Depression at Work-3: Should You Change Your Job or Your Life?

Sooner or later depression forces you to make changes in your worklife. If adapting at your present job doesn’t help, then it’s probably time to look at other possibilities. However difficult, impractical or even impossible the alternatives might seem, it’s worth considering what else you could do.

This post looks at three strategies that could help you manage depression by changing your work situation: frequent job changes, getting out of a toxic work environment, or changing the type of work you do. These are a few ideas to help you come up with your own solution. At the least, they might help you ask the right questions about what you want and need.

1. Moving from Job to Job

Many people have learned to handle depression by shifting jobs frequently. Their experience tells them that if they try to stay with one job too long, the limits imposed by their illness will undermine performance and probably lead to their being fired anyway. They need full-time employment, and this way they avoid having a job history with a long string of dismissals.

Others know they can’t handle the stress and social interaction of a steady job. Doing temporary work that moves them from one short-term assignment to another is one solution. Finding a way to earn money from home could be another. However they manage, they’ve adapted, in many cases, to earning just enough money to get by.

You might well feel that this approach carries too much uncertainty for you. Or perhaps you need to have steadier work to feel like your doing something productive with your life. If that’s the case, but you can’t deal with your present job, you could look at the work environment you’re in every day. That could be a major problem.

2. Finding a Better Work Environment

A damaging work environment that overloads you with work and high stress is getting to be the norm. Surveys report 40-50% of US workers work under high stress and need help learning how to manage it. Stress is linked to many health problems, including depression. If you have severe and recurrent depression, a toxic workplace will only intensify your illness.

As Tony Giordano describes his experience in It’s Not All In Your Head, his workplace had become punishing, abusive and unfair. He faced a combination of impossible deadlines, job insecurity, backbiting among workers fearing for their jobs and managers taking out their own shortcomings on staff. Combined with depression, these conditions gradually undermined his ability to function.

If you’re trying to manage a job in a workplace like that, while also living with major depression, you could run the risk of a collapse like the one Giordano went through. You may have to find a better work environment, hard as it is to find one, just to keep going.

But if these strategies don’t help, maybe it’s time to look at the type of work that you’ve been doing.

3. Changing Your Work, Changing Your Life

It’s not easy to figure out if the work you know best and have been doing for a long time is actually making your illness worse. In the midst of severe depression, it can be impossible to function well in any occupation. After the worst is over, however, you may be able to return to your job or profession and be as effective as before. Hopefully, you would also find it just as fulfilling and rewarding as it has always been.

But it could be that any progress you make in treatment is lost as soon as you get back to your familiar work. After trying other strategies, you may realize that the problem is not about employers or clients, not about the atmosphere of the workplace, or the number of hours you put in each day or anything else in the conditions of your work. It must be something about the work itself that is worsening depression and generally undermining your well-being.

Barriers to Change

Personal Investment: That’s a conclusion, though, that you might resist and avoid for years because you have so much invested in doing this particular type of work well. Admitting that it’s become impossible to pursue might seem like a terrible defeat, a surrender to the illness.

Financial Risk: You ask yourself: How else could you possibly earn a living? There’s no way you could swing it financially. You can’t afford to lose your income, even for a few months. You’re sure that it’s totally impractical, nothing but dreaming.

Depressed Thinking: When depressed, you probably have trouble making any decision, let alone one about changing the life you now lead. You also tend to underestimate yourself. You may be convinced you’re not talented enough to do anything else, even an occupation you’d always hoped you could do.

You may feel too empty and lacking in energy to make the effort. Depressed thinking is also telling you that there’s no point in trying since you’d probably fail. You’re convinced you couldn’t learn new skills, especially if it means going back to school or enrolling in a more limited training program.

In the end, even if all these thoughts and beliefs win out, you have still made a choice – to do nothing. For many years, I couldn’t get around obstacles like these. Staying with it, however, ultimately led to a collapse in my ability to function. Doing nothing was no longer a choice. Like it or not, I had to take the leap.

Finding Alternatives

Temporary Work: The problem is that the longer you wait to take action, the fewer alternatives you have. At that point, you may have to take the first job you can find, often at low pay. You might try the strategy of frequent job shifting or relying on temporary work. Or, if depression is too severe, or other opportunities too limited, you might need to get out of the workforce altogether.

Leaving the Workforce: If you’re fortunate, you might have a retirement option or a good severance package from your last job. If you work for a large company or public agency, they might offer an early retirement incentive as they try to reduce the workforce. Or you might qualify for a disability pension – either from an employer or from Social Security.

Planning Ahead: If you give yourself enough lead time, you could plan ahead with the help of a therapist who specializes in transitions of this type. I think it’s important to consult with someone who has a good grasp of the possibilities. The more depressed you are, the more help you need to open your thinking to new possibilities, identify the skills you have, and focus on the practical possibilities of finding more fulfilling and less stressful work.

There’s no formula for this and no easy way to do it. But you may have to make such a major change to manage depression. It’s a matter of balancing practical needs with the more basic ones of regaining health, saving relationships, perhaps even staying alive.

Have you had to make changes in your worklife to adapt to depression? What strategies have you tried, and how much have they helped? Have you been able to deal with the financial problem? Are there barriers that still stand in your way?

Image by oedipusphinx at Flickr

67 Responses to “Depression at Work-3: Should You Change Your Job or Your Life?”

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  1. Frances says:

    Today i quit my dream job. 2.5 years of battling depression, anxiety after working nearly all day, every day, being available all the time, even when on holiday, off sick, the lot. I had 10 months and recovered well only to rejoin in January. Here we are 4 months later, severe depression, sos helplines, it had to be. Thanks for giving me the courage to make the change. I can now begin to rebuild my life, and hope to find something less stressful in the future.

  2. Lauren says:

    I have worked in the same job for 9 years. I am suppose to retire in 2 years, well at least my husband is retiring and not sure if have enough money to retire. My husband will be 65 and I will be 62. Supposedly I am to receive some monies for social security when I retire. I dont know if I can stick it out at this job for 2 years. I am bored and dont want to do the things I know need to be done. I just play cards. I am so isolated here in western australia. I am an american that has lived here for 23 years and have found aussie women to be be unfriendly. You think you are ther friend but you never are accepted. I was in AA and have been sober for 31 years but I stopped going to AA here 2 years ago because I was ridiculed in my home group and just got tired of doing service and getting negative feedback. I feel like I have to protect myself and not go to meetings. I have good friends in the states but I can only talk to them short times. I need to snap out of this but am not sure what to do. I would like to go back to the states to live but my son, who has grown up here all his life does not want to go to the states and I cannot see leaving him behind. He is 28 years and I want to be apart of his life. Hopefully he will get married and have kids. What to do???

  3. Jay says:

    I am writing this because I hope it helps. The work I do breaks my spirit every day I take it on. I sell a proprietary school in the US to prospective students who conspire with this industry to take advantage of the Federal Student Aid system. The degrees we sell ultimately lead to crippling debt and very little prospects for betterment. To be a part of the process of marketing and selling something so damning is soul crippling for me. The environment around me is even more depressing. My peers are just getting by in life, coping with the life they have arrived at, always a thought away from despair. They are not self-aware enough to realize they simply rationalize their existence, they make it ok for themselves to exist on Earth. I find it insufferable and loathe myself for coming back to it day after day. I feel like I am mutilating my spirit, spirit being whatever it is people tap into for the sake of vitality, for the sake of meaning. In “Man’s Search for Meaning” Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor, says the main source of human despair is not living a life that is attune to the essence of our being. To put it simply, he says life only sucks and will always suck when you don’t live it pursuing your dreams.
    For the better part of my life I have wanted to be a professional writer. I have been crippled by fear and self-destructive behavior thus far. Recently, through research, I have learned that writing is a feasible dream. Depression, fear, and anxiety have brought me here though, because when faced with the information I needed to get my life going I resorted to habit and sabotaged my efforts, arriving here, on this site, to face despair one more time. I thank you all for sharing your story. I feel I owed you mine. I hope we can all find a way to our dreams, our better selves. Human life is a miracle, but depression blinds us to that truth and all the beauty life affords. I hope to defeat despair and face my fears before I lose the capacity to hope at all.

    • abiabi says:

      Not even sure you will read this, but just wanted to say that the moment I started reading your post I thought “oh wow this person is something else, they have a special kind of writing”. So there we go, just wanted to get that out and wish you all the luck in fulfilling your dream :) Give it a go, life’s too short for us not to try!

  4. mark says:

    My job as of late has led me to take 5 months off last year. I got back to work in January, but its gone down the toilet again. The job I do is not what it once was, its become much harder, so hard in fact im finding it just about impossible to keep my head above the large waves. I have had problems with tachographs, and incurred infringements, and then had warnings and final warnings about them. They make the excuse that the company’s operating licence is at stake because of what I am doing; rubbish, I am just one very small part of a very small cog in a very large machine; I am nothing, I am worthless. I used to like my job very much, but when they keep adding all kinds of ideas, and schemes to improve things it just depresses the hell outa me. Why? because it more than I can deal with just to do what I NEED to do right now; and they then add more!
    I keep hoping that I have a terrible accident at work and get a big payout (if I survive, which I hope I dont). I just want to end it, but I dont know how. Thats why the tragic accident happens, and with me, (with a self fulfilling prophesy in life), getting killed in it. I have tried taking lots and lots of tablets, usually 40 to 50 paracetamol each time, but that just has me feeling ill.
    Its like I blink and say, “what was that”?, that was your life mate, you’ve had it, there is no chance of a re-run, or a refund. I dont want one. I wont be missed when I go. I’m quite sure that my wife wants to see the back of me; that my daughter thinks im a waste of space. I hope it happens soon because im losing interest in spending my weekends drinking myself into oblivion.

