Thursday, November 9, 2017

Sometimes, You Can't Just Walk Out.

I've been dealing with some intense work-related anxiety (see previous work issues post here, where I explain what bothers me about my job despite my awesome coworkers, considerate boss, and amazing benefits). The anxiety has, in turn, sparked a debilitating wave of insomnia the likes of which I've never experienced before. I've gone entire nights without sleeping; earlier this week, I went almost two nights without sleeping and was nearly delusional by the time I finally conked out at 4 AM. Zzzquil has become largely ineffective because I've used it so often that I've developed a tolerance. I've blazed through all of my sick days and even dipped into my vacation time. I've lost five pounds without trying.

Fearing that I'd get fired or at least hauled in by HR for a friendly chat, and utterly tired of being tired, I called my doctor and begged for a same-day appointment to discuss my options. She did the usual physical tests, all of which were normal, and then dove into an extensive mental health questionnaire. I broke down when she asked how often I feel overwhelmed (answer: Every. Single. Day.)

She sat down and looked me in the eye.

"Listen to me," she said. "I can give you a prescription for a sleeping pill. We can talk about some cognitive behavioral therapy. But my honest opinion is that this job is becoming toxic for you. You need a new job. Ditch what you're doing, because it isn't good for you."

Then she brought in an in-house therapist to chat with me. The therapist had the same opinion: "Life is too short to be unhappy at work. Sometimes you just have to walk away. Nothing is worth more than your health."

I get what they're saying. Health is wealth: not going to argue with that. And there have been days when the easiest thing in the world would have been to get up from my desk, pick up my coat, and walk out for good. I'm 100 percent certain that I would have felt immediate relief. Maybe I'd even be able to sleep.

But here's the thing: for the sake of my family and our finances, I can't just walk out; I think it's irresponsible/naive/flippant of anyone to suggest I should do so. Sure, I might feel better for a day or three, but then reality would set in. How would we pay our bills? How would we deal with our debt? Would we have to purchase health insurance via the Marketplace? (I'm all for healthcare that includes those of us with pre-existing conditions, but my premiums would be three times what they are now.) What's worse: financial stress or job stress? 

If we lived in a big city with a wealth of employment options, I might be able to get away with giving notice before having something else lined up. But here, jobs are scarce; I competed with at least 50 other applicants for my current gig. It's not as simple as just sending out a couple of resumes. Finding another job will take months. 

Right now, I'm willing to look for other work (and have been doing so for weeks), but I'm unwilling to walk away from financial stability. I just need to find a way to handle the stress of my job. I'm already doing things like getting outside at lunchtime, enjoying my interactions with coworkers, meditating for a few minutes a day, taking deep breaths in between clients, and appreciating that I have a job, but there must be something else I can do to improve my situation in the short term. 

Or at least, improve it enough so that I can sleep. (The sleeping pill my doctor prescribed is hit or miss: some nights it knocks me out within minutes; other nights, it almost seems to have the opposite effect, making me feel wide awake instead of drowsy. Maybe there's a better option out there.)

My biggest fear right now is that this won't improve, I'll continue having to miss work, and I'll be forced to quit because I literally can't do my job. 

I don't know what the answer is, exactly, so I guess we'll wait and see. But for now, I'm forging ahead, plans (and salary) intact. 

If you've been there, done this, I would love to know how you handled it. I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place right now, and although I know I'll figure it out eventually, it's definitely a trying time.

8 comments:

  1. My last "real" nursing job was like that. I only say "real" since I have since worked as a nurse but in a much lower capacity. I loved what I did and who I was caring for, but the stress was starting to get to me. My saving grace was that we moved and I had no choice but to find something else. Other than occasionally filling in as a camp nurse, I am no longer in that line of work. I would suggest keeping your eyes open for something else, even if it pays less. Although I miss the bigger checks, I don't miss the stress! Hang in there. You'll find something.

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    1. Thank you so much. <3 That's exactly how it is at my current job: great coworkers, great people... just way too stressful for me. It's just not a good fit, though I think my boss and I both try really hard to make it work. I am definitely looking around! This whole thing will get resolved eventually.

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  2. I haven't been in exactly that situation, but I here's my thoughts from 10,000 feet, so to speak:

    1. Does your husband know how you are feeling? I hope you're not shouldering all of this by yourself...he might be great at helping you figure it out and brainstorm some options for your family.
    2. I think you need to figure out the absolute minimum compensation requirements you need from a job. Can your family get insurance through your husband's job, even if it is under less favorable terms? Can you slow dow/delay your debt repayment plans, if needed, if it meant you could leave for a lower paying job or a few side hustles strung together? As long as you are on track, making progress and not slipping back into more debt, does it really matter if it is paid off in 3, 5, or 10 years? I don't mean to sound glib about it, and I certainly know that desire to just be done with it, once and for all, but your mental and physical health is at stake over this.


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    1. Thank you so much for your kind reply, DeeCee! I could just hug you! My husband definitely knows how I feel. He's said that if I need to leave, I should leave, and he'll support that decision. His job alone can carry our rent plus most bills, buuuuut of course there's our annoying debt. I have one side hustle going right now and have landed another small hustle this week; that money could be used to cover our baseline debt payments. The real problem is health insurance. Even if we get a subsidy, it'll still be $350/month. So either I need to find a different (and ideally higher-paying) job, or I need to cobble together enough side hustles to be able to cover health insurance.

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  3. I have been through similar. And couldn't just walk out for financial reasons. But I did make a leap to another position in a different department. I was fortunate to get something at the same place. And boy was it culture shock moving away from that environment and level of busyness I was at. I can see Karōshi absolutely being a real thing (Google it).

    That being said... you do need to do Something about the job. Sleep is precious. Good health is precious. Praying a wonderful opportunity drops in your hands pronto.

    As for the anxiety and insomnia - in my experience it lasted 3-6 months. While Holy Basil wasn't the cure all it did help me catch a few solid hours of sleep and led to a calm in the morning hours (cuz morning were the worst). Can find at a natural health food store.

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    1. Oh yes! I have heard of Karochi... and I totally get it. And thank you for the Holy Basil recommendation. I would be willing to see if it helps.

      My job doesn't pay that much (in fact, everyone in my office is underpaid), and that's one thing that makes this job feel unsustainable. I'm pretty sure I could make up my salary in freelance work alone, if I hustle. I'm also definitely applying for other jobs, though it's slim pickings.

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  4. I'm so glad you wrote this! This seems like a good way to sort through your feelings, instead of keeping them inside. I know it's cliche, but now really is the best time to find another job! I'm sorry that openings are so scarce. Is there something that you could apply for online?

    I love my job but it's incredibly overwhelming sometimes. I started using the Calm app every day during my plan period last year, and it literally saved my sanity. I hope you find a little something that makes your days better! Hang in there!

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    1. I WISH I loved my job! I try so hard to like it... It's just a bad fit, I think. There ARE openings every now and then, so I just need to keep an eye out for opportunities and apply as soon as I see something that meshes with my strengths and experience.

      Thank you for the Calm recommendation. I'll definitely try it!

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Winning, November 2017 Edition

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