Work-Related Stress and Depression

Please do not underestimate what stress can do. My depression relapse was, in fact, triggered by work-related stress.

Work-related stress is one of those insidious occurrences where you didn’t know it had hit you until you’re picking up the pieces from the ground. Because work-related stress was both subtle and sneaky, prolonged exposure without proper attention and treatment (by removing/relieving the stress or the inducers(s) of the stress) makes those of us already vulnerable to depression face serious consequences.

Of course, like various myths we are conditioned to subscribe, you may believe that the average person dealt with stress better than you could. I have believed that it was a sign of weakness to not be able to accept copious demands of work and still come through with gusto, ready for the next round of projects or tasks. It was easy for me to ascribe my difficulty sleeping as being jet-lagged too often due to my frequent business travels. I waved away shortening tempers as “results of a tough day.” I excused persistent tension headaches as temporary.

The tough day stretched into a tough week, which stretched into a tough month, which stretched into a tough year. One evening after finishing a business trip aboard a plane in turbulent weather, I became utterly overwhelmed, fearful, anxious, numb, angry, confused, and exhausted. I got fantastic migraines to accompany my irritated moods. I felt like hemorrhaging punching bag – there was nothing left to hold up a brave front. Stress had filled me to the brim. It was swimming between my bones, plucking at my muscles and tangling my nerves.

I want to bring attention to a very serious problem that is important for all employers and employees to address. Stress is especially important to recognize, address, and manage for those of us who are prone to depression or are currently clinical depressed. At the end of the day, even if this is “just a job,” we want to avoid approaching the point when corrective measures become costly to both the employer and the employee.

As one who has first-hand experience with depression, I can attest to the reality that it takes a tremendous amount of remediation once unchecked stress wreaks havoc. I am happiest when I am productive at work, so I want to make the necessary adjustments that will allow me to continue to contribute effectively to an organization for the long term.

Here are signs of stress that holds dangerous potential for triggering depression and destroying quality of life:

1. You feel like you have an itch you cannot scratch, at a place you cannot identify. As a result, you feel restless and impatient.

2. You feel like someone is sitting on your chest (heavy pressure) even when you are standing up.

3. You find yourself holding your breath and not even realizing it (take a deep breath right now and see if you’re doing it!)

4. You bite the head off a loved one who asks you an innocent question, such as “Are you OK?”

5. You wake up much earlier than usual, regardless of how little you had slept, because you feel like you have too much to do and not even time in the day to do them.

I’d like to give you what has worked for me in the face of job stress, but prevention is a better strategy than remediation. In case you are staring at a stress-induced mini-breakdown in the face, consider some initial corrective actions:

1. Drink less caffeine, more decaf or caffeine-free tea.

2. Try sleeping at the same time each evening, catch up on sleep with short naps if needed. If you are oversleeping, stick to a regimented amount of sleep rather than letting yourself go for fourteen hours in bed (too much sleep or too little sleep are both signs of depression).

3. EXERCISE! This has been the most effective stress reliever I have found. If you are able to do aerobic exercises at the gym or run, this is effective in dissipating nervous energy. The hardest part is getting myself to the gym. I could talk myself out of it many times (too tired, too stressed, too weak, headache), but once I get there and finish, I feel much better and sleep much better at night too. In fact, at the time when I was writing this, I was planning to skip today’s exercise class (“too tired, too weak, too hungry, too late, this article needed to be finished”). However, I stopped and drove to the gym to do an aerobics class. Now I’m back and I feel much better.

4. Smell the flowers. I’m not talking figuratively; I’m talking literally. If you have flowers in the house, stop and smell them. If you don’t, visit the supermarket and head for the flowers section. Sometimes watching “The Amazing World of Animals” on television has a similar effect, if you like animals.

5. Call EAP (Employee Assistance Program) – it’s free and it’s there to help. Employers often pay for 3-6 counseling visits.

Please do not underestimate what stress can do. My depression relapse was, in fact, triggered by work-related stress.

Author: Jane Chin

  • keren

    This is just how I feel and I’ve never seen it written down before. This could have been written by me.

    I need to smell the flowers. Figuratively AND literally.

  • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    Hi Keren:

    So you relate! Yes, take the time and smell flowers. It literally takes a few seconds.

    :-)

    Best wishes,
    Jane

  • jim

    bump… Good stuff Dr… thanks for putting it up!

  • Darren

    Thanks for writing this article, as someone who has two failed suicide attempts behind them, I realise that I will always suffer from depression, and will always rely on my medication and professional help (when I can afford it) to survive.

    My boss at work thinks I am incompetent and has said so. I have a Wife and Son that I need to provide for. I fear the pressure will make me relapse and return to my old ways of coping – self harm.

    Self harm is awful and was just the beginning behind my second suicide attempt.

    It’s horrible walking into the office, knowing that no one likes me, no one wants to talk to me, other than to criticise my performance, or give me more work to do.

    You are absolutely spot on, to highlight how crucial a role happiness at work can play in avoiding relapse from depression.

    I just wish every employer took it seriously. I know if my employer found out about my illness, it would just be another reason to sack me.

  • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    Thanks for commenting Darren and I’m sorry that you are having a rough time at work. Your boss may not realize that your “incompetence” is as big of a reflection on his/her inability to support employees and get them the additional training or coaching/mentoring they need to do their best work! Most employees want to be engaged at work and to contribute their talents – we human beings derive the most satisfaction when we know what we are giving something of value from within and that we are working with purpose (as well as on purpose in ideal cases).

    I’m wondering if there is a way to build a bridge – make an ally perhaps. Maybe we can try an experiment to see if those gurus espousing positive self-reinforcement are right (and it does no harm if we see this as an experiment and remain as objective as possible) – every day for the next 21 days, right before you go into work, anytime you see yourself in the mirror, smile a big smile and say “there is at least 1 person who likes me in the office today!” Then make it a game to find who that person is. It doesn’t have to be the same person every day.

  • Nowhere to go

    Very helpful. Thank you. I know I am competent because when I work with others outside my work place (volunteer or freelance), I am respected and complimented for my work. It is only at my full-time job that I am criticized, insulted and treated like an incompetent child. I can’t leave though because there are not a lot of job options right now and the pay and benefits are too important for my family. I am a married mother of two and make more income than my spouse. I feel trapped at this job because of this and there is no one to talk to there to resolve these issues. I have gone to management, but they are the ones perpetuating this problem. I have gone to my union, but they can do nothing unless I file a grievance and then I get get labeled as a trouble maker. I have checked out emotionally at work, except for the crying which I will do at home in private (like now). My husband doesn’t get it either. He complains because the house is mess and then plays video games all day on his days off. I don’t know what to do anymore. Each day brings more frustration and unhappiness. Your article does help me know I am not alone, however. Glad I found it when I was looking for resources.

  • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    I’m sorry to hear you are having such a hard time :(

    In terms of the messy house… I’d give your husband an option when he complains: learn to make peace with living in a messy house given that his wife works full time too and is trying to stay sane doing that while also being a good mom to 2 kids – or – he is welcome to allocate a budget for a house-cleaner. If a clean house is that important to him, and he cannot take time away from playing video games (i.e. that is his down-time, I get it), then he needs to look at hiring a house-cleaner.

    Or, you can offer to pay for a house-cleaner and have him go without something else that you usually foot the bill for.

    I think you need a good friend or a support system who can give you moral support. It sounds like you probably have that through your volunteer and freelance work – you just have to learn to ask for help and someone to talk to when you need it! Don’t keep it all inside.

    • Robert Clark

      Dang..Well I do thank you for your article. I do missed a day of work today at Walmart. My meds were late being called in and took aspirin when I did I got sick as hell. I called in the number. I spoke to a member of management. Then ..I texted a couple of my fellow employees and I’m sure they are mad. See the problem is. I missed a couple of months ago. I had the flu. I have not missed a lot really but when I do I get so scared and depressed due to the worry. The hard part is I’m a single father of two teens. One my daughter has kidney syndrome and I’ve had to be late because of her needs. I’m 40 years old. I have been in and out of centers when I was younger but always felt I do was OK. But over the years I’ve totally realized I’m different. I worry too much. My health isn’t good and now once again feel terrible about this missed day at work. I know they will be mad at me. Sadly I can’t prove it. But I’m an honest person. I hate lies. I pride myself on my honesty. I was really bad off. Now however I am feeling a bit better. I just hope they leave me alone..I’m liked by many but this is Walmart. Management is right by monitoring schedules. But they also work me nights til 10:00pm then expect me back by 5:00am. So this is hard on my body …thanks for looking at my post.