    • Nona says:

      You really need to seek professional help. I an here because i am feeling depressed and trapped. I understand how you feel although i an not as depressed i suppose :I don’t want to die.. I just want a better life. Maybe you can find another job that will be more enjoyable. I hope the best for you

  5. notkuroda says:

    I’ve had fits of depression my whole life. The last couple of months have turned into hell. This article really resonated with me because my depression is directly linked to my work/life situation. I got married and had kids at a very young age, and have been working at my current job for 15 years. My first wife, and mother of my children, dumped me about 10 years ago. It’s always been my first priority to be a good father, so I stayed here in Florida(I hate this place) after moving from Colorado(I loved that place), live close to my kids(one’s 12 one’s in college), and work this job that provides good pay and benefits and takes good care of my family. But I hate it. I literally feel dread from the moment I get up in the morning till about 2 hours after I get home, when I lay down and quit my day. I don’t have a bachelors degree so I can’t imagine what else I would do. I know if I leave, I’m going to make a lot less than I do now. I don’t have any other skills, and I’ve done well by just performing well at my job. Now I couldn’t care less, but I’m still here. If I quit I’m going to miss the things that I do that require money. I’m an avid music fan, and going to see music is where most of my social life lies, and I won’t be able to afford to do it. I don’t know how I would sell myself to do anything else. And I don’t want to leave my kids hung up to dry, my ex wife barely works(she’s an artist and a student) who relies on my support to live and the kids rely on me for extras like music lessons and art classes. I feel like if I quit I’m not doing my best for my family(I am remarried, and my wife is wonderful). I don’t have any confidence that I can do anything else, but I feel like if I don’t I’m going to die. I am preparing myself for a big leap of faith. First step is to tackle the depression. I’ve started seeing a new therapist who I really like and I think she’s going to be able to help me quite a bit. I saw a psychiatrist also who started me on Viibryd(I’ve been on Welbutrin for a year, which helped for awhile but apparently has petered out). I want to believe in myself. I want to believe again that I have friends that love me, and stop avoiding them because I don’t want them to see me cry. I want to be a good example for my daughter, who is in therapy herself because of her own issues with depression and anxiety. I want my wife to be happy to be with me, and not walking on eggshells. I want to live a life that blows my mind, in a beautiful place, with the freedom to do most everything I want. I believe this can all happen in one part of my brain. I just want the other part, the part that seems to be controlling me, to believe it too.

  6. F Walker says:

    Everything mentioned in this article and the comments by users all hit home with me. I have tried to find another job, no one will hire me. I am a service connected disabled veteran suffering from depression, federal jobs won’t even give me the time of day with my veterans rating. I tried to apply for vocational rehab via the VA, I was turned away. When I try to think of other things I can do, doom and gloom clouds my mind. I am sick of it all and feel this life is garbage and is not worth living. My job doesn’t appreciate me, my military service (no one cares about it), I lost my marriage and soon my job.

  7. Melissa says:

    This article is enlightening. I feel it’s encouraging that I’m not alone in this obstacle and disease. I’ve only just begun to really start to take this seriously as I transitioned into a position that started to wear me out in just a matter of months. I spent the last 8 years with this company and was told the only way to excel into a position that I truly want is to be involved in a sales position and do well there first. It’s been tormenting me because the sales aspect of this job is incredibly stressful and it’s making me lose hope for my future success. I’m a talented person in many ways and know that I can be amazing in the role I want without sales entirely, but I’ve been forced into this decision that is destroying me from the inside out. My financial situation is worse due to depression and have been afraid to move on because this job has so many benefits but I can’t decide what’s better… losing my job for my sanity or losing my sanity and inevitably losing my job anyway? I guess the question answers itself but I’m too scared to believe it.

  8. Sy Johnson says:

    It is so great to see that what I’ve been doing for years, is actually a practical coping mechanism. I have changed jobs every few years all of my adult life and I am 60 now. Its very validating to know that doing this can be a way to cope with depression. I have never chosen to share this information in the workplace – afraid of the stigma. I have worked in the private sector, the public sector and even had my own small consulting business for a number of years. I have steadily moved up the career ladder, and I found this site as I wrestled with the news I have been put on a performance improvement plan. I have stayed at current job longer than any other, and it seems it shows. I felt so defeated, but this article makes me put the focus back on my disorder, and hope I can figure out how to avoid financial risk of getting fired before I can find another job. Thank you for the site, and for this article.

  9. CHRIS says:

    Having just read this statement, I see soo much in here that makes soo much sense, and much of this does resonate with myself.

    I am male, mid 30′s, facing depression thats crippling me in passion and everything almost, that I do. I am also stuck in a job that if I could successfully, without any pain whatsoever – commit suicide to get out of it. Let me tell you, that I live in absolute mind torture over 75-80%% of the time, and when I even begin to think about doing something interesting, my mind goes blank, nearly all of the time, to the point where often, I cant even do anything. I am currently learning basic portugese – as I do love traveling when I get time off, and portugal and gran canaria are of 2 exotic places that I like to visit. But at times, when I am there, the pain is numbed, I still find it hard to go to a pub, hotel room for entertainment and sit there without a drink, and alcohol and costs arent cheap either. Also, it isnt like I have any options to be able to support myself traveling for several months at a time, because jobs are few&far between nowadays.

    I recently went to a tree of life event for a talk about raising kundalini and sexual energy via tantra, but then it turned out – during the sample the talker gave to us, that we had to have a partner to perform the task with, which rumbled me and completely threw me off balance. I couldnt perform as a result – simply being, I have a problem interracting with most of the opposite sex unfortunately, and i often sense that the vast majority of them sincerely look down on me. Im not saying that this is true, but I do feel vibes of this, but I could be looking on the dark side of things, but then, in my adolescent years, I was picked on by both boys&girls growing up equally, and laughed at basically. I have actually been solo for nearly 7 years now and feeling that the worst was all in the past, I decided to reopen my mind again to the possibilities, but this event made me realise that Im not even close to such an encounter. I just couldnt also help feel that everyone tried to avoid me at the time also, and when 1 person finally came to ask me, i was like “im sorry but I just dont feel comfortable with this” and in my mind, i just felt like the person just felt like she was doing this ungenuinely. (I have to feel comfortable with a person and have a small array of feelings before I can commit to doing such a thing also).

    I would definately like to learn tantra though and how to be stimulative, spiritual, positive, healthy and vibrant. I have already been meditating for – what will be, 2 years on 22nd february this year. But, if you need to be paired up then I guess thats the end of this for myself. But if I either suffer from feeling that Im not even good enough for pairing up (or the alternate scenario being that people wouldnt want to be seen dead with or near me?)this isnt going to help either. I really shouldnt be concerning about things like this at the age of 35. I should be living, thriving, being happy, healthy, in nature, traveling, making friends with people, being full of fun and life without drinking or wanting to be on the astral plane so to speak, but quite simply this just isnt happening.

    I have been depressed on&off for many years, and being picked on definately has been humiliating but im also lacking motivation to be something special and inteligent. I play bass guitar occasionally, but the motivation to pick it up is becoming truely much more difficult, and knowing how to better the playing is even more soo difficult. Ive been like this for many years and its simply becoming close to a virtual living hell.

    I am also incapable of crying, due to being shamed for it in my younger years and now feel fear to be able to do this (my ego is protecting me in a way but it is also imprisoning me and causing me to have no health). I guess maybe I feel worthy of very little? and let me tell you that it is not nice feeling like this. I still live at home, and feel ashamed of being lazy at home too. I would love nothing more than to be this fun loving guy, who is helpful, does things without giving them a thought, knows how to make people smile compassionately, make them laugh, humor them, show genuine love&affection and to be loved but I guess I am in a state where I fear all of this and simply dont know how to overcome it. I know for people who have no problems, would think “why do you think like this? just go for things in life and show things” but it sadly isnt easy, and I suffer with a degree of social phobia too. Despite the fact that I have often gone out to rock clubs in my mid 20′s to early 30′s on my own due to just dancing the night away with a few drinks and having some enjoyment, Im still not 100%. Infact, i clearly remember the best time of my life was from september 1988 – july/august 1989 being in the last year at junior school with a teacher who I still think the world of to t his very day. Things began ok in senior school but alittle nervously as we all go through those feelings when we graduate to a higher level as we never know what to expect, but during the years, i began to experience bullying more&more.

    On a side note, I didnt help myself by not going out much as a child either, despite the fact that my mom tried to encourage me to go out and play (bless her for that)but even then, i didnt have the courage to ask people if they wanted to go out&play etc, and i ended up playing on a computer system quite often from age 10-16 untill I finally did start to go out alot more, but by then, I was behind in the social communication skills, and could I meet new people and interract positively? could I hell!

    While I believe work is making me alot worse now due to the loads they put on us, and the physicality of it, im becoming alot more tired, after walking agood 6-7miles a day with lots of mail bags to carry, and this could be hampering my efforts at the gym too.

    I really wish I could overcome all of this and just live gracefully like many normal great advanced thinking people can. To be able to give love and be loved by the love of my life, to share great times, to be happy in all the things that I do/wish to do, be confident, quick witted, inteligent and to excell in some format of my life would be a dream come true. To also be able to inspire great friends and be a shining light in their lives is something id like to be

    The things that inspire me, are meditation, health food, health&nutrition (but not just conventional thinking when it comes to health&nutritional food), music of most kinds, (am listening to enya right now), spirituality (not religion or new age)fitness, weight training, playing bass and even attempting to sing a note occasionally (i dont have a professional vocal range though), nature, volcanoes (the subject of) but my own motivation is preventing me from thriving in knowledge of all of these topics and its heart breaking. I cant believe I have shared many of my issues on here but then I guess no one knows who I am in person otherwise it could be alittle embarrassing.

    I cant give advice obviously, but I do want to try a form of single’s tantra, meditation and if i can find a place that does tai-chi then perform this also. They say this is meant to really work wonders but I cant really confide in this knowledge without knowing from experience.

    • anthony says:

      yeah man – I work thirds and I have problems with it. I had to move my bro in so I could step down from a good paying job that depresses me, that is going to make my girl friend break up with me, and my kid would have to have joint custody at the age 1. But I’m stepping down to have a normal life. I’m happy with my decision no matter what.

