Well, I quit my job with no other job in line. I gave my notice about a month ago and I am officially unemployed. Quitting my job with no backup plan is a frightening feeling. It feels like the sturdy ground that I have always known is loosening and breaking beneath my feet and I can feel myself slowly sinking into the cracks and fissures not knowing what lies below. It was my choice and I will live with whatever consequences come, but it was time. I was mentally and emotionally at the breaking point and after eleven months of misery, I made a firm decision that my mental health is the priority. There were too many triggers for my anxiety with this job and the isolation with working from home was really taking a toll on my depression. My mental health was at an all-time low and I didn’t even want the burden of another job at this time because I felt so mentally fragile. I simply needed space and air to breath. I had decided to trade security for freedom in an attempt to regain my sanity. Luckily, I am budgeting and have money from my savings, long ago accumulated when I worked as a nurse while still living with my parents with little bills. So now that the dust has settled as a newly unemployed man, I am perplexed.
There is a weird mixture of emotions dancing in me now. I am elated to be free, at least for a little while, but there it is again, that funny feeling, that voice in my head telling me that I quit, that I am weak and that I should stop complaining, pick up the slack, and get back in line! “You’re lazy. You’re a quitter. You’re not a real man. You’re putting your family in a potential financial burden.” That is the inner voice scratching at the walls of my skull, put there by my own notorious self-criticism as well as by the social conditioning perpetuated by a society and economic system that prefers profit to people and is built on the exploitation of the working class.
There is a stigma to being unemployed, just like there is a lingering stigma around mental health, although this is slowly disappearing. I had reached a breaking point and the water had long past boiled over the pot and was drenching the floors of my psyche. Working from home, in complete isolation, with a series of tasks and workload ambiguity that triggered and exacerbated my anxiety was too much. Over time, I felt like I was losing myself as well as my mind. There was very little social interaction, only through phone calls, and the escalating loneliness only added to my depressive state. With each new day, I felt the walls around me slowly begin to encapsulate and consume me. I lived in a state of perpetual dread. Born first out of desperation, then stoked out of quiet contemplation, I acknowledged that I had the privilege to quit for a few months if I wanted to. I could still support my fiancé and I during those times with the money in my savings and once I decompressed and recovered, I could get back to making a steady income again. We are also in the process of selling our home so the profits from that will help out in the near future.
With all of that being said, it is now my second day of unemployment and the inner voice telling me about all of the horrendous things that I am and that I embody has slowly dissipated, and in its place, there is genuine intrigue and rejuvenation. I feel like myself again, actually like my genuine self. This feeling seems both new and oddly familiar, like stepping back into a past life. This is the first time I have felt this way in almost a year. I don’t know whether to feel happy at this revival or sad because of its prolonged absence. I guess both are appropriate.
Besides getting our house ready to sell, I am starting to pick up old hobbies and interests that have been long lost or pushed to the wayside over the course of this past year. It seems like I had been engulfed by some spell, like I had been in the middle of some sinister, murky fog only to have just now emerged from its grasp with a newfound clarity. The past year felt like being right in the middle of television static. My job-related anxiety was ubiquitous. No matter where I was or what I was doing, it was always just below the surface of my mind, anchoring me to the fears of what if, like being on the verge of drowning. So much of the time I could not step out of my anxiety to step into the moments of my life. I felt like I was dissociating completely, like I was watching my life from the uppermost section of a giant arena. My memories of the last year almost seem borrowed from someone else. Five days a week I oscillated between fear and exhaustion. In thinking about it further, my job really consumed six days out of the week, as I would routinely have a black cloud over my head on Sundays in anticipation of the next week. It was like slowly drowning over the course of months, and just before losing consciousness and sinking down into the cold abyss, I would catch a breath of fresh air on Saturdays before taking the plunge again.
I decided this was no way to live, and so I quit. I know I can’t run away from my anxiety; my anxiety is a part of who I am, but if someone is drowning, you help them to shore to rest and recover, and that is what I am doing for myself for the next few months. I am giving myself room to breathe, to decompress, to recuperate, to accept my anxiety, to prioritize my mental health, to reflect, to grow, to do the things that I love, and to figure out the next stage of my life. I have quit drinking alcohol totally and I am adopting better habits that will synergize with me improving my mental health. I am restarting therapy next week and trying to exercise more. Therapy is something that I should have never quit. Mental health, like our muscles, have to be strengthened and maintained every day to see real, long-lasting results. I know that I can’t just idly coast off of the breakthroughs I have had. I have to actively engage with what I have learned every day and form better mental habits that will become second nature. I know the privilege of my position being able to take time off of work and so I don’t want any day to go to waste. I am living my life my way again, on my terms. I am finding my purpose again. I am finding self-love again. Life is too short and I want to listen to my body, mind, and soul and to take care of myself so that I can be my best self not just for my own life but for the others in my life who mean so much to me.
It’s so funny having this feeling like I am myself again. It’s like reacquainting with a long, lost friend, both producing nostalgia for the past and intrigue for the future of our relationship. The air feels a little lighter today, as well as my body. Today I wrote down my thoughts on finding myself again and realigning with the purposes I want for my life. My anxiety over the past year has seemed to drown out my overall purpose as I was reliving the same dreadful week over and over again, just trying to cope, distract and numb myself, and simply survive. I wrote down a list of my purposes for my life going into this new future and it came down to three things….
- I want to continue to grow my interpersonal relationships and enhance the lives of the people around me: My fiancé Bonnie, my family, and my close friends. I want to water and nurture my relationships like a garden and watch them blossom throughout the years because these connections are what make life worth living.
- I want to thoroughly explore this world around me and never stop gaining new knowledge and perspective. I want to constantly cultivate curiosity and intrigue in all the beautiful, random places that I find it. For me, learning, reflecting, and looking at the world through the eyes of a wandering child is what brings me so much genuine joy. I have a naturally inquisitive mind and the surprises that life presents through asking questions and digging deeper into something always feels me with gratitude and reverence.
- I want to grow as a writer and get better at articulating my unique experiences on this earth and to gain perspective in doing so. I want to hopefully be able to benefit others through my words because I find writing to be so rewarding and cathartic on its own and if I could change the world of just one person or give someone a new perspective on anything, that would be amazing.
And that’s it. Three reasons to live. Three reasons to breathe and get up in the morning. People can call me courageous or crazy or foolish for quitting my job but I know in my heart that it is the right decision. My soul can breathe, if only for a time, and perhaps I can take this precious time I have off to grow a new life for myself and the ones I love. ❤
You are an amazing writer and espresso yourself so well. Wonder if you would be willing to share name or names of therapist you might recommend. I have been out of the field so long that when people ask me (because I worked in mental health for so years) I come up blank.
Thank you for your kind words. Here in Chattanooga I would recommend Behavioral Health Associates. Everyone I have talked with there have been super encouraging and supportive