  • Aimee

    I have a Ph.D and work as a postdoc. For two years I have been in this office, where I deal with dysfunctional work conditions – running the gamut of workplace pathologies (Favoritism, explosive verbally abusive ranting outbursts without reason,unclear mentoring coupled to high expectations, suspicion when I meet with peers outside the team, constant pressure to produce high-quality research papers without being given the time, support and breathing space to actually focus on the writing, constant subtly denigrating remarks about the third world (I am Indian)…ad infinitum ad nauseam. The thing is, as a postdoc, I am my PI’s employee and the university has a hands-off approach to the situation. Is this environment the cause of my constant anxiety, sleeplessness, shortness of breath, inability to think clearly, and even, worst of all, a huge loss of self confidence – to the point that I can actually see my future as being homeless, unemployed, starving, without goals, hopes, plans, ideas, dreams. With nothing and nowhere to go, nothing to look forward to. This despite the degrees, the past research grants and fellowships, published papers, command of five languages. I think of stepping into mid-traffic as an option sometimes – but its not, I have a family and we love one another immensely. But the blackness in my brain is beginning to swamp my faculties. Help me. Please say something. I literally feel like I am drowning inside. Its a struggle to get my chin off my chest and walk upright.

    • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Aimee,

      Is this environment the cause of my constant anxiety, sleeplessness, shortness of breath, inability to think clearly, and even, worst of all, a huge loss of self confidence – to the point that I can actually see my future as being homeless, unemployed, starving, without goals, hopes, plans, ideas, dreams.

      It sure doesn’t help you to be in this environment! It sounds like you need to get some type of support ASAP. Do it discreetly so that you aren’t bombarded with additional stressors from people who seem to entertain themselves with playing mind games because they are deeply unhappy about themselves as human beings. If people gossip when you meet someone outside the team, then do this online and in a way that grants you the privacy you need and deserve to do something about the feelings that you have. DON’T IGNORE IT – THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

      As someone who’s been through that PhD hell-hole, I think that having an uncertain future can be very stressful, trying to establish yourself as a PhD professional can be very stressful, and the fact that you are probably not sleeping well and eating well exacerbate it. I suppose you aren’t exercising either (at this point I’d highly recommend kick boxing and work off that anger you have but are actively suppressing it)… there are things you need to be doing for yourself to ensure that you survive with your sanity and health intact so that you can leave these people as a whole person. Do NOT let them win by beating yourself down.

      Can you speak to a counselor at school privately? Check your insurance benefits and see what help you can get, because you need to get help and do this quickly for yourself and for your family.

  • Aimee

    Thank you for hearing me. Thank you for the advice. It really helps to know that what I am getting is only that which I deserve. I do exercise 4 times a week. It is a good de-stressor, helping me on the symptomatic level. But what I really need is to leave this abusive situation once my project is over. I have reached out for departmental support before. But the problems here re-emerge after a period of quiescence. I am aware that the longer I stay here, the better the chances of resignation to the abuse. I would like to think that I take such criticism as is my just due. I wish I were sure that it is truly just and due. I will act on your counsel and try to rectify my situation somehow. I must believe in myself, believe in the possibility of a livable future. Its so hard.

  • Aimee

    ‘It really helps to know that what I am getting is only that which I deserve.’

    well, that Freudian slip proves ‘that the longer I stay here, the better the chances of resignation to the abuse.’

    Thank you again, Jane.

  • Nowhere to go

    Hi again. Thank you for your response. Things have gotten worse, but I realize I need to make a change in my life and possibly leave my job. I have already started looking. I am hoping I can find a place that supports a healthy, non-toxic work environment and where management models good behavior for their employees and is held accountable, as well holding the employees accountable who manipulate and demean others. Ihave done a lot of soul searching and concluded that I am tired of being a doormat. I just hope my lack of self-esteem, at this point isn’t obvious in interviews. I didn’t enter this job this way, which is why I know it is time to leave.

