I’m trying to keep from panicking

My job ends next week. It isn’t a surprise. I knew it was possible for over a year, probable for months, and I got my formal lay off notice 11 weeks ago. So I’ve been looking for work slowly. I’ve applied for a few jobs. The first job I applied for in May, I felt really good about the interview and was turned down very positively by the manager because I lacked experience. Since then I haven’t had any responses to my application.

Before I spent years in therapy discussing my life and getting in touch with my emotions I appeared to be a fairly competent and confident person. I might have been racked with anxiety and fear or sadness or I might have battled nightmares and flashbacks all night but when I got to work I was fine. I could count on the fact that when I needed to I could get things done. When I was in graduate school I had to give regular talks and presentations. I hated it. I couldn’t sleep or eat for days before and it didn’t matter how well prepared I was or how many successful talks I had given each one seemed impossible before I started. I used to pace in halls outside of the room I had to speak in because I couldn’t stand still and watch people sit down without feeling like I had to run or hide or be sick. When I started talking I was completely different. I was calm, and spoke calmly and clearly, I answered questions and interacted with people like I was having a great time (I often did). People who saw me prepare and anxious would comment on how I seemed like a different person.

That calm, competent person used to show up when I needed to get things done, or be in a job interview, or be entertaining in a group of people. That person was almost always there. I thought I was that person. The person who couldn’t sleep, was anxious or sad, who stayed home and hid from everyone seemed like an interloper. I thought when I grew up, or got married, or lost weight, or started therapy, or whatever magical thing I thought would fix me, happened then I would only be the confident, functional, successful person.

The problem is that I can’t count on the competent person showing up anymore. Sometimes she does show up, like she did in my interview in May. Other times I just can’t do what I should be doing. I learned how to say no to requests and how to judge myself less harshly when I need a break or to take a step back. That was a good thing in my life generally but now I feel like I need the person who could be “on” when she had to and I can’t find her all the time. I’m afraid I’m losing access to the competent me and will end up becoming only the person who hides from the world.