      • CHRIS says:

        Only just noticed your reply. What do you mean by thirds? and which reason did you give of the gf breaking up with you? for taking a lower paid job? if so, you have met a really bad person dude :(

        you have to do what makes you happy, and this is what gets me with soo many people, all they think about is materialism, and the high paid money box basically. I think I give up on the majority of society to be honest as all many tend to do is think about is money, fame, and getting the fast car and most expensive thing going. Give me a choice between anything and I would choose being in nature and warm sun anyday. I wish you all the best with the life, and I am really glad you are doing what’s right for you. I have made one thing clear in my life though, I will never have kids as I dont trust anyone enough to have them with and I will not become a pay check and wageslave to an ex partner who turned out to be nasty and didnt like me for who I really could be as a person. Not only that, but I couldnt handle the responsibility of kids and the way the world is heading, I dont feel the reason for bringing any of my own up in.

  10. Woman anonymous says:

    Hello everyone. I am so glad I came across this site. I can sympathasize with all that you are going through. Anyone else felt a sense of both heaviness and relief reading the article and the comments? The heaviness of knowingg so many of us are suffering from depression and yet the happiness of knowing that I am not alone. I have had depression for as long as I can remember and was an unhappy child. I am in the health profession, but have not worked in a few months. I did not quit my job. I just stopped taking on more cases. I hoped I would get better on my own and not working and living a more spiritual and balanced life. My boyfriend is generally supportive of me, but I know he is getting impatient with me and feels that I am lazy and do not want to work. I am living with my boyfriend and not working has made me feel worse as my identity was wrapped up in my profession. I have read the book “finding your own North Star” by Martha Beck which has helped me immensely to learn more about myself. I have suffered from a lack of self-esteem as I am 29 years of age and the longest time I have worked is 3 years. I didn’t work for a whole year and then found another job and worked for another year before quitting again. I live in shame and battle against myself because I am constantly comparing myself to my ‘normal’ colleagues who have children of their own and appear to be able to handle stresses and multi-task extremely well. I read books on mindfulness and pray to God when I am particularly stressed. I wasn’t to be free of this depression. I wish I have accepted that I will live with it for probably the rest of my life. I have a severely depressed sibling who has no worked for 6-7 years straight. I know we had a genetic predisposition for depression. I am suffering from depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and avoidant personality disorder. Good luck to all of you in this forum. May we all learn to love ourselves and to better handle our situations more.

    • Royal says:

      Omg woman anonymous! I relate to you fully. As I am typing this I’m not at work since I feel so depressed. I want to quit, but I am concerned about others being disappointed in me. I am so sick of the office environment. It’s suffocating to me. I think we perhaps have the same diagnoses, though ive never been officially diagnosed. I am afraid of how those diagnoses will affect my future career. My career could be ruined anyway if I don’t do something though. My daughter keeps me going, but it’s hard to keep feeling up, chipper and happy. I don’t like talking to people all of the time. I would love to just be out in nature and going wherever my mind takes me. I haven’t worked at one place for more than a year and I’m 27. Kind of embarrassing to say, but now I understand how the depression is impacting my life. Not sure what to do, but your comment really resonated with me. I had to say something.

  11. Chris says:

    [...] So, many of you have described my situation. I am tired of thinking about this mess and ready to get over with it. I dont see any little pills or psychiatrist helping.

    • Frances McCarthy says:

      Chris, the little pills can help but it takes time to find the right ones. They help though not the answer to everything. A good pyschologist can help. I found CBT useful and practical. All the best

  12. Renia says:

    This post really hits home. I have been in the same field for the last 10 years and just graduated with my b.s. in psychology in October 2012 and I am now in grad school working toward my MS in forensic psychology. I feel as though my education is all for nothing since I am still stuck in the same job. After working the last 4 years on 3rd shift I am completely exhausted. No matter how much sleep I get I still feel exhausted. I dread going to work every night to the point of tears. The emptiness inside is eating away at the very essence of my humanity. I want to stay in bed and never get up. That isn’t possible. I have three children who need me so I force myself to get through each day and force myself to a job I now hate every night. My husband doesn’t have a job and hasn’t for a while. He doesn’t seem to care so I just go through the days like a robot. Our relationship is honestly over and we communicate very little because I am in such a bad place mentally and emotionally. When you are married to someone who doesn’t even put in applications to help get you out of the job that is weighing you down …..well it tends to add to the depression. I don’t know what to do but so far applying for other jobs isn’t going anywhere. I’ve given up on life and instead of living my life, I am simply trying to cope from day to day.

    • Melany says:

      I don’t know if you’ll even read this, but I honestly hope that you don’t give up hope even if you don’t ever see this. I don’t know how old your children are, but I’m sure they sense that you are unhappy, and I’m sure they want nothing but the best for you. Coming from someone who, at 8 years old, convinced her mother not to commit suicide, I know that I wanted nothing but the best for my parents. I truly wished that my parents had stayed apart after their divorce; I feel that this would have improved all of our lives greatly. If the relationship is over and you are supporting him, why are you continuing to enable his lazy and/or depressive behavior? What is keeping you from kicking him out of the picture? I’m not saying you should leave him, because it’s really not my business, but I want you to think about that and come to your own decision. I also believe that you should, if you have the privacy, keep a journal or a sketchbook or a combination of the two. Just something to release your feelings and keep track of your dreams and goals so you don’t lose sight of them. Or maybe you need someone to talk to about all this, like a friend or a therapist. I strongly advise you keep your family out, though, only because they can sometimes exacerbate a situation like this without meaning to. I know mine did. I also know that putting in applications isn’t all you have to do to get a job; you have to follow up. Call once a week for the jobs you actually could do without hating, if you don’t have the option to call up on jobs you’d really want. Just until you can get something better. Just keep working towards your goals. It will be extraordinarily hard, but it can be done. Anything truly worth having is worth working for. I recently came from a long relationship where I did the giving and he did the taking – he and his father sat on their lazy asses while I worked 2 part-time jobs and went to school; they couldn’t even be bothered to cook for themselves or clean up after themselves – and I am now looking at working in fast food until I can get something better. But I know things will get better. Lastly, I hope dearly that you still have one or two close friends you can turn to when things start to get rough. At the very least, see if you can include a therapist in your budget; it’s what I had to do because I closed myself off from all my old friends. And really, if you love your kids, you will do something that will make you happy. It’s sort of hard for me to know what being happy is like, because I wasn’t exposed to it as a child and now I am battling depression; the best thing you can do for your children is show them you can overcome this and serve as a role model for them. I really wish that I had a role model as a child, and I think every child should be able to look up to their mother, the woman that brought them into this world. You sound like you haven’t given up on school, even though it feels like it’s not worth it. Trust me, it is! Don’t give up on your education! If forensic psychology is really what you want to do, never, ever give up on that. I still, to this day, look down on my mother for giving up her dreams to become a veterinarian. She could have done so much good for this world and served as a role model to me, but she decided to irresponsibly party her ass off and quit school. Your situation is different, obviously, but my point is you should not quit school. Especially not when you’ve already come so far. Never give up on your dreams! You are the woman your children look up most to, even if they don’t act like it. When, despite everything, you walk away with a master’s and pursue the career you want, you will be fucking Wonder Woman. No joke. Both you and your kids will be WAY happier. Please, please don’t give up. It will get better.

    • Steve says:

      What about some counselling. There may be free help…either through a gov’t agency, non-profit, or faith organization.

      I hope things work out for you.

  13. Tracey says:

    Hi John,
    Such a timely article for me.
    I have a background in accounting, psychology and social media. I also have a 20 year history of depression, worse over the past 3 years.
    Today I knocked back a big paying job as I know the stress of dealing with people will be too much. I finally chose health over money, never have before. The work is easy, its the workplace thats always the problem.
    I could easily work all day by myself.
    Thank you John.
    Tracey

  14. Cherie says:

    Hi all
    Firstly thank you I too stumbled upon this blog. Apologies if my typing had errors iPhone lol. It too hit to the core with me.

    Anyway I come from the land down under. Believe me it’s not better here. I have been employed fur 2 years at my current job. Have been doing the same career for 29 years. In the last year the abuse has become so bad I was Seeing a psychiatrist because of the depression onset by regular swearing belittling, sexist remarks, jokes about me personally, all from the one boss.

    It’s been just awful. I have tsken leave becsuse of this and started to self harm to deflect the pain. I now doubt my ability my worthiness to be employed.

    I will say I had never had depression before and seriously don’t want it. But with help from my counsellors and others I am working through it. I can’t say exactly when it’s started but recall an abusive incident which in think kicked started it.

    It’s sad that so many adults go through this. I am now faced with hating what I have done for all these years wishing for a career change.

    I know it will happen but first I need to mentally be well. We are lucky here in oz we have the workcover scheme against bullies and harassment. So if you are affected you claim it and still get paid.

    It’s certainly taxing & taking its toll on me. I have no energy or self esteem, but with help I can achieve normalcy hopefully one day

    Any ideas how you coped with changes in work I would love to hear them

    Regards
    Cherie

    • Steve says:

      The one situation that comes to mind where I was harassed at work, I went to the boss. Luckily I had a good rep with the boss, the harasser was brand-new, and had a bad rep with the training dept. So, it turned out well for me.

      Is there a company HR dept. that could hear you out? Is there some process within the company that you could access?

      Good luck, I think you will make it.

      • Cherie says:

        Hi Steve
        Well no HE, depr boss, is the issue. But I am getting there.

        All my counsellors doctor and lawyers say its not confused for my health to return.

        So I am caught between a rock and a hard place. But there is light and the upping of meds has helped.

        Everything takes time. I have gone back to painting which I loved but … consumed by depression I had no happiness, energy, pleasure in life. Now I do. I suggest to all if there is something you live to do then Do it. I am still not working and $$$ coming in living off air ATM but I feel calm. I send prayers to all

  15. Jai says:

    Hi John, Ur post and all the experiences shared by others , helped me a lot to understand and help my husband who is currently undergoing anxiety and depression problems. We are seeking out help from all directions, he is in a fulltime employment so the company is patient with him. The first time it occurred they transferred him to another client and we moved to that place. He was also paid through his insurance for disability. But although it did help his condition returned again for the second time as predicted by the doctor. So is the job that is giving him all the problems .. maybe they r expecting too much on a single person. Hope we find some solution for all his problems and help him out of this grey temprorary fog.

