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The trials and tribulations of the unemployed agoraphobic.

Posted Jan 08 2013 7:52pm

Gawker has been running a series of first-hand accounts of unemployment featuring some gripping reading. As most of those who've been unemployed for a lengthy period will tell you, the psychic weight of going can be unbearably heavy. To wit, from the most recent entry in the series
The stress and fear and anxiety as I watch my life sink into poverty with loss after loss after loss is beyond description. Loss of job, loss of health insurance, loss of transportation — my car broke down and needs a repair that is beyond my reach. The equity in the house I've lived in and payed on for 17 years? Evaporated in the mortgage debacle...
My image of myself as an accomplished professional, a woman who is resilient and competent is gone. A college degree, decades of experience and excellent references apparently count for nothing. I'm getting intermittent tremors in my hands that are most likely due to stress. I actually hope so because I have no way of seeing a doctor to see if I do have a serious medical problem.
Stressful stuff, right? Reading it made me think about how, hard as it may be to for those without first-hand experience of panic and agoraphobia to understand, issues of career and employment can be even more stressful for people with panic and/or agoraphobia than for others.

Imagine being terrified to the point of sheer panic whenever the subway's doors slide closed or you get stuck in traffic. Or on crowded rush-hour sidewalks, or in elevators. Makes working in 21st century America -- getting and keeping a job, and building a satisfying career -- a bit challenging. For those with a job, panic and agoraphobia can make for some big-time workplace stress. Too often, they result in un- or under-employment and serious financial issues -- and growing issues with panic and agoraphobia. It's a vicious cycle.

I know of what I speak. Panic in the workplace has caused me to leave good, lucrative jobs. Excessive absences during acute bouts of agoraphobia have resulted in my being asked to leave other jobs. Afraid of the bridge or the tunnel or whatnot, I've bailed out of interviews for jobs I really wanted and/or needed. I've lived with the World's Largest Stack of Unpaid Bills. I've gone for years without health insurance, coping by just kind of avoiding the temptation of thinking about what would actually happen if I got sick or had a serious accident. Several collection agents have been so kind as to provide me Free Phone Consultations on How to Live a Better Life and Become a Better Person -- unbidden, no less!

It took a long time, but I've finally been able to cobble together a seemingly sustainable career that allows me to spend most of my days in my home office. (Need a copywriter or content strategist? Check out my business website. ) I go to meetings without many problems, and occasionally take a short-term gig on-site at a client, girding myself as necessary with some deep breathing and the knowledge that there's a Xanax in my pocket. Fortunately, I have experience and skills that make my work-from-home career choice viable, at least now. Unfortunately, there are lots of other folks with anxiety disorders wondering how they can make ends meet despite their mental-health issues . If you're among them, I wish you all the strength, resilience, and good fortune in the world.

Learn how to tame anxiety at the office.
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