As someone who has dealt with homeless twice before already, the very thought of unemployment has always been a major anxiety trigger for me. So I’ve become the kind of person that needs to have some sense of financial stability and control in order to hold my fears and anxiety in check. Financially, I am in a better place than how things were with my family back when I was a kid, however, like most people I know living in NYC, I still live paycheck to paycheck, which isn’t the most stress-reducing situation. Just missing one paycheck results in a financial setback that will take months to recover from.
So when I got the news in April that I was furloughed, I broke down and had one of the worst panic attacks ever. My mother, who is getting through lockdown along with me, didn’t know how to help but she tried her best to calm me down, embracing me until I stopped crying, shaking and hyperventilating. (My mother has never experienced me having a panic or anxiety attack firsthand and I know this scared her but I appreciate that this is how she chose to handle the situation in that moment because I managed to recover much faster than I would have otherwise.) I was unconsolable for days. I was angry at all those “we’re in this together” messages circulating everywhere. Yes, we’re facing the same storm that is COVID-19, BUT we’re all experiencing different journeys because we’re on different ships. Some of us aren’t even on ships at all, just doing the best with our inflatable life raft, if that.
Everything was thrown out of whack, which I deemed to be entirely my fault for not being “better than this”, so I stayed up for days, job and apartment hunting because I was determined to get everything back on track by any means necessary. However, I found that this just made me even more anxious. In time I let myself embrace the paradoxical stillness that came along with the chaos instead of trying to fool myself into thinking I could regain some kind of control. This was a tall order for a workaholic like me, nevertheless, I forced myself to do absolutely nothing for a couple of days. And by nothing I mean, nothing work/career related, I just took each day one at a time with no real set schedule or plan.
I was “productive” when I wanted to be, doing things like dusting my bookcases or taking online workshops on topics of interest, but more often than not I would take time to read through old journals, reread some of my favorite books and former projects in order to reconnect with myself. This ended up being exactly what I needed. (Checking in with my friends every couple of days also proved to be a great help.) By the time my birthday rolled around at the start of May, peace replaced my self-loathing and frustration allowing for some clarity as I finally admitted to myself that the way I had been managing up to this point could no longer continue. Between the self-imposed pressure that has me pushing myself to the point of self-destruction and the total disregard of my own career goals in order to ensure a paycheck, I needed to put myself first for a change.
I haven’t been the most kind to myself and I know that there are so many people out there that are dealing with the same. Like I said, we’re all in the same storm but on different ships, and I can’t in good conscience list out any recommendations for how to get through this because there is nothing that can universally apply to everyone’s current situation. So much has changed and so much more is going to change, yet the best thing is to meet this uncertainty with compassion, for others but also for yourself. And I know, this is hard when things like rent and loss of income hang over you like the sword of Damocles, ready to trigger major anxiety on top of the fear that already comes with a worldwide pandemic. But please be sure to take some time to check in with yourself and make use of the mental health resources* that are readily available in your area. The world has been taking a pause, so should you.
*Note: Headspace, the mediation and mindfullness app, is offering free access to their premium services for a year to anyone who is currently unemployed. Also if you find that you need to speak to someone immediately, there is free and confidential help you can receive 24 hours a day from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
How are you getting through this time? Is there any kind of content (besides fashion and lifestyle) that you’d like to see me cover on the blog? I want to be sure that I’m serving you the best I can at this time.