One of the reasons I haven’t been blogging as much lately is because I had been totally consumed by my temporary holiday retail job that I started in late November. Reentering the workforce is one of the most daunting tasks while on disability. Especially challenging for me, because the work I was doing before my breakdown was not realistic for me to return to. Therefore, I literally have to start over.
I worked 16yrs as an exotic dancer, several years as a model and aspiring actress, I had my own shop with my mom, and I have had several employment experiences ranging from waitress to veterinarian technician. This resume is difficult to convey in a simple application. I left the dancer, model, actress bit out and focused on the retail and customer experience.
Narrowing down what to put in the application was the first step. Then how do I explain a ten year gap? Personally, I find the truth is the best policy; however, I have learned to keep that truth to a minimum without having to share my life story. I simply stated I was hospitalized and placed on disability and that I am only now beginning to return to the workforce.
The application process behind me, the day of my interview I was calm, grounded and confident. I’ve worked very hard in therapy and I noticed the difference in my anxiety level.
However, on my first day I had extreme anxiety. I reminded myself that it was okay if I couldn’t do it; but there was a part of me who knew I was ready. The loud thumping in my chest was only slightly subdued by my deep breathing. I gasped for air as I sat in my car outside the building. I forced myself to take slow, deep breaths which helped me calm down enough to not be overcome with panic. It took every bit of my strength to walk inside, and I went immediately to the restroom, where I took more deep breaths. I told myself, Ok I made it in the building, I cant turn back now. The rest of my first few days were more of the same. One baby step, one deep breath, at a time.
The first week I worked mostly as a cashier. I had experience so the learning part wasn’t too overwhelming; but being thrown into confronting social anxiety by having to greet and converse with customers was mind blowing. I had planned on speaking to a manager to ask if I could work a different position at least some of the time. Learning to communicate with employers is a skill that I realized I have never learned or practiced. During the earlier part of my life, my pattern would be work hard, shut up and when it gets too much, quit. I asked my therapist how to communicate my needs; but, never had to have the conversation as my second week I was put in the fitting room, this is where they were short staffed.
The fitting room has brought quite a different set of woes. Standing in one spot for hours with nothing to do but gaze out at the store is maddening. I came home in tears as my feet were red and swollen, and my mind screamed, I cant do this. I was completely and utterly overwhelmed; but I persevered.
I just kept showing up, and by the end of my third week it started to feel slightly easier. I felt an amazing sense of pride. There I was in the middle of chaos and the holiday madness, and inside I wore a calm big proud smile. I did it. I forgot the comradeship you share with employees, after a hard day’s work. It was a good feeling.
My fourth week I had a mini vacation for the holidays. I had requested the time when I got hired.
This is the beginning of my sixth week. I finally feel not so consumed and overwhelmed. The holidays are over and everything has calmed. I am only working two days a week as my hours were cut from 20/week to 10/week. My employment will end Feb 24, as it is only up to 90 days.
When I thought I couldn’t go on another day, I did. I may not be ready for full time employment; but, I have learned that I am not totally disabled or incapable.
It has been an enlightening experience.