    • http://www.chinspirations.com/mhsourcepage Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Hi – please keep us posted on your job search and I wish you the best during the interview process!

  • Valerie

    I had to see my primary care physician and I could not understand why I was having difficulty remembering. After the Neurologist examined my mental acuteness I was told I was suffering from Depression and Pseudodementia (you’re kidding… I’m only 50 years old).

    It got so bad that my boss ended up putting me on probation because of my lack of follow through. I use to be quick on my feet and quick in my thinking; I’ve worked at that nonprofit for 13 years and can not begin to understand how I got to where I’m at.

  • Bry

    Hey, this helps quite a bit. I am a college student, and already saw signs of this once at a job this summer that I had to quit a week shy of my contract ending due to panic attacks and depression, as well as a family emergency that occurred. I don’t want to live like this someday in a career. I don’t want to LIVE in my career, in general. You are right, stopping to enjoy simple things and the people that matter most to me is more important, and I do not want to let my stress overcome me. I hope I learn how to lead a happy life with a job too someday.

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  • Damien Woody

    I am chemically depressed. I take medication for it. I believe that my depression was caused by mistreatment when I was very young. Knowing the root cause and dealing with it with a band-aid solution does not help. I am also situational depressed. That’s when the divorce, job loss, family loss, etc. come in to play. They are triggers, yes, but that’s what can send me down a spiral, even when on medication. I’m not complaining here. I’m merely stating a fact.
    The advise given above is okay for people when they don’t suffer clinical depression. And, at best, a reminder to the clinically depressed that we are not alone.

    Damien Woody

  • Aimee

    I want to thank you a million times over. With your advice, I have been able to manage the situation, achieve research success, steer my PI’s behaviour positively, AND get a great new job! Life looks better now and I am definitely better!

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      I am so happy to hear this, Aimee — you deserve a great life! Thank you for letting me know.

  • Jacob

    Thank you Doctor. I have been spending weeks feeling the on-sets of depression since I started this new job. Their lack of structure and the leader’s team ethics has put me into a state of panic and regret from leaving my old job. Though I did it for a necessary reason, I feel as though I’ve put myself into a bad spot mentally. I have been pushing through my distress somewhat successfully; however, when I return from a weekend, I feel as though the walls are closing in and that I will ultimately make the ones I love suffer for my choice. In my mind, I keep saying “stupid choice,” but I have to reassure myself that it was not stupid.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Hi Jacob: It is very normal to experience “buyer’s remorse” where you start to regret taking on a new job. If you find that the new work place lacks structure, what structure can you put in place for yourself to ease this transition? Maybe one of the first things to do is to identify the types of structures that you had in your old work place that have helped you be engaged and productive — and see how you can recreate some of these structures at your new job. I have no doubt that there are many other coworkers who can benefit from the structure! Very few people can remain productive with prolonged lack of structure. I’m very unstructured and even I’ve grown dependent on some form of a goal / task list / calendar. Please do check back and let us know how you’re doing.

  • Mike

    the reason I came to this sight was because I had to leave work this morning because of my depression. yesterday I discovered that I had made a big mistake on an order that i had placed a month ago and when i told my boss, he made me feel like the biggest idiot ever. he had just given me a raise the day before after telling me that I had a low self esteem and as a manager he wanted to see more confidence.
    this morning i got to work early and sat in my car until I was 5 minutes late. I couldn’t find the strength anywhere inside of me to get out of the car. I finally walked into the office and sat down. I couldn’t even motivate myself turn on my computer. i was only there for 15 minutes, then I walked out. I told everyone that I had a severe migraine headache. I think it was obvious that me leaving had to do with the ass chewing I received the evening before, and it’s true.
    last night, as I was drinking heavily, I spoke with a friend about my horrible day. she told me that I was “feeling sorry for myself” and that I just needed to suck it up and be a man.
    this depression is going to ruin my life because I am losing control of it. if I lose my job I will spiral even further. i feel so powerless and hopeless that I often fantisize about taking my life just to stop the pain. but I have people I love, who also love me. I couldn’t do that to them. I am certain that I can’t do this alone. I have a library of self help books. they help, but they only slow the progression of the depression.
    some days are better than others. I do not feel this way all the time, but when it comes on, it is dehibilitating. I simply can’t go on like this. something must be done before it destroys my life. again.
    thanks for reading :)