  16. bob says:

    All these comments hit to the bone. I suffered through depression for 10 years before seeking any treatment. “The grey fog” is the best description of the feeling. When I would get too stressed at work I would shut down, tear up over nothing. I learned to reduce the stress by trying to “get ahead of tasks” I would work longer shifts, un paid, being salaried…missing a lot of my childrens growing up….trying to stave off the next bout. A lady at my work finally convinced me to see her doctor and I was put on Flouxetine?. It helped very much. Now here’s the important part…..stay on your treatment. I stopped with my drs. ok after a year symptom free. Two years later ,same career I blew up at 2 staff members and got let go , found a new job, about a year and a half later went into a fog and broke policy regarding shoplifters.Lost that job 1 week later. Now I’ve been out of work 3 weeks…..no healthcare, and between the worries for the future, paying for daughter’s (2)college, and my feelings of such self loathing for letting everyone down are bringing me to a darker place than I’ve ever been before. I’m 50 years old, too young to retire, too old to get hired, and loving
    my kids too much to leave them. I’m hoping that I find something so I can get out of the funk enough to do everything I have to do.Thanks for this log, thanks for the opportunity to vent, and please anyone getting treatment..STAY ON IT. Depression evidently does not go away.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      HI, bob -

      I agree that if you find a treatment that works, it’s important to stay with it. I was wondering if you have gotten back on medication, since that helped you a lot for one period. Most of the big name drugs of the 90s are available generically and far cheaper than they once were. If one of them stops working, you can try others. There are a lot of self-help approaches you can try to manage things on a day to day basis. If you find yourself thinking more about “leaving,” please call somebody. There are good groups for peer support that you can identify through the DBSAlliance.org website. I’m sorry things are tough right now – feel free to “whine” any time.

      John

  17. Jeanne says:

    Wow – this site sure hits home. I have suffered from major depression for years. Was married to a mentally and sometimes physically abusive man and had three wonderful children with him. After getting divorced, I picked myself up and found a job in a school that I enjoyed. I also went back to school and received my Masters. My mother was sick with cancer during all of this and passed away in 2003. It seems like yesterday to this day. I switched positions at work and had a horrible principal. Every morning was a struggle just to walk thru the doors. Last year I had a new principal who basically threw me under the bus for something I wasn’t even there for. Every summer I am so anxious about going back that I feel physically sick. Weekends? Forget about them, all I am thinking about is Monday. Tomorrow is the first day and the thought of it, makes me want to jump in front of a bus. This is going to be my 12th year! I have had numerous co-workers (men) harass me at work – one was married to another principal. It is so toxic, that I could probably write a book about what goes on. This is only a small portion of my story, but don’t know what to do.
    Everyone I talk to says “Suck it up” “you can do it!” “you are a great, caring person, the kids need you there” “You need the benefits and have the summers off, why be unhappy” and the list goes on and on.
    It is effecting everything around me- my children sense my unhappiness, no friends, no boyfriend, no hobbies, no interests. I just feel like a blob in motion.
    Do I try to get disability? Is there even such a thing for a 41 year old? Won’t I lose my “medical benefits”?
    I know I won’t be able to sleep tonight-

    • anonymous says:

      Jeanne,
      I’m so sorry to hear about your troubles. Sounds like me. I’m anonymous who posted on 7/14.
      Just because we get summers off doesn’t mean that it isn’t the job for you. It’s a huge myth that just because teachers get summers off that means we have it easy. I just spoke with another teacher at my school and it’s so stressful. Principals are under pressure to get the scores up, up, UP! At the expense of teaching. I’m not sure if you’re teaching in the US, but it sounds like it.
      Go to your doctor and tell them your problem. You have a medical issue. Insist on seeing a psychiatrist because they are the most qualified to monitor meds. My gen pracitioner had me too small a dose. A psychiatrist can also decide if you are able to work or not. They need to provide the insurance company documentation that you are unable to work and should be on short term disability. Why would you lose your benefits if you were on disability? That’s what it is there for. Use it. My psychiatrist is very familiar with how insurance works.
      Doctors can only help you as far as their expertise can take them. You are in charge of your care. Your school system should provide you with medicial benefits disclosure of some sort. My school system also had a hotline that teachers could call if we had mental health issues, drug or alcohol. They might be able to find a psychiatrist for you. You need to go now. My job situation only worsened when I stalled. Schools are under pressure to get rid of teachers who can’t perform. My prinicpal siezed the opportunity to get me out the door at his first chance. Don’t let that happen.
      I know you can’t think or make decisions well. This is something you must do.
      Also rely on your kids. I’m not sure how old they are, but even elementary school kids can be a great source of support to their parents. My sister and I stood behind my mother when Dad left. They are your assests in this time. Sieze on this depression as an opportunity to deepen your relationship with them. I know it sounds trite, but depression is a time to reflect on your life and where you’re going. If you reach out to your kids, it will last a lifetime. Right now you’re hurting, but when you do feel better you’ll get something out of it. I did. My relationships with my immediate family were disconnected. My sister and I fought. I didn’t call my mom because I didn’t want her to worry. Dad never called me. The only support I had was my husband. Now that everyone knows, my family came thru for me. They showed me how much they cared even my Dad calls me now (?). I love my family so much. I cherish my husband more than before.
      I’ve learned from the experience and it’s molding me into another person for the better. I learned that’s ok just to be me. Nothing else. There’s nothing wrong with it. I’m acceptable when I’m unemployed and by society standards, a failure. Yeah, nothing has worked out. But, I’m nothing more than human. I’m not expected to know the future. I took a risk and I lost.
      I’m never going to conquer my depression. I’m always going to be in recovery. I’m ok with that. I am learning to monitor my responses.
      I was just thinking today that in Jan I was so depressed. I had good days, but i was suffering. By June my depression was gone. Six months. Not too long. I’m not promising anyone anything, but I’ve made great progress. I’ve promised myself that whatever comes next, I won’t stress so much that I regress.
      My best advice to anyone: get the facts, go to the doctor and then see what happens next. One single day at a time. I was depressed for 10 years. I’m going to be in recovery for a long time. I am not expecting my job problems to just disappear, either. It took ten long years to get to this point, it’s going to take time to get out.
      Jeanne, if it makes you feel better if I say that I care. As a fellow educator, I know that concerns for kids keep you going. That’s why we are educators. I like helping people and expounding on what I know.
      I’ll keep checking this blog. If you post again, I’ll respond…
      Hope things get better…
      A–

  18. AnoNymoUS says:

    Hi, I stumbled upon this blog and it struck a chord with me. I don’t know whether to feel relieved to hear that I am not the only one struggling with these issues, or worried because we all have a lot on our shoulders.

    I feel like I am at the edge and have been for quite some time, and I can’t bear to hear one more person tell me to buck up and quit feeling sorry for myself, quit whining, pretend to be happy and I will become happy.

    I consider myself to be fairly intelligent and holding many skills. Yet I’ve always struggled. I grew up in a messed up home and didn’t realize it until just how messed up it was until I was in my teens. I’m an only child and am on the introverted as well as shy side. My father was verbally and sometimes physically abusive and my mother just turned her head the other way and did nothing. We also didn’t have a lot of money and I was always told that I just needed to do really well because my parents wouldn’t be able to afford to send me to college. So I was the introverted, shy, troubled kinda-poor kid who sometimes was prone to outbursts when pushed to the limit, and the kid who still got good grades. Needless to say, I was bullied a lot as a child at home and at school (and by teachers too).

    I ended up getting my bachelor’s degree and a graduate degree. I was doing pretty well at college, for awhile until I hit the wall when I had to deal with advisers and persuading people to listen to my potential research ideas. And despite the good grades and working hard, after spending many years in grad school I still racked up a lot of student loan debt that will take many decades to pay back on the calculations of % hypothetical paycheck amounts that I have yet to see.

    I struggled to find full-time work in my field ever since I received my college degree. The economy wasn’t doing so well from the time I graduated, and I only got one job offer that ended up being a nightmare. My supervisor would say almost every illegal thing possible and I was placed in a department that I was not originally hired (or interviewed) for and had no experience in, so my performance wasn’t very good. That’s when I decided to go back to graduate school. I started to look for other jobs eventually after getting my Masters. I applied for job after job, tried networking with people I knew, asking around for jobs, etc. But nothing. I have always been shy and I was taught never to brag about yourself or talk up your accomplishments, although I know that you kind of have to when job searching. And I don’t use social media a lot and I’ve really not been too happy about the privacy breeches and the non-stop self-advertising.

    In the end I took a dead-end position abroad so I could have enough to pay the bills and get to have an international experience. But now I want to move on because this position does not offer any career advancement or salary increases at all. In fact, my salary has been decreasing since I started. I’m currently also severely depressed. I took my current position because I needed a job to pay my bills and so I wouldn’t become homeless. I am isolated geographically and it’s a challenge to get to places for my job because of my lack of automobile or public transportation. I have no social life, no friends or acquaintances in my area, and rarely leave my home. I no longer travel because I can’t afford it and it’s difficult to get myself out my area to anywhere else. I spend all my days going to work and then going back home and sitting in my apartment alone. At work I have some good days, but often I am ignored by coworkers and insulted by the clients. I’ve been having a lot of health problems that they can’t really explain and they continue to increase. I cry constantly at home and sit in my dark apartment and sleep all weekend. This has been going on for over a year. I try to do my best at work and I work hard, but I’ve been in trouble because I must always be smiling and I can’t fake it. I am worried that I will be fired now because I don’t smile enough. I don’t talk to any friends anymore and the ones at home have usually just told me to stop complaining and how jealous they are of me because I get to live in a foreign country so I’ve basically stopped communicating with them too. I don’t really have any family either.

    I’m terrified to go back to my country because the economy is so bad there now and I had problems finding a job even when before the major crash happened. I don’t know what I will do because I don’t have any true emotional or financial support system. Mental health is not something really talked about where I live now (very stigmatized) and there are little to no services available. I can’t even get any meds where I am now. I do talk to a counselor over the phone long distance but it doesn’t help much and it’s a bit expensive on my salary.

