When You’re Lost And You’re Broken

Sure I’ve said before that having a job gives you a sense of identity; you see yourself as an employee of a company. When introduced to others you’ll often say as part of your answer what you do and who you work for, and conversely when you are out of work you’ve lost this part of your identity.

That being said, when you’re lost, trying to figure out what direction to go in life; when you’re feeling broken and what isn’t broken feels fragile, you may be wise to put your job search on hold. Now, sure an immediate job would indeed restore – if only shortly – that sense of who you are and give your flailing sense of confidence a boost. However, what a job gives you may be outweighed by what a job demands of you, and I’m just saying you might not be in the best frame of mind or have what it physically takes to keep it and be successful.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at this time with many areas of your life seemingly in chaos and confusion, you may find it comforting to know that what you’re experiencing is indeed quite normal. That doesn’t make it any easier perhaps, as it’s personal and it’s happening to you of course, but knowing that other people – and many of them – are or have experienced the same feelings you are can give a person a sense of hope.

So what I mean is that it isn’t just the lack of a job that’s likely got you worried. If only it was just that! No, it’s probable that you at also dealing with a growing lack of confidence and self-esteem. Could be you’re wondering more and more, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just have a normal life?” Without employment, you’re no doubt cutting back on buying healthy foods and buying them in the same numbers you used to. Maybe you’ve got growing anxiety as you feel left behind more and more and it’s leading to depression. You’re sleeping patterns are totally off, you can’t sleep when you do go to bed and you’re zapped of physical energy when you feel you should be up and going.

On top of all this you’re more irritable, negative thoughts seem to last longer and longer; drugs and alcohol to self-medicate give some short-term relief but the thoughts return and then you add guilt for having used them. Financial worries, accumulating debt, calls from creditors, losing time on your phone…when will it end?

So does this sound like the right time to be putting yourself out there as an attractive option for an employer? Likely not. More likely is the fact that you’ll try with little success to get a job and after having been turned down again and again, you’ll add to your growing frustration and just feel like giving up. Possibly worse, you may not even be aware that what you believe you’re doing a good job of concealing is on full display and a lot of other people can see the changes in you and know you’ve got issues going on.

Think I’m laying it on rather thick? That it couldn’t possibly be this bad? Well, sadly, I’m not illustrating the life of a handful of people here but actually sharing the experience of a rather large segment of the population. It’s sad yes, but for many of these people its debilitating. So it’s not helpful to say to everyone who lacks a job to just pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get out there and get a job. Don’t you think that given the choice they’d love to be working and feeling productive?

Thing is these are people with what appears to be invisible disabilities. There’s no cast on an arm, label on a forehead, crutch supporting their walk or warning sign they carry. Without these easy to read indicators, it can be difficult to then see what might explain erratic or self-destructive behaviours. Hence, the broken and fragile might not get the empathy they could use; the understanding and support that would be a start. As a result they may withdraw further and increase their isolation, loneliness, and ironically retreat to the places depression feeds and grows.

It’s hard to know where to start when so many things seem wrong and need attention; in fact it can be overwhelming. Reaching out for help does take effort, and yes it might take a few tries to find the right people who can counsel and offer the aid you want and need to help you on your way back. No one knows your personal struggles like you; you’re the expert when it comes to what you see as wrong, or needing attention.

A good doctor who listens and will make a referral is a good place to start. Seeing a Mental Health Counsellor (look them up online in your community or if you haven’t got a computer with internet access, visit a social services agency where you live.)

Rather than work on and fix all the areas where things are wrong, start with one. Just one thing to improve. Don’t give yourself the pressure of a deadline to ‘fix’ it either. Give yourself credit and give yourself permission to try perhaps with some room for setbacks too. May your efforts move you forward to a healthier and happier you.

Constantly Consumed With Your Problems?

Working with so many people who are unemployed or underemployed, it is only natural that most of them have problems. Actually, all of them have problems, issues and barriers. Some of those barriers and problems they openly share, and some of them they keep locked away and are only revealed after establishing a deep trusting relationship.

Now these problems usually tend to mirror many of the problems that others have who have shared them with me. Their issues typically include stress over being in debt, family problems, relationship issues, low self-esteem, a lack of purpose, housing instability, mental health and literacy issues and of course unemployment.

Any one of the above is in its own right, difficult to deal with. Imagine trying to juggle all of them and possibly throw in an addiction or a criminal record, seeing a counsellor, a probation officer or going through the court system to obtain full custody of a child. So, it is very understandable to me to see how such a person dealing with so many weighty issues could be entirely overwhelmed.

From the time the brain moves from dreamland in the morning to wakefulness, right up until sleep comes again, how must it feel to be so constantly aware of all these things that need fixing? What if you didn’t have the skills or knowledge that you need to actually do much of anything to start dealing with the problems in the first place?  I think therefore it is not such a stretch to start to see why some people appear to give up or give in.

Think about when you have a problem of your own. Life is good except for the stress you feel over that one single thing; maybe the brakes on the car that are going to cost money you have but didn’t plan on spending. Aside from the brakes, you’ve got a home to return to, a job and the income that goes with it, golf on the weekend with your buddies, movie and dinner tonight with the spouse and a pretty decent closet of clothes. Ah but those brakes are stressing you out!

Not to diminish the unexpected cost of replacing your brakes, but you’ve got one thing to stress over and you know that it’s a time-bound stressor. When the car goes in the shop tomorrow, by the evening your brakes are fixed and your one problem solved. Can you imagine having 5 – 9 additional sources of stress all at the same time and each of those stressors goes on and on with no end in sight of being ‘fixed’ and done with? So maybe some empathy for those dealing as best they can with their issues would be the least you and I could do.

