The writing on my office wall was in 20-foot letters: Your job is going to kill you.
My old employer had asked me to lay off two employees from my department of 11.
No way, I thought. I couldn’t do the job properly with any fewer than the people I had. As the department head, all the extra work would have landed in my lap. The stress would’ve piled up quickly with a wife and three young daughters at home.
It led to a gut-wrenching—but seemingly clear—choice: I’ll be one of the two, I decided.
A month later, I started at a new gig across town: fancy office, new outlook, brighter prospects. It seemed perfect, like the universe had left me a trail of revitalized energy to follow.
Eight weeks later, the new place fired me.
Screw you, universe!
Two and a half years later, I’m just now able to write about it mostly because it’s only now I’m able to admit I was depressed.
I know that because it took me 2 ½ years to write anything.
That’s bad news for someone who fancies himself a writer.
I had inklings, but I wasn’t sure it was full-blown depression. After speaking with Kelowna counsellor Haley Gershony, it seems clear.
I had never thought of job loss as a cause for depression, but Gershony set me straight. She told me during an interview that many of her clients come to her because of changes in their work. Job loss, she said, is absolutely responsible for depression.
There’s more bad news, too.
“Job instability is becoming more of the norm,” she said.
Great. That means there are likely many of my friends, colleagues and readers out there grappling with some of the same issues I’m facing.
What are those symptoms?
You may be depressed if you’ve experienced five or more of these symptoms most of the day, every day, for at least two weeks:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Lethargy or insomnia
- Feelings of guilt
- Agitation or anger
- Losing interest in your hobbies, daily activities, sex
- Appetite loss or weight changes
- Reckless behavior, drug or alcohol use
- Trouble focusing
- Unexplained aches and pains
For men who might be the family’s breadwinner, that adds obstacles. Women, the complicating factor can be post-partum (sudden isolation from friends or work after a child is born).
Clinical diagnosis of depression once required more than two weeks of symptoms, Gershony said, but attitudes about mental health are slowly changing along with gender stereotypes.
“It’s OK for women to get angry,” Gershony said, “and they are.”
Men are more willing to show sadness, not just anger.
What’s the prognosis?
Here’s the good news, you can get better—or at least get on the road to renewed health—in a reasonable amount of time.
Gershony said she hopes to see real progress with clients over six to eight sessions (about two months).
What will happen if you see a counsellor?
Someone like Gershony has a simple plan to help you, and it starts where you might expect.
“You’ve got to put out the fires that are causing the most risk,” she said.
Are your finances in jeopardy? Could you miss a mortgage payment? Will you default on a car loan? Are you putting too much on credit?
Take time to grieve, yes, but working sooner rather than later might be better than losing your car even if the job isn’t perfect.
Next, you should reevaluate your situation with a specific focus on what you can control. Set concrete and achievable goals and hold yourself to them.
Complacency can cripple you.
Gershony compared it to a rock rolling downhill. That rock’s momentum will continue to chase you down until you decide to face it, bury your shoulder, and change it.
Yes, it will probably hurt.
“People don’t often change until they’re incredibly uncomfortable,” Gershony said.
Lastly, regardless of how you lost your job (involuntarily or through your own actions) overcoming it relies on the same strategy: Focus on what you can control.
Nobody’s should be defined by their worst moments. Remember your strengths and find solutions to address your weaknesses.
Even coming to the realization that “it was my fault” can help some people, Gershony said.
That admission, she said, is better than believing there’s some all-powerful, “existential” force in the universe conspiring against you.
(There’s that damn universe again!)
Of course, I’m just scratching the surface here. But even interviewing Gershony for 45 minutes and writing this column has helped me.
Feeling better might be as easy as opening up to someone you trust.
Visit depressionhurts.ca or cmhakelowna.com to read more.
There’s only one bit of bad news in all this, Gershony isn’t accepting new patients (she’s expecting a baby). But if you visit her website (haleygershony.com) and email her, perhaps she’ll be able to recommend someone who can help.