A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

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My Job vs. My Mental Health: At A Crossroads


This is a long post about my mental health in the context of modern work culture.

(Note: I've written two other posts about mental health and money: The Connection Between My Mental Health and My Debt and When Your Mental Health Affects Your Financial Well-Being)

Publicly sharing my mental health challenges isn't easy for me, in part because there's so much skepticism surrounding those of us who struggle with anxiety, depression, and other conditions. Are these illnesses real? Are we complaining too much? Not getting enough vitamin D? Do we just need to try harder? Have more grit? Be more resilient? I know some people will read this post, roll their eyes, and think, Suck it up, Buttercup. Life is hard.

Most people dealing with mental illness have tried everything from hot baths to medication to therapy. We're well aware of treatment options, and frankly, "You should try x, y, and z"-type advice isn't particularly helpful. Same goes for "Look on the bright side" or "Make a gratitude list" or "Others have it worse". These statements send the message that mental illness is a choice, and we're choosing to feel the way we do. But we live with this stuff, and we know that nobody who's experienced it would choose it. Most of us have probably tried all the things, and oftentimes we feel guilty for not being able improve the situation even when we really, really want to.

If you haven't been in this position, I'm genuinely glad for you. I simply ask that you be open to the possibility that some conditions are more complicated and intractable than they might seem from the outside.

I talk about my mental health on this blog because it's something that continues to affect my life, my relationships, and my financial security. I know other people have experienced this, too, and I want them to know they're not alone. I want me to know I'm not alone.

So here's what's going on.


I'm failing.



If you follow me on Twitter, you know that my new job is not going well. I think I have potential as an editor, but an extremely heavy workload combined with accumulated burnout has created a perfect storm of anxiety, insomnia, self-loathing, and a sense of hopelessness. I feel like I'm drowning.

When I interviewed for my current job, I was told by multiple people that they work a standard schedule: 40 hours a week, occasionally more when things get busy. That sounded perfect, and during my interviews, I expressed my desire for a work-life balance that would allow me to flourish at work and in other aspects of my life. I felt like we were all on the same page.

Now I think they were lying to me.

Here's how my job works: each week, we're required to meet a certain word count quota. For the first two months of training, our quota increases every week. It was relatively low in the first couple of weeks, and I was able to meet my targets. But in the third week, when the word count quota really ramped up, I started to struggle. A forty-hour schedule wasn't cutting it. I began extending my workday and logging in for a few hours on the weekend. 

We're required to not only meet our quotas and deadlines but also adhere to strict quality standards. During training, our edits are reviewed, critiqued, and graded. We receive constant feedback (much of which is contradictory, but that's beside the point). Now, more than halfway through training, I'm hanging on by my fingernails just to get the work done. Finding and correcting every error in a timely fashion seems absolutely impossible.

I'm working 9-10 hours a day, including Saturday, and I've developed anxiety-related insomnia. Every single night goes something like this: 10 PM: kind of tired. 11 PM: still not asleep. Midnight: still awake. 2 AM: I am wide awake and will never sleep again. 3 AM: FUCK HOW AM I STILL AWAKE. And nothing - not warm baths, not reading, not yoga, not soothing music, not sleep podcasts, not pretending that I didn't want to go to sleep anyway! - seems to work. The only thing that knocks me out is Benadryl, but that leaves me feeling drugged the next day.

It's a never-ending cycle: the anxiety causes insomnia, the insomnia makes me feel strung-out and anxious, and on and on.

Aside from being completely exhausted, I'm snappy, and I feel totally panicked most of the time. The crazy thing is that over the next few weeks, my quota is scheduled to further increase by more than a third of the current word count. I can't wrap my head around it, and I don't understand how even the most experienced editors reach their quotas while submitting high-quality edits. I suspect they don't; that, or they're working every single day, all day long. 

(Last night I logged into Glassdoor and took a good hard look at the reviews for my company. It's clear I'm not alone: many people are floundering, and turnover is apparently sky-high. I have quite a knack for finding exploitative employers!)


A history of grappling with work-related anxiety



The truth is, this experience probably wouldn't be so terrible - or at least, it wouldn't be so terrible this early on - if it weren't for the fact that I'm now at a critical point of accumulated burnout. What's happening now is just another iteration of what's been going on since I finished graduate school. For the past four years, my anxiety has dogged me in every single job I've worked:

Job 1: Two years, assistant professor. Worked non-stop, as one does as a tenure-track professor. Developed panic attacks; at one point, had a massive panic attack in front of 100 students. Occasionally lost the ability to speak while lecturing. Cried on the kitchen floor every morning. Felt suicidal. Coping mechanisms: Saw a therapist regularly. Took meds. Worked out like crazy. Meditated. Found a new job.

