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Work anxiety: what changed?

Hi

 

I am hoping to get some insight into my work anxiety and how other people have coped. I am afraid what this will do to my career. 

 

I work in a company that provides services to clients. I am now in a managerial role. It is a high performance work place with a sink or swim culture. I've been successful in my career thus far.

 

Last year we had a baby and I took time off work for her birth and to support my wife after. This was the longest I've been away (6 weeks). Coming back to work, I found an apprehension to being there. I had panic attacks and bad nausea in the mornings. Once I got put onto a client project (a week into my coming back to work) I got overwhelmed and went to see my GP as I was spiraling into negativity about work. I got diagnosed with anxiety.

 

Since then I took some more time off, had ad-hoc therapy and was on medications. I stopped my medication after a few months but continued with therapy. I was able to get through work, though there were some bad days. I then took two weeks off over Christmas and after my first day back I got overwhelmed again. NB: I also moved house over Christmas and had to take the time off even though work continued over the holidays.

 

My GP and therapist have suggested changing jobs. I am not sure if this will help if I cannot identify what about my current job is the culprit. I could find myself in the same situation with a different organisation.

 

Any advice is appreciated.

 

 

8 REPLIES 8

Re: Work anxiety: what changed?

Hi Sam4me, I am Wenna one of the week end moderators. A quick hello and welcome. This can be a very supportive environment and a good place to connect with others and share your experiences. Once again welcome.

Re: Work anxiety: what changed?

Thanks Wenna. Its my first attempt at sharing publicly. Hope it will do me good and help others going through the same.

Re: Work anxiety: what changed?

Hi @Sam4me and welcome to the forums Smiley Very Happy

 

It seems like you have had some major changes in your life over the last year. Having a baby and mvoing house are both major life changing events. Those alone would be stressful without having a job that is also stressful. Sometimes we are getting burnt out with our work before we recognise it ourselves and then added on top of that the other major life changes it can be the final nail. I suspect you were running on empty before the baby came and having that time off it all came to a head. It could also be that since the arrival of the baby your priorities and where you place work in amongst those have changed. All those factors could be contributing to your apathy about your work and thus causing anxiety. It seems that your work requires quite a lot of time and energy put into it and often we get to a breaking point when we sustain that for a long time. When we have extended time off and then go back expecting everything to be the same it is often not the case and that too can cuse us stress and anxiety. Burn out in jobs is common and that may be where you are positioned right now. I reached that point several years back but did not recognise it myself until I became very ill ...and that was the beginning of a very quick downward spiral for me. Your GP and therapist may be right in suggesting you change jobs but you are also need to identify what has caused the anxiety in the first place ...as you have said - you don't want to be in the same situation in a new job. If in fact it is more that you have reached a point of burning out though - a new job with less responsibilities may be good in the interim. That decision has to be yours though and one you decide on for yourself.

 

 

Re: Work anxiety: what changed?

@Sam4me  Hi Sam4me just wanted to say hi and welcome you to the forum Smiley Very Happy. Love greenpeaSmiley Happy

Re: Work anxiety: what changed?

Thank you Zoe7. Burnout was something I didn't consider nor was it brought up by my medical team. You have given me much food for thought.

 

How long did it take you to get back on your feet after your experience? What steps did you take?

Re: Work anxiety: what changed?

It took me over 2 years to get back to work @Sam4me I contracted Influenza A and B at the same time so for the first few weeks after I got out of hospital I was bed ridden - literally dragged myself to feed my fur babies and to the bathroom but ate very little and did nothing else but sleep. That then lead to my MH going down hill extremely quickly where I was very quickly suicidal. I also had post viral fatigue so over time my physical condition deteriorated to a point where moving further than a few metres at a time was impossible. I was very sick for a long time and once the MI set in again I found it hard to sleep or function at all. I was lucky to have a wonderful team around me (GP, pdoc and psych) who I saw or checked in with every day - they kept me alive at the time ...as did people on here ...but that was touch and go for a long time. Anxiety, depression and CPTSD were through the roof and although none of that was work related the amount of time and effort I had previously put into work certainly contributed to all that. I did not recognise that I was burning out with all that I put in at work but looking back that is exctly what was happening - contracting Influenza was the breaking point for me. I don't know how much longer I could have lasted if that hadnt been the case but I suspect it would not have been long.