    • Sarah

      I feel for you mike, I’m in the same boat, I have been promised the same assistant manager position for a year now, even though I have been fulfilling the requirements of the position for well over a year. I guess I’m just waiting for the pay increase and the title now, I already do the job, haha. But my boss likes to use sugar coated insults (where he is deffinetly insulting you but he throws in a compliment to somehow counter the insults) when my equal standing co workers mess up, its my fault, always, I work with this one guy, he is dumber than a bag of bricks, he is not my responsibility for training or anything at all, yet when he screws up, I get the tounge lashing for it. I have gone to upper management and to HR each time I get the same response “learn to manage your stress better, dont take it too personally” well I have done what I can for the stress management, as for taking it too personally: I am giving them my time away from my friends, from my family, from what I love, if thats not personal I dont know what is. I am currently looking for other employment opportunities in where I will be respected and appreciated for my hard work.

      As for all of you: buck up buttercups, the sun will shine again, if you pay attention you’ll see it, it happens more often than not.

      • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

        Sarah: I hope you find a more productive work environment soon! No job is worth giving away too much time from friends/family/what you love.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Hi Mike: I don’t believe in the “suck it up” method — at least — not before we’ve done a good job at identifying ways to improve our work environment. It’s like hobbling along a marathon with a broken ankle and being told “suck it up and be a man!” You’re hobbling not because you’re weak, but because you have an injury that requires attention and assistance. I see depression as the same way — you must treat this, and view this as a medical condition requiring attention — not as a character weakness that you can talk yourself out of (believe me, I tried, it doesn’t work for me.) One of the conversations I’d encourage you to have with your boss is “what does confidence look like?” A lot of times we’re told to act more confidently but then that’s a very fuzzy idea. If your boss sees someone and says, “wow that is a very confident manager!” — ask the boss “what has that manager done? how does that manager talk? what does the manager do to give you this impression of confidence?” Because confidence is truly about impressions: other people’s impression of you. In this case, once you know what your boss’s impression of “confidence” looks like, it gives you a clearer idea of what you can do to be more visible in those ways that make an impression. I for one think you are brave to say “something must be done before it destroys my life.”

  • Rick

    Hi. I’ve been employed at a propane company for 6 years now and I’m about to the point I want to explode. I feel I’m getting nowhere, I can’t move up, I’m tasked with decisions that someone with 6 years experience has no business handling. My supervisior(and the GM of the company) have no idea about this line of work and place a fellow with just 6 years under his belt as the “go to” guy? I’ve lost interest in most things I used to enjoy doing, sometimes I lay awake in bed for 2 or 3 hours from the aggravations. I have developed quite a defeatist attitude over most things and what’s worse, I have two children. What do I do? I have a very hard time acting like I’m ok. What kind of example am I setting for my kids? That when you’re grown, you work somewhere you hate until your’e dead? My youngest child has siezures, so I MUST have the medical insurance that my employer provides, so in my mind, I’m trapped and feel like I can never get out. Thanks for reading this over.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      Hi Rick: I’m sorry to hear that you are in a very frustrating work situation. You asked “what kind of example am I setting for your kids?” I think you have a lot more personal power to create the answer than you give yourself credit for. Imagine for a moment that one of your children had grown up and is in your shoes. For insurance reasons your grown child has to stay with a job situation that is frustrating him more each day. He feels like he’s getting nowhere and can’t move up. But he has a special needs child and he feels like he has no choice. How will you advise him?

      I don’t know what your situation is — I can only guess from what you’ve shared — it sounds like you don’t see moving to a new job as a solution (and honestly, new jobs are no guarantees of a better environment, sometimes the people we can’t stand will follow us wherever we go only they are wearing different faces/names.) Maybe this is an opportunity to create a new work experience / environment for yourself. Many times I’ve found that it’s not the other people who have changed (they rarely do) that has made a situation tolerable or even enjoyable for me — it is because I have changed. I have made new rules and roles for myself.