Job 2: One year, academic advisor. Generally 40 hours a week, with weeks of 10-12 hour days in the summer. During particularly busy times, completely lost my words, making advising meetings awkward and torturous. Regularly broke out in a cold sweat. Developed severe insomnia and at one point didn't sleep for nearly three days. Coping mechanisms: Sleeping pills. Spent time with friends and family. Ran. Took walks around my office building. Found a new job.

Job 3: One year, online educator. 40 hours a week from home, which I thought would solve all of my work problems. Job was not as advertised; I was more of a salesperson than a teacher. Expected to make people do things they didn't want to do. Employer was obsessed with metrics, metrics, metrics. Nothing was ever good enough. You met your goal? WHY DIDN'T YOU SET A BIGGER GOAL. Had panic attacks on the regular. Often couldn't find my words when meeting with students (this seems to be one of my biggest anxiety symptoms). Coping mechanisms: Everything. Meditation. Healthy eating. Working out. Power poses. Frequent vacations.

Found a new job.

And now here I am.



Disclosing my anxiety 



Earlier this week, I decided that as much as I don't like to advertise my wobbly mental health, nobody can help me if they don't know I need help. So I decided to take a chance and send an SOS to my manager, something I've never done before at work. I've never, ever disclosed my anxiety and depression or admitted that I'm having trouble. It just doesn't feel like a safe thing to do in a world of at-will employment. Usually, I just take some sick days and try to figure it out on my own.

But since one of my employer's stated values is vulnerability, and since I need to find a way to make this job sustainable, I decided it was worth letting my guard down and taking a chance.

I wrote a detailed email to my boss explaining that I deal with anxiety and anxiety-related insomnia and that I'm struggling in a major way. I emphasized that I enjoy the job itself but that I can't keep up with the pace. I let her know that I really, really want this to work out, but I also want to protect my health. And I offered some possible solutions, namely, slowing the pace of training or dropping down to a part-time schedule. Although working part-time would mean I'd lose my company-sponsored health insurance, it would also allow me to have some semblance of work-life balance.

My boss wrote back and thanked me for my candidness. She said she'd talk to her boss and come back to me the next day with some options.

And the next day? She came back to me with... no options at all. She didn't offer any empathy or suggestions. She didn't comment on my proposed solutions. She didn't say anything about her meeting with her boss. Instead, she sent a brief, two-line reply and said she'll meet with me in 10 days (she's going out of town) to "check in". She asked me to consider what I can do to improve my situation. 

In the meantime, my workload is slated to increase and my quota will be even higher next week. 


At a crossroads



Although there are many things in my life that are going extremely well, work has been a disaster. I'm tired of trying so hard and finding myself in the same situation every time. I'm exhausted and depleted, and I feel like I'm on the verge of having a nervous breakdown. I've been able to last at least a year in my previous jobs, but this time, the situation feels different. I'll be amazed if I survive next week.

Employment is not supposed to be an endurance sport. It shouldn't be this hard. But for people with anxiety or other mental health conditions, modern workplace culture is fraught with obstacles: heavy workloads, an obsession with metrics, constant feedback, and micromanagement. Companies expect loyalty, time, self-sacrifice, gratitude, and unwavering devotion to the bottom line. Moreover, they want it all at the lowest cost possible. Some of us (...most of us?) can't give all that without destroying ourselves in the process.

Nevertheless, I'm ashamed. Embarrassed. Frustrated. Why am I having so much trouble being an employee? Why can't I do what millions and millions of people do every day? Why can't I live up to my education? Why can't I just go to work, do my job, come home, and repeat? Am I lazy? Am I not trying hard enough? Are my expectations too high?

But here’s the thing. It’s not a matter of not wanting to do my job. It’s not a matter of laziness or an unwillingness to try. I’m a hard worker; I give it my all, and I've always delivered.

Until now. If work is an endurance race, my brain seems to be walking off the course. It is done. 


Time to hit the pause button



Anxiety is an illness like any other serious illness in that it can be completely debilitating. However, it's also largely invisible - especially if you’re one of those people who’s been living with it for so long that you are an absolute expert at hiding it. Sometimes, the people who look the happiest, who seem the most stable and the most determined, are the people being crushed from the inside out. The invisible nature of mental illness is what makes it particularly insidious and dangerous. It means that it's often the person who's living with the illness who has to make the call when things have reached a breaking point. And that's a very, very difficult call to make, especially when you're not functioning at your optimal level.

But I've been living with this a long time. I know myself, and I'm ready to make that tough call - if not right now, very soon.

First of all, I'm taking this weekend off. I haven't met my quota. I'm behind. I don't know what will happen on Monday. But I need this time.

