The cycle of feeling sorry for myself

Every so often a funk grabs a hold of me, for no good reason. And not the sequined Rick James funk of awesomeness either. I feel sorry for myself. I lament my unemployment and the general state of my life. I start to envy all the things everyone else has and I don’t – big apartments, cars, jobs, stuff. It’s an ugly scene, and the envy can reach ridiculous proportions. The other day I found myself begrudging Matthew McConaughey his success as an actor. Why should I care? I don’t even want to be the male lead in bad romance comedies that should go straight to DVD. The six-pack abs would be nice though. And the million-dollar paychecks… I’d take those.

When in these funks, I feel like the only person who is struggling – a ridiculous notion, but true in the world of me, myself and I. This is a selfish and irrational way of looking at things. And people would be right to call me out on it in the forums and comments sections. Hell, you have my permission to walk right up on the street and slap me across the face if you have to. I forget to give equal weight to all the good things in my life – family, health, etc. They get minimized and pushed aside. The feeling sorry for myself isn’t productive. But it happens every now and again, often enough that I recognize the cycle for what it is.

My birthday was such a good time that the letdown afterward probably sparked this latest round of woe is me. But any little slight or setback can do it. Getting out of bed that next morning took some serious effort. I lay there staring at the insides of my eyelids, thinking that more sleep might make everything better. But more sleep only makes me feel guilty for wasting the morning. So I dragged my ass up, put on my workout clothes and headed off to the gym.

This funk-y workout wasn’t very good as workouts go. They never are. I tried to harness the negative feelings to push myself harder. In the movie version of my life, this would be the montage scene before the moment of truth. Alas, without the ’80s music, the cameras and the inspiration, this tactic didn’t work. Rocky had Drago. Lane Meyer had Roy Stalin, that blond-haired skier guy. I have unemployment as my nemesis. There was no face to picture when eking out that last set. There wasn’t even a last set. I just wanted to go home and stay there.

Home is the best place when I’m in a funk. The only people around the apartment during the day are the cats. And they just sleep and leave behind tumbleweed-like fur balls. I did go out that afternoon for cookies and coffee – the bread and nectar of life. I have to stay strong in case a potential employer wants to interview me. I can’t be scaring children like Michael Jackson or Sophia Loren if I ever want to work again. Walking the streets was a challenge. People were everywhere and always in my way. Part of that is just my neighborhood, Jackson Heights, where most of South America now lives. Everyone seemed to be going important places and doing important things. Most of them, of course, were not. But I saw everything through a lens of negativity. It made me want to just push people out of my way.

Nothing seemed to work right during the funk. My muscles felt heavy. My brain couldn’t hold a thought. I moved with lethargy and less purpose, avoiding new tasks and lingering over tasks that are second nature. My attitude was poor, and my temper short. I complained about really stupid, unimportant stuff. And I got teary-eyed and emotional over sappy TV. (Damn you Sarah McLachlan for showing me hurt animals!) The frustration, boredom and dissatisfaction inside leaked out in weird ways.

Something always pulls me back into real life. This time it was a two-year-old boy on the subway discovering the world outside. He stood on the seat watching the passing buildings, pointing and laughing as his mother held him steady. I sat across the aisle, iPod on, watching him. Something about the scene made me feel better. Maybe it was his joy. Maybe it was his innocence. Maybe the chemicals in my body picked that moment to readjust in a way that improved my mood. I don’t know, but I’m glad it’s over.

We all have ups and downs in our moods. They’re part of life. But unemployment can make the peaks higher and, in my case, the valleys lower. I go through these cycles often enough to recognize them. If I could steer clear, I would. That hasn’t worked so far, so I just try to just be productive and minimize the downtime. My best is the most I can ask of myself.

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  1. ImOffTheAir wrote:

    You are my twin. I swear. And don’t you hate when people tell you to, “keep your head up”? I try and I try….but I just can’t.

    Monday, April 20, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink
  2. boy do I feel ya man. I definitely see all my friends that seem like they are actually getting stuff done. But you are right about those moments. All I can hope is that my time will come and I will be able to grasp the opportunity when it does. And try not to get myself in a worse situation until then.

    Monday, April 20, 2009 at 5:36 pm | Permalink
  3. Tired wrote:

    I’m with you. Have been unemployed since last May – almost a year! Wondering when (or if) it will get better. I’m tired of fighting for jobs with fresh-faced kids straight out of school, tired of being told I have ‘too much experience’ or am overqualified. I’m just plain tired.

