’t know, such as classmates and passersby. Adolescents are usually akward around the opposite sex, but social anxiety can manifest in that awkwardness and multiply it to a fear.

social-anxiety

I became anti-social, creating a wall between myself and peers. If they didn’t want anything to do with me, then I didn’t want them in my life. My day would consist of the same routine: Wake up, go to school, come home, do homework in my room, eat dinner, go back to my room to finish homework and screw around on the Internet. In a previous post, I mentioned using fan fiction as an escape. I also played a lot of video games and read  books to escape.

I didn’t know where to turn for help. My mom told me she couldn’t teach me to be confident. I was nervous about going to a therapist because I thought I would be committed to an insane asylum.I had a best friend in high school who proved not to be the greatest of friends. I spoke to her about my family problems everyday, but like all adolescents, she had baggage of her own to deal with. By the time I graduated high school, she said, “The psychology office is closed for the year.”  I felt more alone than ever during a time that was supposed to be the prologue of a new chapter in my life.

On high school graduation day, I saw my peers tearfully hugging each other good bye. “Where are my friends?” I thought. “I want to cry and hug some people I won’t see again for a long time.”  I walked away that night feeling alone.

After some serious thinking in my sophomore year of college, I concluded it was time to go to therapy.I weighed a variety of reasons that pushed me to the decision to see a therapist.

therapy

First, I wasn’t getting out much other than to classes and the library to study. I wanted to see more of the world around me, but I needed to learn how to find the courage to do that.

Second, I had trouble keeping  friendships with some wonderful people because I shut myself in and never made time to socialize. I never wanted to be a social butterfly, but it’s not healthy to avoid social interactions completely. Too much solitude warps one’s mind, and you begin to develop negative ideas about the world.

Third, I deduced that as a result of being along often, I talked to myself a lot. Many conversations I had with myself were ones I wanted to share with other people. :Wouldn’t those conversations be much more fun if I joined me?” I thought. Bouncing ideas around results in even better ideas.

Lastly, I had no moral support during a time when I had trouble dealing with the drama in my family. Family conflicts always has a way of negatively impacting my quality of life. My emotional resources were pulled every which way; My mom was suspicious of my grandparents, and I felt pressure when I wanted to spend time with or talk to them.The support of a therapist and my boyfriend helped tremendously. Being able to share my troubles with people broadened my perspective on life and the world around me.

inner peace

To this day, I still have small lapses back to my old self, but every day I remind myself of everything I have worked towards and every thing I want to accomplish. That keeps me from becoming the recluse I once was.

 

 

 

College students share their anxiety and depression experiences with the ADAA

Does your anxiety and depression make you feel isolated?  The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has an anxiety disorders page with anxiety resources and videos of young people talking about their depression and anxiety.

Jasmin Terrany, LMHC speaks in the intro video for  “Anxiety and Depression Stories.” She uses body image as an example of how we, especially women, are severely affected by anxiety and depression. For example, the nagging, programmed voice in our heads telling us we need to lose five pounds never goes away even when you lose the five pounds. That negative voice has less to do with the five pounds and more to do with how we focus on the negative things about ourselves as the whole  reality and not the bigger picture.

Following the intro, college students speak about their anxiety and depression experiences. It’s amazing to see how everyone’s experiences and coping mechanisms are similar, yet different.  What’s more empowering is for people in their twenties to see their peers discuss their experiences. Often times, we are told we’re “too young” to experience anxiety and depression. As a result, we begin to feel like weirdos because young sufferers think it’s not normal for young people to have mood disorders. Yet, the reality is that anxiety and depression are just like any physical disease, because they do not discriminate between age, sex, or ethnicity.

Videos of college-aged students discussing their mood disorders opens a dialogue that we should be having as a society. When we have conversations about mental illness, we need to teach others to eliminate stigmatizing language including phrases such as, “You’re too young for that,” “Are you sick in the head?” or “Take some pills.” No one is ever too young to have anxiety or depression. We need to destroy this idea that anxiety and depression only hurts older people.

Maybe we should all start making videos of ourselves describing our own  mental illnesses. Wouldn’t that be an enlightening experience for the world?

Creating a space for mental illness

With so many mentally ill people in the world, why is mental illness still so little understood by society as a whole?

Despite all the research coming out about improvements in psychiatric treatments, the average Joe still lacks even a basic understanding and empathy of what it’s like to have emotional instability run your life, or to have paranoid delusions you cannot control.

Anyone who suffers from panic attacks, depressive episodes or similar knows how isolating the experience can be. Unsympathetic bystanders may  call sufferers crazy, emotional or “damaged.” Whatever the case may be, these words are damaging to societal dialogue on mental illness.

While in college, I overheard a student say in regard to another student that the girl should take Prozac due to her crying a lot. But it’s insensitive statements such as these that make mental illness sufferers, especially those with anxiety and depression, open up to their peers.

