“Do you think it may be time for you to consider medication?”
I’ve been seeing my therapist for four years because I deal with anxiety, anger management issues and depression. Through behavioral modifications and cognitive therapy practices I’ve made progress, but not without the occasional backslide. We settled on this program because I look at mood altering meds as a last resort. But whenever I find myself stuck in a rut and with no breakthroughs, she’ll broach the subject of meds.
After this extended winter, I’ve been thinking about it more.
When 2017 ended, I received a middling performance review at work and was considering perusing job listings. I had nearly $22,000 in credit card debt, spread across three accounts. The gasket in my gas furnace wore out, covering the walls of my apartment in fine black soot. I could only open one window to allow fresh air inside because the others were covered in plastic insulation. At least one of my three daily meals was takeout. A hip pointer kept me from ice skating for exercise, and my dog contracted a urinary tract infection. There was a publishing break at work between Christmas and New Year’s where I felt if I could just stay away from anything related to my job, I could recharge my batteries for a bit and seize 2018 by the short hairs. I committed myself to seizing control of my credit card debt this year and putting in a good faith effort at work, and if I still felt like hot buttered blah come spring, I could begin the job search in earnest.
Instead, this winter has been one constant shoulder shrug emoji.
Oh, those early weeks were good. I was able to stock my freezer with the fruits of my crockpot labors. I’ve made steady progress on the credit card debt and am on target to cancel two of the three accounts by September. Mira is fit as a fiddle.
Work is another matter entirely. I started the year well, but a series of unforced errors a few weeks back landed me on a 30-day “performance improvement plan.” There is a good chance I may not have a job in a couple weeks, even as my editors are adding me to special projects months from now and I have my own editorial calendar set deep into May. For someone who constantly deals with impostor syndrome, this has been a crisis of confidence.
My dissatisfaction with work has a ripple effect over everything right now. When I left Chicagoist three years ago, I promised myself I would never find myself in another position where I needed to stay at a job because I couldn’t afford to quit. I took this job for a few reasons. I wanted to hone my reporting skills. The pay was much better than editing Chicagoist. Bisnow was a small, scrappy editorial staff that reminded me a bit of the early days of the –Ist. While I didn’t have a passion for reporting about real estate, I believed I could find stories that tied that to other interests like architecture, public planning, government, business and design. And for a while, I was able to do that.
Yet here I am, coming full circle.
A couple weeks back, my friend Michelle and I were catching up on things and I told her about what was happening at work. Michelle has a way of offering honest assessments while still being supportive. “You need to realize that you are an accomplished reporter and editor, and that is marketable,” Michelle said.
After that call, I sat down and completely rewrote my resume for the first time in years, focusing on those accomplishments. What I discovered was I’ve been a practicing journalist in some form, for 17 years. The parts of my resume I feel are weak, mainly a lack of education, are more than balanced by my accumulated experience. At my last therapy session, my therapist reminded me of my promise to launch a spring job search if things at work did not improve. She also reminded me that work has been a constant source of my anxiety for longer than I realize.
“I don’t believe you were ever really passionate about this job like you were at other points in your career. This is the kick in the ass you’ve needed,” she said.
I’ve always told aspiring writers of all stripes looking to make that professional jump the most important thing they needed was passion. If you can marry the passion of what you’re writing about with your technical strengths, you will make your readers passionate about your writing.
This probationary period has seen me go through the full range of emotions, from fear and anger, to disgust and sadness, to surprise and anticipation. It’s also reminded me that I’ve been disconnected from my own passions for some time. As I go deeper into this job search, I’ll be looking for the ways to connect the two again.