Jobless Project - Caylie

Caylie is currently a second year student at Dalhousie university.  She's unemployed and lives with her godmother in Spryfield.  While she does pay rent, it's not as high as living in her own apartment or in residence would be. 

Originally from Clare, NS, she worked for three years in a restaurant and two summers at a take-out window.  These positions required her to have a food handler's certificate, and to be able to speak, read and write in both French and English.  These were great positions but ultimately led to her dealing with depression.

If it wasn’t for me living rent free with my dad I don’t know what I would have done. I kept applying to places but in my town there isn’t really a big market for jobs, especially in the colder months, so I was pretty much screwed. I spent five months in my bed, absolutely miserable. I stopped eating (and lost 25 pounds) would drink alcohol all by myself for no reason at all, and had actually planned a date to kill myself.

My parents eventually noticed that I was having a really hard time (I guess it’s kind of hard to cry everyday without being noticed) and my mom drove me to a therapist, I went to see her twice a week, and then saw a psychiatrist once a week. I was put on a bunch of different medications and was almost put in the psych ward. The doctors thought it wouldn’t do me any good to go to a place that would make my anxiety sky-rocket, so when I got there I was told I could go home - I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved in my entire life.

So from December to May/June 2012 I was in doctors’ offices three days a week, until I finally got a perfect mix of medication that helped me out. Therapy was also amazingly helpful, I learned so many coping techniques that I still use to this day. I got a job at the end of June, only had monthly visits with my psychiatrist, and my visits with my therapist were once every two weeks. I got my life back (finally!!)

That summer I decided that I was going to get my ass to school and was here at Dal that September. I still struggle sometimes, it really sucks to try to get myself motivated to get to class, or finish homework when I feel like I have no hope left, but I’m definitely doing a lot better than two years ago. If I didn’t have my medications I really doubt I’d even be in school at this point, it’s unbelievably hard for someone with a mental illness to cope in a crazy world like this; it makes things 10x harder for sure. Anxiety also fucks me up for jobs, most jobs I get are working with the public and if I have an anxiety attack and become terrified of interacting with people it makes working almost like torture.

But when I’m having a hard time a quick call to my therapist, or my parents helps immensely so, slowly but surely I’ll be able to be a normal(ish) person who can function in society.

You can’t get a sick note for being depressed. I spoke to a teacher about it last year and her response was basically to shrug her shoulders and say it wasn’t a medically valid reason to miss a class. It kind of sucks.

Of course, being a student and having to deal with the highest tuition rates in the country have taken their toll.  Caylie will be facing student loan debt like most graduates, and despite applying through the government Job bank and a government summer employment plan, has been unable to secure employment locally to help her get through school.  Thankfully, Her parents have been supportive and as she put it:  

If things get dire, like they did last year when all I had to eat was a box of crackers, I just need to call my dad and tell him how bad things are. If he or my mom have extra money lying around they’ll e-mail it to me. If it wasn’t for them I would have had to possibly drop out of school last year.

Like a lot of young people, Caylie would rather stay in Nova Scotia, close to her family, than move for a job.   Dealing with depression, anxiety and all of the stresses that come with these ailments restrict her travelling too far from home.  She's currently three hours away from them and that's far enough.

Caylie describes the job application process as being "...[full of] anxiety, stress, worry that I won’t be good enough or that I will fail the interview. Sometimes I feel embarrassed because I feel like I don’t have enough work experience to be applying for certain jobs."  

While most of her peers are still in school, those that have finished their degrees or diplomas are either working in a local fish plant, restaurant, or other places that have little to do with their education.  One friend working in a nursing home, another pair of friends working as flight attendants, but most of her job-seeking friends have gone out west to the oil fields. 

Her goal is to become a lawyer and stay in the province.  Facing the kind of job market we are currently dealing with is a harsh reality for every student in Caylie's position, and while our education system is good, and the skill sets are rich and diverse, we cannot keep them here.