This is the third and final installment of a vignette about a man named Casey.
He has been fired for over a year. He receives unemployment benefits to pay his bills. He lives with his dog, Beauty. COVID-19 led to his job loss. He has no clear vision of his future. He pays his bills. He has a very dear friend, Sylvia, who owns her own house and has a paid job. They stayed in touch.
During the last session, we focused on his propensities for self-doubt. I silently wonder about the depth of the psychological impact the layoff is having on Casey. He was able to start an in-depth discussion about his relationship with Sylvia. Although I haven’t met or spoken to her, Casey describes her as an open woman with him. Yet when I invite Casey to look at himself, he doesn’t understand what that means. I feel that Casey is burdened with low self-esteem. He harbors doubts about his relationship with Sylvia. He questioned his patience with his lack of work.
As a major focal point of identity for many, it wallows in a measure of self-pity. He hasn’t even really opened up genuinely with Sylvia since he’s been out of work. I invited Casey to spend some time explaining who he is. So hello, Casey; Happy to see you again. How was your week?
“Not so good, I have to admit. (Pause) After I left last week, I found out that Sylvia hadn’t called me for 10 days. She usually calls every other day. I haven’t heard from her. not contacted. It makes me feel really depressed. I couldn’t sleep for two nights. Then I started thinking about my sleeping habits. Wow man, a lot has changed since Covid and layoff .
“You want a list? Really, I’m not smart. I wrote down a list of changes in my life. Maybe you and I can talk about it.
Casey, what prompted you to consider such an exercise?
“Strange. One night I couldn’t sleep, I turned on the radio. I listened to a talk show. The moderator was discussing how COVID-19 has affected people. She spent time on work related issues. Some people called. I guess I wasn’t the only person unable to sleep. She said sleep can be a problem when filled with anxiety. Anxiety! I thought I I was just depressed. She heard several callers who were all out of work, laid off or permanently laid off. One caller even talked about suicide. It caught my attention. I thought for a moment if I was suicidal. She explained some of the symptoms and triggers. A man said he was about to foreclose on his house. God, I got really mad for him. His family left him. He said he didn’t. had no clear path for life to improve.
Did you learn anything about this subject Casey?
“You could laugh. I hugged and caressed Beauty. She is my faithful companion and I pay her little attention. Yes, I feed her and walk her, but I don’t play with her like I used to. Scary moment. When I held her, she growled at me. It scared me. I sat down on the floor and bawled my eyes out. She ran under the bed. A little later Beauty licked my face like she always did. I told him that I loved him. She wagged her tail something fierce. People say dogs love you unconditionally. Guess I didn’t reciprocate too well. She did me good.”
It’s a wonderful experience. That talk show really got to you, Casey.
“It was. That talk show was good head for me.
Glad to hear you say that. It’s like I tell people, when you’re looking for a specific type of car to buy, you might be surprised to see a lot of them on the road. Before, you didn’t notice it, but it’s always been there. You didn’t see it because you weren’t looking exactly. This talk show was probably aired. Your trouble sleeping caused you to turn on the radio instead of struggling to sleep.
“Funny you say that. When the show ended, I crashed. Really! My body said it was fine, Casey. I woke up the next day feeling rested. I started doing a long overdue cleanup. I’m doing this. I even made myself some tasty meals with lots of vegetables and nutrients. Beauty and I went out for a long walk. His tail kept wagging. What about that?”
Good start. Self-discovery opens the doors to who you really are. Other new and different discoveries?
“Yes. I was comforted by our conversation about Sylvia. She hasn’t been to my house for months. She has dropped off food or other essentials. We haven’t had a face-to-face. I called her and left a voicemail. She called me the next day. I asked her if we could go for a walk with Beauty, who she adores. She seemed hesitant at first but she agreed to going there this weekend. I’m a little nervous. (Laughs)
What’s so funny, Casey?
“I realize we haven’t been out in months. She is busy working and taking care of her home. I just didn’t reach out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited. I want to kiss him. We used to take country walks, stop for a treat and toss a ball with Beauty. I found Beauty’s favorite ball after my cleaning.
Casey, you have something to look forward to.
“You know, I repeated, don’t laugh, in front of a mirror. I can’t stop eating it. I want to say the right thing to Sylvia.
Casey, just be you. Bring the feelings you have for Sylvia to your visit. You miss her?
“Yes, damn right I do!”
Do you think he misses you?
“It’s funny you ask that.” Maybe I was too attached to myself and not to my feelings for Sylvia. You know, my work situation and COVID had a big effect on me. I think I got lost in the experience.
Casey, maybe you could let Sylvia know what the counseling helped you discover.
“Right. I have to thank her. It was Sylvia who encouraged me to get involved. Maybe she saw in me what I lost in myself.
It’s quite a revelation. Maybe Sylvia could be a good source to discuss the job. What does your work represent for you after all these months of redundancy?
“It looks like I neglected myself during those months. It may be time to review my professional situation.
Casey, you are on your own with your experience, but know that millions of people share your experience from their own perspective. There is more to your story, your story to live. I’m excited for this Casey.
“Thank you. Wish me luck with Sylvia.
I wish you a prosperous and healthy experience.
May peace be on earth and may it begin with me.
Marshall Greenstein holds a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor and Licensed Mental Health Counselor in New York State. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email [email protected]