Throughout my working life, becoming unemployed had always been one of my biggest fears, and one that fear turned into reality when I was forced to give work up due to ill health.
When it happened, it couldn’t have been at a worse time. With declining health and mobility, and my doctor saying a firm “No” to going out to work, getting another job seemed impossible. All I could see was a lifetime ahead of me of claiming benefits, and I didn’t even dare think about the future.
My situation wasn’t helped by the fact that I was depressed. I had been for a long time and while I had a job to occupy my time, I could bury myself in it. However, when I gave up work, I had to live with; I couldn’t hide from it anymore, and the more pronounced it became. The more depressed I felt, the bleaker my future seemed, and the more I struggled to see a way forward.
Then one day I was listening to the radio. There was an interview with a lady talking about her own battle with depression. She described everything I was feeling and how managing her depression had helped her turned the rest of her life around. Her story resonated with me so much, and I knew that if I was going to forge a new life – and career for myself – I was going to have to deal with the depression.
Now, I’m not great at opening up, but once I found the right doctor – one I knew I could talk to and one I knew who would listen– I made an appointment with him. I went along, clutching a piece a paper, where I’d written all the things I’d didn’t dare to say out loud. I still think admitting I was depressed is the bravest thing I have ever done. My only regret was I hadn’t done it sooner, because it changed everything.
My doctor told me he’d do everything he could to help me get back on track, but first I had to do something to help him. He wanted me to get started on antidepressants as a temporary measure. Then we could start moving on to counseling if necessary, and seeing how else he could help me.
It took some months, but gradually my mood started to lift. With the depression better controlled, I was less worried about money, I was less negative overall, and I was more focused on what I could do with my future, rather than what I couldn’t.
The most obvious career seemed writing. I’d done it on an occasional basis and I’d always made some money out of it, so why not do it for a living? It had been my long term ambition after all, and now here was the opportunity to do what I wanted and follow my passion.
However, I had to overcome plenty of barriers first. I have difficulties using my hands, so my GP referred me to an occupational therapist to help me modify my work space, and to a neurologist, who helped me with medications to try and better control my condition.
With those barriers addressed to some degree, I was ready to start out as a writer. I signed up for some freelance sites, read everything I could about how to set up a profile, how to pitch etc., and after 21 attempts, I landed my first job ghost writing a book, using my experience in the health industry.
Since then my career has gone from strength to strength. I’ve ghost written several more books, written website content for major corporate clients, etc., and I’m fortunate that the work keeps coming in.
The ebb and flow of freelancing takes a bit of getting used to, but when things go a bit quiet, I always remind myself of the time back in 2013 when I thought I was never going to work again and I enjoy the silence for a while. I’ve been working as a writer for four years, and most importantly, I am doing what I love.
When I gave up work and became unemployed, I thought my life was over. However, it was just the start of a new direction.
Although I racked with fear at first, taking time out gave me the opportunity to address old issues like the depression, which had dogged me for years.
From my experience with unemployment, I’ve found the key out of is identifying your personal barriers and then connecting with the right people who can support you through it. Unemployment is also an opportunity to look at what you really want to do with your life and to finally take that chance.
Note from Admin Annie, I emailed a couple follow-up questions to Jane. Here are her answers:
I was wondering whether you applied for disability when the doctor told you that you couldn’t work?
I did consider applying for disability, and my doctor said he’d support me in a claim. However, I know how difficult it can be to qualify, and I couldn’t face the thought of ‘fighting the system’. Also, I didn’t want to get caught in the welfare trap as I knew that would just fuel my depression.
I felt that once I was ready, starting a career from home would give me some control of my life. It would me goals to work towards, and a reason to get up in a morning.
Many people who visually appear just like everyone else find it difficult to broach the topic of why they aren’t working and feel embarrassed or concerned that others will think they are lazy. Did you experience anything along those lines?
I have quite significant mobility problems so I had found prior to becoming unemployed that people I didn’t know too well had automatically thought that didn’t work because of my disability. That was something I used to be extremely conscious of, but I became less concerned over time about changing their perceptions.
However, when I stopped working for a bit, and it became apparent to friends and neighbors that I had more time on my hands, I did start to worry that they might view me differently, but they know me better than that so it didn’t really become an issue.
You said it took you 21 attempts to land your first writing gig. Where were you applying and did you ever think, “well this just isn’t going to happen.”
I started applying on freelance sites like Elance, but I’ve since gone out on my own.
I was ready to give up after my first 10 attempts! But I’d looked online to see what others were saying and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I was determined not to take any of the rejections personally or to give up without really trying; that wouldn’t get me anywhere.
I’d read accounts from people saying they’d to pitch to 40 plus jobs before landing their first gig so I could see how tough it was going to be.
The general message was persistence is key, and once you landed your first gig, it would get easier from there, and that is what I found.
Jane Fazackarley is a freelance writer with experience covering a variety of niches. However, she has a specialty in health, business, and fashion. You can contact her via her website at: http://jfwriting.co.uk.