The Health Side Effects of Unemployment No One Talks About

I have been unemployed since October. I was laid off when the company I worked for downsized. I happened to be the last one who was hired, so I was the first person to be let go. Although it was said that it was nothing personal, it felt very personal to me.

How was I going to pay for my medication? My health insurance? My student loans?

I am thankful I had a little bit of savings and was able to receive unemployment benefits, but I wasn’t sure how long I would be out of work. I looked at friends who were laid off from their jobs before me and thought that I would be out of work for only a couple of months. Fast forward seven months and I am still unemployed. My benefits have been exhausted and the money I had had put away is beginning to dwindle.

Although there is an obvious financial impact that comes with being unemployed, there’s also a health impact I don’t think gets talked about enough.

I’m not sure what I would have done during this time without guidance from my therapist. I started seeing a BetterHelp therapist in September, expecting only to be in therapy for a few months. With losing my job, I had a reason to stay with the program, even if it was spending money I didn’t really have.

I’ve been struggling with bouts of depression and anxiety since October. I’ve always battled these illnesses, but now they seemed more pronounced. I have felt worthless and hopeless, and I was certain I would never find another job again. All of the jobs I’ve had since graduating were through friends or family members’ recommendations.

This all-or-nothing thinking, combined with my desire to sleep 12 hours per day, tipped me off that my depression and anxiety were getting bad.

The amount of stress I have been under, the urgency to find a new job and filling out 20 or more job applications per day resulted in my stress-eating returning. I had been slowly but steadily losing weight before I was laid off, but I started putting that weight back on and stopped caring about my appearance.

I also have self-isolated, even in social events. I want to be around my friends, but when we’re together suddenly I forgot how to act. I feel guilty for socializing with friends when I could be putting out job applications, which only exacerbates my depression and anxiety.

With my therapist’s help, I have been able to work through some of these issues and start getting back on track with taking care of my mental health. And without financial assistance from BetterHelp, I probably wouldn’t be able to even see a therapist right now during this crucial period in my life.

If only treating my chronic pain and chronic fatigue worked similarly. I’ve had to put treating whatever is wrong with me (my last rheumatologist ordered several rounds of blood tests, refused to believe my ANA panel was the level it was and couldn’t determine what was wrong with me but put me on medication anyway) on the back burner for the time being.

I simply don’t have the time, money or energy to take care of my physical health until I become employed again, which I hope is sooner rather than later. It’s not just about the money. These are some challenges we need to talk about more.

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