    Monday, April 20, 2009 at 5:37 pm | Permalink
  4. thanks norm') wrote:

    whoa nelly! this describes EXACTLY how i feel, my thoughts etc. except i am too way beat up and weak to conjure into words… as much as i want out of my situations, i want out for you as well… aside from asking my friends, networkers etc about me, i mention my “friend” in ny who is also looking…

    Monday, April 20, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Permalink
  5. BB wrote:

    Monday! After over 8 months of living on this unemployment roller coaster, I have come to the conclusion that Monday is the MOST dangerous day of all for the blues. …spouse goes back to work and you’re left with no one but yourself (and a cat or two if you’re lucky). It’s not fun.

    Monday, April 20, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink
  6. Rhoby wrote:

    I can completely relate my friend, COMPLETELY relate! Have you looked into yet?

    Monday, April 20, 2009 at 6:14 pm | Permalink
  7. Norm wrote:

    I signed up for a couple NYC blogger meetups actually. Hopefully they’ll have something interesting soon. It just occurred to me a little earlier today to check into unemployed meetups too. We’ll see…

    Monday, April 20, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Permalink
  8. Catherine wrote:

    I can totally relate. I also hate it when well-meaning people say, ” I know you will get something soon”!

    Monday, April 20, 2009 at 7:03 pm | Permalink
  9. Christine wrote:

    Hi Norm, I came across your blog by chance whilst surfing the NYTimes and I am 20 hours away (by flight) from where you are. There are about 30k (to date)people over here suffering too as a result of the lay-offs – I am ‘sort of’ one of them. To make matters worse the unemployed can’t claim benefits coz there are none. Which is why crime is at its highest since the financial crisis of the late 90s. I am also dreaming of all the things that working people can plan to buy like dream Touareg and posh property and holiday travels but at this moment it is far far away and I don’t know for how long. I am still bunking with my parents and I am kinda too old (mid-30s) to stay with them! However I keep telling myself that I have come this far (education and all) and I am not about to give up, no matter what. On that one hand I also know that if I give up I am finished! So I will keep pulling that bullock cart to the finished line.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 7:50 am | Permalink
  10. Beardy wrote:

    you totally nailed it man, and i am right there with you. rainy mondays seem to bring the funk like none other, and i was feeling it yesterday too.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 10:15 am | Permalink
  11. beni wrote:

    I found this post via Twitter just a few moments ago. Perfect timing as my cycle is on the downward side of the ride… the tears, the frustration, the hopelessness. I could not have said it better. Thanks for sharing this.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  12. underemployed. wrote:*099295D91D38CE00

    my friend replied…. here is one lead….

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Permalink
  13. Phil wrote:

    A lot of what you describe here sounds like clinical depression. Whether it actually diagnosable or not is irrelevant; recognizing it and treating it as such is more important for your health.

    It’s often associated with loss of job, especially in men.

    Notable symptoms I’ve shared with you in my new unemployment include loss of energy (the gym), feelings of worthlessness (checking), no longer finding fun in fun things, difficulty concentrating, excessive sleep and insomnia (both, whee) … mix your own, but use them to improve your awareness.

    Depression doesn’t have a magic fix, but knowing is half the battle

    Friday, May 22, 2009 at 12:43 am | Permalink
  14. Frustrated wrote:

    Oh yes! Sounds all too familiar – it hurts! Thursday nights are usually “stay up all night” moments for me – it’s almost another week gone, haven’t made any progress, worry about UE funds running out. Friday hits hard, another week is officially over. Worked so hard at job hunting, no results, no signs of hope!
    I used to be a very positive individual, now I will bite someone’s head off if they give me anything in the way of “Think positive!” Let the funk just do its thing, it’s ok, it will pass. But I deserve to feel sorry for myself sometimes!

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 10:45 pm | Permalink
  15. Underemployed wrote:

    Wonders how all these commenters are doing? Did they find jobs? Claw their way out of their dark and dismal abyss? I need some inspiration.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The cycle of feeling sorry for myself on Monday, April 20, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    […] Original post by Jobless and Less […]

  2. JoblessandLess (Norm Elrod) on Monday, April 20, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    New blog post: The cycle of feeling sorry for myself

  3. beingstray (Being Stray) on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    @JoblessandLess Perfect timing, Norm. I am in the same frame of kind today, too. Your post – – lifted me. Thanks.