My immediate plan is to stick it out, but on my own terms. That is, I'll work 8-5 Monday through Friday and do what I can in that amount of time. This is purely a stop-gap measure. I won't meet my quotas, but at least for the immediate future, I'll still be getting paid.

I've also contacted HR to see if they can work with me on accommodations. The Fioneers encouraged me to do this (thank you so much for the support, Fioneers!) If my boss won't help me, maybe HR will.

Ultimately, though, the writing on the wall says that I need a career break. Taking a few months off is something I've been considering for over a year, and my body and mind are screaming at me to do it now. From a financial standpoint, it might be a terrible decision. Our emergency fund isn't large enough to cover us for more than a few months, we'd end up spending more on health insurance either through Fortysomething's work or through the ACA, and we'd have to live on a bare-bones budget. We would be contributing far less to our retirement accounts than we do now.

But stress takes a terrible toll. No amount of money is worth destroying my health. I'm not willing to throw it away.

Instead, I want to take some time to do the things I love: spend time with my family, hang out with friends, actually read the books for book club, write/blog, run, hike, cook dinner every night, volunteer at my son's school, tutor, be creative. I'd love to expand the blog. I'd love to establish a regular series, similar to what Tread Lightly, Retire Early does on her blog. I'd love to write some guest posts. I'd love to develop some collaborations with people in the personal finance community and work on some projects together.

Sometimes we need to hit the pause button. As one of my Twitter friends reminded me, I need to be there for my son and family. That's the most important thing.

Taking a time out from a work culture that values never stopping feels like a big risk. It would be a complete leap of faith - but it's a leap I'm seriously considering.

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61 comments:

  1. I appreciate your honesty in here, and I really hope there's a solution you are able to light upon quickly to ease your stress and find a path forward. I know how hard it's been.

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    1. Thank you. *hugs* I really hate how worn down I feel.

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  2. Yes to all of this. I have had anxiety for most of my life (and chronic hives...but that's another story for another day). I always think about how fortunate I am to love my job, but I absolutely positively hate my profession every spring. This particular administration has no qualms about putting people through the ringer in terms of anticipation. After spending the better part of last weekend throwing up and taking my stress out on all the wrong people, I marched myself into my boss's office and said, "I'm not doing this again." She was definitely shocked, but she was also like, "OK. Let's just have the meeting now." GAH! I've told her before how anxious it makes me, and it just seems...cruel?!...to continue to do it.

    I wish I had a solution. I am so glad you are pausing. Reaching out to HR is an excellent idea. If their turnover rate is really that high, then I imagine someone in the company might want to do something about it. Hang in there and thanks for being honest.

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    1. Oh Penny. I knew your job was stressful, but I just read your latest post, and wow. You have a lot of stamina and patience, that's for sure.

      Thank you for your empathy and kindness. Lots of love to you.

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  3. It sounds like you really don't have a lot of choice in the matter. You've burned both ends of the candles for so long that you've got nothing left in the middle. You don't need to apologize for that, so I'm glad you're (mostly) not. (Mostly, in that you're still struggling with negative emotions, but you're aware enough that those thoughts aren't reality.)

    No, taking time off won't be good financially. But this is a medical issue.

    I remember when I finally stopped working after years of trying to cobble together full-time work around chronic fatigue. I slept for a month. I mean that almost literally. I would sleep 12-13 hours, wake up and putz around the house a tiny bit, then take a 2-4 hour nap every day for the better part of a month.

    I had used up every last little bit of energy and wherewithal I had -- and I'd borrowed against the future too. I suspect you're going to find yourself in a similar situation (hopefully, with less sleeping). Be prepared to crash hard, and let yourself because you need to let your body guide you. These spells where you can't speak, where you're enduring panic, that's you having to fight against your body which is exhausting. So I hope you're able to allow yourself to stop fighting for a while. Even if it's not the financially smart thing to do. Because life doesn't always give us the option of the smart thing. So unless you can get severance pay by letting them fire you, I say you turn in your notice if HR doesn't help you with some major concessions.

    You might want to remind them that depression is a recognized disability (I'm not sure about anxiety), so you're covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act to a certain extent in that they're supposed to have to work with you on accommodations whenever possible. I'm not clear on the details, but a little research/just mentioning the ADA might buy you some leverage.

    Good luck and take care of yourself.

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    1. Thank you, Abigail. <3 You're spot on with this: "You've burned both ends of the candles for so long that you've got nothing left in the middle." Precisely. Not much left.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment and your kind words.

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  4. I've been following this since you got the job, and I am so disappointed. How can they take someone as talented and smart and motivated as you and ruin your work experience so much you can't deliver? You are doing all the right things and I hope someone there responds with some basic common sense and compassion soon.