    I’m so ashamed because I have always been working since I was a teenager and have always tried to do my best. I also have been told that I should be thankful for the job I do have and it would be crazy for me to quit. And if I did quit I don’t think I’d be able to find anything else here (believe me, I’ve been looking for years) or back home. And if I quit without something else lined up I would just fall into a black hole of not being employable again. I’ve tried doing things like save up money and develop new skills and try to connect with potential employers long distance. However there’s nothing in my area and I’m not allowed to do any additional work besides my current job (I can be fired for it). People tell me that “oh, you’re young, you’ll bounce back.” But I’ve been out of school for about a decade and I don’t seem to be making any headway in my careers department. I will not go back to school for further education at this point because I am terrified with the amount of loans I already owe and I don’t think I need more certificates and degrees. I worry how I’m ever going to survive on my own for decades more when I’ve made such a failure at it for the first quarter/third of my life and haven’t made progress for my future. I’ve heard I have a lot of skills and abilities, that I am very analytical and have a lot of diverse knowledge and experiences. But I still haven’t been able to “make it happen,” and I try to keep pushing on but I doubt everything about myself now. I realize more and more that I have been struggling with depression and work for most of my life but I’ve always just carried on. I’ve never been able to climb up the ladder though. I get told I’m not a winner or a positive thinker and the only person in my way is me…well, sorry, I don’t know how to get out of my own way, maybe if I smiled more maybe? Furthermore, I’m so angry at myself for letting my screwed up head ruin everything for me and for being so weak and pathetic. Nothing good has happened in a long, long time, and now I am starting to just pray that I go to sleep and never wake up. I have no idea what to do or where to turn to now.

    Sorry for my lengthy post. And thank you for this website and post.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, AnoNymoUS -

      I’m sorry to hear that things have gotten to such a point. It sounds like you’re in a very deep depression spiral, and when that has happened to me I’ve never been able to see any way out. I ruled out every possibility for change, that is, every pathway was blocked, and for very sound reasons. There was nowhere to go but into a hopeless state of barely dragging myself through the days. The problem then was to find a place to begin, and for me that was writing. You write well, and that might be a first step for you as well. There’s a good book by James Pennebaker called Opening Up that goes into writing to help with depression. It’s a good thing to read because there are some ways of writing about your experience that help and some that can make it worse. Writing each day just for my own eyes helped by expressing the feelings and by gradually giving me some distance from depression. The first post I put on this blog was an example of personal writing to help me start the day and get to work. Medication might be helpful in taking the edge off the darkest times and perhaps help with everyday functioning at work. I know you say they aren’t available where you are, but if you can get a prescription from a doctor – any doctor, there are many safe sources to buy from online.

      I hope you can find some way to stop the downward spiral. There’s no room for false hope or glib answers, but I found that my despair was also false. Or rather it was a symptom of depression, not the reality of who I was.

      All my best to you –

      John

      • AnoNymoUS says:

        Thank you for the reply. I’m responding to your response a little late. It’s been a rough recently so I’m sorry I’m not very on-task these days. I think that’s interesting that you say that I write well (and thank you, by the way, though I of course never think anything I do is adequate) as it’s something I’ve heard multiple times from different friends and colleagues. I do write a lot, sometimes in emails that I may or may not send, or for myself. Sometimes it ends up making me feel a whole lot worse because now all my bad thoughts are all raw and up in the forefront of my mind. I used to keep journals in university but I would end up furiously writing for hours and I would be tired the next day. Since then it’s just been too painful to keep a journal (let alone be diligent about writing consistently). I will look into the book you recommended though.

        For now I continue to worry about the downward spiral. I’m not sure where I’d even get a doctor to write me a prescription. I tried getting one from an internal medicine doctor last year and was told that they ‘don’t deal with that kind of thing’ and shooed me out. Now I don’t really live by any doctors. In my current country I was able to find a mental health clinic but that was when I lived in an urban area. He wasn’t all that helpful though, just kept prescribing me very strong sleeping pills and some antidepressants, social anxiety meds, and eventually what he referred to as “psychotic medicine”…there’d be very little effect after 2-3 weeks and he’d switch me again. Finally he said that he had tried everything in existent and I probably just wasn’t going to respond to meds. It made me feel even more hopeless to know that this feeling I have will never go away or be treatable. For now I just have to keep pulling myself through each day going to work without talking to anyone (or having former friends shy away from me when I do get in touch with them because I’m being “whiny and pessimistic”) and not getting any counseling or meds.

  19. anonymous says:

    Thank you John.
    Your words of encouragement are appreciate especially since I’ll have to make some decision soon about a new teaching job for the fall. My psychiatrist is a real psychiatrist, but he does more than just monitor my meds. My husband goes with me to my appointments which are great because the doctor can turn to him to get a more objective opinion about how I’m doing. My doctor does talk with me about how best to change my thinking and he also encourages behavioral therapy. I had concerns about just seeing a psychiatrist, but I’m making progress. If that stops or slows then I reconsider. I can’t help but tell my story. I want people to know that I was really hurting and that sometimes I still hurt. I will have it for the rest of my life and if I had sought treatment eariler, I could have avoided that pain and taking meds for the rest of my life. My advice is to get help asap, don’t wait, don’t collect that $200, do it now!

  20. anonymous says:

    These posts are all too familiar esp Candice’s story. I have hated every job I’ve had. However, I do believe what drove me into depression was that my workplace was continually rocky. The truth is I have no idea what I’m supposed to do earn a living. I’m one of those people who don’t have a clue. It’s not like I was born Charlotte Church. Obiviously, she’s singing (duh). It’s not as clear cut for the rest of us. I went to college and earned high marks and got a history degree. Loved it! Had a blast in studying and writing, going to class. All of it. I met my husband and we wanted to get married after graduation, so I took the first job I could get. It took me three months to learn it and after that I was bored. During this time, I didn’t realize it then, but I was looking for something else. I tried writing a novel, teaching piano and I started taking pictures on the weekends. Nothing came of these except that I still take pictures.

    Three years later, I got another job at the same place and during this job I remember my first encounters with depression. My boss had a slew of problems of her own. She came in at weird hours, showed signs of depression herself and I ended up consueling her when her father died. She had migrain headaches that she refused to treat, then bemoaned about the pain. Meanwhile, she never trained me. I was bored before. Now I was big time bored. What really burned my biscuits is the day she berated me for giving the wrong letter to the wrong person. She claimed she told me, but she never did. I was angry and hurt. I should have left then, but I was putting my husband thru school and he was on my health plan.

    As time went on, I gradually lost all moviation there. I was really mad when she turned me into the head supervisor because ” it wasn’t a matter of can’t, but won’t.”. I was more angry and hurt because now I felt it was all a set up. She wasn’t giving me anything to do because she couldn’t delegate and then she threw me under the bus. About this time, I would cry before going to work. I’d have difficulty walking inside. It would take all my energy just to get in the morning. I lost all interest in my usual activities. I remember that was the first time I wanted to cut myself. I was so shocked that I thought it that I quickly pushed the thought aside. Did I just think that or did I think I thought that? My husband found a job with his new degree and I quit. It was wonderful. I have never not once regretted it. One ray of hope was that I liked taking pictures, I’d go on a shoot over the weekend and it was easier to come to work the next day.

    So I decided to change careers completely and go back to school. I figured that my little depression was result of the job and once I was out of that situation, my life returned to normal. I easily enrolled at the local university and I was taking night classes, taking pictures on the weekends to earn some money and then I had a temporary job during the day. I enjoyed this time. My job wasn’t very stressful and as my photography grew, I was gradually earning more money. It still wasn’t much. I had a busy schedule. Too busy when I look back on it. Depression would come back. I would feel down that my photography wasn’t going anywhere or when I’d fight with my sister, but it wouild go away. Each time it came it was a little worse than before.

    It really hit me hard when the recession hit and I couldn’t find a job with my new degree. It took me several months. By now my husband was telling me I was depressed. I discounted this. I did find a job as a teacher. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but we were slipping into debt. The first year was hard, but it was especially hard for me because I had zero help at school. If I needed help, I had to ask for it. Gradually, I realized the mentor teacher I was assigned to, wasn’t speaking to me without any clear reason. I was scared that I’d fail. I was thinking by this time that nothing so far was working out for me and if this doesn’t work, I didn’t know what to do. Sometimes I’d sit at my desk, just paralyzed with indecision. By my second year, I realized how badly I was trained and that I was learning at the school of hard knocks.

    I was performing fine until mid-year when my school decided to reorganize my department. This meant that we would receive all new students after winter break. I was immediately terrified, but at first it didn’t effect me, then it was decided that I would bear the brunt of the workload and I was saddled with new duties that I didn’t know the first thing about. I had no planning time and I was teaching three grade levels. On top of that, I was promised help I never recieved, then my teacher’s aid was taken away. So I was all by myself. I was determined to succeed. Looking back it was all a blur. I was depressed to the hilt. I couldn’t enjoy the weekends because all I’d do was worry. Any little decision was exhuasting. I felt like everyone could read it off my face that I hated my life. I knew I was in trouble when I starting crying again before leaving for school. My husband didn’t want to leave me to go to work in the morning, but he’d be late to work, so eventually he had to go. I was counting down the days to June.

    I made it, barely, I had a breakdown in April. I was terrified my school was going to fire me. My husband went with me to the doctor who gave me antidepressant. I had to take it. I was wanting to cut myself everyday now and I sometimes I wanted to kill myself. I felt like a pot that was overboiling and that I was cracking a little more each day. Did I mention that I was still in school? Oh, yes, I was still taking night classes that my school required me to attend. At my expense, of course. Everyone that I told my story to couldn’t believe it. My husband said he didn’t know how I did it. I told him I wasn’t sure either.

    I tried to transfer to another school, but I only got one interview and I didn’t get the job. I think they could percieve that something was wrong with me. I did my best to cover it up and to smile, it didn’t work. I called the teachers union several times and they were no help. They were very concerned that I didn’t have any planning time and they wanted to bring it up to the administration. But, honestly, what could be done about it? I was teaching every minute because the schedules weren’t designed to coordinate with each other. I thought that surely this year was a fluke and my next year will be better.