      Does your GM need a wake-up call for putting you in charge, tasking you with decisions you “have no business handling?” Maybe. Maybe not. People rise to the challenge, not the other way around. Your GM may seem clueless, but he appears to believe in your ability to have a clue when he knows he doesn’t have a clue. He trusts you enough to put huge decisions on your shoulders — this has come as a blessing and a curse for you.

      What if you ARE the right person and what if you ARE the right “go to” guy? How do you know you’re not? The number of years of experience can be deceiving. There are people who have been on the job 20 years and they actually have 20 * 1 year of experience, not 20 years of experience. I have also met people who have been on the job a few years but they have a lot of insight about the job and the industry.

      Part of rising to the challenge is to be clear that you will accept this challenge, but you’re open to asking for help, so that you are able to make better informed decisions and manage many moving parts more effectively. Whenever I’m facing what feels insurmountable, I start writing down everything that is contributing to this perception. Then I break it down into smaller steps to try to problem solve. Sometimes by getting it all out and seeing it in front of me on a piece of paper makes me feel better, at least I am looking at these things squarely in the eye, even if I’m not yet sure how I’m going to address each and everyone of them.

      I believe in you! Please let us know how you’re doing.

  • Henry

    Gosh – I can relate to so many posters here. I have a tough story to tell (for me emotionally) but here it goes. My happiness and even my joy is way too tied to workplace performance.

    After college, I moved around to a couple of jobs until I found my dream job. The first 5 years had netted me 2 big promotions. Life was good. Then a division of our company broke some environmental regulations and the board members along with the CEO were replaced. I was put in charge of a small portion of the division that had broken the law and was put there to help clean it up. 2 more years of good productive work and another promotion – happy, happy.

    I am called into the CEO’s office one morning and was informed we were buying a small company with a completely different product line than we had and he wanted me to work for that divsion’s new VP. I jumped at the chance to learn something new (engineer by training).

    The new VP quit after 2 years, and a new one hired immediately – he was older, wiser, and a personal friend of the CEO. But life was good – this new division was successful. But as the economy started to slow, my boss the VP became unable to deal with the slow down and started dumping tons of responsibility on me – which I was OK with for a while until the stress started setting in. He would give direction like – find the next big thing, we need more money – or the economy is tanking, I can’t control that but I can control what we do about it so cut costs and improve the margin. We did manage to cut a great many costs but the noose continued to tighten. He started drinking at work and I tried to talk to him off-line about it, but he just insulted me that I didn’t have the stomach for big business – I ask him what if the CEO finds out and he said the CEO would never touch him so I better watch what I say or I will be out the door.

    HR questioned me about his behavior one day but I was very reserved in my response for fear of my job. My stress and anxiety is high at this point but manageable. The CEO calls me into his office again and tells me that my boss is having a hard time coping so I need to help him all I can – I told him I was but he had some unrealistic goals which the CEO barked that those goals were the company goals and I needed to grow a set – if the new division fails it was on my shoulders.

    My wife started complaining about 80hr work weeks with no time off. I gain a good bit of weight which my boss continues to poke fun at because I am weak and can’t control my appetite – what else can’t I control he would say.

    Well the day finally came, my VP boss has a bad accident while drinking and driving in a company vehicle. He calls me first before he even calls 911 – completely unconcerned about the other car involved and wants me to come to the accident scene and say I was driving. I told him no – he needed to call 911 for his and others’ safety – he said if I didn’t there would be he!! to pay. He couldn’t even tell me what street he was on he was so drunk. Luckily, the other car called 911 and everyone got medical attention – no one was really hurt physically, just scrapes and bruises.

    While at the hospital, my boss was given a drug test per company policy before they released him. HR called to get the results of the test the next day and they couldn’t find them. So they tested him again that AM and since it had been 12+ hours from the accident – no alcohol. The police report did show that there was an open container in the car and the VP was fined for that and failure to yield ROW. When the CEO saw the police report, he asked my boss if he had been drinking and he told him yes. The CEO called me in and asked if knew that he had been drinking, and I said yes – for several months on the job!!! My pay was cut and I was reprimanded because I didn’t take steps to warn the company of his behavior – I lashed out at the CEO and was told to take my punishment like a man – don’t try and cloud the issue.

