Anxiety and job-seeking in Ukraine – a diary

Oil painting by correspondent, 2021 – if you would like to support the artist’s work, contact me

In the light of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces, I am re-posting this piece, which is from a text conversation that I had with a Ukrainian woman that I met on a penpal website between 2019 – 2021. She spoke about her life, including anxiety issues and job-seeking. I last received a message from her some two months ago and I believe she is still living in the capital, Kyiv, which is undergoing attack as I write.

Please, if you can, urge your political representatives, in whatever way you can, from email to a public protest, that de-escalation and negotiation is needed now to stop any more bloodshed. There is no military solution to defeat Russia, due to their nuclear capability and their insistence that Ukraine is part of their sphere of strategic influence. The world has to negotiate and offer Ukrainian neutrality to Russia in exchange for troop withdrawal and return to speaking between foes. Ukrainian political alignment with Russia may not be ideal but it is far better than being destroyed and occupied.

Between December 2019 and April 2021, a Ukrainian woman in her 30s, currently living in the Kyiv area, shared with me some of her experiences of challenging her anxiety symptoms, searching for work and her efforts at painting. She told me she prefers to listen to stories than tell them but gave me permission to share some of her experiences anonymously, saying: “You can embellish the story with different romantic stories, whatever you want, but only my photo is scary to upload) it is better not).” At the start of the conversation, from which I have deleted my responses and most of her questions for me, to focus on her experience, she is living with her parents, near Kyiv, helping at her father’s small local electrical goods store and selling religious books by mail.


Dec 18, 2019

Today is a sunny day. I argued with my father that I would find work after the new year, and he would stop drinking)). Maybe at least it will drive me out of the house.

…we bet that if I go to work my father will not drink). This is not a quarrel, but a game. Once I argued with my brother that if I go to work in Poland, he will quit smoking. I went to Poland, but he did not quit smoking 🙂

Dec 20, 2019

I have not had time to buy gifts, instead, I got drunk yesterday, could not stand it)). Because of this, the state of health is not very good. But she swore to herself that this is the last time)

no, I can drink alone). I feel good only the first half hour, and then it becomes very bad.

I also drank 2 beers). I have not bought gifts yet, I have a big family, I need a lot of gifts.

Dec 22, 2019

Yes, I’m better, I swore to myself not to drink anymore, although often I really feel like it. I choose which country I should go to work. But it will be in six months, it will take a lot of time to draw up documents) Maybe Sweden)

I will go through a paid agency. But this is not soon, a lot needs to be done for this)…this is work somewhere in the factories. It’s very difficult there, but i can earn more than in Ukraine. Since I haven’t been working for a year, I need to pay for it).

No, I’m very cowardly, but in extreme conditions it’s easier for me. When everyone is busy, all Ukrainians who go to work are in the same conditions). Although in Poland it was difficult for me, and I even had to change the city and work, right in Poland. But the second time I will behave differently, calmer.

Dec 25, 2019

Thanks! Merry Christmas to you too !!

Today I sent parcels to my customers)….We celebrate Christmas on January 7th, so it’s too early to give gifts. We have Orthodox Christmas)…. And I will celebrate 2 times)

Continue reading “Anxiety and job-seeking in Ukraine – a diary”

Reblogged: This Is Me

Little Sketch by Anna Vanes

The importance of early psychological disorder diagnosis is extremely evident in Tamra’s beautifully written blog-post, This is Me, – which must be read in its entirety – in which she provides a lucid biographical outline of her journey from childhood with anxiety and type 1 diabetes to middle-age and living mostly house-bound, suffering a variety of serious health problems.

Tamra’s case, albeit anecdotal, of multi-morbidity, long undiagnosed, suggests that early psycho-therapeutic attention is vital, especially, in such cases of concurrent conditions. Her type 1 diabetes diagnosis helped to obstruct her family’s attention to her psychological difficulties and also became another to ‘reason’ to hate herself for ‘inadequacy’ or ‘inferiority’ and engage in a lifelong pattern of self-harm and, later, self-medication. From this, as Tamra outlines, her health deteriorates, step-by-step, exacerbated by moments of misfortune.

“I come from a family thick with type 1 diabetics. There are six of us that I know of, my father, an aunt, one of my brothers, two cousins, and myself. Type 1 diabetes does have a hereditary link, but not always, and it is extremely rare for it to be so prominent in one family as it is in mine. I was diagnosed at age eight. I felt frightened, I knew what this disease is, I knew how dangerous it is, I knew I would forever have to take shots, prick my fingers, eat carefully, and would probably lose a leg, go blind, and die young. It was the mid 1980’s and these were the possibilities at that time.”

At the age of eleven, she lost her father, as a result of a stroke caused by complications from his type 1 diabetes. Tamra’s rage and self-harm only increased, as she paid little or no regard to her body and condition, “always running sky high blood sugars.”

She began to skip classes and then whole school days as she developed agoraphobia symptoms alongside her social anxiety. Her problems went unrecognised, even by herself. Though she graduated, she went on to suffer similarly in college and in the workplace: “I went through part time minimum wage jobs like a person with a cold goes through tissue. As soon as the anxiety of responsibility mixed with the anxiety of social environments and the outside world got too much, I would up and quit, take some time to recoup and then find a new job.”

Marriage and friends would bring new stresses and risk, alongside benefits. In her 30’s she describes using social drinking and smoking to suppress her pain and fear. A series of serious health crises followed. She underwent triple-bypass heart surgery necessitated by damage caused by her poorly managed diabetic condition and exacerbated by consumption of alcohol and her smoking. She then had multiple eye surgeries and would go on to suffer from hypothyroidism.

At this belated stage, however, her social anxiety and agoraphobia were diagnosed and she started medication and therapy. However, the impact of hypothyroidism and accompanying problems with obesity interrupted her treatments, as did a bereavement and serious accident.

Currently, she describes herself as being mostly house-bound, suffering insomnia and hypersomnia as well as some dysfunction with conscious awareness: “My dreams are so vivid (nothing new there, they always have been) I sometimes think they are real, and my reality feels like a dream. I also have trouble with my memory sometimes.”

It is notable that Tamra describes her brother’s childhood response to her father’s death as to become “militaristic” about taking care of his blood sugar levels – the opposite of her heightened reckless and, even, self-harming response. One can speculate whether the diagnosis of social anxiety and agoraphobia, as a child – even if subsequent treatment had zero effect on symptoms – would have reduced negative judgement of her by others and by herself,  by explaining her behaviours and difference, and, whether the pattern of self-harming could have been diverted.

Image by Anna Vanes

To read Tamra’s full blog-post at her site,, click below.