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Grasping for Hope: Depression, Failure, and Self-Care

Trigger Warning: anxiety, depression, sickness, job loss, pandemic

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Three Months Ago

Every visit to social media is filled with college classmates getting married and having babies. Their careers are blossoming. A cousin decided she wanted to change careers, so she went back to school online and went from one successful career to another without a hitch. And even though those aren’t the things I want, it’s a daily struggle to not let the nagging thoughts break through to remind me that I’m a failure. I am a 27 year-old with a master’s degree. I am also unemployed and living with my parents.

I lost my last job due to office reorganization, and the timing could not have been more unfortunate. The holidays were approaching fast, and I only had two months to find a job before November all but guaranteed that I wasn’t ringing in the new year, the new decade, with a new job. Top that off with my dad spending 5 days in the hospital in October and my grandfather spending 3 weeks in the hospital in November—I was beginning to lose my grip on hope.

The beginning of December found me sicker than I’d been in a long time and without insurance. The weight of my circumstances had broken my body down to the point of malfunction. I struggled to breathe, my throat was dry and raw from coughing, and I was see-sawing between so hot that I didn’t want anything to touch me to so cold that my fingernails and toenails were blue. That week dropped me into a muddy swamp of anxiety and depression.

I faked my way through Christmas, which was the first Christmas my mom spent at home instead of work in nearly a decade. I had to be happy for her sake. I think she bought it, though she isn’t oblivious to my problems.

I spent New Year’s Eve with my best friend. We spent the evening listing every way the 2010s has been the worst decade to us. It’s not a short list. We drank and watched fireworks on the bayou—ringing in the new decade with little hope it would be nicer to us than the previous one.

January has been busy from day four. Comic Con provided me some relief from darkness, and I managed to have three days of fun with my friends. I also took a weeklong trip to the Smoky Mountains with friends, which was immediately followed by a weeklong visit from a cousin, which were nice distractions. But on this second day removed from the busyness and fun, I can feel the dark creeping back. I’m tired. And I don’t want to be broken again.

So, I’ve taken some steps to help myself. I have an appointment with my primary care doctor to make sure I have all the medications I need to be medically healthy. I have an appointment scheduled with my therapist to unpack the three weeks since I last saw her. I am resuming my workout schedule with my friend. And I’m taking one day a week where I don’t commit to any obligations, so I can do what I want or need.

I might not be exactly where I want to be in my life right now, but I want to do everything in my power to be ready for the next steps toward the life I want.

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Now

“While it’s not entirely the same, I have gotten used to the feeling of uncertainty.”

Three months ago, my outlook on life was bleak. I had been released from a job I loved, I’d faced personal sickness and my loved ones’ illnesses, I was on unemployment going on five months, and I’d lost count of the number of applications, resumes, and cover letters I’d worked on. I didn’t know that mere days after finishing this original entry that I would get a job offer for far beyond what I’d been allowing myself to imagine. It was finally the light at the end of my darkness.

I started work mid-February. One month later, almost to the day, I was sent back home. The novel coronavirus pandemic was sinking the world into toilet paper-hoarding chaos.

Now, I’m a lucky one because I was sent home with my work computer, so I am not one of the millions who have been laid off because of the pandemic. But I am back home, working in my bedroom, and it’s very hard not to be reminded of the hours I worked in this room on applications and cover letters for five months. And in the middle of month two of Louisiana’s stay-at-home order, the bleak outlook I had in the midst of my unemployment depression has returned, but it’s shifted focus; what will the world look like once the threat of sickness has lifted?

I feel prepared for the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought us. While it’s not entirely the same, I have gotten used to the feeling of uncertainty. But familiarity does not negate mental illness. I am keeping up, as best as possible, with phone sessions with my therapist. Taking drives or riding in the car with someone else has become a regular occurrence to leave the boundaries of my parents’ property. My group of friends has made it a point to have hangouts via video chat. My sister and I have only begun decorating our islands on Animal Crossing, and we just started world 6 on Overcooked 2. Depression and anxiety still creep in, and the daily news cycle and social media don’t help much. But I think I’m managing the best I can right now.

The second biggest difference between my five-month unemployment and now is that we are all living in the same uncertainty. The impact on each individual is different, but we have the support of each other because we have all been touched by this.

“Even in isolation, we are in this together, and this is what is keeping me going.”

Amber Marie Flick

Amber Marie Flick

A few words about me

Amber Marie is 27 year-old living with her parents post graduate school. She has a bachelor’s and a master’s in psychology. She has a specific interest in the intersections of mental health with religion, community, politics, and sexuality. An all-around nerd, Amber can be found at local pop culture conventions and renaissance festivals. She has a 97% success rate in escape rooms with her team, #HappyCow, with 28 successful escapes in a row to date. She is also one of those people who uses Snapchat filters for her photos, sorry not sorry. She loves to chat with people about their experiences, so feel free to check out her Twitter, @__ambermarie__, or Instagram, @amber.marie992.