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    1. Thank you. To be honest, I feel crushed. I really thought I was making a good decision. Now I feel like the world's biggest idiot for diving headfirst into a situation that is making me sick. :-( I'm trying to remain upbeat, but I'm not feeling it. And I think that's okay.

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  5. All the hugs. I have dealt with similar situations at work, and it is hard. I think your strategy of doing the standard hours is a great start, and I think that missing quotas might honestly be necessary to get your manage to take these concerns seriously. Or quickly make it clear whether you'll get the support you need and deserve.

    I also struggle with anxiety and work is where it shows up for me in the worst way. I am so glad to see you recognizing your own hard work and efforts. Anxiety brain is not wired to see our efforts clearly or place blame outside ourselves, even when that's where it belongs. Thank you for sharing, I got so much out of reading this experience similar to many I've had. Keep taking care of yourself, your handling of this situation is showing a lot of grit and resiliency and bravery to do the needful things.

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    1. Thank you for these kind words here and on Twitter, Elyssa. The encouragement means so much.

      Thinking about it more today, I've had four years of stressful, anxiety-producing work experiences, preceded by four years of graduate school (which I enjoyed, but which produced its own brand of anxiety). I really haven't had a chance to stop and think about what it is I want and need. I just keep hopping from one thing to the next. My brain's just had it, I think.

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  6. I also struggle with anxiety and I live with a constant sense that I am not doing enough. A work environment set up to chew you up and spit you out is terrible for anyone's mental health, let alone that of someone already dealing with anxiety and depression.

    Listen to your body. It knows what you need. I feel like the fear of laziness causes many of us to override what our bodies are telling us to do. But my body has never steered me wrong. Trust yourself and know that this employer does not deserve and has not earned your devotion.

    I'm sorry you are dealing with this.

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    1. You always seem to know exactly what to say. <3 I really don't understand how ANYONE makes it at my current company. It makes no sense.

      I agree: more and more, I can see that my body ALWAYS tells me what it needs. If I ignore it, it just screams louder.

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  7. I'm so sorry you are going through this. It sounds like your new employer was not completely honest with you during the interview process. Contacting HR about your situation was a good idea. They may not be able to help find a way to make this job work for you, but you will never know if you don't try. Just do want is best for your health and your family. Sometimes that means delaying your financial plans but health is more valuable than money.

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    1. I'll be interested to see if HR has any options for me. I'm also scheduled to meet with my boss next week, and I'm thinking about straight out asking her if I can go part-time. I think I need to be very clear about what I need. If we can't come to an agreement, at least we all tried.

      Thank you for your encouragement and kindness.

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  8. I was SO hopeful for you that this new job would work out for you, but it seems like you’ve gone from a very unpleasant situation to an intolerable one. Perhaps there is some part time freelance work that could help be a bandaid and make it so you could take a half-break?

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    1. Me too! I was SO HOPEFUL. I also feel like I really thought it. It seemed like a good fit, and management had great answers to all of my questions. The reality is so different from what they portrayed.

      I think part time work would be ideal for me. That's what I'm leaning towards.

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  9. 1) I'm so sorry about this, I've been there before and often this experience is what happens when its going to get better. I can name 3 different points in my career that work just hit rock bottom and things did improve.

    2) As a former manager of professionals, I'd highly recommend you consider filing for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. That will get you 12 weeks while under the company insurance. Your employer may also have short/long term disability benefits that kick in and not create as large of a financial gap while you look for another job. There's no shame in taking those, its what they are for. You'll need a good General Practitioner to help with the forms and to navigate it.

    Things will get better

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    1. Thank you. I appreciate the comment. It's great to get feedback from someone who has worked at higher levels of management and knows what things look like from that side. I hope it goes up from here because career-wise, I do feel like I have hit rock bottom.

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  10. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I second Mr. Shirt's idea on the FMLA. Also, it sounds like your company is awful and exploitative. That is not your fault at all - that doesn't make you a bad worker or mean you have to try harder. They are the problem, not you. I think Angela's idea of finding freelance work as a bandaid is a great idea as well, you could work on your own terms. There are tons of editing and proofreading jobs on Upwork, maybe you could start there.

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    1. Uuuuuugh it is SO exploitative. It's wrong to tell someone, "You'll be making X amount of money for 40 hours a week" when you know they'll be working more like 55.

      They agreed to work with me and offer a longer training period, but honestly, I'm still skeptical. Will check out Upwork - thank you for the tip, and thank you for the comment! :-)

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  11. Anxiety sucks. Figure it out before it turns into other illnesses ... its terrible. You will find the perfect job and perfect fit. I had to take medicine to help me, then find a perfect job. It all worked in the end..

