If you’ve ever loved someone who is unemployed then you understand that unemployment rarely affects just one person. Unemployment is a family experience. Those who love you, who stand with you, understand the facets of being out of work. It’s no vacation, and it affects more than just your bottom line. Unemployment is a multi-sensory experience. It attacks you on all fronts — emotionally, psychologically and eventually physically. Over that past year or so, I have found this out firsthand.
My emotions about my fiance’s unemployment are nothing out of the ordinary. I’m frustrated and sad, hopeful and nervous. It’s all very natural and I can accept the daily emotional roller coaster. What I find most surprising and have the hardest time dealing with though is my anger. I’ve never been an angry person but lately I am So. Very. Angry.
(Michael S. Williamson/WASHINGTON POST) - COLLEGE PARK, MD- AUGUST 10 : Thera Larson is currently employed but lives with a fiance who is not. She is blogging about her experiences for the Washington Post. Photos taken at the University of Maryland campus, which is near her workplace.
I’m angry at everything. Anger has become my constant companion, feeding all of my other emotions. It intensifies any other feelings I may have. My sadness is deeper, my frustrations are greater (both in quantity and quality) and my nervousness is very intense. The angry/nervous combo has been the worst. It’s made me a ball of anxiety, ripe with emotion. If I start to feel tense that something may go wrong or not fit into my plans/schedule or expectations, anger begins to bubble. I become snappish and short, close to tears and ready to fight with anyone who’s willing. It’s horrible and I hate myself when I’m like that but the fear, disappointment and frustrations that come with long-term unemployment are wearing me out.
The emotional erosion of unemployment has in turn, altered my psyche. Needing to not feel powerless has turned me into a control freak. My anxiety that one emergency could break us has given me the need to oversee everything. I feel a deep need to know what’s happening in our lives at all times; to know where every penny goes; to know when every bill is due; to obsessively check my bank statements. I feel the need to schedule everything so there aren’t monetary surprises. If something pops up, I have a hard time adjusting my plans. I have to be in control — always. I fear that giving up control will cause us irrefutable damage. It’s not logical, I’m aware of that. But how do I let go? How do I relax and let what will happen, happen?
It’s exhausting … all of this emotional and psychological turmoil. It has made me tired. Bone tired. Not only do I feel exhausted, I look exhausted. I have dark circles under my eyes, my hair is suddenly graying faster and my skin is dull. I clench my jaw and grind my teeth all day resulting in migraines and my muscles are always tense making my back and legs ache constantly.
It’s a battle to get through the day some days.
If simply loving someone who is unemployed can affect me this way, I can only imagine what my fiance goes through on a daily basis. He does his best to be strong for me and our family but I know there are days when he feels hopeless. It kills him to not be able to provide for his family despite his best efforts, and like me, some days are worse than others, but we do our best to work through those times together. We have plenty of love to go around but as the saying goes, “love don’t pay the bills.”
Thera Larson, a 33-year-old from Bowie, Md., is the fiancee of a union sheet metal worker who has been out of work for more than a year. Read more about her here. Read about the “Help Wanted” project here. Visit the project home page here.