Okay. So you’ve got some major issues that are getting in the way of leading the life you want. When you say you just want to live a, ‘normal’ life, what you really mean is living with normal pressures and stresses, not dealing with major stressors all the time and all at once. Yes? That’s not such a strange thing to understand; in fact it’s reasonable.

One possible idea if you are open to hearing one, is to do something that might seem unpleasant but is fairly easy. Start by writing down all the things you can think of that are causing you stress. Just putting them down in black and white on a piece of paper will be a good place to start. This alone will help you if you feel totally stressed out and can’t understand why. It is however only a first step.

Then if you are willing, look at picking one thing that’s freaking you out and decide to put most of your energy into tackling that one issue. So if getting a stable place to live that you can afford is constantly stressing you, it might be a good idea to put most of your energy into that one thing. When you do get an apartment to call your own – even if it’s not your ideal residence – you can give yourself some credit for dealing with that one thing. Having dealt successfully with one thing might give you the motivation to deal with another source of stress.

Now let’s say you are so overwhelmed you just don’t have the skills or ability to even know how to go about getting affordable housing, but this is the one thing you want to resolve first. Perfectly normal by the way. Congratulate yourself for two things: 1) you know what you want to work on and 2) you’re smart enough to know you need someone’s help to fix things.

No matter where you live, look into visiting a social services agency nearby. It doesn’t matter which one you contact first, if they can’t help you directly, they will point you in the right direction and give you the phone number, address, maybe a name of the people who will help you out. They are all connected, know what each other do, and so they can provide you with support and help. Share your troubles and the problems might be less heavy to carry on your own.

Everybody has problems and issues. Most of us manage things well but some better than others. It is a sign of your strength and wisdom to reach out for help, and there’s no shame in that. All the best.






Giving Of Yourself Too Much Can Be Dangerous

Is it even possible to give of yourself too much? Yes it is. But there’s no harm in that is there? Yes there is.

Do you know someone who has issues of their own they are working through, or should be working through, and yet they spend much of their time listening to and helping other people? I know more than just a few, I know a lot of people like this. And there is an irony that these same people being called on to listen and provide supportive advice and counselling are themselves dealing with issues of anxiety, depression, hopelessness, low-self image and self-esteem, financial hardship, mental health issues and parenting issues just to name some of the more common problems they face.

There is an inherent danger for these people which they sometimes realize but more often than not fail to do so. In their futures, there is likely to come a time when they become incapacitated from being able to not only help others, but their own lives and feelings of usefulness deteriorate and not understanding why, come to resent themselves and it can end very badly.

Allow me to explain. A simple analogy is a tall pitcher with liquid in it. If that full pitcher represents ones capacity to give, there’s enough there to give away. So yes it’s your pitcher but you are able to provide yourself and others with some of it quite happily. But now there is less in the pitcher and some of those people come back for more. Well this time not everybody is satisfied. First of all those that take some may get less than they’d like and the ones who get nothing are disappointed there isn’t anything for them. You? Unless you find a way to add more liquid to the pitcher, there isn’t any for you either, and you’re unable to draw from it yourself.

So in real life what does this look like? How about the single mother who is raising two teens, one of which is bitter, mad at the world, blames the parent for the driving the spouse away. The same single parent is trying to stave off the landlord from evicting them, somehow catch up with utility arrears, caring for aging parents that say she doesn’t visit enough, sees the cost of food rising beyond what she can afford. Now throw in unemployment and while attending some workshops to improve herself, one of the two kids at home isn’t going to school and the school is demanding attention to the matter and summoning her in for meetings.

So here we’ve got a person trying to appease school officials, meet her children’s needs, placate her own parents who are ill and aging, find money to pay utility arrears and landlord increases, and while keeping all these people happy by giving them her time and attention, is neglecting herself and her own desire and need for employment. That’s quite a juggling act. How many more stressors do you think such a person would be likely to add to this juggling routine before everything falls apart? Well let’s add the two or three friends who constantly come to her for advice because she’s so good at listening. Hmmm….

In such a situation, I can’t pretend to tell you there is one solution that would be right for everyone or even best for everyone. But generally speaking, I think it’s time – high time for this person to be given permission to become a little selfish and spend some time in self-care. In other words, if you give and give until there is nothing left to give, not only will you be of little or no use to anyone you care about, you’ll be paralyzed and unable to function which will make you not only unable to help others, but you’ll resent yourself for your inability to do so. You may come to see yourself as a failure; a failure as a parent, a provider, a good child to your own parents, a good listener for your friends, and at worse a person of value. Stop seeing yourself as a good person and you’re in trouble.

Being selfish in this respect might mean telling those friends you’re taking some time to get things in order and can’t give them the time they’d like for a while. It might mean exploring help in the community to get those arrears paid off and by swallowing some pride keep the lights and heat on. It might mean telling a rebellious angry teen that believes it’s all about him that it isn’t; and that some family counselling, better behaviour and school aren’t options anymore, they are mandatory and the alternative is the door.

Again, I’m not advocating the above as the only solutions, nor the best ones for everybody. Fail to take care of yourself and get your own life together however, and you’ll have less ability to help the very ones you love and want to be there for the most. Being selfish in this regard really has the long-term impact of continuing to be able to give of yourself, but much more effectively.

Share your load with someone in a professional capacity who may suggest help you don’t even know exists. You’re going to feel better, like yourself more, and ultimately juggle less things daily which makes it all the more manageable.