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Heather! That's a really important point - that stress and anxiety can create worse health problems down the road. That's what worries me. I have my health now, and I want to maintain it as best I can.

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  12. My husband has had similar struggles for years. It took trying many employers to find one that was willing to work with him, giving him part time hours and a few other allowances. It's a small owner operated company. They are out there but it takes lots of effort to find them. Don't give up hope of finding a good place, be open with HR here or in the future and be willing to ask for what you need while at the same time highlighting what you have to offer :)

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  13. You are doing everything you can do in this situation. The best I have been able to figure out about living with anxiety & depression is that your body will hang in there long after breaking point, but once it's done, it's done. It sounds like you're done and you should be. You have hanging in there for so long at multiple jobs at this point.

    I remember when you got this job and it is nothing like what they promised you. If they aren't able to work with you (via your manager or HR) then please do not feel any shame in leaving.

    Definitely take time off. At least a month (hopefully more) where you don't force yourself to do beyond the minimum. Just do things you enjoy and let your body breathe. After that (if you are feeling better) maybe look into a part time job that doesn't require much from you so you can prolong the time you need to recover.

    Take care of yourself. You know all of us crazy people are here for you. :-)

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  14. I'm sorry for your difficulties. I'd like to make the following comments/statements:
    1.If you are in a probationary period, they may very well be able to terminate you for any reason, without cause. Your manager may not have to make any accommodations, if that is the case. At my job, we had someone within their first 90 days, and they called in many days sick. We didn't keep that person past their 90 days, and were not required to give a reason why other than 'it wasn't a good fit'.

    2.I also often take benedryl to get to sleep. I can't tell exactly how you are taking it, if you are waiting until 3 am to take it, but I have learned it works best if I take 1-1.5 25mg pills, no later than 9:30. Any later or any higher dose, and I"m still sleepy the next day. Melatonin also helps. Turn off any screens at least an hour before bed. Drink some camomille tea or a glass of wine or something like that.

    3. LImit your caffiene. I can't have any past 3-4 in the afternoon if I'm going to get to sleep before 11.

    4. EXERCISE EVERY DAY. Exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant/antianxiety medication. Doesn't have to be super strenuous. A brisk 30 minute walk at the same time every day can do wonders both for your mood, but also for sleeping. Be careful doing too much too late though. I am one of the lucky ones who gets a jolt of endorphins that is directly proportionate to the length of time and/or difficulty of the workout. I did crossfit in the evenings before and COULD NOT GET TO SLEEP after. Quit doing the CF at night, and that went away.

    5. Get a psychiatrist and the appropriate medication.

    6. I've noticed that when you have left your former jobs, you seem to be running away from something rather than to. It might do you well to spend some time figuring out exactly what it is you want to do and do not. Research potential companies before you accept an offer - not after you have already started and are miserable. Decide in what environments you will thrive. You do not seem to enjoy any person to person contact, whether that is via phone or face to face. Strict performance measures also seem to be a bad fit for you. Have you considered Uber? I would suggest real estate in that you make your own schedule and goals, but then you have to interface with the public pretty much all the time to get the job done. An hourly vs a salaried position may also be something to consider. Hourly, at least the company has some incentive to get you out on time so they don't have to pay overtime.

    7. Are you married? How does your spouse feel about a pause in employment? Can you guys afford it?

    Best of Luck

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    1. I appreciate the time you took to write this all out and share these ideas. Big big hugs to you.

      Re: #7: spouse is completely supportive. I think he'd like me to stick it out in current role for as long as I can - whether that's another two days or another year - but when I'm ready to pull the plug, he'll be fine with that. Can we afford it? It's not ideal. We have an emergency fund. We can afford me not doing *anything* for a few months. If I can find freelance work or a part-time job, we could afford it for the long term.

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  15. OH, and continuing with another thought.

    8. It may help to change your expectation about what a job/career will do for you. My opinion is that most people don't love their jobs, and even those that do, at times hate them and/or work long hours. One of my siblings is a professor and generally LOVES her job. but there are times when she is extraordinarily busy or working late long hours grading papers, writing articles, doing research, etc. When you said that employment should not be about endurance, my thought was that is exactly what employment is - working decades to support yourself until you have enough to retire. Or can't work at all anymore. Even if you love it, it last for years and years. So, some people live to work, but I think there are way way more people who work so that they can live. It may be that you find a way to develop your life, hobbies, and whatnot outside of work that the work becomes, if not pleasant, at least tolerable, if for no other reason than it affords you the life you want.

    Again. best of luck

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  16. Thank you for writing this post. It is so good and so beautifully written, and honest. I'm glad we are friends, friend.

