When I became unemployed, I didn’t even look for jobs for the first few months. My anxiety and self-hatred kept me frozen in a pit of fear. Just thinking about applying to a job, the questions, the scrutiny, the judgment; it was too much. So I took a break.
I didn’t realize the fatality of my choice until I started applying for jobs. Even I noticed the gap between the current date and the date of my last employment. What was my employer going to think?
I had an internal timer that was counting down the days until I was unemployable: October 10 – Day of Worthlessness. Up to that point, I could somehow explain what I’d been doing and it would benefit the interviewer. It didn’t matter that most days I had the energy equivalent of a zombie. I should be doing something, anything, to help me get a job by that date.
I knew the more time passed, the worse I felt, but I still avoided applying to jobs. “My employment gap is too big. What have I been doing all this time? They’re just going to laugh at my application anyway.” My depression was keeping me safe from the dangers my anxiety made up.
As the date grew closer, I became more anxious, more depressed. I had weeks where I didn’t get dressed, let alone leave the house. My partner would visit friends, but I couldn’t take the pressure of seeing people. They’d ask what’s new and I’d hear “Don’t have a job yet?” All I could think about was this ticking time bomb. My employment gap was swallowing me whole.
Eventually, my guilt of being a financial burden grew more powerful than my fear of rejection, and I somehow ended up with a few interviews. What was I going to say about my time off?
About half of them asked me about my employment gap. I had researched legally safe but still employable answers, so I felt I was lying when I said I’d been sick. The irony is I didn’t know, at the time, how truthful it was.
After that, I hit another dry spell in the job hunt and in July, after a very tiny breakdown, I started therapy.
So now it’s past the point of no return and my employment gap grows larger by the day. I still worry about it, but I don’t feel the same pressure I used to. Before, I felt the need to lie about my reasons for not working. I didn’t need to be hospitalized, I was off my medication and I wasn’t suicidal, so how could my depression keep me from a job? I’d worked with it in the past, so I’m just being lazy now, right? This was what I believed so I couldn’t expect an employer to see things differently.
But now I know how much my depression was controlling me and I actually can’t wait to explain my employment gap. It’s the time I’ve taken to accept and heal my mental health problems and I couldn’t be prouder of that. I’m focusing on getting better and that’s worth all the time in the world.
About Whitney Reyes
Whitney has always loved writing. Before she was first diagnosed with depression and GAD at 17, she started sharing her thoughts with the world on her blog. After completing journalism school, her mental illness came back with a vengeance. She's now writing about her experience on Healthy Minds Canada and social media. You can follow her on Twitter and read her other work on her personal website.