COVID & Layoffs: Lay off your unhealthy coping.

Coping the right way in these uncertain times.

The rain drizzled through the cold morning, nay – it was noon. How long is an hour these days? How long is a day? Time seems distorted. I was preparing tea by the time my roomie woke up. We sat down for tea, and it hurt me to see him dull. 

“You know what’s fundamental to all things scary?”

I took a sip and considered the question, and amidst browsing my head for answers like ‘mix of high and low pitch sounds’ ‘bared teeth’ and ‘darkness’, I sort of lost the relevance of the question. I failed to see where he was coming from. 

“Uncertainty” he answered, nodding, perhaps to himself. 

He still hadn’t taken a sip off his tea.

I didn’t know what to tell him. These were scary times, the unsettling uncertainty it presented wreaked havoc among many like my roommate, who like thousands of people, had been laid off from work due to this pandemic. 

Of course, the problem was much bigger than both of us. And there was little we could do about the job or money, but I really wished I could figure something out to get him through this, emotionally.

He opened his laptop, and I knew he was back at job-hunting like he always is, hours on end. 

I could see that he was still stuck in that rhythm of his job, and he’s being desperate to get back into being employed. But here’s the thing, that’s all he does all day. 

“How about we work on your schedule or something? Not to be controlling or anything, but I’m worried about you.”

“So what, I don’t look for jobs, is that what you’re saying?”

“Strike a balance in your schedule is what I’m saying. Exercise, eat healthy, alongside, keep in touch with your friends, yeah? And do other creative stuff, alongside job hunting…”

“.. So put that laptop away for now, and let’s have some tea, alright?”

“Hell with tea, I’m grabbing that bottle of rum”

He hadn’t been coping well with the situation.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy drinking as much as he does, but this was unhealthy coping. And it’s no surprise, every time there’s been mass layoffs, there’s been a huge spike in alcohol consumption.  

“Is that going to get your job back?” Perhaps that was a little insensitive, but the truth nonetheless.

“No,” he said in a low voice.

I pulled my chair closer to him and patted him slowly on the back a couple of times.

“We’re going to survive this, and you don’t need a bottle for that. You’d be amazed at how many healthy ways there are to cope with crises and uncertainties.”

“.. The bottle isn’t a solution, but it will be a problem if left unmonitored.”

His face sunk into his arms that lay on the table.

“Imagine the shame, being a grown-ass man and being unemployed”

I felt bad seeing him torturing himself.

“It’s not your fault. Why should you bear the shame, it’s not like you slacked off at work or chose to be unemployed. No one foresaw such a situation and so, no one knew what sectors, however stable they seemed, would go under. It’s not your fault, you hear me?” 

“It’s not your fault! ”

“It’s not my fault”  he repeated after me, taking a sip off the tea. 

“But it defined me, you know? I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with my life now.”

I realise that jobs have become a fundamental part of how we define ourselves. I remember how in “Metamorphosis”, Franz Kafka shows us Gregor, a travelling salesman, who turns into a big bug overnight, and yet, Gregor’s first worry is how he’d be late for work.  That’s what a job means to most of us,  isn’t it? In the pursuit of it, we often lose track of what we are beyond it, without it.

Your job doesn’t define you, to say that is chipping away the whole, and clinging to one part. You’re a human being who is capable of a lot of things. Existence precedes essence, as Sartre put it.”

“…Why not use this time to get in touch with your other skills, the whole of who you are?”

“Like, the short stories I used to write, you mean?”

“Yeah! You could write, try new skills, experiment all sorts of things right now.”

“Yeah, I could do that” his face betrayed a slight excitement at that notion.

“This year, to hell with this year, just survive it, Alright? That’s what these times are about”

He paused for a moment, taking in those words, and sighed.

I sat alongside him as he slowly finished his tea.

Later as I was doing the dishes, I took a peek into what he was doing, and this time he was on his laptop, learning the ukulele that he’d once bought and never really bothered learning. 

These are difficult times and I’m in no position of authority to say for certain if my friend and millions like him, going through this rough year will get employed again as soon as hoped, but to expand your horizons as a person, to explore more of what you can do and bolstering your confidence and health would help along the way – that is certain.

These are uncertain times, and we know things can be very hard for you and your loved ones. If you ever need help do feel free to reach out to us. We offer one-to-one therapy as well as group therapy sessions at cheap rates. Yellow Club is here to serve all your mental health needs!

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