    My third year, I was relieved to know that my workload was much, much lighter. I was delighted. My meds were working and I was feeling a bit more comfortable. I wanted to impress everyone at work this year. I decided I was going to show them that I was responsible.

    One day I recieved a new student that was violent. She was used to her own way with her dad and at school. After a week or so, I was self-monitoring my behavior, was my depression coming back? No, I felt ok. I was smiling and positive. It didn’t help that my student was throwing things in my classroom and hurting other kids. She did this throughout her school day so I knew it wasn’t me. I was worried that other students were going to get hurt and I was going to be sued. To complicate matters, her dad was constantly telling me how to teach his daughter. I wasn’t using the right methods and I wasn’t presenting the material correctly. When I said that I wasn’t giving any instruction because by the time she reached my classroom she was in tears, I was told by my school that I should have said it more in a positive light?! I guess it was my fault that this kid is already upset before I even see her?

    After a few weeks, I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t concentrate before, but now it was ten times worse. After school, I’d just sit there at my desk for hours just unable to think. I was tired I thought. It was exhuasting when I was scared that I was going to be spit on, scratched, bit,….I had this other problem that I didn’t know what it was. I was restless and I was wringing my hands all the time. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. It was bothering me.

    One day after I was nearly bit, I came to my principal and told him things weren’t going well for me and that I was going to seek out help for my depression. I told him honestly that I couldn’t remember things and I was forgetting things that people told me. I was feeling out of control and that it wasn’t because I didn’t want to do my job, it was because I felt I couldn’t under the circumstances. I knew my performance was slipping and I wanted him to know my side of the story. He said he understood and that he had a similar situation with one of his nephews. When I left, I was reassured that my school understood my difficulties.

    The next day, however, I was utterly shocked when my principal asked to speak with me and asked me why I wasn’t performing. I was confused. Then he said that he didn’t understand and that he believed I was acting out of negligence. He was very clearly angry with me which wasn’t at all evident until now. I couldn’t explain myself and I started to cry uncontrollably. I completely lost all sense I started to panic. He was giving me instructions on what to do next, but I wasn’t listening. I was failing yet again. My job wasn’t working out and this time, I couldn’t stop crying. To my horror, they called an ambulance and I was driving to the emergency room and the doctors there had to give me something to calm me down. I was mortified and couldn’t believe this was happening. My husband came and got me and drove me home. I got a referral to see a psychiatrist.
    I still have nightmares about what happened that day. I still don’t understand what happend. I think I was lied to. That’s the only correct interpretation. So to this day, I believe that he thought I was lying to cover up my poor performance. Well, I showed him, didn’t I? You think I’m lying, well, I’m going to start crying and not stop until I get some drugs. Ha!
    I took me a long time to feel better. I was told that I had anxiety which is the second phase of depression. The third is hearing voices. That anxiety built and built until I exploded like Mt. St. Helens. I literally was wringing my hands first day I met with the psychiatrist. My doctor forbid me from work and my school said to stay home and get better. I cried for weeks. I slept for days and I was utterly spent. I’d have anxiety attacks without any warning for the next three to four months. My throat would squeeze shut sometimes so painfully that I’d cry out. I felt rotten inside, like there was a hole deep inside me and my life was escaping through the void.
    My doctor put me on a different medication that didn’t work at all. I ended up more depressed and a nasty rash from the equator on down. Oh, so fun. So he put me back on the initial drug I took, but increased the dosage slowly. I’m also on an antianxiety. I know you’re shocked.
    I lived in terror of going back to work. I wanted to run far, far away. I was screaming inside at the thought. I COULDN’T GO BACK, EVER! The only thing that kept me safely at home was my doctor’s prescription pad. Oh, thank you, Lord. I got out. I was on disability for most of the reminder of the school year.
    Oh, FYI, if you’re on disability and you’re doctor is dealing with your insurance, keep track daily of your symptoms. That way you provide your doctor with data to back up his recommendation for you to remain at home. I never had any trouble with my insurance. Not a peep. I just wrote quick notes on a calendar about how I felt that day. I only wrote the negative. So if it’s blank it was a good day. If you had the day from hell, write small. This takes five minutes. My doctor loved it and he’s encouraging all his patients to do the same. That way there is no guessing. Also it provides good info for you to know if your treatments are working.

    I resigned from my job and now I have no clue what to do or where I’m going. I finished up my classess anyway and that gave me a good feeling of accomplishment. Anything to feel good about anything is good. Some things that have worked for me.
    1. It’s okay not to have all the answers right now. I don’t have to figure this out tomorrow.
    2. The earth did not crash into the sun when I lost my job. It’s okay for me to just be me. Jobs do not assign us our identity nor makes us what who we are.
    3. Find something that you can feel good about. I found photography which I still do. I also found out that I like painting and sewing. Any little positive feeling is an accomplishment.
    4. Socialize. I think this is an antidote to depression. I continued to go out and keep my schedule when I didn’t feel like it. When I got there I cried anyway, but I was glad I went. I joined a dance group and they are very supportive and I have good friends now that I never dreamed of.
    5. Pets. I have two dogs and they are a big part of my life. Pets release oxytocin in your brain which bonds you to your pet. Oxytocin is a feel good neurotransmittor that bonds mother to child. Borrow one if you’re not ready to own.
    6. Pain is temporary, but our decisions will last. I didn’t want to do something destructive while I was really depressed. I never cut myself or blew a lot of money, or did drugs. I knew I was upset, but I had hope that one day I would feel better and that I’d be glad I didn’t do any damage. I this sounds silly, but I’d distract myself when I’d get bad. Watch a comedy (Whose line is it anyway right does the trick) or go to the gym.
    7. I was worried that depression had altered my brain because I was always been told that neurons can never grow back. Stress hormones cause the hippocampus to shrink, but patients who took antidepressents have been found to grow new neurons. Wow! Don’t believe me. Check out the film This Emotional Life made by PBS.
    8. My family is a constant support. If they reach out to you, don’t turn them away. My family showed me how much they truely care. That nearly makes my depression worth it on that score alone.
    9. I started praying again and going to church. This has been a great comfort. I’m not here to stand on a soapbox, but I recommend it. Use your critical thinking skills and don’t fall for any emotionalism.

    Sorry for this a long post, but I’ve been thinking about writing about my experience for a long time. I want other people to know what happened to me. I’m not completely over it and my doctor says I’ll have it for the rest of my life. If I help one person, than it wasn’t in vain.

    –anonymous

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, anonymous -

      Thank you! – for telling this story in such detail. I’m sure it is helpful to write about all these tortured experiences – it’s been a big part of my personal therapy. No one can say for sure what causes depression, but the unfair treatment, the terrible stress and helplessness of these work situations must have set the whole thing in motion, as you say. Since it was the work experiences that were so important, I was wondering if psychotherapy could help in addition to medication. I don’t know if it’s true of your psychiatrist, but many these days put their faith completely in medications – some don’t even study psychotherapy, yet the combination of therapy and meds comes out as the recommended approach. You have a great list of things that have worked – and you’re so fortunate to have a great husband and supportive family. The activities and support you mention have worked for me too, especially since they emphasize the positive side of living well rather than just the need to control symptoms.

      All my best to you as you continue to learn more about living with depression.

      John

    • Venkatesh K says:

      Amazing !! Every word you wrote is true and I am completely spellbound ! Excellent courage with which you’ve gone through the ordeal ! Truly admiring the way you’ve handled the pressure, you’re a very very inspiring human, with tonnes of courage !

      Well, I was laughing out loud when I read the line “The earth did not crash into the sun when I lost my job.” ha ha ha

  21. matt says:

    I am now in the situation where I can’t work due to my depression.I’m an offshore oil worker and there is no way I could return for fear of relapse.now that I’m on Valium and luvox I wouldn’t pass the drug screens anyway.depression sucks don’t know what to do now.I’m 48years old and now living with my mum,what a winner!,just having a bit of a vent here,my life has gone to shit.

    • Candice says:

      One thing that has helped me alot is a change of scenery. I moved from my hometown to a tropical climate and it made my depression so much better! It might be worth a try…just see how you feel.

      • John Folk-Williams says:

        Hi, Candice -

        Thanks for both your comments. I know how you feel since I stayed about 18 years too long in one line of work. Fear is a huge barrier that kept me from trying anything new. The realities of money are important, but I never even got to the practical assessment of how to make a transition. Depression puts you in a terrible state of mind for evaluating any new direction in life in an objective way. I could never do it, but finally had a chance to retire altogether.

        I was just wondering about two things: how you work on managing the stress so it doesn’t kill you, and whether or not you have any regular treatment for depression. I think living in a place where it feels good to be alive makes a big difference, and you’ve done that by moving to a climate you like. I’ve also found a lot of relief from other practices, like mindfulness, but I think you have to get right at the source of stress. There are good psychotherapists around who help you focus on short-term problems, like a career transition or breaking a well-established cycle of doing well then crashing at work because of depression. Sometimes just a few sessions with the right person can give you a lot of ideas to work with.

        All my best –

        John

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Matt -

      I’m sorry to hear that depression has cost you your job. It’s good you have some treatment for the illness, but it’s hard to get a realistic or optimistic assessment of what you can do in the future when you’re battling depression. It’s so hard to look at the skills you have and what practical ways there could be to apply them. In the field I was in, becoming a trainer was an option that worked for a lot of people. As I mentioned in another comment, there are therapists and counselors who specialize in helping people with shorter term problems like managing a change in work life. I’ve also found a lot of ideas on LinkedIn – that surprised me. If you search on your industry or profession and also look at the groups and discussions, you can find a lot of people in the same boat. The discussions are some of the best on the internet. Just as odd thought – venting is good too, every so often.

      All my best –

      John

  22. Candice says:

    “Many people have learned to handle depression by shifting jobs frequently. Their experience tells them that if they try to stay with one job too long, the limits imposed by their illness will undermine performance and probably lead to their being fired anyway. They need full-time employment, and this way they avoid having a job history with a long string of dismissals.”