Admittedly, it’s easy to stereotype people we don’t understand. But that doesn’t mean we should continue to stigmatize them. This is just a sign that we as a society need to make efforts to talk about mental illness on a mature and educated level.

Employers especially don’t seem to know how to talk to employees sympathetically about mental illnesses. For instance, I attempted to explain my supposedly poor customer service skills to my former boss  when she was told me to improve my behavior as a cashier. According to her, I always looked upset or often spoke harshly to customers. I attempted to explain to her that this really is the result of my anxiety and depression. When overwhelmed with a lot,  I become anxious, irritable or withdrawn.

I told her I’m on medication for it, but I still get that way. In short, she said she knows people on “pills” who get through tasks they would rather not do. She missed my point completely, and in doing so, exhibited her ignorance of what those of us on “pills” go through inside.  That same day I quit because the manager said she was going to keep an eye on my every movement to make sure I changed my behavior.  Her choice of words were not conducive to my well being as an associate under her employ.

Interestingly, an article in The Guardian addresses ending discrimination toward  mental illness in the workplace in the UK. Employees and employers are reluctant to talk about mental illness out of fear of being perceived as weak.

The article sites a report titled Mental Health: We’re Ready to Talk. The study finds that 15.2 million days of sickness absence were caused by stress, anxiety or depression. This is a dramatic increase from 11.8 million days in 2010. Despite one in six employees experiencing mental health problems, employers are not enforcing plans to deal with their mental health.

The lack of willingness to speak about mental illness represents a culture of silence, and the article refers to mental health as the last workplace taboo. While many celebrities, athletes and MPs have spoken about their mental illness, business leaders rarely do so.  If employers were to put two and two together, they would come to the conclusion that mental well-being is conducive to performance. Employees with  untreated mental illnesses may not perform as highly.

While this report focuses on employees in the UK, it is still applicable to the United States. Take my experience as an example. While my managers should have approached me compassionately, they instead told me to buck up and get over it. Many retail employers here are not trained to speak to their employees as humans. Instead, they are trained to intimidate us to work harder and to increase sales. My former boss used intimidating language, stating she would watch my every move through the cameras until I changed my behavior. The fact that she expected me to stay after such a threat speaks to a culture not just of silence, but of bullying.

I also found a similar study based in the US with a pie chart.

A chart depicting money spent on treatment costs, absenteeism and low productivity at work each year from AspenPointe.

A chart depicting money spent on treatment costs, absenteeism and low productivity at work each year from AspenPointe.

Here are some facts that employers and companies need to look at if they want to address mental illness among employees. First, stress and anxiety is caused by a combination of home and workplace-related factors. Strained finances, relationship problems, family issues, pressure at work to do better while being paid low wages, school, bullying, abuse and more are all factors that plague individuals everywhere everyday. People who are predisposed to anxiety and depression are more likely to let these problems affect their work performance. Rather than compassionately addressing these problems, employers tell us to leave our baggage at home and put on a happy, productive face to deal with difficult, griping customers. Angry people with angry kids dump their baggage at the register and expect cashiers to deal with it and their abusive language.

Customers have told me I’m not friendly enough, especially at Christmas shopping season. I’ve been called a psycho by another customer whom I got a little sarcastic with. One woman came in screaming at me for having done my job the way I was taught. The managers put a negative customer service review that mentioned my name on the wall in the break room. In the review, the customer said she had to ask me to wrap her glass item three times before I responded. Of course, the managers sided with the review and asked me to sign a write-up that I refused to sign and also led me to quit the job.

While I realize that this is all part of working with customers in retail, I don’t think it’s worth $7.25/hr. This also makes me fortunate that retail is not a permanent job for me, anyway. While we are expected to give customers 100 percent satisfaction, employees get none in return. We just get a dumb high five from the equally dumb assistant manager. At the end of the day, is it any wonder why employees have anxiety and depression?

 

Introduction

As an anxiety and depression blog, What’s My Damage? will explore not only my experiences with panic attacks and depression, but also news and articles from online sources and publications I read related to the topic.I hope to share how I’ve dealt with panic attacks, anxiety and depression, what has worked and has not worked for me and what I am still learning about it. Readers are encouraged to share their experiences with me in comments or via email. I don’t want to make this all about me. I want to share what I am going through, but I also want to hear from others to share information about depression and anxiety from all people and sources So far, I have ideas for a lot of posts lined up. Some include  how to approach loved ones with depression or anxiety, ways journalists can overcome social anxiety one step at a time, how being creative can help anxiety, advances in mental healthcare, article from Adbusters on mental illness and so much more.

Fresh perspectives from readers are always welcome, since I can’t think of everything myself. Feel free to submit ideas in the comments or via email. I won’t mention your names if you don’t want me to. I’ll be discrete and refer to you as “a reader” (or something like that) if you request that I not use your name or username.

So, here it goes. I hope this blog to be a success. Baby steps.

P.S. I am not a trained therapist. My occupation is a writer, so do not mistaken me for a doctor. All information in this blog will be based on my experiences, readers experiences and information from articles and books I read.