this is going to be a long one, folks.
I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety since I was very young, but I didn’t know that my feelings had a name. At that age most of us are just sort of, living, and we aren’t super aware of what is healthy or not. There is not a lot of peer awareness to compare it to either. It’s not like I was rolling up to elementary school like “Hi friends, I got sucked into the middle of my parents argument about child support again last night and I don’t know how to organize my feelings.” Hell no. I was more interested in what game we were playing in gym class that day and whether or not we were having popcorn chicken for lunch. My point is, depression and anxiety aren’t new to me. Labeling, understanding, and managing them might be a more recent installment, but the feelings themselves are a way of life by now.
Despite these struggles being something I’ve grown used to, this year has sent me through a mental whirlwind that I could have never imagined. Sure, I’ve had suicidal ideation before. I’ve experimented with self-harm, which fortunately wasn’t something I did beyond the initial occurrence, and I’ve looked around a room and been 100% certain that nobody in it would care if I existed or not. I’ve cried for no reason at all, and I’ve cried for every reason I can think of. I’ve spiraled and used drugs or alcohol to numb my mind and feelings. I’ve been reckless because I didn’t really care what happened to me. All of these things are scary, but very real in some way for almost everyone I know.
There was a period of time after college, and after I became domestic as fuck, that I thought the worst of it might be over. I stayed home more, my social circle tightened, and I found joy in building a home with my cute little family. I finally got a job that felt right and that I liked for the most part. I was doing well, I received two promotions, and I really thought things were looking up. As I spent more time at this job, though, I started to learn that it was a toxic environment. I watched every colleague I had quit before my eyes. I didn’t like waking up in the mornings. My depression was screaming louder than it had in a long time, and I had no energy for anything. I felt like I was in an abusive relationship, but it was my boss, not a boyfriend. One day I was getting Thank You cards in the mail that said “Thank you for all you do, we couldn’t do it without you” and the next day I was being thrown under the bus in a client email because I requested a better quality photo to send to a news outlet. Sorry? I simply don’t think they will publish the grainy, 5 pixel photo you sent over, but fuck me.
It was hard for me, because I genuinely liked the job that I was doing, but I hated the way the business was operated. And it was a small company, so there was no HR department to take it up with. It was me, the few colleagues I had at a given time, and the two owners. That was it. What was I going to do? Email one of the owners to let her know that both owners are creating a toxic environment for their staff? I’m sure that would go over well. I actually tried to bring my concerns to them once. Keep in mind that a week before this meeting, I was given a gift and told that I was doing amazing work. So the meeting rolled around and I brought up some communication issues. Then my boss said “Well, I think you’re more cut out for a factory job. You’re just not creative and I think you’re in the wrong industry. It’s just not for everybody.”
I probably should have been shocked, but at this point I just rolled my eyes. Of course, my gesture didn’t go over well with her. She then compared me to a Rat Terrier and I think that’s when it was really done for me. I stuck around a bit longer because, well, it’s difficult to leave a job you’ve been at for over a year. It’s also difficult to initiate change. I started applying for other jobs after that meeting, but didn’t have a lot of luck. Eventually I reached the point where I just needed out, and my boyfriend knew it, too. We talked about it, and agreed that it was in the best interest of my mental health if I quit. My coworker, and close friend, had a similar experience in a meeting, and ended up putting in her two week notice. After her last day, I was the last employee in the company besides the owners and a few contract employees. The real kicker is that after my coworker quit, my boss took me to coffee. All of a sudden, they wanted to promote me to Director of PR and give me an assistant. They wanted this transition to be complete in three to six months. Interesting that this came up as soon as I was all they had left. It was tempting to stay and get that raise, pad my resume, and build more connections, but I really just couldn’t stick it out for another six months.
In retrospect, I think I should have. I ended up quitting the following week and my boss seemed genuinely disappointed. I should clarify, the environment wasn’t always bad. It was very up and down. They did a lot of nice things for us, and for me. They took a chance on me when I had no experience. They were flexible and understanding about work life balance, usually. It was just the intense fluctuation that I couldn’t really comprehend. It’s hard to see be comfortable with a company long term when they keep you on your toes in the worst possible way. On one occasion they told my colleague she could wear certain clothing that I couldn’t, because they were flattering on her and not on me. Keep in mind, I was at my heaviest at this time. Probably because I found comfort in eating and they presented me with a lot of reasons to seek out comfort. Regardless, that’s so inappropriate. In any normal company she could take that to HR and that person would be reprimanded. Sorry, I’m rambling.
My point is, this year was supposed to be a positive transition in my life. I finally quit in January, and it felt so good. I was a little bit nervous that I had quit without another job lined up, but I was finally experiencing some mental relief that I so desperately needed. I thought for sure things could only go up.
Well, as everyone on the planet is aware, news of COVID began to spread in February. The job market went to absolute shit, and ya girl was jobless, broke, and very afraid. My backup plan from the start, serving, was no longer an option because restaurants had to close. I saw a Facebook post about a grocery store hiring, and I decided it was now or never.
Fast forward to now. I’ve been working at the grocery store for six months, which is approximately six months more than I ever thought I would be working at a grocery store. In general I hate the customers, enjoy some of my coworkers, and am constantly seeking new opportunities. It has been a constant battle with my self worth. There is really no great way to say it, but I feel like a loser for working there. I don’t know why. I don’t think the other employees are losers, I just think I had more in mind for myself. I went to college and had all of these preconceived notions about bursting into the business world and working my way up the ladder. I pictured this happy, successful, great-hair version of myself clicking to her office in some cute shoes with a latte. I don’t know, maybe these visions we create are part of the problem because it prevents us from accepting what’s in front of us. Maybe I can still be that girl, and this is just a setback. Maybe I’m meant to be stuck in this chapter of my life where I sing “I’m in the business of misery..” to myself every single time a customer talks to me.
Some positives: I was able to go down to 20 hours per week at the store because I was offered a part-time opportunity at a local news outlet in their events department, and I am loving that half of my work week. My goal now is a full-time position, not at the store, and overall financial stability.
Only 10 months into the worst year of my entire life, and things are slowly improving for me. I go to therapy and manage my depression with medication. I have successfully quit biting my nails (anyone who knows me knows that this is extravagant) and I paint them regularly. I have dabbled in cooking and enjoy learning new recipes and flexing on my boyfriend with the delicacies I serve him. Most surprising, though, is that I’ve been running. It is physically the worst thing ever, but does wonders for my mental health. I’m trying, and that’s all any of us can do.
So there you have it: My 2020 Novel. If you actually read this entire thing I will personally Venmo you $5 and I’m so sorry.