    This is so true. I teared up reading this article. I’ve never heard anyone else speak of this, of how I feel about work. I tend to stay too long at most of the places i’ve been employed at. I think its mostly fear of leaving, fear of not finding something better. With every job i’ve had, i’ll start out great. I pride myself in being a wonderful worker. I usually go above and beyond and most of my bosses love me. However.., after anywhere from a year to two years my depression starts to come back. It just gets worse and worse until I finally cause myself to get fired (from finally snapping at an employer or just stop caring and not do the same quality of work as when I started), or if I get lucky i’ll find an excuse (like moving) to leave. Its like a breath of fresh air every time. My depression goes away (most of it anyway). Then the vicious cycle begins once again.

    Right now, im into the third year of my current job and im miserable. Ive been ferociously looking for different career paths online. Every time I find a possible career path, someone shoots it down. Its either “you won’t find any jobs once you graduate”, or “it wont pay your bills”. Most of the things I find arent something I would find appealing. I know it would make my depression worse if I try to settle with a job that I won’t even remotely enjoy. Finding something that has a good mix of interesting, good pay, and not too much expense for schooling is almost impossible. I don’t want to make the same mistake as when I first went to college. I went to college for five years and have nothing to show for it. I picked a worthless major. There are no jobs in the field unless I want to not eat for a month because of the low pay. I don’t want to make the same mistake.

    Even though I went to college, i’ve been stuck in the waiting/bartending industry. It is so high stress. Dealing with the public on a constant basis is horrible…but it’s all I know. Im surprisingly good at it even though I hate it.

    Thanks for this article. It really helps me knowing others feel this way. Im not alone.

    • Venkatesh K says:

      Hi Candice, I agree to every word of yours , its extremely tough when we face depression .. nothing works out during the tough times .. and that tough period sometimes stretches too long a time .. and yes, surely you’re not alone, most of us have sailed in similar boats sometime or the other , for some of us it has been a constant journey of ups and downs never settling down. People say many things about depression and try to even blame us for our own situation , but i somehow strongly believe that its not us who are the reason for the depression. It is the turn of events that we face repeatedly again and again , which put us into this situation. It becomes very tough when the road gets narrower and narrower to travel. I feel its more to do with the stars, surely not our fault and surely not anyone else’s fault. When times are not good, even the mightiest stumble.

      My sincere wishes and prayers that you come out of depression and lead a very happy and great life ahead !

      I do hope that I too come out of the depression I’ve been going through and hope there are better times ahead.

      I strongly believe that one best way to come out of depression is to share our experiences through a common forum where we have like-minded individuals who can truly understand and give words of strength, which surely can help one another to lead a happy life. In this respect, I feel this website is of great help to each one of us who have shared our thoughts

      Great website !

  23. Neil says:

    Hi Helen yes the benefits cuts in the UK will certainly start to hurt especially with mental issues where you cannot demonstrate a “visible” disability. The summers here are grey enough sometime without getting into the winters . I suppose you know abouts SADS a colleague of mine has a natural light source lamp on his desk and he finds that this has helped . Just a thought anyway best of luck with finding what you need.

  24. Helen says:

    The article made me feel so much better, I thought I was a coward in walking away from a work situation that was getting worse and worse but you have allowed me to see it as a rational choice. I have suffered from depression on and off since a teen and flunked out of my degree partially because of it. As a result of not studying hard enough I then had to tolerate a series of tedious permanent jobs and then temped as a way of giving myself an out. I went back to my parent’s home to live after flunking my studies (my parents were very kindly towards my condition) and then nursed my folks as they died four years apart. I tried to go back to work in between their deaths, but began making stupid mistakes, and then developed a stammer. I had always been able to talk the hind leg off the proverbial donkey, so this was a real wake up call. Every new morning stirred the resentment of waking to more of the same, so I gave up. I wake up feeling free if somewhat trepidatious, and can make up my mind what I want to do instead of feeling trapped and just wanting death to come soonest. Winters are incredibly difficult but the summers are tolerable, so at least there is some quality to life instead of a permanent state of grey and desperation. I once spent three of the winter months in the southern hemisphere, and then came back to spring in the UK. I was so full of energy, I wish I had the money to do it every year. My benefits are being reviewed and I must seriously think about ways of generating income but I know I can’t do the work I used to do as it just about destroyed me.

  25. Neil says:

    Reading all the above has been very enlightening .

    I have always been as “sensitive” person who perhaps thought too much . This got me high academic grades but perhaps pushed me into a professional career I just wasn’t suited for .

    10 yrs ago I was a partner is a successful firm but was deeply unhappy and stressed and had started to take that stress out on my nearest and dearest .

    I left my partnership for another high pressure job in which I lasted18 mths eventually I got a post in a sympathetic family type firm where I again became succesful for about five years until the recession hit and financial pressures changed the outlook and finacial viabilityof the firm and they were having to let staff go .I chose to take a job as head of department in another firm which was a disaster in fact they were bullies and I left after three months after experiencing panic attacks etc.

    After three months of unemployment I have had six monthhs work in a firm which again is unsympathetic and entirely fee driven . I have learned however to discuss my problems with my spouse and I have given notice to leave . I have finally realised that while I can function at a high level if not subject to undue stress that I no longer have the capability to cope with long term pressure.

    i hope to be able to work from home at a controlled pace but financial uncertainties are there of course . I think the difficulty is waking up one day and realising that you cannot cope with things anymore and trying to make changes when your energies are low and judgement impaired by your low mood.
    I have perhaps foolishly never consulted a doctor about this in my profession any record of depression etc would be frowned upon , I have self medicated through exercise etc but now find I avoid essential tasks at work and believe I would be found out if I stayed any longer .

    Itis a comfort to know that I am not alone in suffering from this although I would not wish it on anyone.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Neil -

      Have you found the lawyerswithdepression.com site? That should be a great resource for you – a place where you can probably make contact with others in your profession. You’ve learned a lot from difficult experience about how to manage your work with the combination of stress and depression, though I wish you could consult a doctor. Some bar associations have programs that offer help specifically for depression, so it’s not unusual these days for lawyers to seek treatment. As you may have gathered from my posts, I had to retire from a profession that had become the wrong one for me. There are few things more damaging to health on all levels than the constant stress of work that takes more out of you than it gives back. It sounds like you’re close to finding the right balance in your life, and I hope you can continue on a track toward wellness.

      Thank you for commenting here and letting others know about your experience.

      John

      • Neil says:

        Many thanks for your reply I am working out my notice period now which is a bit of a nightmare but at least I can count down the days. I have bitten the bullet and seen my doctor too she was extremely sympathetic and seemed to understand that I had struggled on with this for a long time indeed she supported mychoice in leaving my job if it was helping to make me ill.I received some medication too but the side effects made me worse so I’m waiting to go back to see her on that but just speaking to her seems to have helped.

        You guessed my profession correctly ! Doesn’t take much work I guess. I have applied for some public service posts which would be less pressured the future is a work in progress but something had to be done.I have checked out the lawyers site, I am UK based and I have discovered a similar organisation here which also helps.

        Please keep up the good work
        and once more many thanks.

        • Neil says:

          Just an update a few months on well I got a job in local government and have been there a couple 0f months now . The team I’m with is very supportive and the team leader’s style is very nurturing as she is a people person in fact she manages people the way I used to.The days are busy but the atmosphere is good and with flexi-time you are not allowed to work after 6pm and get time back which certainly has re-introduced balance to my life.

          I cycle to work now as I am only 4 miles away as opposed to an hours drive each way and arrive fresh with plenty of energy. I find time to talk to and visit my adult daughters .Dread of work no longer dominates my weekends.

          I know there are still certain triggers there , too much alcohol for instance which can leave me looking into a black hole but generally things are good and the old me is gradually re-appearing.

          Though it’s early days yet I hope I have found my niche to see the 10 years or so out to retirement and things are so much better generally , positive change can happen.

          • Neil says:

            Further update 18 mths on . Well the new job honeymoon period is over. That sympathetic line manager has turned into a bit of a nightmare . It seems she assesses people for about a year then starts pressing their buttons . Micro management , messing about with the flexi time scheme , unreasonable work demands , threats to take matters upstairs , sulking , not speaking to you , sending multiple controlling e mails when she is sitting about 10 foot away . It seems others have left because of her but the rest of the team who are still supportive wanted me to make my own mind up . She has some issues herself such as some kind of eating disorder and addiction to exercise .

            I’m beginning to think that the 18 mths to 2 year job time limit might be about right . Anyway I’ve decided to fight this one out simply because the public sector sick and pension benefits are so much better , also I have no wish to get back in the shark pool that is private practice .

            So I am sending back responsive e mails questioning her approach and shall shortly be taking some prolonged sick leave If things do not improve . The team needs my experience and this should bring things home to her if she ends up trying to perform some of the tasks that are probably outside her own capabilities while I am off

            I have noticed certain symptoms reappearing not wanting to get up to go to work , disturbed sleep patterns etc which aren’t good . However weekends are still enjoyable and recharging and I seem up for the fight which in itself tells a story . Anyway it’s therapeutic to come on here and unload .

  26. Kelly T says:

    I am currently out of work and cannot imagine a job that I will be successful and it totally scares me. I cannot sleep (it’s now 4:45 a.m.). This morning I slept until 11:00 and the only reason I got up was because my son would be home at noon and I didn’t want him to be upset with me. I used to be so vibrant and I could run circles around even the best employees. People knew they could count on me and I was so respected. I lost my high paying job because of performance issues that I know was due to the stress. I should have filed for disability then, but I felt and still do that I’m not depressed enough. In reality, I am. I currently have no health insurance and since I voluntarily quit my last job because I was told I would be cired, I am not receiving unemployment. I have been taking money out of retirement, and since I’m only 54, I’m taking a huge loss now and in my future. Perhaps it is time for me to consult with an attorney?

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Kelly -

      I’m sorry things have gotten to this point. I have no idea what sort of case you might have, but an attorney in the disability area would be essential for setting out all your options. We’ve learned how to live on a lot less, but the key thing is to turn around the stress and depression. Have you found any form of treatment that helps?