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    1. Big hugs to you, DbF. I appreciate your support and kindness.

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  17. I feel as if I could have written this post. In 2012, after deciding to leave a once fulfilling career in the media, I embarked on a series of career changes.

    It has been one challenging job after another. Almost every job left me an anxious, overworked, depressed shell of myself. I kept hoping the next job would be better but always end up somewhere which burned me up all over again.

    I have the same thoughts you are having now. Like you, I jumped from an intolerable situation to an unbeatable job. And I too asked: what is wrong with me? Why do I keep landing in terrible jobs?

    And like you, I struggle with anxiety & depression.

    ButBu can't help but wonder that it's just the sign of our times. The workplace, with its uncertainties & drive to increase ever slimming profit margins is sacrificing human beings to achieve that. Perhaps we are just more sensitive souls and feel the affects more keenly.

    Our burnouts only make it even harder for us to bear.

    When I told my best friend that I was going to hunt for another job she scolded me saying - you are so burned out! You need a break! You need to rest.

    I have hung on for so long. Perhaps she is right.

    I am glad you have decided to prioritise your health. For some reason I can't seem to make myself do that. Perhaps the fear of not being able to get another job is far stronger than my self preservation instincts.

    If there's one recommendation I can make - do read Claire Weekes' Hope & Health for your nerves. I heard its really good for those with anxiety

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this. You clearly know EXACTLY what I mean and understand precisely what this experience is like. I appreciate and value that empathy.

      It is really frustrating to keep landing in terrible jobs. I think my anxiety plays a big role in making those situations seem awful, but... they're still terrible jobs. When I look for my next one, I think I'm going to rely more on word of mouth and my network of friends and acquaintances. They know me, and I think they'd avoid recommending something that wouldn't be a good fit.

      I truly wish you the best and hope you find a job you enjoy.

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  18. Hello,

    A lot of what you said makes sense to me. Anxiety and depression is something I still struggle with today. But if its time to take a career break, you shouldn't ignore it! In my opinion, your health is more important than money. Even if you stop paying the credit cards for a while and prioritze fixed expenses(i.e.rent/mortgage, car payment). Nobody is going to take care of you but yourself.

    You have already discovered that maybe you can work for yourself. Try this freelance blogging thing you are doing- it could be monetized with ads(Google Adwords, Amazon Affiliate programs, etc.) Read up on starting your own side hustle. I worked for uber and I discovered a sense of peace knowing if things got bad; I could work for myself and still pay bills. I hope things get better soon and don't be afraid of failure. I learned a lot from trying things out and failing, it is how we grow as a person.

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    1. Thank you so much! I agree - failure can be incredibly valuable, and I've certainly learned a lot from it over the years. Ha.

      I do worry about my health. Stress is scary stuff, and the toll it can take on a body and mind is a bit terrifying. I'm determined to protect the good health I'm lucky to have.

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  19. I feel you so, so much. It physically hurts to read this post. Our current work culture and expectations just downright sucks.

    I hope you find a way out and a source of income that won't kill you in the process. The break sounds like an important first step.

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    1. Thank you for the comment and support, Kristine. Your empathy means a lot to me.

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  20. I not too long ago arrived at the fork in the road, where you are now, and I also suffered from depression and anxiety. After careful consideration and evaluation, I decided to walk away from the corporate job that killed my soul one project at a time to run my own show. You know I'm not advocating for you to blindly throw in the towel because we all have bills to pay. I do however want people to put their mental health in priority and look at potential options in order to preserve it.

    If you need a few months to not work at all and can swing it, do it. If you can manage to find something part-time and low stress as Angela suggested, even better. Either way, what you are dealing with will not go away unless concrete decisions are made as to how you want your life to look like and be from here on out. I know it's also scary and it's important to acknowledge the fears but you deserve more out of life and a job.

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    1. Aaaaahhhhh I wish I could give you a big hug, Kassandra. Thanks for this. I am leaning heavily in the direction of a part-time job; I think that would work beautifully as my brain would have more down time.

      It is definitely scary. It's good to hear from someone who had a similar experience and who found a viable solution.

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  21. Thank you for sharing this. I have been feeling this way at work for months, and I've finally decided to scale back on a number of responsibilities. And to say no to a huuuge job that someone asked me to take on but that I just don't think I can do (and more importantly DO NOT WANT). I feel a little bit of relief with these changes, and I hope it won't take you too long to find a solution that works well for you and your family.

    Also...your employer sucks monkey butt.

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    1. Definitely do not do it if you don't want to do it - no matter how much other people try to convince you. I'm so glad you've found some relief. You work incredibly hard, and you're such a caring doctor.

