The first week, I convince myself this is a nice break, a refreshing breather in between the marathon sprints that have become my routine of work, school, sleep, rinse, and repeat. The sting starts to settle in midway through the second week, and is a full blown burn by Sunday while I’m curled on the couch, kept warm by the glow of a computer screen filled with 125 open browser tabs and 2 bottles of empty wine.
Aunt Flo stops by unceremoniously in a dressing room after sneezing in a pair of designer slacks I can only afford because they’re grocery store priced. They’re the same slacks I’ll wear to three different interviews in the same day. I keep a can of dry shampoo in my purse, the one I only wear because it makes me look more put together than I actually am; keeps all the loose-falling-apart-messiness out of sight, out of mind.
But I can’t fit anxiety into a bag. I can’t wad depression into a ball and stuff it down, like the handkerchief I use to wipe down my palms in between handshakes that can make/break my next lead. They’re not marketable skills that I can put on the table to an employer or sell to a recruiter. They’re the parts of my resume I leave on the cutting room floor, next to my self-identification as a female with disabilities, and the name of the employer that sexually harassed me.
Those are the details you sweep under the rug, and firmly dig your heels down into while you’re defending your right to a fair wage, the hourly pay you deserve but have to all but beg for while they gift wrap it for your male counterpart. They spend 20 minutes drowning you in information about The Role, The Company, and The Expectations, and give you 30 seconds to package the entirety of your personality, your goals for the next 5 years, and the last 10 years of your work history into something palatable. Something attractive.
They ask if you’re married, and you tell them No with a practiced smile, because there’s nothing in the job description that says you have to open your diary and show them how badly you want to say Yes. Then they ask if you have children – eyes unintentionally dropping to your hips – and you vehemently say No with a harder smile. They tell you Don’t worry – plenty of time for that! which you’ve learned by now is code for Thank god – has no conflicting commitments! or Another misguided Millenial, sacrificing her maternal instincts in the pursuit of career fulfillment!
The fourth week, you’ve come full circle. You’re back on the couch, a few more wine bottles and another 200 open browser tabs. You’ve caught up on all your Netflix, Hulu, and CW shows. You’ve read more books in the last week than you have in the last two years, and you’ve learned to move hour by hour instead of day by day. You schedule an appointment with the psychiatrist, and try not to think too much of it. You set reminders to eat. To sleep. To shower. To be a Good Girlfriend. Functioning Adult.
I tell everyone I’m OK, because maybe if I put it out there into the universe enough times, something will come through.