      John

    • Tony Giordano says:

      Kelly–
      As for possible legal action, let me describe a similar situation I was once in. I too was finding it impossible to do my work due to symptoms of depression produced by increasing stress and a hostile work environment. This was the second time this was happening to me—the first time I changed jobs and then had several good years in the new job before things went down hill. I decided to tell my superiors that I was fighting depression and getting treatment for it, but they were not supportive. There were some telling comments—eg when I said that therapy is always once a week and the only way to get expedited treatment was to be suicidal, my boss said, “it’s too bad you’re not suicidal.”

      Fast forward– after 6 months on company disability while I went through treatment (therapy, several medications), I was terminated. I guess they expected me back sooner- – they seemed to trivialize depression and minimize the symptoms. Well, I found a lawyer who specialized in these kinds of work-disability cases and the evidence I had gathered such as the quote above was crucial. I ended up winning a substantial increase to my severance payment. While the employer admitted nothing, the evidence suggested they discriminated against me on the basis of a disability.

      As for treatment, I think everyone who experiences depression or related conditions should look for possible severe trauma in their history, especially childhood. I’m reading more and more that early trauma can cause a type of PTSD and produce depression later in life. It did for me. Knowing the cause of your condition helps you get the right treatment—eg EMDR is great for trauma. And knowing the cause helps relieve the guilt and sense of weakness that your depression is somehow your own fault. It isn’t. Just unloading the guilt can be a huge relief and can really help you heal.
      –Tony

  27. Sarah says:

    I’m not happy that others are also going through this but I have to say it helps to know I’m not alone. I’m actually home from work today because I have become so sick with depression and physical illness that the thought of walking back through the door of my work establishment almost seems impossible. I’ve had depression and chronic fatigue for so many years and work stress definitively makes it much worse. Currantly, I am in a pre-school teaching situation and between the noisy children, paperwork, meetings, last minute situations that seem to arise, and unsupportive administration, I am experiencing that feeling we know all too well. I can’t think straight!!! That grey fog!!! I feel like something is breaking inside of me and my ability to cope is gone. I like the idea of moving from job to job because I can’t seem to last anywhere long before I become sick. It’s so frustrating!!! Your posts are helpful and I hope all of us in this situation find something that works for us. It’s a delicate balance for sure.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Sarah -

      Yes, I know that feeling of trying to get through day after day when there’s something in you resisting the whole routine. I hope you can find a less stressful form of work.

      Thanks for commenting.

      John

  28. anonymous says:

    Interesting! I’m struggling with depression and deciding whether I should leave my job or stay. When you’re depressed how do you know it is the negative work environment rather than a negative mental state giving you that impression? Can you know?

    Depression can warp our senses. Negative emotions stand out more, innocent comments become evidence of social persecution, someone not seeing you or being to busy to reply to an unimportant email becomes proof that you’re an outcast, advice of a coworker or friend becomes part of a scheme against you etc.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, anonymous -

      The problem is that the stress and depression feed off each other. This is a subject neuroscience researchers are spending a lot of time pinpointing how the stress hormones influence depression brain centers as well as the immune system. So there’s a cycle of emotional and physical illness that doesn’t end. So I don’t think it’s a problem of one causing the other. Depression tends to affect the way you interpret things at work and feel about them. Stress, I think, you feel more as a physical pressure in your body along with a lot of anxiety. If work feels like it’s killing you, a medical leave or vacation time could give you a sense of the relieve from putting work out of your mind for a while. The depression probably won’t go away, but I think you’ll be giving treatment a better chance to work.

      John

  29. Patty Taylor says:

    This is such a great article that I wish I’d had access to back in 1990 when I graduated from college and began a career path dominated by decisions driven by depression. By 1994, I was hospitalized for the first time (of three) related to work stress, anxiety and depression. I retrained a few times to make major career changes into work I thought I would enjoy more and into companies and work environments I thought would be less stressful, but nothing seemed to work long-term. All the while, I pursued therapy and medication for the depression, and my self-confidence took repeated nosedives when I couldn’t stay in a job more than a couple years without having a debilitating depressive episode. I wish I’d known about pursuing disability through my employer’s disability and worker’s comp plans and through social security. I didn’t even know that was possible until I read your blog. I am still looking for the ultimate job situation where I can stay healthy, make an okay living and not hate my job. I’ll let you know when I find it. I would also be interested in the solutions other people with depression have found for this problem.

    • John Folk-Williams says:

      Hi, Patty -

      I’m glad the work-related posts have been helpful. There’s never going to be an easy answer to this problem of finding satisfying work while managing depression. I was lucky to be at retirement age when I finally made a move. Before then, however, I spent years and years in a line of work that became more and more frustrating as depression ate away at my effectiveness.

      My best to you in your search for the right work situation.

      John

  30. Sonia says:

    I think sometimes you just have to walk away when your job causes you to become distressed, anxious and even depressed. For me, the turning point was when the psychological distress had company with the appearance of physical ill health. Luckily for me my doctor worked out that somatic symptoms were linked to a toxic workplace environment.
    Being employed in an organization allowed me to access a worker’s compensation claim for psychological injury. Delays in in the acceptance of a claim’s determination fosters more uncertainty and distress. The medical-legal system can be a nightmare. You just have to decide if you have the energy to go through with the claim process. If you are struggling to cope, I found the best measure was to pass the matter onto a legal professional to make sure that you get what you are entitled to and to access help from a mental health professional.

    • Hi, Sonia -

      Filing a claim is a good route to take. I never looked into worker’s compensation but did work through a disability process. My last job was at a large institution that had formal and informal methods for seeking accommodation for disabilities. That helped for a while, but if I had been younger I would have filed for disability with the employer and/or with the feds. As it turned out, early retirement was a better deal and totally removed the high stress that had been killing me.

      Entrusting the process to a lawyer who knows this branch of law is probably the best course of action. I’m glad this ultimately worked for you.

      Thank you for commenting. That’s the heart and soul of any blog.

      John

  31. Donna-1 says:

    Excellent article. I wish I could have read it about 1995, when I was first diagnosed. I had been at the same high-stress, high-pressure job for 10 years and stayed there another two trying to keep my head above water. I couldn’t go more than a couple of months without being admitted to the hospital for a week or two. My sick and vacation leave was dwindling. I couldn’t keep up with the work. My marriage was on the rocks. I didn’t KNOW it was okay to apply for longterm leave or a disability pension. I didn’t KNOW I could go on Social Security at 40 yrs of age. Finally, I quit the job with a feeling of total despair and futiity. Then I moved from one full time job to the next, working anywhere from 2 days to 2 yrs before I couldn’t take the pressure anymore. I had a string of about 10 jobs in 7 yrs, often just taking whatever I could get — usually a couple of bucks more than minimum wage. From 1997-2004 my depression never budged, no matter what combination of medications I tried, no matter the number of inpatient and outpatient hospital visits, no matter the frequency of therapy sessions. Nothing helped. I finally decided I needed a “rest cure” when I couldn’t even handle sacking groceries and cleaning restrooms. I made the giant leap of deciding not to work at all…in hopes of getting well. Despite the fact that my parents were on me constantly to seek employment. (I was living with them by this time.) I was able to draw a disability pension from my original job and was approved for Social Security Disability Income within 4 months. Then I backed off of everything that smacked of stress. No going to church. No eating meals with the family. No parties. No socializing. I just tried to relax my mind and body. Now, I know this is not practical for many, maybe most, people. But deep inside, I knew this was the only way I was going to cimb out of depression. A fact: after I stopped working, I never had to be admitted to the hospital again. My long-term psychosis began to fade. I had time to reflect on the past, present, and future and fell in love with writing all over again. I really think this was when I began to heal. When I decided to put work on hold. Now, I have been on a disability pension and SSDI for 7 years. It’s not a lot of money, so I have to be careful what I spend, but who doesn’t? But I am living independently, have returned to a life that includes socializing, hobbies, volunteer work, caregiving, and more. Yes, I’m still on medication that helps keep me stable. Yes, I still feel unable to work. Yes, I must spend some time each day meditating. But I’m not suicidal anymore. I’m not walking around in that dense gray fog. I do wake up each day with a sense of purpose. For me, quitting work was the right thing to do.

    • Hi, Donna -

      Your experience is close to mine, except my crisis occurred when I was at an age allowing me to start Social Security retirement – if a few years before the peak benefit. The power of stress to intensify these disorders is so strong that it makes me doubt the usual explanations and treatments all the more. Understanding the full picture of a troubled life is so much more important than automatically handing out medications. Stress is a killer in so many ways.

      Thanks, Donna, for telling this powerful story here.

      John

    • Melissa says:

      Thanks for having the courage to share your journey Donna! It gives me more hope and knowing someone else out there gets what I’m going through. I’ve been dealing with similar situation as well, and needed to go on SSDI at 30 I’m now 40. Having the time away from work helped me in similar ways: I’ve expolored meditation, spirituality, social activities, and volunteering in area of work I’m interested in without the pressure of feeling like I have to be PERFECT on the job.(I LOVE working in area of phyical and mental disabilities…I don’t feel burned out but EXCITED, just have hard time managing 40hr work week without exhaustion.) I’m glad to read that your looking at this as a break from work and that you’re not writing yourself off as never working again! That is how I’m looking at being on SSDI as well, and by the way….don’t be afraid to try work on SSDI, look up Ticket To Work on Social Security website and it will give list of disability services to help you return to work in your state. You wont lose disability if you don’t work too many hours or earn too much. I’ve used it and been working part time for 2 years. Wishing You All The Best!

  32. Evan says:

    I’m being a picky proofreader. I don’t think it matter usually. But in the first sentence you have ‘of’ instead of ‘or’ which is offputting.

    It’s a great article. I really like that you deal with the relationship of the environment to depression and don’t reduce it all to positive thinking. Thanks.

    • Hi, Evan -

      Ouch, that’s embarrassing – fixed the typo just now. I’m glad you liked the post (and managed to read past the gaffe). The few other discussions about this that I’ve read sound far too rational. Some have the positive thinking approach; others may lack that slant but give a breezy list of to-do’s.

      Thanks for your comment.

      John

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