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  22. I can relate to your post and the difficulties of managing health in a really stressful work environment and I've just made the decision this week to bring forward my date for leaving work due to the stress. I watched a very good talk this week on how when the workplace demands are too much and the environment is toxic, the workers are made to feel as if it is their fault for 'not coping' whereas its actually a damaging workplace - not weak workers. So don't be too hard on yourself - good health is so valuable - do what you need to do to stay well.

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    1. Thank you so much, Jan. I appreciate those kind words. Your work sounds incredibly stressful, too. I'm glad you're moving up your leave date and taking some time for yourself.

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  23. I have no words of wisdom to impart, just sending some support from afar. Also, I wanted to thank you for writing this post, as it really resonated for me, since I live with a partner who suffers from anxiety and has also had a lifetime of job dissatisfaction and career changes to try to address one unpleasant situation after another. So many times I have silently screamed in my head, "Why can't you just suck it up and deal like everyone else?!" Your post gave me an illuminating glimpse into what it actually is probably like for him (he's not super communicative re: issues of his personal mental health). Thank you.

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    1. Thank you for your support! I appreciate it. I can only speak for my situation, but there is nothing I'd like better than to stay in the same job for years. The anxiety (combined with some very difficult job situations) makes that extremely hard to do. I'm sorry to hear your partner has had a similar experience.

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  24. Hi, I found you through a link and this is my first time here. I'm so sorry to read this. I'm an attorney who works in the securities/investment field. You sound like an extremely hard worker and genuinely nice person and I'm sorry this is happening to you. The work expectations sound ridiculous, whether you deal with anxiety or not, and that doesn't make for good business. Thank you for sharing your story and I will be thinking about you.

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    1. Thank you for this comment. It really means a lot to me. I didn't expect this much encouragement. <3

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  25. You should be rewarded for doing all the right things given your situation! You voiced your concern to your employer (I'm guessing she didn't respond in any other manner or there could be lawsuits filed.) And you've taken steps to scale back to the 40 hours a week you agreed to. Given the amount of response to this blog post, I feel you're in a great place to freelance if that is the path you choose.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us.

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement. I'm seriously considering freelancing.

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  26. Your post resonated with me on so many levels. I'm currently an assistant professor (although I'm quitting at the end of the academic year). Grad school and working in academe definitely took a toll on my mental health and relationships. It's hard being upfront and open about what it is you need and what you're willing to accept. I didn't realize how unhappy I was until I dropped down to part-time for this year. My time has opened up and I'm actually enjoying my days instead of dreading them.

    One last thought: One thing my husband likes to remind me of is that you'll never give them so much that they won't ask for more. Only you can can protect your time, your sanity, and your responses. It took A LOT of bravery and courage to tell your boss what you need. I hope it works out!

    Amanda

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    1. Thank you so much for this comment and for sharing your own experience. I'm so happy for you that you could go part-time and make more time for yourself and the things you want to do. What a great solution.

      On a sidenote, I'd love to hear more about your experiences as an assistant prof. I had some great moments during my two years, but it was grueling.

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    2. I am so sorry a out your situation. I use raw Garlic Cloves to get good sleep. Take about 5 cloves and put them under the pillow or somewhere close by. It works very well, I gave same advise to a friend who could not sleep for 4 days and it worked like a miracle pill.

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    3. The past four years have been intense. Sometimes rewarding, but mostly an exercise in frustration. Unbeknownst to me, I accepted a position at a very dysfunctional university in a very dysfunctional department. I was hired at the same time as the provost and shortly after I took the job a new dean of the college was appointed. At the department level, the chair died suddently and due to infighting a new chair could not be appointed. The department ended up in receivership and run by an associate dean. This is the disaster I walked into. Fast forward, four years and not much has changed. The provost quit last year, the chancellor decided to leave, and the department is still a mess.

      All of that left me with very little support and very little mentorship. Despite that, I did the best I could by students, but my scholarship ended up at a standstill. I was hired ABD and finished my dissertation during the first year. However, this was coupled with some health challenges as I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer after taking the position and had to undergo treatment during the first year as well.

      The drop to part-time was mostly a solution to a geographic problem. My spouse had taken a position 1200 miles away and I was moving with him. I went to the current chair and told her the situation. I gave her the option of me quitting right then or reducing me to part-time and online so that I could move and the department would have adequate time to figure out the transition. They opted for the latter with the caveat that it was a one year thing. As of now I have 5 weeks left and couldn't be happier.

