Good morning everyone. It’s Betty and today I’d like to be a little more serious than usual, if I may. Before I begin, I’d like you to watch this amazing animation by Matthew Johnstone and the World Health Organization to understand the reference in the title: I had a black dog and his name was depression.
The struggle is real, and it’s already here...
Before I go any farther, I’m not a therapist. None of us here at OVRC are. But all this culturally running around and pretending we’re okay when most of us Really Are Very Much Not is a problem from where I sit. I had a conversation with my executive director where he was concerned we would have people coming in with PTSD because they would be afraid to go back to work because of fear they might contract COVID or lose their job again.
This is not a future tense thing. This is already happening for many of you. And it’s a perfectly natural response to an unprecedented situation that most of us simply do not have the toolkit to be able to deal with. In short, COVID has been an indeterminate threat, for an indeterminate amount of time, over which we have effectively zero control, which could kill us or someone we love. We’ve been undergoing a collective anxiety attack for most of a year now.
Oddly, if you are already dealing with a mental illness or anxiety disorder, you’re probably handling this better than most people you know, based on anecdotal conversations with my clients. As one person quipped, “I’ve been preparing for this all my life!”
I’m an [insert here]………
Aside from the ominous ever looming threat and helplessness (yes, there’s a vaccine, but let’s face it, if I can get it before September I’ll be shocked so my whole summer is shot anyway no matter what happens), there’s this weird Western relationship we have with our jobs and how that affects our mental health.
Most of us identify as our jobs. I’m a lawyer. I’m an accountant (or… not *humor*). I’m a dentist. I’m a doctor. I’m a cashier. I’m a plumber. I’m a cabbie. In Western society, all of your value is tied up in this thing you do for pay, for other people. Dealing with this loss of identity is hard enough under normal circumstances, but when thousands or millions of us hit that wall of ‘now what’ as a collective, it’s even more jarring.
Bad enough we’re dealing with the anxiety of the pandemic and our health and our financial stability – many of us have been POINTEDLY reminded we’re only a couple of paycheques away from financial devastation – we’re also scrambling with this loss of identity that ties into our self-esteem and self-worth. “If you’re not what you do, then who are you?” is a hard question to answer for most of us and it can create a lot of complex emotions.
Relationships and roles affect our mental health…
The other challenge many of us are struggling with right now is redefining our roles in our relationships, or suddenly having the boundaries in our relationships change. Quite a few of my clients are parents, and suddenly trying to be parents and teachers and employees and homemakers all at once, when you can’t really go anywhere and do anything to get a mental break has been tough.
Even if you have enough privilege to work from home, suddenly having your partner there all the time or your kids there all the time has put strain on your relationship. As a friend of mine said, “I love my husband, but I’m discovering I don’t want to work with him.” Differing schedules, differing work styles, and the never ending fight for bandwidth between you, your kids, and your partner creates a lot of stress in even the healthiest relationship.
What does it look like to have situational depression?
Again, I am not a therapist. I’m just trying to help you understand why you are so overwhelmed, and why you might be feeling depressed. Depression isn’t sadness for most people, it tends to be more of a sense of lethargy or dullness. Nothing really makes you happy any more. You’re just coasting, and you don’t have the energy to care about things that used to make you really excited like your hobbies or your family.
Situational depression or anxiety is just that – it’s situational. Usually it is triggered by a specific event or series of events, and it can last a surprisingly long time. It often manifests as insomnia, or a change in eating habits, or a sense of being overwhelmed by things that normally wouldn’t bother you. Irritability is a huge red flag, as is avoidance of tasks you normally wouldn’t have a problem with completing or would even enjoy.
The challenge at the moment is how MANY things are contributing to your sense of overwhelmedness (it’s not a word, but it ought to be). There isn’t a specific thing you can point to and say, oh that’s the problem, and compartmentalize it to get to a better space. I sometimes tell people it’s like you’re trying to decide on the color for the wallpaper while the house is on fire; there’s so much else happening that focusing on one thing feels hopeless.
What can I do?
First, you need to sit back and say to yourself, we are in an unprecedented time with challenges none of us in a million years could have expected, and what you are feeling – the frustration, the overwhelm, the annoyance, the sadness – is normal and to be expected. Superhuman feats of cheer are not only not helpful, they can be harmful. To paraphrase Tony Robbins, you have to see things as they are – not better than they are or worse than they are.
Second is to seek professional help to get through this if you feel like you need it. WE are not professional help, we are employment facilitators and career counsellors, not therapists. There is no shame in getting help to get you through the next few months and getting an outside support person to check in with. Family members and friends are not good for this, you need a trained professional to help you put things in perspective and give you tools to cope.
The first place I’m pointing people these days is the AbiliCBT program through Morneau Shepell. The Manitoba Government is sponsoring this program, so it’s free, and I did it myself when I was laid off last spring. It’s really good, and you can have a couple of one on ones with a counsellor if you need them.
Check out ADAM’s new Anxiety and Worry Support Program as well, specifically designed to help people through the pandemic and give them a safe space to talk about what they’re feeling and experiencing in a community of like-minded people.
The Canadian Mental Health Association has a publication that lists available mental health services in and around Winnipeg. It sorts organizations by specialty and lists the costs involved. Free services obviously will have more of a waiting list, but the list won’t get any shorter if you’re NOT on it.
You should also talk to your doctor. If medication is an appropriate resource for you right now, they will be able to help you assess that, or refer you to additional programming or services, such as a psychologist or psychotherapist. Again, yes the waiting lists are long; and they don’t get any shorter if you don’t get on them.
You’re not alone, you’re not broken, you’re not stupid, and you’re not a failure….
I can’t stress this enough. We’re ALL struggling right now, I don’t know anyone in any of my personal or professional circles who is completely okay. Some of us are more public and some are more private, but you’re not alone and there isn’t anything wrong with you because you can’t keep up and/or you feel like it’s all too much and/or you want to lie on the floor and cry or punch things or whatever. We are experiencing a yearlong panic attack together, and we’ve probably got six months to go. That’s going to take the starch out of anybody.
Mental health is the foundation of returning to work. If you are struggling, be kind to yourself and seek professional supports to get through this. No judgment; just respect.
Peace out. *fist bump*
"This place really helped me in my time of need. I was struggling with my previous job mentally, emotionally and physically. The counsellors are compassionate, supportive, and just a lot of fun. They take their time with you, as much as you need, and as often as you can, to help you move on to a new form of employment. I have and will recommend this place for anyone who is needing a change in their employment. They have excellent knowledge of using the right information and key words to make your resume and cover letters stand out in an application. I couldn't be more thankful to them."
Happy New Year Mr Robinson
I would like to express my experience that I had when dealing with your professional team at your center which indeed have changed a lot in my job search.
My experience in your center was very rich by the fact that I benefited from guidance services, CV, cover letter, how to pass an interview and Branding statement...etc.
Because of these workshops, I had the pleasure to work with Laurie, Betty, Kristina, John, Judy and Lisa, they were all amazing and very professional.
It is difficult for me to find the exact words to express my gratitude and to thank each member of this great team that you have but, above all, I would like to especially thank Betty for her good work, I was able to get my first job. in Winnipeg plus I got a lot of encouraging feedback from other employers. I also would like to thank Laurie, because of her I was able to understand and have love in what I do and also how to search for future jobs with love.
In short, you guys are simply a magnificent and professional team I have ever worked with.
Thanks again and Happy New Year