Author: Sasha Kildare
As of June 12, 2020, I am unemployed. It’s scary, because the only manic episode I had in 25 years occurred during the Great Recession. Other than a seasonal part-time retail job in 2009, I did not have a full-time job for 18 months. After a few months, I even abandoned free-lance journalism, because searching for a job was incredibly time consuming and not one, but two clients flaked on me.
My panic mainly stemmed from being a parent. “How will I support my two children?” became a constant refrain in my thoughts.
I often battle mild depression and anxiety, but by being able to recognize their subtle signs and address them, those symptoms are fleeting. This took learning a lot about the intricacies of bipolar depression and designing my lifestyle to accommodate them.
But during the Great Recession, panic consumed me and I placed my trust in a faith healer who believed that I didn’t have bipolar disorder and that I was using it as an excuse. Like many others, he did not understand that just because one is symptom free for years, does not mean that one doesn’t have the vulnerability to disabling episodes or that one can abandon the healthy habits and medication that keep one symptom free.
What I have learned since 2009 is that maintaining a routine is critical. I go to bed and get up almost the same time as I did when working. I exercise at the same times. COVID-19 eliminates many activities, but I take advantage of what is available, such as visiting the sprawling nearby dog park several times a week with my affectionate, expressive Tibetan Spaniel. It’s easy to practice social distancing there. On Thursday nights, I participate in a 12-step meeting on Zoom, and on Wednesday nights I bike crosstown to the Farmer’s Market and stock up on raspberries, strawberries, cherry tomatoes and other goodies that I haul back in my backpack.
My children were in kindergarten and fourth grade in 2009, which gave me a decent amount of time to look for work, but I gave up the little time I had carved out to write to have even more time to look for a job. I attended networking events, workshops, job fairs, professional development, and ultimately a training program and even worked three months part-time in retail during the holiday season.
Dance, art, and fashion are in my past. Writing and teaching are the only avenues I have left to express my creativity. I didn’t realize then that a creative outlet, even a few hours a week, is critical to maintaining my remission. Writing fiction and narrative non-fiction gives me a sense of identity and connects me to my spirit.
Looking back, I realize that, without a creative outlet, I allowed negative friends into my life. In a way, they satisfied my creative bent when I took on trying to solve their problems.
Because I rarely smoked, and when I did smoke, only smoked a pack a week, I never worried too much about nicotine. I knew smoking made facial wrinkles worse and was bad for the heart and lungs, but I never thought of it as a threat to my mental health.
In hindsight, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day in 2009 helped trigger mania. Nicotine is a stimulant. It eases anxiety, but then intensifies it when the cravings for the next fix take over. It also interfered with my getting to sleep.
Looking for a job is more involved for me than most, because I have had several careers, and it’s a lot of work searching and networking in different arenas. Teaching high school English is the job that just ended. Freelance writing, mostly journalism, has been my second job for a long time and enables me to apply for technical writing and content marketing jobs.
It’s easy to have faith when things are going great. It’s much harder to keep the faith during adversity. What helps me is reminding myself that you never know when that break is going to come and you cannot imagine how it is going to come. I tell myself to let go of worrying and focus on the next best step, what I can do to help the situation.