    2 days later my boss was pulled for a random drug test and he popped positive for a blood/alcohol level unacceptable to be at work. His pay was cut and demoted – now he and I together ran the new division – we were equals on the org chart. He worked in that position for a few months and decided he was not happy with that – he called the entire division together when I was out of town and told them that I was on probation and to avoid me at all costs – he was in charge and decisions came through him.

    I return to what appears to be mass chaos. I confront him and he tells me something is going down regarding layoffs and my job is on the line – I better lay low – so I do.

    At this point I am weeping at my desk daily. I lost the weight I had gained plus some. I couldn’t make love to my wife. The CEO notices my change in appearance one day and calls me into his office. He tells me he made a mistake putting me in my position – I couldn’t handle the responsibility and now I’ve allowed his friend to hit the bottom of the barrel. He tells me I should have helped my boss that night when he wrecked the company car – that would have been the manly thing to do – the only way to be successful is to help others be successful.

    The next month my boss resigns and moves out of state. The CEO promotes me to the VP role. He says after review of the financials for the past several years, I have my work cut out for me. I spend the next several years turning over rocks and finding illegal activity, bad decisions, and tons of wasted money on “science projects”. Rather than congratulate me, he said that it was my fault for letting my old boss do those things.

    It’s been over 5 years since my boss resigned and I still occasionally find a process or procedure that is screwed up but only minor cost wise. However, each time I find a problem or God forbid I make a mistake or one of my people make a mistake, I am on the carpet being chewed-out, pay being cut, reprimanded in writing, or the like.

    I still have my “VP” position, but I’m miserable – I’m on 2 psycho meds, in talk therapy twice a week, and fighting to keep my marriage. I live in mortal fear (feels it to me) of making a mistake and hide them now when I do at work. I have no self worth, I second guess all of my decisions, haven’t participated in any hobbies in 2+ years, haven’t even tried to make love to my wife in over a year, I’m fat, and being 40 in this economy – not many prospects unless I move far away. My wife loves her job, my family lives here, her family is close by, and I haven’t networked in 10 years – I’m just waiting it out I guess – I’m trapped and broken.

  • Bob Larson

    Great, get some rest relax and smell the flowers? How? I have an overbearing spouse who will not let me take a piss without her making sure that I am not doing something wrong. I have a job that I have become unqualified for (started fine but change kills). I have no friends, commute45 miles a day, live in a littel town where everybody is the people I cannot stand. How can I be fixed?

  • AD

    If I had only found this sooner.

    I work at a salon in a small town. My boss has been very successful and by coming on board with her, I was hoping to get good training and mentorship from a true master. As a new beautician, I felt this was amazing. I was willing to do grunt work and get to see her work and expand my skills.

    Now 3 months later I am updating her website and Facebook page. I am left with so much administrative work, I am unable to do the job I was hired to to, be her assistant. I’ve battled depression in the past and I feel those same clouds coming back again. As I am typing this, I am dreading going to work. She refuses to help me learn how to market myself we a stylist, calls me lazy, and is basically trying to make me quit. I am a hard worker and am trying to do the best I can, but I’m at the end of my rope.

    My job description has changed and I am not happy. I’m learning nothing relevant to what my job actually is and I’m miserable. I contacted the dirctor from a chain salon I know and will probably see what she has to offer. But in the meantime, I’m not sure how to handle the despair I feel constantly. I can’t even look my boss in the eye without complete disgust on my face. I’m not an angry person, but I cannot hide my emotions well— whether it be angery, sadness, or glee.

  • CyndyK

    I have worked for the same place/people for 17 years. I’m a sever, I work in a hostile work environment, I’m stressed out, snap at my family, chest hurts constantly, verge of tears all the time, anxiety goes up 2 hours before I have to be there. I’m the only one in the house working, hubby hasn’t found work in 3 years, I work 6 days a week(only make money 2 out of 6). Paychecks don’t clear, don’t get them on time either. I’m one huge mass of stress with no idea what to do to get out of it. Help.