 

I literally lost a year in the state I was in and it wasn't until the second year that I began to make a little progress. That was a slow process too - lots of different med changes and therapy as well as amazing support from people here. Just after 2 years after I got sick I went back to work for a few hours over several days. It was not at all handled well though and made me feel like I didn't want to do the job anymore. Then at the beginning of last year I was placed in a really lovely and supportive work environment and that made the world of difference. I was not undertaing the same role as my previous workplace but placed in a support role. That allowed me to ease back into the job without the extra pressures of planning, reports or organising a class - I did that for the first two terms. The major positive was that once I left work my time was my own and I was not working 3-4 hours a night at home on top of the normal work day. I then taught a class for term 3 and that is when my passion for the job came back. So in reality it took 3 years to be able to get back to a level I was before I got sick and to find both that passion and drive to teach again. I was also only working 4 days a week but towards the end of last year that increased to full time again. This year I am back on a class (at a new school) and working full time again, I honestl do not know how I am going to cope being back full time but I also know I want to be back on class and hoping that will inspire and motivate me to cope.

 

I did not think I would ever get back to this stage ...and it has taken a hell of a lot of work ...and part of that was allowing the time to get to a point where I (and my treating team) thought I was ready again to move back into work gradually. For me meds were the turning point - we tried numerous different ones and combinations over that time - and some actually sent me further backwards - but once we found the right ones other things began slowly to fall into place. I did a DBT course and had weekly pdoc sessions afterwards - and although I would not say that changed my life dramatically it certainly did help. 

 

Therapy became more about checking in rather than working through the diffiucult things and accepting that the past can never be changed so I need to work on strategies to deal with it. I still have nightmares occasionally and triggers that are difficult to deal with but the after effects do not last as long so that is huge progress.

 

None of that probably helps you much but I thought worth telling you as if I can get through everything I went through then there certainly is hope for others. I believe the first part of that is accepting that something is not right and finding/receiving support to help you work through it all yourself. For me it was both therapy and meds but that is different for everyone. That overwhelming feeling with anxiety is so hard to deal - especially when it comes about in situations we were once completely okay with. Your descriptions of when it has happened for you at work does make me think that burnout is a major factor but the stressors of having a new baby and moving house cannot be ignored either. Maybe also your priorities in life have changed also - babies will certainly do that - and what you once concentrted on with all the time you put into your job now needs to be spread into your personal life. Often when we need to refocus our energies into other areas we realise how much of our time was spent on our job and also that we need to have more of a balance with the new priorites. That in itself can cause anxiety as we have a deep seated fear that what we can now put into our job will not be enough - there is a sense of failure in that often also - but it is not a failure to have a work-ife balance - it is essential with your new circumstances at home. So I suppose I am saying that the anxiety you have been feeling at work may actually be your priorities shifting focus and as a result subconsiously there is a fear that you ill no longer be able to do the job you once did because of that shifting focus ...and that is okay but recognising that and accepting that can often allow us to reduce some of that anxiety. It may be a different, less demanding job you need but it may also be working out to continue with the present once with less expectations on yourself. If that does not fit with your present role or organisational make up then maybe looking for something else is prefferable. As hard as it is may be a conversation with whoever you report to and a redefining of your responsibilites to allow you that little extra breathing space for a while could also be a good option. I certainly do not know your workplace and how supportive they are but it is something other than moving jobs to consider - both are options and both worth having the discussions about.

Re: Work anxiety: what changed?

@Zoe7 Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I can only imagine how hard your journey of recovery has been and I am truly amazed by what you have accomplished. 

 

I am very grateful for your insights. I agree that there has been a shift in my priorities ever since my child was born. I do not enjoy work as much as being home with her and seeing her grow with each moment. I will explore the fear of failing at work with my therapist when I see her next.

 

I did look at reduced duties at the same workplace after my first episode. This was allowed for for a short period however the pressures to perform at my previous level remained and I soon (within a couple of weeks) was back at working as I used to. I will revisit this with my line manager but leaving the organisation seems more feasible if a job change is what I need to get through my anxiety. I am planning to take some time to myself to help me decide (with my support network).

 

Re: Work anxiety: what changed?

It really does sound like you are taking positive steps yourself to work through this @Sam4me It took me a long time to recognise that I was so unwell and would not be able to go back to work and to begin with that was actually the hardest thing as work had pretty much been my whole life. The positive now is that I have a much better balance - I do what I have to do (and often a little extra because I want to) but I do not take on the extra responsibilities I had before I got sick. I do love my job but now my health is much more of a priority.

 

You have your daughter now and I can hear that she is a shining light for you. I can tell you from experience that every moment you get with her will be precious and if you are consumed by work and the stress that entails then it will show in your relationship with her. My father worked consistently 12 or more hours a day and what we had when he was home was an angry, stressed and unpleasant person. The best day with him was the day he retired because all of that was off his shoulders and he became a much nicer person to be around. I am in no way saying that is you at all but more highlighting the impact of that kind of time and energy put into a job can have - and if you aren't happy there then finding somewhere you can be is important for all your family. When it comes down to it a job is just a job (sometimes we are lucky enough to love what we do too) - but what matters the most is that beautiful family you have now. So if changing jobs is what you think will help then I say go for it Smiley Very Happy

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