I’ve been fortunate enough to never face extended periods of unemployment (excuse me a moment while I find every wooden surface to knock on), but my partner has been cursed with two periods of unemployment that lasted over half a year. Yes, you read that right: over six months of unemployment. And he was dedicating the majority of every day applying to jobs, tweaking the many versions of his resume (he had a few, each tailored to the specific opportunities that may arise), following up with leads, taking lengthy phone interviews that lead to nowhere, or that lead to an in-person interview, quite a ways away, that lead nowhere.
His first such bout of joblessness nearly broke us. I want to put it out there right away that it wasn’t the fact that he was unemployed that was rough—what I mean is the lack of an income wasn’t the issue. While that was, of course, tough, it was more the mental and emotional toll that such a phase took on my partner that was really difficult. I wasn’t prepared for it. I’d never been through it nor had I been with someone who’d faced it for quite so long. Many of us don’t realize just how much of our sanity, routine, and even sense of self rely on our employment. Both what we do for a living, and the fact that we do anything at all.
So when you take that away from somebody, it can do curious things to that person. Unemployment has a way of making you lose who you are and find it at the same time. It comes with moments of elation and depression, clarity and confusion. Whatever it brings, don’t judge it. It’s probably normal. Here are the mental phases of long-term unemployment.
Good. Now I’m free, and not afraid
At first, you may think things like, “Well, I didn’t love that job anyways. Was I going to spend my entire life working a job I didn’t love? Life is not meant to be spent that way. What a waste! I only hung onto that job out of fear—out of my desire for stability. But stability is the death of freedom! Now I’m free. This will force me to find what I really want to do.”