  • sara t.s.

    I am going through this torment now. I have missed a month of work due to depression and anxiety and just last week got sent home for having a panic attack. Thanks to not getting nearly enough money through disability, I am now going to be getting an eviction notice anyday and that is making things worse. Medication doesn’t help, the pristiq makes me sweat terrible and I work in an hot factory. The xanax makes me far to drowsy to do anything. My job says their conserned about my health but that they also NEED me to be there. Makes me feel like doing work is the only reason I am any good to anyone.

  • Coco

    I almost feel guilty about wanting to close my successful business. There are people that would be so happy to make my income. But, after 32 years in the restaurant business, I dread the thought of going in…each and every day. My problem is, I am the bread winner in the family. My husband has his own job, and is quite happy being an employee. I want that luxury to work 9-5 and leave all my troubles behind. I feel at any moment I will be found curled up in a fetal position, in a corner. I feel trapped!

    Everyone on here has their own situation and I feel for you all. I wish you luck and I hope you can find the happiness that seems to be evading myself. If anyone has any thoughts….I’d appreciate them.

    • http://about.me/janechin Jane Chin, Ph.D.

      If your successful business is beginning to jeopardize your most valuable asset (your health), then it becomes a question of risks and benefits: the cost to your health (and your family’s need to pay for your care should your health deteriorate over time) against the income from your business.

      Health usually wins every single time. Poor mental health affects physical health in no time.

  • http://nochnoch.com Noch Noch

    Just stumbled across your site these few days and reading your posts. I have exactly the same plight – migraines and depression. Last two years I had to take off work to recover and reorient myself, and reprioritize. Slowly recovering, but had a relapse this last month… Spending my time writing, blogging, calligraphy, and taking care of myself, and Exercising :)
    Thanks for your site
    Noch Noch

  • Amy C.

    I have to say that I have all the symptoms, and was even put on medication for depression recently, but my problem is the opposite. I’ve been forced to “dumb down” at work and my progression toward career opportunities effectively stopped with the hiring of a new manager. I feel like I stepped backward 10 years and that all the progress I had made, and the joy that went with it, was swept away. I don’t think any pill is going to make it better. I honestly don’t know what to do.

  • Mike

    I get a good night’s sleep but still fall asleep at work sometimes as soon as I get here. I get at least 7 hours of good (dreaming and everything) sleep but still am very tired at work. I can get in a car at anytime and drive for over 12 hours and not feel the least bit sleepy. I’ve been at my current job for over 38 years

  • Cici

    I found this while trying to find more info, thanks for the suggestions. I just been diagnosed with major depression an anxiety disorder and not sure what to do. I’m 37, have worked since I was 18 and i have worked stressful jobs before without breaking down, so the amount of trouble I have experienced with my current job really threw me off. I was unemployed and I was recruited by a company who saw my resume online. I felt fortunate to be offered employment after only 5 months of not working so I took it, though i didn’t think them was a good fit for me. After a couple of weeks it was obvious th job wasn’t a good fit but i was determined to give it my best effort. I gave it my best push for 5 months and my manager even told me I’m doing well, but in the last 2 months i feel as if there is no push left in me. I have been getting sick off and on the whole time I have been working there, but the last couple of months have been feeling tight in the chest, headaches, lethargy, neck pain and stomach pain, I’ve last my appetite and have lost 12 lbs in the last couple of months. My primary care doctor diagnosed me with acute stress and anxiety disorder and referred me to a mental health counselor. The counselor diagnosed me with major depression. I feel like I’ve made a huge mistake in accepting this job. I cry for no reason, sometimes i start crying at work. When I’m there I feel like I’m wearing a corset, tight, tense all the time,my breath shallow, I space out. Some days can’t muster myself to go even go in. I would be able to survive on unemployment but won’t receive benefit if i quit. I feel trapped. Sometimes I feel like killing myself but I know it won’t solve anything. I’ve started hurting myself sometimes, like punching and scratching myself, because of the frustration and sadness and feeling of guilt and worthless ness. I do hope working with the counselor will help me.