      Feel free to check out my blog (smithhappens.org) or email (the address is at my blog) me if you want to chat more. :)

      Amanda

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  27. Do what you have to do, but don't quit. I was in the situation once and quit, it was a bad move. I had extreme anxiety even though my performance was good. Had they let me go I would have gotten lots of severance and possibly insurance for a bit. Even if you think you aren't making your quota its hard for them to let you go without a package, and then you would qualify for unemployment until you find something else. Dont be so hard on yourself with the anxiety, think of it like this - whats the worst thing that can happen? You miss your quota and they fire you? It will be ok. Good luck!

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    1. Still here, still plugging away! :-) I agree - up and quitting is NOT an ideal solution, and I see your point about sticking it out. Unfortunately, I don't think my company would offer severance. They're pretty stingy. If I leave, I'm... not getting anything. Ha.

      I'm really trying to just focus on the short term right now, with a current goal to stick it out until April. And - sigh - I've started looking for a new job. Wheeee.

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  28. You already have realistic and practical steps for moving forward, and a lot of great suggestions in the comments. I just wanted to put another comment on the pile and say that I'm among the many people who are rooting for you. I'm also optimistic for you. You are clearly a highly intelligent and capable person, and you are being honest with yourself and others about your work-related anxiety, and the unrealistic conditions in your current job. Like many of your readers, I was hopeful this job would be ideal for you, but my underlying optimism about your long-term prospects has not wavered. Anyway, everything else I can think to say here sounds trivial in comparison to the honesty of this post and the nature of the problem, so just know there's yet another person who is hopeful for you.

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    1. Thank you so much, Kimberly. That means a lot to me. I can't believe how supportive people have been - definitely helps boost my morale. I'm sticking with the job for at least another ~2 weeks, but after that, we'll see. I have to admit, I'm frustrated that this isn't working out better.

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  29. Your health is far more important than a paycheck. Personally, I'm not so sure I'd want to continue working for this company, even on a part time basis. I don't think staying on would help with the healing process. I also wonder if you'd be doing so more out of guilt - not wanting to leave them hanging sort of thing. I've been there, done that, and it always ended with me ultimately parting ways. With the stress you are under, I think it would be difficult to make much sense of the situation. Your mind and body needs time to heal before making any serious decisions. Hang in there. You've got a lot of talent and I'm sure you will find something suitable.

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    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate that vote of confidence. I was able to talk to my boss (finally) about some possible solutions, and I think we've found a couple of things to try. I'm still very skeptical. I don't trust this company, and I'm not convinced the job is sustainable. My current goal is to just make it to the next payday (we've been hit with a bunch of bills this month and they threw our budget out of whack). After that, we'll see. Thinking about taking time off feels both terrifying and exhilarating.

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  30. I hope you find a solution. Ive just quit my job of 20 years through anxiety. I do work other jobs though. Maybe you could try a variety of part time jobs with no pressure instead?

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    1. Thanks, Jo! I'm so sorry to hear that you experienced work-related anxiety. It's great that you have some other options lined up - good planning!

      I'm taking it pretty much day by day at this point. Still hoping it'll get better. Part-time work is definitely something I'm considering.

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  31. Take as much time as you need. No amount of money is worth the peace of mind you'll lose if you stay in an unsustainable situation. I read all the comments as well as your update about a possible solution being made, but I share your distrust of the company. At the end of the day, you are not their bottomline so you will not be their priority. If the baseline culture is exploitative, even the "solution" will have an element of that.

    I'm nearing the end of month three of my hiatus. Everyone is judgemental, keeps asking when I'll work again, making passive aggressive statements about my work ethic. But I refuse to enter into agreement with people's perceptions of me because they haven't lived my experience. I know who I am, I know I'm not lazy, I know I'm not whiny, I know I'm not a quitter. I just couldn't do it anymore, and that's okay. Like someone else commented above, don't put too much pressure on yourself to do "meaningful" things should you end up out of work for a while. What I mean is, it's okay to just sleep. It's okay to rest. It's okay to repair. In fact, it's not just okay, if that's what your body needs it's IDEAL. I slept for a month and a half. At first I felt guilty and unproductive, then the fugue started to lift and I realized the negative thoughts associated with taking care of myself were actually part of my symptom complex. You can't truly see that while you're still physically and emotionally depleted. So much love and light to you.

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    1. Thank you so much for this comment. I really appreciate your understanding and empathy, and I think you are right about the inherent exploitativeness of this employer. Had this happened two years ago, perhaps I would have more energy to try to make it work. But having come from other jobs that were exhausting in their own rights, I really don't have much energy to give, and I certainly don't have the patience to deal with a company that wants to take advantage of its employees.

      At this point I am just trying to stick with it on a day-by-day basis until I can't anymore (or until they let me go). Last week, I worked 8-5 every day and still did not meet my requirements. I refuse to work over the weekend. Something has got to give.

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